The last thing Troy Hughes wanted was to make the last show all about himself. He wanted his sign-off from Shan and RJ on 105.3 The Fan to resemble more of a regular show, rather than his decision to pursue a career outside of radio. Though it’s admirable that Hughes wanted to approach last Friday’s show talking about the final preseason game for the Cowboys rather than his new venture in life, it wasn’t at all surprising the near 30-year radio veteran wanted things that way.
“Friday’s show went exactly the way I asked for it to go,” said Hughes. “I had a conversation with Gavin Spittle and I told him I didn’t want to make this into a giant send off. I don’t want to make it like Troy Hughes is leaving The Fan and we celebrate his life and achievements. I’m literally stepping aside and allowing the new guys to come in and pick up the pace. I literally just wanted to have a few laughs, let everyone know about the upcoming Cowboys preseason game and what it means. And then at the end of the show, did we have a little fun and have some laughs and reflect on some of the old times? Yes. It was the perfect send off for me.”
After 13 years with 105.3 The Fan, Hughes is out of the producer’s seat and on to a new venture. The decision didn’t come because he was fed up with the show or didn’t like his bosses. Just the opposite, in fact. Hughes is leaving because he wants a different lifestyle than the one that requires waking up at 3:15 in the morning. He’s off to enjoy a world that isn’t so demanding of his time.
“The first few days have been different,” Hughes said. “That’s the best way to think of it because I used to wake up at 3:15 in the morning for the last 23 years. You would think during the first few days, ‘Hey, you’re getting all this sleep and you feel amazing’. No. The first day I woke up at 3:00 in the morning. On Tuesday morning I woke up at 1:00 am. It’s just now starting to set in that, hey, you can sleep in until 5:30 or 5:45. It’s a totally different world for me.”
Hughes’ decision to leave The Fan comes just before the start of the upcoming football season. For the past several years, Sunday’s in the fall have meant busy work days. Now, the season will look and feel drastically different for Hughes. But not in a bad way.
“It’s going to be different for me personally and professionally, but I’m still going to watch the games,” said Hughes. “I’m still going to do what I’ve always done, because, before, I used to work for the Dallas Cowboys Radio Network with Brad Sham and Babe Laufenberg. I was there for every single preseason, regular season and playoff game. In the last couple of years since I stepped away from the broadcast, I literally sit in front of the television, turn off the sound, turn on The Fan and listen to the play-by-play of Brad and Babe. That’s not going to change.”
“From a professional standpoint, the viewing will be completely different. I won’t be trying to understand the sets, each and every play and how it correlates to what the team did right and wrong. I won’t be doing anything like that. I’ll be sitting with my soon-to-be 16-year-old son that plays high school football and watch the game like most dads and sons do.”
There’s an interesting theme with recent interviews that have covered exiting radio after long careers in the business. Just like Adam Hawk told me recently, both he and Hughes have mostly enjoyed the absence of social media and the constant chase of content from radio.
“It’s definitely different in the aspect of I’m not constantly on my phone,” Hughes said. “ I made it a concerted effort to change what I want to do. I think it’s very important to understand, I didn’t leave radio because of a disgruntled feeling towards the company or that I didn’t get along with Shan or RJ. I left radio to do something different. I didn’t want to wake up one day and realize that I’m 60 and I can’t do that. I have made changes in the last few days to experience that whole new life. That includes social media. It’s something I’m going to be using in the aspect of this new venture that I’m on, but I’m not constantly going to be on my phone looking for stories. Not just every day, but literally every single second is different right now. One of the guys at the new place I’m working at came up to me and said, ‘Man, can you believe the Cowboys cut Will Grier and Cooper Rush?’ I’m like, what, they did? He said, ‘Yeah, you didn’t know that?’ I’m like, no, I don’t. Because I’m trying to make an effort to do something different in life.”
But there’s also another theme for guys that leave radio. As much as they may enjoy their new lifestyle, there’s an immediate sense that they miss the camaraderie with their team. That’s to be expected. When you’re in the trenches with the same people everyday, a bond is often created that can’t be replaced. Such is the case for Hughes. The one thing he immediately misses is the connection he had with Shan and RJ.
“I know this seems like a softball answer but I’m going to miss the guys. I already do,” said Hughes. “I miss Shan and RJ. Shan and his professional wisdom is head and shoulders above everyone else. I’ve been fortunate to work with some big names in radio. Kidd Kraddick, Jagger, I got to meet and talk with Rob Chapman before he passed away. Shan is without question a gigantic professional when it comes to taking time to understand the product and delivering the content in an entertaining way. RJ was not only someone that was very confident in what he said, and he made sure you knew he was confident in it, but he also liked to chuckle and have fun joking about 90’s one-hit wonders, while Shan had no idea what we were talking about. That camaraderie with those guys and everyone else at The Fan, I miss those guys a bunch. But at the same time, I’m never truly leaving. That’s the best thing about this job is the new opportunity I’m going on, I’m not moving to Florida. I’m literally in the same place as I was. As I told Gavin Spittle, I’m not saying goodbye to you guys. I’m going to see you guys again. I’m going to come out to a Fan hangout or an event. I’ll visit the station every once in a while, I’m not going anywhere.”
What’s next for Hughes is a gig that lets him continue to be creative. It’s a different medium than radio, but one that he’s incredibly excited about.
“I’m working with a company called Lime Media,” said Hughes. “ It’s an experiential marketing company that works with various brands all around the country. For instance, if we get a call from Coca-Cola and they say, ‘Hey, we need this crazy concept that we want to put out at Lollapalooza’. Perfect. We have this fleet vehicle that we can wrap and design it. We come up with these creative concepts and bring them to life. It’s very similar to radio, but the difference is you’re creating content and ideas through sound in radio and this is all visual and aesthetics.”
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at TylerMcComas08@yahoo.com.
The Future Is Now, Embrace Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+
As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible.
This week has been a reckoning for sports and its streaming future on Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+, ESPN+, and more.
Amazon announced that Thursday Night Football, which averaged 13 million viewers, generated the highest number of U.S. sign ups over a three hour period in the app’s history. More people in the United States subscribed to Prime during the September 15th broadcast than they did during Black Friday, Prime Day, and Cyber Monday. It was also “the most watched night of primetime in Prime Video’s history,” according to Amazon executive Jay Marine. The NFL and sports in general have the power to move mountains even for some of the nation’s biggest and most successful brands.
This leads us to the conversation happening surrounding Aaron Judge’s chase for history. Judge has been in pursuit of former major leaguer Roger Maris’ record for the most home runs hit during one season in American League history.
The sports world has turned its attention to the Yankees causing national rights holders such as ESPN, Fox, and TBS to pick up extra games in hopes that they capture the moment history is made. Apple TV+ also happened to have a Yankees game scheduled for Friday night against the Red Sox right in the middle of this chase for glory.
Baseball fans have been wildin’ out at the prospects of missing the grand moment when Judge passes Maris or even the moments afterwards as Judge chases home run number 70 and tries to truly create monumental history of his own. The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand has even reported there were talks between YES, MLB, and Apple to bring Michael Kay into Apple’s broadcast to call the game, allow YES Network to air its own production of the game, or allow YES Network to simulcast Apple TV+’s broadcast. In my opinion, all of this hysteria is extremely bogus.
As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible. Amazon brought in NBC to help with production of TNF and if you watch the flow of the broadcast, the graphics of the broadcast, NBC personalities like Michael Smith, Al Michaels, and Terry McAuliffe make appearances on the telecast – it is very clear that the network’s imprint is all over the show.
NBC’s experience in conducting the broadcast has made the viewing experience much more seamless. Apple has also used MLB Network and its personalities for assistance in ensuring there’s no major difference between what you see on air vs. what you’re streaming.
Amazon and Apple have also decided to not hide their games behind a paywall. Since the beginning of the season, all of Apple’s games have been available free of charge. No subscription has ever been required. As long as you have an Apple device and can download Apple TV+, you can watch their MLB package this season.
Guess what? Friday’s game against the Red Sox is also available for free on your iPhone, your laptop, or your TV simply by downloading the AppleTV app. Amazon will also simulcast all Thursday Night Football games on Twitch for free. It may be a little harder or confusing to find the free options, but they are out there and they are legal and, once again, they are free.
Apple has invested $85 million into baseball, money that will go towards your team becoming better hypothetically. They’ve invested money towards creating a new kind of streaming experience. Why in the hell would they offer YES Network this game for free? There’s no better way for them to drive subscriptions to their product than by offering fans a chance at watching history on their platform.
A moment like this are the main reason Apple paid for rights in the first place. When Apple sees what the NFL has done for Amazon in just one week and coincidentally has the ability to broadcast one of the biggest moments in baseball history – it would be a terrible business decision to let viewers watch it outside of the Apple ecosystem and lose the ability to gain new fans.
It’s time for sports fans to grow up and face reality. Streaming is here to stay.
MLB Network is another option
If you don’t feel like going through the hassle of watching the Yankees take on the Red Sox for free on Apple TV+, MLB Network will also air all of Judge’s at bats live as they are happening. In case the moment doesn’t happen on Apple TV+ on Friday night, Judge’s next games will air in full on MLB Network (Saturday), ESPN (Sunday), MLB Network again (Monday), TBS (Tuesday) and MLB Network for a third time on Wednesday. All of MLB Network’s games will be simulcast of YES Network’s local New York broadcast. It wouldn’t shock me to see Fox pick up another game next Thursday if the pursuit still maintains national interest.
- One of the weirdest things about the experience of streaming sports is that you lose the desire to channel surf. Is that a good thing or bad thing? Brandon Ross of LightShed Ventures wonders if the difficulty that comes with going from app to app will help Amazon keep viewers on TNF the entire time no matter what the score of the game is. If it does, Amazon needs to work on developing programming to surround the games or start replaying the games, pre and post shows so that when you fall asleep and wake up you’re still on the same stream on Prime Video or so that coming to Prime Video for sports becomes just as much of a habit for fans as tuning in to ESPN is.
- CNN has announced the launch of a new morning show with Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins. Variety reports, “Two people familiar with plans for the show say it is likely to use big Warner Bros. properties — a visit from the cast of HBO’s Succession or sports analysis from TNT’s NBA crew — to lure eyeballs.” It’ll be interesting to see if Turner Sports becomes a cornerstone of this broadcast. Will the NBA start doing schedule releases during the show? Will a big Taylor Rooks interview debut on this show before it appears on B/R? Will the Stanley Cup or Final Four MVP do an interview on CNN’s show the morning after winning the title? Does the show do remote broadcasts from Turner’s biggest sports events throughout the year?
- The Clippers are back on over the air television. They announced a deal with Nexstar to broadcast games on KTLA and other Nexstar owned affiliates in California. The team hasn’t reached a deal to air games on Bally Sports SoCal or Bally Sports Plus for the upcoming season. Could the Clippers pursue a solo route and start their own OTT service in time for the season? Are they talking to Apple, Amazon, or ESPN about a local streaming deal? Is Spectrum a possible destination? I think these are all possibilities but its likely that the Clippers end up back on Bally Sports since its the status quo. I just find it interesting that it has taken so long to solidify an agreement and that it wasn’t announced in conjunction with the KTLA deal. The Clippers are finally healthy this season, moving into a new arena soon, have the technology via Second Spectrum to produce immersive game casts. Maybe something is brewing?
- ESPN’s Monday Night Football double box was a great concept. The execution sucked. Kudos to ESPN for adjusting on the fly once complaints began to lodge across social media. I think the double box works as a separate feed. ESPN2 should’ve been the home to the double box. SVP and Stanford Steve could’ve held a watch party from ESPN’s DC studio with special guests. The double box watch party on ESPN2 could’ve been interrupted whenever SVP was giving an update on games for ESPN and ABC. It would give ESPN2 a bit of a behind the scenes look at how the magic happens similarly to what MLB Tonight did last week. Credit to ESPN and the NFL for experimenting and continuing to try and give fans unique experiences.
Jessie Karangu is a columnist for BSM and graduate of the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland but comes from Kenyan roots. Jessie has had a passion for sports media and the world of television since he was a child. His career has included stints with USA Today, Tegna, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Sightline Media. He can be found on Twitter @JMKTVShow.
ESPN Shows Foresight With Monday Night Football Doubleheader Timing
ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7 and then 10 on their primary channel.
The Monday Night Football doubleheader was a little bit different this time around for ESPN.
First, it came in Week 2 instead of Week 1. And then, the games were staggered 75 minutes apart on two different channels, the Titans and Bills beginning on ESPN at 7:15 PM ET and the Vikings at the Eagles starting at 8:30 PM on ABC and ESPN+. This was a departure from the usual schedule in which the games kicked off at 7:00 PM ET and then 10:00 PM ET with the latter game on the West Coast.
ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7:00 PM and then 10:00 PM ET on their primary channel. That’s the typical approach, right? The NFL is the most valuable offering in all of sports and ESPN would have at least six consecutive hours of live programming without any other game to switch to.
Instead, they staggered the starts so the second game kicked off just before the first game reached halftime. They placed the games on two different channels, which risked cannibalizing their audience. Why? Well, it’s the same reason that ESPN was so excited about the last year’s Manningcast that it’s bringing it back for 10 weeks this season. ESPN is not just recognizing the reality of how their customers behave, but they’re embracing it.
Instead of hoping with everything they have that the customer stays in one place for the duration of the game, they’re recognizing the reality that they will leave and providing another product within their portfolio to be a destination when they do.
It’s the kind of experiment everyone in broadcasting should be investigating because, for all the talk about meeting the customer where they are, we still tend to be a little bit stubborn about adapting to what they do.
Customers have more choices than ever when it comes to media consumption. First, cable networks softened the distribution advantages of broadcast networks, and now digital offerings have eroded the distribution advantages of cable networks. It’s not quite a free-for-all, but the battle for viewership is more intense, more wide open than ever because that viewer has so many options of not just when and where but how they will consume media.
Programmers have a choice in how to react to this. On the one hand, they can hold on tighter to the existing model and try to squeeze as much out of it as they can. If ESPN was thinking this way it would stack those two Monday night games one after the other just like it always has and hope like hell for a couple of close games to juice the ratings. Why would you make it impossible for your customer to watch both of these products you’ve paid so much to televise?
I’ve heard radio programmers and hosts recite take this same approach for more than 10 years now when it comes to making shows available on-demand. Why would you give your customers the option of consuming the product in a way that’s not as remunerative or in a way that is not measured?
That thinking is outdated and it is dangerous from an economic perspective because it means you’re trying to make the customer behave in your best interest by restricting their choices. And maybe that will work. Maybe they like that program enough that they’ll consume it in the way you’d prefer or maybe they decide that’s inconvenient or annoying or they decide to try something else and now this customer who would have listened to your product in an on-demand format is choosing to listen to someone else’s product entirely.
After all, you’re the only one that is restricting that customer’s choices because you’re the only one with a desire to keep your customer where he is. Everyone else is more than happy to give your customer something else.
There’s a danger in holding on too tightly to the existing model because the tighter you squeeze, the more customers will slip through your fingers, and if you need a physical demonstration to complete this metaphor go grab a handful of sand and squeeze it hard.
Your business model is only as good as its ability to predict the behavior of your customers, and as soon as it stops doing that, you need to adjust that business model. Don’t just recognize the reality that customers today will exercise the freedom that all these media choices provide, embrace it.
Offer more products. Experiment with more ways to deliver those products. The more you attempt to dictate the terms of your customer’s engagement with your product, the more customers you’ll lose, and by accepting this you’ll open yourself to the reality that if your customer is going to leave your main offering, it’s better to have them hopping to another one of your products as opposed to leaving your network entirely.
Think in terms of depth of engagement, and breadth of experience. That’s clearly what ESPN is doing because conventional thinking would see the Manningcast as a program that competes with the main Monday Night Football broadcast, that cannibalizes it. ESPN sees it as a complimentary experience. An addition to the main broadcast, but it also has the benefit that if the customer feels compelled to jump away from the main broadcast – for whatever reason – it has another ESPN offering that they may land on.
I’ll be watching to see what ESPN decides going forward. The network will have three Monday Night Football doubleheaders beginning next year, and the game times have not been set. Will they line them up back-to-back as they had up until this year? If they do it will be a vote of confidence that its traditional programming approach that evening is still viable. But if they overlap those games going forward, it’s another sign that less is not more when it comes to giving your customers a choice in products.
Danny O’Neil is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously hosted morning and afternoon drive for 710 ESPN Seattle, and served as a reporter for the Seattle Times. He can be reached on Twitter @DannyOneil or by email at Danny@DannyOneil.com.
Media Noise: Sunday Ticket Has Problems, Marcellus Wiley Does Not
On this episode of Media Noise, Demetri is joined by Brian Noe to talk about the wild year FS1’s Marcellus Wiley has had and by Garrett Searight to discuss the tumultuous present and bright future of NFL Sunday Ticket.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.