Matt Moscona Isn’t Going to Make Many Changes to 104.5 ESPN
“Not only do I know those guys, but I don’t look at it like I need to come in and change a lot of things.”
Most would call it an insane grind if they tried to do what Matt Moscona does daily. There’s a morning YouTube show he solo hosts and never misses, an LSU Daily podcast, another podcast centered on NIL that drops once a week, another Wednesday night podcast with T-Bob Hebert, and then his weekday show from 3:00 -6:00 PM he hosts solo on 104.5 ESPN. That’s not counting his gameday duties during football season.
It seems like there’s not a day that goes by where Moscona isn’t giving his thoughts on LSU, the Saints, or the Pelicans. He’s worked from hotels, airports, cars, on vacations, and even while he’s sick or recovering from an injury. He’s the Cal Ripken Jr. of sports radio.
Moscona embraces the daily grind because he’s comfortable in it. It’s what he knows and what he enjoys doing. Some would get burned out by that schedule, but Moscona never feels his plate is too full.
“It’s a lot, but maybe I’m a bit of an outlier,” said Moscona. “I don’t play video games, watch TV, I don’t have a lot of hobbies, I don’t hunt or fish, this is what I enjoy doing. I’m good at it and I’m very passionate about 104.5 ESPN and Guaranty Media.”
If his daily duties already seemed like a lot to handle, Moscona is adding another title. Earlier this month he was named PD of 104.5 ESPN in Baton Rouge. It almost seems like a full-circle moment for Moscona. He was the first-ever voice on the air at the station and has been employed by Guaranty Media for the majority of his professional life. He deeply cares about the company and will now be in a leadership role to help it grow even further.
“We’ve grown so much and Matt being there every step of the way is huge,” said Gordy Rush, Vice President and General Manager of Guaranty Media. “He’s doing an afternoon drive show and knows all the details of what’s going on. That was a big part for us. I just think it’s huge with Matt’s expertise”
“I take a lot of pride and ownership in the station,” said Moscona. “When I have an opportunity to do something that’s going to help maximize everyone’s experience there and help the station continue to grow, I’m excited to do that. Yeah, it’s more work but it’s something I’m legit excited about. I don’t look at it as a burden, I look at it as an opportunity to help something I love be even better.”
The first thing on the agenda for Moscona is to meet with every member of the staff in a one-on-one setting. That’s a really good place to start. 104.5 ESPN has seen incredible success for many years and was just named the #20 Mid-Market Radio Station in the recent BSM Top 20. Moscona doesn’t need to approach his new position as one where he needs to overhaul everything the station is doing. And he knows exactly that.
“I want to hear everything they think and I want to know what they feel works and what doesn’t,” said Moscona. “I want to know what can be improved and what their individual goals are. Those meetings are going to take some time. Mostly I think one thing I’m really good at is allocating my time. I think too many people waste time on things instead of maximizing their awake hours. We all can fit things, as long as we’re auditing our time properly. That’s really why I’m able to fit in so much.”
When Moscona was initially approached about the opportunity for the PD role at 104.5 ESPN, he had a couple of stipulations. Those were met. Rush confirmed that Cade Voisin will remain as the APD at 104.5 ESPN.
“The only reason I agreed to do this job, I really only had two conditions,” said Moscona. “One, was that Cade Voisin, who was the PD, remained in a role very similar. I am not good at audits, schedules, logs, and all of the clerical stuff. I’m not good at it and I don’t have the time or tolerance to do it. Cade is going to continue doing that, along with basically making sure all of our sports programming — live and otherwise — remains on-air. Those are the types of things he is very strong at and I am not.
“The other part is I think we really needed someone who could manage our on-air staff because we never really had that. To operate more efficiently and become more profitable, which are things I’m very good at. You can describe the titles however you want, but I think Cade and I working together is important. If he weren’t in that role, I wouldn’t have agreed to do this.”
There’s a distinct advantage to promoting a PD that’s already in the building and has a working relationship with every on-air talent. Especially one that’s been at the station since the lights were turned on. Maybe there’s never a truly seamless transition when a station hires a new PD, but having someone in the role that knows every inside and out of the company, probably makes things quite a bit easier.
“Not only do I know those guys, but I don’t look at it like I need to come in and change a lot of things,” said Moscona. “Off the Bench has had a ton of success. They don’t need me to come tell them how to do their show. One of the things I love about Guaranty Media is that for as long as I’ve been there I’ve never — not once — had anyone tell me to talk about this, and not talk about that. It’s basically, we just trust you, do your show, and let the results speak for themselves.”
Not only is familiarity with the staff an advantage for Moscona as PD, but he also sits in the same chair his hosts sit in every day. There’s also a big advantage to that, as well.
“One of the real benefits of sitting in the same chair they’ve sat in every day, is I know where some of the frustration lies and now I’m empowered to do something about it, which I think does lend me to have a better finger on the pulse of what our air staff is going to want,” said Moscona. “Similarly, I know where our shortcomings are and I’ll know very quickly the things I need to address.”
Guaranty Media and 104.5 ESPN have a very forward-thinking mentality when it comes to content and exposure. The group is all-in on the video side of sports radio and figuring out a way to maximize growth and revenue in the digital space.
That’s one way where Moscona’s role as a PD is unique to some others. He has to manage the radio side of things, but there’s also the video component that’s massive for 104.5 ESPN.
“We just recognize that you have to have a digital presence,” said Moscona. “We built that TV studio five years ago with the understanding that people want to consume video. You have to give people that option. Yes, it’s absolutely going to be continuing to push our digital video product, which all of our shows stream live on YouTube. It’s continuing to look for other partnerships as far as video. My show is carried across the greater Baton Rouge area on a local TV affiliate. I’m going to continue to look for options for all of our shows, not just in Baton Rouge but statewide and regionally.
“Growing the video presence is a massive part of our growth. Guaranty has been around for 97 years. If you ask our president and CEO Flynn Foster, who’s a third-generation CEO, he says, ‘Guaranty was my grandfather’s vision, my dad’s execution, and my job not to screw it up’. I love that. His thing is they’re not interested in selling Guaranty ever. He wants it to exist for another 200 years. The vision is always not just ‘How do I meet a top line revenue number in Q1 of 2023’, it’s how do I make sure in 2053 Guaranty is still healthy. Bring in a leadership role, that’s very empowering. You can have a long-term vision and you know you have the support of your management to try and execute it.”
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.
Is There Still a Place for Baseball Talk on National Sports Shows?
“Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance.”
Last week at the BSM Summit, I hosted a panel focused on air checks. I wish I could say we covered the topic thoroughly, but we got derailed a lot, and you know what? That is okay. It felt like real air checks that I have been on both sides of in my career.
Rob Parker of The Odd Couple on FOX Sports Radio was the talent. He heard thoughts on his show from his boss, Scott Shapiro, and from his former boss, legendary WFAN programmer Mark Chernoff.
Baseball was the topic that caused one of our derailments on the panel. If you know Rob, you know he is passionate about Major League Baseball. He cited download numbers that show The Odd Couple’s time-shifted audience responds to baseball talk. To him, that proves there is not just room for it on nationally syndicated shows, but that there is a sizable audience that wants it.
Chernoff disagrees. He says baseball is a regional sport. Sure, there are regions that love it and local sports talk stations will dedicate full hours to discussing their home team’s games and roster. National shows need to cast a wide net though, and baseball doesn’t do that.
Personally, I agree with Chernoff. I told Parker on stage that “I hear baseball talk and I am f***ing gone.” The reason for that, I think, is exactly what Chernoff said. I grew up in Alabama (no baseball team). I live in North Carolina (no baseball team). Where baseball is big, it is huge, but it isn’t big in most of the country.
Now, I will add this. I used to LOVE baseball. It is the sport I played in high school. The Yankees’ logo was on the groom’s cake at my wedding. Then I had kids.
Forget 162 games. Even five games didn’t fit into my lifestyle. Maybe somewhere deep down, I still have feelings for the sport, but they are buried by years of neglect and active shunning.
Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance.
Me, and millions of sports talk listeners like me, look at baseball like a toddler looks at broccoli. You probably aren’t lying when you tell us how much you love it, but damn it! WE WANT CHICKEN FINGERS!
A new Major League Baseball season starts Thursday and I thought this topic was worth exploring. I asked three nationally syndicated hosts to weigh in. When is baseball right for their show and how do they use those conversations? Here is what they had to say.
FREDDIE COLEMAN (Freddie & Fitzsimmons on ESPN Radio) – “MLB can still be talked nationally IF there’s that one player like Aaron Judge or Shohei Ohtani can attract the casual fan. MLB has definitely become more local because of the absence of that SUPER player and/or villainous team. I wonder if the pace of play will help bring in the younger fans that they need, but the sport NEEDS that defining star that is must-see TV.”
JONAS KNOX (2 Pros & a Cup of Joe on FOX Sports Radio) – “While football is king for me in sports radio, I look at baseball like most other sports. I’m not opposed to talking about it, as long as I have an angle or opinion that I am confident I can deliver in an entertaining manner. A couple of times of any given year, there are stories in baseball that are big picture topics that are obvious national discussions.
“I think it’s my job to never close the door on any topic/discussion (except politics because I don’t know anything about it).
“But also, if I’m going to discuss a localized story in baseball or any other sport for that matter – I better have an entertaining/informed angle on it. Otherwise, I’ve let down the listener and that is unacceptable. If they give you their time, you better not waste it.”
MAGGIE GRAY (Maggie & Perloff on CBS Sports Radio) – “While I was on WFAN there was almost no amount of minutia that was too small when it came to the Mets and Yankees. On Maggie and Perloff, our baseball topics have to be more centered around issues that can be universal. For example, ’Is Shohei Ohtani the face of the sport? Is Ohtani pitching and hitting more impressive than two sport athletes like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders? Do you consider Aaron Judge the single-season homerun king or Barry Bonds?’ Any baseball fan or sports fan can have an opinion about those topics, so we find they get great engagement from our audience.”
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.
Who Can Sports Fans Trust Once Twitter Ditches Legacy Verified Blue Checks?
The potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.
As of April 1, Twitter will finally make a dreaded change that many will view as an April Fools’ prank. Unfortunately, it won’t be a joke to any user who cares about legitimacy and truth.
Last week, Twitter officially announced that verified blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that have not signed up for a Twitter Blue subscription. Previously, accounts whose identity had been verified were allowed to keep their blue checks when Twitter Blue was implemented.
But shortly after Elon Musk purchased Twitter and became the social media company’s CEO, he stated his intention to use verification as a revenue source. Users would have to pay $8 per month (or $84 annually) for a Twitter Blue subscription and blue checkmark verification. Paying for blue checks immediately set off red flags among users who learned to depend on verified accounts for accredited identities and trusted information.
The entire concept of verification and blue checks was simple and effective. Users and accounts bearing the blue checkmark were legitimate. These people and organizations were who they said they were.
As an example, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has faced criticism for how he framed domestic violence and sexual misconduct involving star NFL players, and deservedly so. But fans and media know Schefter’s tweets are really coming from him because his account is verified.
Furthermore, Twitter took the additional step of clarifying that accounts such as Schefter’s were verified before Twitter Blue was implemented. He didn’t pay eight dollars for that blue checkmark.
The need for verification is never more vital than when fake accounts are created to deceive users. Such accounts will put “Adam Schefter” as their Twitter name, even if their handle is something like “@TuaNeedsHelp.” Or worse, some fake accounts will create a handle with letters that look similar. So “@AdarnSchefter” with an “rn” in place of the “m,” fools some people, especially at a quick glance when people are trying to push news out as fast as possible.
Plenty of baseball fans have been duped over the years by fake accounts using a zero instead of an “o” or a capital “I” instead of a lowercase “l” to resemble Fox Sports and The Athletic reporter Ken Rosenthal. That trick didn’t get me. But when I covered Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report 10 years ago, I did fall for a fake Jim Salisbury account that reported the Philadelphia Phillies traded Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants. Capital “I,” not lowercase “l” in “Salisbury.” Pence was, in fact, traded to the Giants two days later, but that didn’t make my goof any less embarrassing. I should’ve looked for the blue checkmark!
But after April 1, that signifier won’t matter. Legacy blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that haven’t paid for Twitter Blue. Some accounts that were previously verified might purchase a subscription to maintain that blue check. But those that were deemed legitimate prior to Musk taking over Twitter likely won’t. (There are also rumors that Twitter is considering a feature that would allow Twitter Blue subscribers to hide their blue check and avoid revealing that purchase.)
That could be even more true for media organizations, which are being told to pay $1000 per month for verification. Do you think ESPN, the New York Times, or the Washington Post will pay $12,000 for a blue check?
We’ve already seen the problems that paying for verification can cause. Shortly after Twitter Blue launched, accounts pretending to be legacy verified users could be created. A fake Adam Schefter account tweeted that the Las Vegas Raiders had fired head coach Josh McDaniels. Users who saw the “Adam Schefter” Twitter name went with the news without looking more closely at the “@AdamSchefterNOT” handle. But there was a blue checkmark next to the name this time!
The same thing occurred with a fake LeBron James account tweeting that the NBA superstar had requested a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers. There was a “@KINGJamez” handle, but a “LeBron James” Twitter name with a blue check next to it.
Whether it’s because fans and media have become more discerning or Twitter has done good work cracking down on such fake accounts, there haven’t been many outrageous examples of deliberate deception since last November. But the potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.
If that seems like an overstatement, it’s a very real possibility that there will be an erosion of trust among Twitter users. Media and fans may have to take a breath before quickly tweeting and retweeting news from accounts that may or may not be credible. False news and phony statements could spread quickly and go viral across social media.
Even worse, Musk has announced that only verified Twitter Blue accounts will be seen in your “For You” timeline as of April 15. (He can’t claim it’s an April Fools’ Day joke on that date.)
Obviously, that carries far more serious real-world implications beyond sports. Forget about a fake Shams Charania account tweeting that Luka Dončić wants to be traded to the Lakers. It’s not difficult to imagine a fake Joe Biden account declaring war on Russia and some people believing it’s true because of the blue checkmark.
We may be nearing the end of Twitter being a reliable news-gathering tool. If the accounts tweeting out news can’t be trusted, where’s the value? Reporters and newsmakers may end up going to other social media platforms to break stories and carry the viability of verification.
When Fox Sports’ website infamously pivoted to video in 2017, Ken Rosenthal posted his MLB reporting on Facebook prior to joining The Athletic. Hello, Instagram. Will someone take their following and reputation to a fledgling platform like Mastodon, Post, Spoutible, or BlueSky, even if it means a lesser outlet?
If and when that happens, Twitter could still be a community but not nearly as much fun. Not when it becomes a matter of trust that breaks up the party.
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s a Lesson For Us All in Florida Atlantic’s Elite 8 Broadcast Struggle
“It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.”
Ken LaVicka and Kevin Harlan probably don’t have a ton in common. Both of them were announcing an Elite Eight game over the weekend, that is one thing tying them together, but their experiences were wildly different. Harlan is on CBS with a production crew numbering in the dozens making certain all goes smoothly. LaVicka, the voice of the Florida Atlantic Owls, is a production crew himself, making certain those listening in South Florida heard the Owls punch their Final Four ticket. At least, that was LaVicka’s plan.
The Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Men’s Final Four. Even while typing that sentence, it still seems odd to say. Do you know how many college basketball teams are thinking “how can Florida Atlantic make the Final Four and we can’t?” These are the types of stories that make the NCAA Tournament what it is. There is, literally, no barrier stopping any team from this tournament going on the run of their life and making it all the way.
Everyone listening in South Florida almost missed the moment it all became real for the Owls. With :18.6 to go in Florida Atlantic’s Elite Eight game against Kansas State, the Madison Square Garden Ethernet service to the front row of media seating went completely dark.
It was on that row that Ken LaVicka was painting the picture back to South Florida. Well, he was until the internet died on him.
Nobody does a single show away from their home studio anymore without trying to avoid the nightmare of Ethernet failure. Gone are the days of phone lines and ISDN connections, all the audio and video is now sent back to the studio over the technological miracle that is the internet. It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.
Take that anxiety and multiply it by 1,000 when that Ethernet line is connected to a Comrex unit for the most important moment of your career. LaVicka had the great fortune of a Kansas State timeout to try something, anything, to save the day. In his quick thinking, he spun around and grabbed an ethernet cable from row two which, as it turns out, still had internet access flowing through it’s cables. That cable, though, was the equivalent of an iPhone charging cord; never as long as you need it to be.
One of LaVicka’s co-workers from ESPN West Palm held the Comrex unit close enough to the second row for the cable to make a connection and the day was saved. LaVicka was able to call the last :15 of the Florida Atlantic win and, presumably, get in all the necessary sponsorship mentions.
It was an exciting end to the FAU v. Kansas State game, a great defensive stop by the Owls to seal the victory. LaVicka told the NCAA’s Andy Katz he tried to channel his inner Jim Nantz to relay that excitement. The NCAA Tournament excitement started early this year. In the very first TV window 13 Seed Furman upset 4 Seed Virginia with a late three pointer by JP Pegues, who had been 0-for-15 from beyond the arc leading up to that shot. It is the type of play the NCAA Tournament is built upon.
It was called in the manner Kevin Harlan’s career was built upon. Harlan, alongside Stan Van Gundy and Dan Bonner, called the Virginia turnover leading to the made Furman basket with his trademark excitement before laying out for the crowd reaction. After a few seconds of crowd excitement he asked his analysts, and the world, “Did we just see what I think we saw? Wow!” Vintage Kevin Harlan.
One reason we are so aware of what Harlan said, and that he signaled his analysts to lay out for the crowd reaction, was a CBS Sports tweet with video of Harlan, Van Gundy and Bonner in a split screen over the play. It gave us a rare look at a pro in the middle of his craft. We got to see that Harlan reacts just like he sounds. The video has more than six million views and has been retweeted more than 6,000 times, a lot of people seem to like it.
Kevin Harlan is not in that group. Harlan appeared on Richard Deitsch’s Sports Media podcast after the video went public and said he was embarrassed by it. Harlan added he “begged” CBS not send the tweet out but to no avail. Harlan told Deitsch “I don’t know that I’m glad that they caught our expression, but I’m glad the game was on the air. I think I join a chorus of other announcers who do not like the camera.”
There’s a valuable announcer lesson from Harlan there; the audience is almost always there for the game, not you. Harlan went on to describe the broadcast booth to Deitsch as somewhat of a sacred place. He would prefer to let his words accompany the video of the action to tell the story. Kevin Harlan is as good as they come at his craft, if he thinks that way, there’s probably great value in that line of thought.
We can learn from LaVicka, as well. You work in this business long enough and you come to accept technical difficulties are as much a part of it as anything. They always seem to strike at the worst times, it is just in their nature. Those who can find a way to deal with them without everything melting down are those who can give their audience what they showed up for. Those who lose their mind and spend time complaining about them during the production simply give the audience information they don’t really care about.
The Final Four is an unlikely collection of teams; Miami, San Diego State, Connecticut and Florida Atlantic. You all had that in your brackets, right? Yep, the Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Final Four and Ken LaVicka will be there for it. Now, if the internet will just hold out.
Ryan Brown is a columnist for Barrett Sports Media, and a co-host of the popular sports audio/video show ‘The Next Round’ formerly known as JOX Roundtable, which previously aired on WJOX in Birmingham. You can find him on Twitter @RyanBrownLive and follow his show @NextRoundLive.