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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

(SPORTS) How to Win The Sports Talk Game


Scott Masteller loves sports, and Sports radio. With over 23 years in the business, Scott has worked on both the station and network side, starting as a play-by-play announcer, moving into programming, and most recently serving as ESPN Audio's senior director. Here, he offers some Sports Talk coaching tips.

What attributes do you look for in a sports talent?

All talents are unique. However, there are common traits that make a difference. Being able to drive opinion, tell stories, and deliver payoffs by the quarter-hour are critical in a world where the audience is constantly searching for compelling content. Being able to understand the general principles, or the "blocking and tackling" aspect, of Sports radio is important. So, too, is having a grasp of PPM and how it is the currency of measurement by which radio business is judged.

Being thirsty to find ways to evolve, taking coaching/feedback as part of the process, and having a great sense of how to prep to build a talk show today can make the difference in on-air success.

How do you make audio sports programming more palatable for today's tech-inclined audiences?

It's all about opportunity to meet the audience wherever they are and however they want to consume the content being generated by great Sports stations. It starts with the station?s senior management and an understanding that the audience of today wants access to the content of the radio station wherever and whenever it suits them. Having a strong on-air promotional plan to drive consumption of content on the radio and all other devices must be part of the fabric of the overall presentation.

Giving the audience on-demand access to the best interviews, opinion-driven content, and whatever is relevant to the local audience helps drive the one-on-one relationship between the consumer and the brand the station pushes to the P1s, who are responsible for driving audience numbers.

How has PPM impacted Sports Talk presentation?

The best aspect of PPM is that it is all about the content. Everyone says that, but I believe it is true. The best Sports stations are the ones that deliver the most relevant and compelling content to their local audience. Understanding how to best deliver that content is the challenge. There is a place for format guidelines, but at the same time, the best shows are the ones that react to the audience and go with their instincts as to what is important in the local market.

The more programmers can talk with and study the P1s of the station, the better they can craft their on-air presentation. PPM has taught me that it is all about pacing and delivering multiple payoffs in each quarter-hour, so the consumer always wants more from the radio station.

More stations are carrying NFL games than ever before, but it's not always the team win/loss record that delivers the ratings. What moves the needle with NFL and other football broadcasts?

The NFL, and football in general, have more impact on talk show ratings for the Sports format than any other sport. It is all about the story lines, as the fans in each market are very thirsty for the latest twists and turns on their respective teams. Whether professional or college, football is the ultimate "male soap opera." Each team plays one game per week, yet all the various story lines on and off the field help drive quarter-hour consumption, eventually building to the climax of kickoff and each week's games.

Knowing how to deliver the content in a compelling way, with opinion, interviews, listener engagement, and fun is what drives the overall ratings performance and moves the needle for each station.

What's the best advice you?ve ever gotten in your career? And what advice do you find yourself repeating most often to your talent?

Best advice: Listen ? to everyone. Get as much input as possible from anyone associated with the radio station: the talent, production team, board operators, sales personnel, marketing support. And always look for opportunities to include all staff. This is where some of the best ideas come from.

Advice to talent: Learn as much as possible about your audience, and give them the content most relevant to them. I started my career in Top 40 radio, and that is where I learned the value of "playing the hits." That same principle applies to Sports radio and spoken word radio. When there is a hot story, find those angles that will keep the audience engaged from one quarter-hour to the next.

Deborah Parenti is EVP/GM for Radio Ink. E-mail:

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