(By Mike McVay) Why is everyone always afraid to try something new? Obviously, the risk/reward analysis has to be done before taking any risk, otherwise you’re relying on luck, which isn’t very reliable. It doesn’t matter how big the risk or how big the reward, there is a certain personality type that never wants to roll the dice, and another personality type who thrives on rolling the dice. The most correct answer, if there is such a thing, comes down to having a solid plan to execute a well thought out strategy. That and ice water in your veins to see the strategy through.
The newest and biggest media buzz, as of this moment, is what ESPN2 is airing during Monday Night Football. The Manning Brothers, Peyton and Eli, are watching the MNF game on ESPN, and commenting on the game, as it plays out. It’s what people who watch games, in a room with friends, do during a game. Except it’s on steroids as the two Super Bowl Winning Quarterbacks offer insightful commentary, invite famous guests to join in, and have fun being disrespectful and ragging on each other as only siblings can do in a good-natured way. The critics seem to like it, and more importantly, football fans are checking it out. Kudos to ESPN.
What’s brilliant about this tactic is that ESPN wasn’t afraid to detract and audience from the mothership, they took advantage of an under-viewed situation given that ESPN2 usually runs something that doesn’t compete with football opposite of MNF, and they are milking the tactic for publicity which is earned marketing. They’re promoting it on social media, through the press, and using their own on-line and broadcast platforms to build an audience for ESPN2. This is a smart way to make the once wise-cracking-collegial-style of reporting, that they were once known for, new again and it makes the ESPN brand fresh. Let’s face it … in a world where many people get their sports news on their phone or via YouTube … this is a brilliant way to reignite a product?
Unknown to many is that there is a similar program that takes place in the United Kingdom, Germany and in other European nations. During the European version of Football (known as Soccer here) they have several former footballers who will sit and discuss the match. The difference there versus here is that ESPN owns the rights to Monday Night Football. Which makes it all the more significant in that they’ve attacked themselves. It also legitimizes the longtime practice of stealing what works and making it your own.
When one of my clients was about to lose an NFL team to a competitor, we discussed doing something similar, but for radio only. What the client station did do has been effective, so far in this young season, by continuing their Pre-Game and Post-Game broadcasts using experts as the hosts. It’s a smart tactic because those who have video available to them will watch the game and those who are at the game are likely not listening to radio during the game. Thus, capturing an audience into and out of the sports arena is a real opportunity.
There was another time in the not too recent past where the radio property I was working for, based on research, decided that we couldn’t easily beat the morning show across the street. Their rock show was dominant and showed few weaknesses. Ideation led us to wave the white flag on mornings and create a midday team show that was as entertaining as a morning show, but airing 10:00am-2:00pm. Thus “Wake & Bake” was born. A show designed for those who wake-up late and … well … get baked.
We’ve tried two-person afternoon shows, naming an air-talent “Heaven” versus a show titled “Radio from Hell”, launched a liberal talk show targeted at millennials which was hosted by Clay Aiken and named TBH (To Be Honest), and there was Classic Hip Hop that dominated for a short while as a wide sweeping format. Some of these ideas worked. Some did not.
I’m consulting a nationally syndicated morning talk show that features a male anchor with three female co-hosts. The programs’ unique approach is to show all sides of those topics that are in the news and people are talking about. Be they controversial or entertainment based on what’s trending. It’s not about whose side is right and whose side is wrong.
Jimmy Failla on Fox News Radio is different as is the Gutfeld Show on the Fox News Channel. Greg Beharrell is an actor and radio personality who is presenting a different kind of entertainment on nighttime radio as is the show Steve Gorman Rocks. DeDe McGuire is a woman of color leading a morning show that’s nationally syndicated. The list goes on as experimentation takes place, but there is much more room for trial and error.
Almost every cluster has at least one station in a market where “something” can be tried. Podcasting and HD2 gives you a canvas on which to trial a program or a format. We know this; if you try something new, you will be ridiculed, until it’s successful. Then you’ll be copied and the running of the lemmings will begin.
Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]