Media Circus roundtable: Inside the life of a sports radio producer
I’ve always been fascinated by the job of sports radio producer given their many hats and roles, from the managing and planning of daily content to serving as amateur shrinks for talent. While you won’t find their names on the show’s marquee—you might occasionally hear their voices—the group of panelists below are the lead producers of some of the most popular sports talk shows in the U.S. and Canada. Last week I paneled a group of them to provide some insight for readers into what goes into producing sports radio (and by extension podcasts).
Marty Caswell, producer/reporter, The Darren Smith Show, The Mighty 1090AM (San Diego).
Jon Goulet, executive producer, The Herd with Colin Cowherd, Fox Sports Radio and iHeartRadio.
Matt Marchese, producer, Prime Time Sports, Rogers Sportsnet (Canada).
Paul Pabst, executive producer, Dan Patrick Show, DirecTV and NBCSN.
Shannon Penn, on-air producer, The Right Time with Bomani Jones, ESPN Radio.
Greg Toohey, executive producer, The Herd with Colin Cowherd, Fox Sports Radio and iHeartRadio
The panelists were asked to go as long or as short as they wanted. I choose some of the people because I know and respect them personally. For example, last month in Toronto I co-hosted PrimeTime Sports for a week (so I worked with Marchese and Azzopardi) and appear weekly on the show. I’ve also appeared on The Darren Smith and Dan Patrick Show multiple times. Goulet and Toohey answered for Cowherd’s show and I appreciate their answers given I’ve certainly been critical at times of their host. Hope you enjoy this.
SI: How many hours a day (on average) do you work on the show?
Marty Caswell: Twelve to 14 hours is the norm although there really isn't an end time to any work day unless your show is booked rock solid and there isn't a sporting event going on that has local interest. Sports news seems to take place 24/7 and it’s not uncommon to fall asleep clutching my Blackberry, waiting for that guest to confirm via text or email. I don’t know that you ever really stop working and searching for ideas during waking hours.
Matt Marchese: On average I would say that I work on the show for about 9-10 hours per day including show time. It usually starts in the morning, hopping on the iPad to look at articles from different websites and catch up on the big stories of the day. The total time spent on the show includes pre-show stuff like guest booking, putting together the lineup for [host] Bob [McCown] and whoever the co-host may be, and post-show stuff like booking for the next day. I am fortunate to work with another producer, Jeff Azzopardi, who also spends about the same amount of time on the show prep. It’s a real team effort.
Paul Pabst: Technically, I get to work at 6:45 a.m. ET for the 9 a.m. show and head home around 3 p.m as do [fellow staffers] Seton O’Connor, Todd Fritz and Andrew Perloff. But it’s not about hours in a building; it’s about awareness all day for anything that can be content for the show. If it’s 11 p.m. and you’re watching a MAC football game and something nuts happens, that one thing could the piece of content that jumps the next day on the show.
Shannon Penn: I don’t have a set amount of hours each day that I dedicate to the show. The hours vary based upon the news of the day and how many guests I may need to book. My workday usually starts around 10 a.m. ET, where I scour the net, read emails, and exchange texts with Bomani about ideas for that day’s show. I try to make it in studio around 1 p.m.
Greg Toohey: We're at the studio/Fox lot on average about 10-11 hours. We arrive at the studio at 5:30 a.m. PT and leave at 2:30 p.m.-ish, then spend a couple hours at home in the evenings preparing for the following day. When you throw in watching games and highlight shows, it never ends, and that's the best part! There are constant texts and emails being sent throughout the night about everything from major topics to funny drops.
SI.com: What is your most important responsibility and why?
Caswell: Making sure that my host Darren Smith has the best possible tools for his show, whether that be a topical, informative, timely guest and/or newsmaker, the right audio to use on the show, or that I provide the right interaction when possible. Consistency and always looking ahead is vital.
Goulet: For me it’s helping with the content each day. Is there a good line, funny joke or piece of sound that I can bring to the table that will enhance the show in some way beyond just Colin’s point?
Marchese: I think besides booking the guests, it’s making sure the show flows properly with how it is structured. Being a national show, it’s harder to focus on local stories like the Toronto Maple Leafs (especially when they aren’t winning). Local stories for the most part are touched on in the 4 p.m. ET hour. From 5 to 7 [p.m.], we usually focus on more national stories like the Blue Jays or possibly the Raptors because of their country-wide reach. Finding the right fit for guests with certain co-hosts is also important to what we do. There is a filtering process when I book guests. First off, does this work with Bob? Next is, does he work better with the 4 p.m. hour co-host or the 5-7 p.m. co-host? After that, everything seemingly falls into place.
Pabst: Focus when you’re on the air live. From 9 a.m. to noon eastern, my focus is totally on Dan and the show. You have to be locked in. As an old boss at CBS News told me, “If a family member dies when I’m on the air … tell me after the show.” The point is, if you aren’t focused, you will miss many chances to add questions, topics, direction to the show. You will have an average show.
Penn: As a producer, content management is vital. For the most part, Bomani and I have an idea of what the primary topics are. Execution of how and when the topics are discussed is one of, if not my most important, responsibility.
Toohey: Making sure we're prepared and ready to go each day in regards to the stories we're going to hit and supporting Colin in the direction he wants to go with them.
SI.com: Independent of you specifically, how important is your role to the show?
Caswell: It is pretty important although so much depends on the host, especially when it's a solo host like Darren, who is always extremely prepared. When you have multiple hosts on the show, it takes a lot of pressure off. In a solo situation like Darren, the producer role is increased, whether it's booking guests, cultivating relationships that are vital to the show, and on-air interaction. I use my producer role and media credentials to access practices and locker rooms and book guests for the show. I think taking advantage of that type of access is one of the most important things a producer can do.
Marchese: The role of the producer on Prime Time Sports is extremely important, and I’m not just saying that because I’m in that position. My predecessors would agree that Prime Time Sports is a totally different animal in the sports radio industry in that the host has no idea what’s on the show until he gets there. Bob shows up about 15-20 minutes before the show starts and has entrusted Jeff, myself and all the other producers before us to be creative and put together the best show possible every day. When news breaks, then Bob may give his input on who we should get on, but for the most part, he stays clear of booking the show. I can’t recall in my four-plus years on the show ever having a pre-show meeting.
Pabst: A producers’ job when you boil it down is to give a host everything they need to put out a great show. You also have to be the audience for your host. If a topic is drying up, tell them to move on. If they really are onto something on air, give them the feedback to stay with the topic.
Penn: I have the luxury and creative freedom to talk on-air more than the typical producer. This allows Bomani to bounce things off of me, and pivot from one topic to another. In turn, the show feels more like a conversation, as opposed to a lecture. Instead of him talking at the listeners, he’s talking to me. In essence, I represent his audience.
Toohey: Extremely important. My role is to help keep all the pieces of the puzzle together. Because our show is simulcast on both FS1 & Fox Sports Radio, we have a lot of people involved in putting different aspects of the show together. With so many involved, the main focus is communication, so that we're all on the same page.
SI.com: What is the best part of your job and why?
Caswell: I got into this business because I absolutely love sports. So covering a live sporting event and booking the star of the game on the show for the next day while beating the competition is the best feeling in the world.
Marchese: I get to talk about sports every single day and put together a show that is broadcast across Canada that I used to listen to as a kid. That’s pretty cool.
Pabst: It’s never the same day. Every day is a three-hour blank slate. I love the pressure of working with Dan, Seton, Andrew and Todd to create three hours of live content, five days a week. You can’t ease in during the morning. You have to hit the gas. Also, getting to interview people you would never expect to meet: Clint Eastwood, Bill Clinton, John Glenn, Warren Buffett etc.
Penn: I always enjoy when Bomani and I can go back-and-forth on something, usually comical in nature, that wasn’t part of the show’s initial rundown. Those discussions are more genuine, and don’t seem as contrived. We are comfortable laughing on-air, even at the expense of ourselves.
Toohey: Best part is waking up every morning and realizing we get paid to talk about and discuss sports for a living. Every day is different. You never know what’s going to happen in the sports world or what direction the show might take. I know it’s a very cliché answer but it’s absolutely true. Also, we really love to see the interaction with the guests (athletes/actors/, etc) that come by the set.
SI.com: Who do you envision is your audience and why?
Caswell: I envision our audience primarily as men, 25-54, really because that is the demographic our station targets and emphasizes. I think our audience consists of passionate Chargers and Padres fans who love good insight and extremely intelligent interviews. I'm also conscious that a lot of women listen to our show and I love that.
Marchese: Our audience varies in age, but I would say the biggest chunk of our audience is male, early-to-mid-30s to mid-60s. I picture our audience driving in their cars stuck in rush hour every day. Being simulcast on Sportsnet 360 gives us the opportunity to grab a different audience who isn’t in their cars because as we know, not too many people turn on the radio when they get home. I think our audience is pretty well educated in sports and very passionate about the local teams.
Pabst: I don’t get into demographics and age numbers. It’s silly. I like to think that our listeners are driving to work and want to laugh, hear a great interview. When we meet fans of the show on the road, the best part is when they say the reason they listen and feel like they are hanging with their friends at the bar.
Penn: Your typical listener isn’t coming to Bomani for an “X’s and O’s” breakdown of the game. People tune in to hear his unique perspective on a matter. We have an open-minded and inquisitive audience that doesn’t settle for the lazy narratives.
Toohey: I think Colin appeals to a lot of the more casual sports fans who like hearing topics put into the context of their every day lives and not just sports. They like sports but also look for some humor throughout the show and don’t mind hearing opinions that differ from theirs
SI.com: How important is it for you to get along personally (not just professionally) with your host and why?
Caswell: It’s extremely important for Darren and I to get along personally, although that's not to say we don't clash often on show ideas and argue. Because we do so rather frequently. We spend so much time working on the show together in-studio, going over ideas at night via text messaging, etc. and interacting on-air as well that if we don't get along on a personal basis, that comes through loud and clear on-air. Good chemistry is imperative and I think we've done a very good job. We don't just have a radio show where I provide the guests and Darren delivers the content. We have a good dynamic that features our respective personalities and relationship.
Marchese: I can’t picture any situation where not getting along with a host personally or professionally is a good one. For me, it’s vital to have a good relationship with your host, because if you can’t have a conversation with that person, how can they trust you? In the situation we are in on Prime Time, trust is huge, so having a good relationship is imperative.
Pabst: Not as important as you would think. I would rather have a great host than a great friend. I have friends and none of them could host a national show. I’m good friends with Dan, we’ve worked together since 2002. That said, he and I work well together and that’s why I’m here. Not because I’m good to eat wings with.
Penn: You don’t have to be the best of friends with the host, but it is imperative that you get along. When there is tension, the audience can sense that. I am extremely fortunate to do a show with someone I respect and get along with both personally and professionally.
Toohey: Very important. You want to feel like you have that relationship where you can pick up the phone and call each other when an idea pops up or just to check in.
SI.com: How do you feel your show addresses the nexus of race and sports?
Caswell: Fairly well. Race and sports are very much intertwined and we address it as it affects our audience, whether that be a topical conversation about the Washington nickname or lack of minorities in baseball. Do we go out and spend segments on if Chip Kelly is a racist because of what LeSean McCoy said? No. We cannot offer first-person perspective but the show has never shied away from important matters.
Marchese: I don’t think that we go out of our way to cover any specific topic, but as an issue-based show, we dive into topics that are top of mind. Race and sports come up every so often and I think we do a really good job of taking a look at many different angles to these types of stories. We certainly don’t shy away from these topics.
Pabst: When topics of race/sex/religion/politics come into our show, I like to keep them under the umbrella of sports. We don’t cover racial issues, political issues until there is a sports hook to them. I don’t think our listeners want our personal agendas and beliefs spouted during a sports show. We are covering stories, hopefully objectively, not dictating storylines outside of sports.
Penn: Anyone familiar with Bomani Jones knows he does not shy away from discussing race and how it affects us socially. It is time for us to be mature enough to have these conversations without getting defensive or feeling threatened.
Toohey: We dive into everything. The best part about Colin is his ability to take a story to the next level, whether it's in life, politics, race/gender or sports. He has never shied away from topics like that. If that’s what people listening are interested in then it should be talked about
How do you feel your show addresses the nexus of gender and sports?
Caswell: Pretty well, and Darren will often say he's glad to have female perspective when a certain topic arises involving women in sports or how women are perceived by athletes, media, etc.
Marchese: I would say the same thing for gender and sports as for race and sports. If the story is topical, we cover it, because not only is the audience interested in this, but we are as well. As a Canadian show, I can’t tell you how many times we have talked about Title IX, and it doesn’t really pertain to a Canadian audience, but it’s something that needs to be discussed.
Pabst: I was told once by a radio programmer, “Never ever program to women.” His point was that sports radio is almost exclusively listened to by men. I didn’t agree with him then and don’t now. I don’t like using the word “never” and having hard rules on what to cover and what not to. If we are fired up about a story, it’s going on air. That simple.
Penn: We take great pride in challenging preconceived notions. We treat our female counterparts with the same level of respect as the males in media. We often joke that no other show will have as diverse a guest list as ours. We’ll have a female guest on, not because she’s a woman, but because she is knowledgeable about what she is talking about. We all know the sports industry is male-dominated, but we are smart enough to recognize that women can play, thrive, and cover athletics just a good, and in some cases, better than men.
Toohey: See answer above.
SI.com: How much should a producer be involved on-air and why?
Caswell: It really depends on the show and what that producer has to offer. Darren incorporates me and our board-op Jordan Carruth, rather often. I cover the Chargers practices, games and postgames and conduct player interviews frequently, same for the Padres. Jordan does the SDSU Aztecs pre- and postgame shows so Darren will use us often for our contributions and respective insight. It is not uncommon for Darren to talk to me and interact frequently during non-guest interview segments.
Goulet: We believe the producers should have a small role on the air. It’s good to poke fun at Colin a little or argue with one of his points but listeners tune in for Colin, not producers.
Marchese: The audience doesn’t turn on our show to hear me on the air (although some friends and family may disagree). I know some producers get air time because they have that kind of a role on their show, but for the most part I stay away from turning my mic on in the studio to throw information into the show. If I need to say something, I can buzz into the host’s ear or just wait until the break. There is a reason that producers are producers and hosts are hosts, or at least that’s what they tell me.
Pabst: Less is more. People are tuning in to hear the host or hosts. An on-air producer should open their mic when they can help out their host: questions, comments, laughter, etc. Every time you open your mic, you should have the purpose of giving your host something to work with. Our show is more of an ensemble, a la The Howard Stern Show. All the producers are in play. The goal here is to give our host a lot to play off … or not.
Penn: Knowing when to “crack the mic” is always tricky. You have to understand that people listen to the show to hear the host. One of a producer’s main responsibilities I to assist and accentuate what the host does/says.
Toohey: Radio has definitely changed in that aspect. The days when you would hear the same voice over and over and over again, are all but gone. Our show is unique with how we utilize [anchor] Kristine Leahy. Our second segment is 20 minutes straight through the bottom of the hour, without a commercial break. She comes in at the bottom of each hour and discusses the latest "trending/hot" stories with Colin. It's an idea Colin had before we started, where you get that "second voice". But it's not a sports update; it's a four or five-minute conversation between the two. With regard to producers being on the air, it definitely provides value as Goulet and I will pop on when needed for a show “bit” or quick note.
SI.com: How much does criticism of the show, whether from media members, via social media, or elsewhere, bother you and why?
Caswell: It really depends on the type of criticism. Is someone tweeting or emailing with constructive criticism, or to express we talk too much Chargers, or why haven't we booked so and so? That never bothers me. People that send derogatory, sexist, racist and vile criticism bothers me. I used to respond and now for the most part realize the block button and send to spam buttons are my friend. Social media can be great but the worst part is it emboldens cowards to act in a way they'd never do in person.
Goulet: Colin upset some people when he left ESPN for Fox so they are looking for any way they can to take shots at the show. In the end that just tells us that those people are listening. Criticism doesn’t bother us at all.
Marchese: This is a pretty funny one. We get tons of criticism from all corners of the universe. Does it bother me? Of course it does. But I’m certainly not going to lose sleep over an email that tells me how terrible the show is because I know that said person is still going to listen to the show the next day. Everybody has an opinion and they are entitled to it, but this show has been a staple in Canadian media for a long time before I got here and a little bit of criticism isn’t going to change the way we do things.
Pabst: If you pay too much attentions to criticism, Twitter etc … that will paralyze you. It’s unhealthy. If you pay NO attention to it, you may be overconfident. I like to get feedback from media pros whose opinions I respect. That said, you can’t overhaul your show every time you get some shaky review. Do what you believe in and then go home. It’s sports, not surgery.
Penn: Going into this you have to assume that what you do isn’t for everyone. You try not to let criticism bother you. I try to get an understanding of what it is someone doesn’t like, and reevaluate things to see if there was a better way we good have handled a topic/situation. It’s funny, this past weekend someone on Twitter referred to me as a “Yes Man.” Initially I was annoyed, but then I asked the gentleman to explain why he felt that why, he said he liked the show, but wanted to hear more of my opinions. He said I conceded to Bomani too much. I told him that we often have differing opinions, but this wasn’t a debate show. Could I disagree with Bomani more on-air? Sure, but that is not how the show is set up. I have a full understanding of what my role is. Besides, my name is not on the marquee.
Toohey: It's not bothersome at all. We’re in the relevance business. And if people are talking about us (good or bad), we’ll take it.
Would you define your show as controversial? If yes, why? If no, why?
Caswell: Not one bit. This isn’t a show that looks for cheap ratings by engaging in name-calling, trolling or any such nonsense. Listeners and guests know they can expect thoughtful insight and a host that is always prepared. The host isn't a sexist pig or a racist so avoiding controversy is rather easy.
Goluet: To me a controversial show seeks out controversial takes and that’s not what The Herd does. Colin has honest opinions on topics and people that disagree consider it controversial. Saying Iowa has had a weak out of conference schedule or Derrick Rose doesn’t shoot well enough to win a title isn’t really controversial. Iowa and Derrick Rose fans just disagree.
Marchese: With the topics we cover, it’s hard not to be controversial. Like I said in the previous question, everybody has an opinion and if we aren’t being controversial, I don’t think we are doing our job. Bob says things that people disagree with all the time and I think that’s a huge reason why people continue to listen and have for a long time.
Pabst: No, I wouldn’t describe our show as controversial. We are here to have a good time, talk sports and other topics, [get] killer interviews and get serious when need be. Lots of shows have “faux anger pottery barn controversy.” They manufacture arguments and anger. It’s pretty transparent. Dude, why are you so angry? You’re getting paid to talk sports.
Penn: I wouldn’t say controversial per se but the show is unafraid to have the conversation(s) that make people uncomfortable. Bomani is thoughtful, making sure he is respectful to the subject matter. He will not sugarcoat it, but will go to great lengths so that you understand the crux of his point, even if you might not agree.
Toohey: We’ve probably been labeled by some as controversial. For example, Colin was very anti-Iowa during the college football season and we got a lot of heat from them on that, especially when [coach] Kirk Ferentz and their quarterback C.J. Beathard took shots at us for doubting them. I think as a host and show, if you believe in something and can back it up with facts, you shouldn’t worry about being criticized or controversial.
SI.com: What do you consider your show’s single worst on-air moment and why?
Caswell: We were broadcasting from the Chargers blood drive and had Brandon Flowers on the show. He had recently found out that his best friend, Eric Berry, had leukemia. I was asked to please make sure that Darren didn't ask him any questions about Berry on-air. I didn't get that message clearly enough to Darren and he asked Brandon about Berry's diagnosis. Flowers handled it well but it made for a very uncomfortable moment on the air. However both parties rectified the situation afterwards and it didn't prove to become a problem.
Marchese: I don’t think we have any huge blunders since I’ve been on the show. But personally there is one for me that I thought I was going to get in trouble for from Bob. I had just started on the show and was given a number for former MLB Commissioner, Fay Vincent. I called him and booked him for a segment. I was certainly proud of that, thought it was pretty much a slam-dunk that he was going to say yes. I called from the studio and locked him in to get on the air. Bob and the co-host that day chatted for a couple of minutes while Mr. Vincent was on the line waiting. He hung up. When Bob threw to him, there was tone. I called back and told him that we must have had a bad connection. He admitted that he hung up on purpose because we told him we would get him on at 4:40 and it was 4:42 when they finally got to him, so he hung up. Needless to say, he didn’t appear on the show that day. To his credit, he has appeared on the show many times since and is a very nice man. No hard feelings.
Pabst: I don’t have one but personally when I give Dan incorrect information and he puts it out on air. He gets the heat and it was my mistake. A big role of the producer is to protect the credibility of their host. Giving your host bad info is the quickest way to hurt that. I try to never put Dan in that position, but over 12 years, it has happened and I remember every one of them. The worst.
Penn: After the Mets clinched the National League title, we interviewed Mets play-by-play announcer Keith Hernandez. I don’t know if Keith had a long day or just didn’t feel like doing the interview. His answers, or lack thereof, made for a tough listen. Bomani tried his best to make it through, but you can tell Keith wasn’t into it. Bomani cut the interview short after about five minutes, and I told him that I knew enough about the Mets, and that he should interview me. He reset the interview and asked me the same questions he did for Keith. So what started as a complete bomb of a segment, turned out to be one of our more entertaining ones.
Toohey: We’ve only been on the air for a little over three months, so we really haven't had a "worst" moment yet. But something that happened recently during Heisman week was a first. We thought we had Christian McCaffrey booked, but David Shaw called instead. We gladly took him and had fun with how it came to be (mix up with their sports information department).
What do you consider your show’s best on-air moment?
Caswell: I had Ryan Leaf guest-host one day for Darren. He ended up interviewing [reporter] Jay Posner on the show and they discussed the infamous "Don't talk to me, all right! Knock it off!" moment that happened in the Chargers locker room that has been replayed countless times. Ryan apologized to Jay, it was a pretty amazing moment and the two shared a very adult conversation.
Marchese: I can’t really pinpoint one event in particular that was that “wow” moment, but there is something that happens every year that is pretty cool. Every Christmas Eve or whenever the last show before the holidays start, we do a different type of show. We stack the lineup so that for two hours we have a different guest on for three to five minutes. We are talking about 16 to 20 guests on one show. That’s not the amazing part from a producer's perspective. What I find so amazing is how many of our guests—some of whom are pretty high profile (Wayne Gretzky was upset he missed our call last year)—are willing to take a couple of minutes out from their Christmas Eve plans to join the show “because it’s for Bob.” It's a very kind gesture on their part and we are very thankful for it. That is definitely my favorite show of the year.
Pabst: When we were at ESPN, Bob Knight had a bad relationship with ESPN. Never did interviews. Knight just started coaching Texas Tech and I worked on him and got him to come on with Dan to talk Michigan–Ohio State FOOTBALL rivalry … something different. He went to Ohio State but really looked up to coach Schembechler. Then we surprised him mid-interview with Bo Schembechler on the line. It was awesome. Dan just let them tell stories and it was splendid. At the end, I picked up the phone to say goodbye to coach Knight. He said, “That was the most fun I’ve ever had doing an interview. Call anytime.” I’d also add Will Ferrell in studio for an entire show in character as Ron Burgundy and the day Charlie Sheen called in and torched CBS, which led to an insane run of media coverage after the appearance.
Penn: The best moment by far was my first day on the show. I met Bomani back in 2007, when he had a Saturday morning show in Raleigh. We were two guys who had similar visions of how we wanted to do a show. We were determined to make it entertaining, but we wanted it to sound like something that wasn’t on, that you wouldn’t normally attribute to sports radio. It is crazy to think that eight years later we would be here at ESPN doing the show we’ve wanted to do, and how we’ve wanted to do it.
Toohey: Our best moment(s) was when we brought Doc Rivers in studio back in September and he said that Mark Cuban acted "very silly" by not handling DeAndre Jordan's free agency very well. A couple weeks later we brought Mark Cuban in studio to respond and said Doc’s professional life was over had the Clippers not gotten DeAndre back. We more or less brought back and fed the feud that began over the summer between the two of them. That was our first, big newsmaker.
SI.com: Where will your show’s podcast be in five years?
Caswell: I think on YouTube. There's been so much growth there and that is a forum that will never go away plus the reach there is enormous.
Marchese: I think podcasts for Prime Time Sports will be an even bigger part of our audience in the next five years. A lot of our audience sits in their cars when listening live now, but as times change so do people’s listening habits. The younger part of our demographic may take the train into work and not be able to listen live, so they listen to it the following morning. Our older demographic may not even know what a podcast is or how to access it. As we start to accumulate an audience that is just getting into their 30s and are avid podcast listeners, I believe our downloads will go up significantly.
Pabst: I’d want it go be a video cast and sooner than five years. I’d like to have the audio/video of the show together for fans to consume. Easy access, easy to download, on demand when you want it. If you fight this direction, you’ll be dead soon.
Penn: I fully expect the show to be one of the more popular podcasts that ESPN provides. Bomani has always embraced podcasting, which helped back when the show aired for 9-11 p.m. ET because the topics rarely differed from when the show ended until the morning.
Toohey: The podcast will grow each year and by then it’ll be a major way that listeners consume the show. More and more people will start using it as their primary way to listen. However, I think it will be more than five years for it to become the top way the show is listened to.
SI.com: Does your show take calls and why either way?
Caswell: We rarely take phone calls. Social media has taken away the need for calls and we find that the vast majority of our audience hates, HATES when we take calls. I do believe there are times and hot-button issues when taking phone calls are absolutely needed, for instance when fans wanted Norv Turner and AJ Smith fired, when the Chargers leave for Los Angeles, etc. The one thing Twitter and email cannot do is translate real emotion.
Marchese: We take calls Mondays and Fridays from 4 to 5 p.m. There was a point in Prime Time Sports’ existence where calls were taken every day, which may or may not have been a good thing. I think by taking calls to bookend the week gives us the opportunity to get the best callers on the air. If you take calls every day, it waters down the quality of callers/call topics. It’s also not the best way to grab an audience. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say they turn the station when they hear listener phone calls. That’s not a shot by any stretch, it’s just fact. How many calls can you take on the Blue Jays’ fifth starter or the Leafs goaltending controversy in a week? I give our callers credit though. They are pretty thoughtful and insightful because they know they have to bring it when they are on the air with Bob or he will totally shut them down. I think that’s why it’s important for our show to only take calls on the two days.
Pabst: We do take calls but screen them hard. I don’t think listeners have a right to go on air just because they got through. If they have a uninteresting point, bad phone line, bad delivery, they don’t make it on. But when you get a great caller who pushes the right button, then it’s worth the 50 calls that don’t make air.
Penn: The show does take calls but we do not rely on caller participation. We understand that people tune in for Bomani and his opinions. We plan the show as if we didn’t have callers so that we have a full show’s worth of content.
Toohey: We do take calls. More when the big, broad topics get the phones going. Colin likes to talk to those listeners that can keep the topic moving along in different directions.
SI.com: How important is social media to your show and why?
Caswell: Social media is huge for the show. From a producer perspective, news breaks there first. Twitter is a great resource for finding links to articles. I use Twitter to promote our guest list, direct links to the podcast interviews and video interviews that we do. It's also a great way to interact with our audience.
Marchese: I don’t think social media is as important to our show because of the age of the bulk of our audience. They may use Twitter, but it’s not a habit for them to constantly check it or see what our show is doing. We don’t have a show account and Bob doesn’t follow anyone on Twitter, so it makes it kind of difficult for us to direct them anywhere. Our station account, however, does a good job of promoting our guests for each segment. Eventually as our audience gets older and we try and grab a younger audience, we will definitely need to adjust to their social media habits.
Pabst: It’s important to grow your show and push out clips and content, but it’s also dangerous journalistically. Fast and wrong, often that’s Twitter. You are on live and see a story break on Twitter, take a minute to check it out before you blurt it out on air or give it to your host. I’d rather be cautious and check a story than look like a fool.
Penn: The Right Time fully embraces social media. Bomani is very visible on Twitter and occasionally his interactions help drive some of the show’s material. Social media is another way for the show to reach the listeners. In the near future we will start several social media inspired features such as “unblockmebo,” which will allow previously blocked twitter followers a second chance with Bomani.
Toohey: Social media is huge for us. We have a fantastic social media staff, who push out clips throughout the day from things Colin or our guests say. It's where the world is right now. If you're not staying relevant in social media, you're getting lost in the shuffle. Our goal is to make headlines everyday.
SI.com: How much time away from the studio do you spend with your host?
Caswell: Darren and I are pretty good about spending a few hours a week discussing life and the show (not always in that order) over a few beers or a margarita. Oddly enough, we don't go to sporting events together since we prefer such different things but we get together often.
Marchese: I think I’ve seen Bob outside of work three times since I’ve been on Prime Time Sports.
Pabst: Quite a bit. I’ve known and worked with Dan since 2002. He has his producers to his house, we go out to eat every week as a small crew. It’s good to spend some time together, a lot of show content will come from that. During the dinner something will be said and part of the producers job is to remember it and bring it back on the show the next day.
Penn: At this time very little. Currently, Bomani and I are in two different cities. He is in Miami while I am in Raleigh. I plan to move down in a couple of months. I love it when people tell me they didn’t know we weren’t in the same studio. That lets me know we have a good product and the chemistry comes across very natural.
Toohey: We grab lunch together most days after the show. Living in LA, we all live in different parts of the city, which can make it difficult hooking up in the evenings when we leave the Fox lot. But we plan to be together on the road as we go.
SI.com: Who is the one guest you have not yet landed that you ultimately hope to get and why?
Caswell: Roger Goodell. He owes it to the longtime, loyal fans of San Diego that have supported the Chargers organization through mostly losing years during their 54 year existence in San Diego. I’d like him to explain to San Diego fans firsthand why it's extraordinarily crucial to get two teams to Los Angeles as fast as humanly possible (including the Chargers, a team L.A. fans don't covet) rather than legitimately working with the home markets for a solution and seeing if a six-month delay could best resolve issues once and for all. Do the right thing, Roger.
Marchese: This is a tough one. Roger Goodell would probably be the guest we would want, but he is so careful in the way he answers questions that I don’t know if we would get the headlines we would want. Although, if anyone could do it, I know Bob would be the guy.
Pabst: My dream guests before the show ends: Bill Murray in studio. We’ve had Bill on about six times, but never in studio; Don Rickles. I want to be insulted by him on air; and Michael Jordan in studio for an hour.
Penn: I would love to have the President on the show. Not to talk politics, but just sports and life. I mean come on, it’s the President, it can’t get any bigger.
Toohey: Colin has spoken with President Obama in the past, and we hope to catch up with again soon. I'd say an in-studio with Tiger or LeBron would be pretty awesome.
THE NOISE REPORT
(SI.com examines some of the week’s biggest sports media stories)
1. Sports Business Daily assistant managing editor Austin Karp reported the Cowboys-Packers late-afternoon window drew an 18.4 overnight, the network’s second-best NFL rating this season to date.
1a. Karp also reported ESPN drew a 2.0 overnight rating for the Heisman Trophy presentation on Saturday night, flat compared to a 2.0 last year, and down from the 3.1 overnight when Johnny Manziel beat out Manti Te'o to become the first freshman to win the award in 2012.
1b. Also via Sports Business Daily: ESPN’s 30 for 30 presentation of The Four Falls Of Buffalo drew an 8.9 in Buffalo, the best 30 for 30 local rating since Birmingham for Pony Excess in 2010 (after Cam Newton’s Heisman).
2. Why Serena Williams is SI’s Sportsperson of the Year.
2a. Here’s SI’s S.L. Price’s Sportsperson of the Year story on Williams:.
3. Episode No. 33 of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast features TSN and NBCSN NHL Insider Bob McKenzie, one of the foremost authorities in hockey journalism and a pioneer of the position of on-air hockey insider. Prior to joining TSN, McKenzie was editor-in-chief of The Hockey News for nine years and a hockey columnist for The Toronto Star for six years.
In this episode, McKenzie discusses what his work week is like, how he uses Twitter for job (but how it can also hinder him), the reduction of media access in the NHL, the competition between Rogers and TSN, how he tailors his content for an American audience vs. a Canadian audience, how TSN has adjusted from having national NHL rights to regional rights for certain teams, how he reported—with quotes from Pat Burns—that Pat Burns had not yet passed away, his thoughts on the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, how he would advise a young journalist entering the field today and much more.
A reminder: you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and Stitcher, and you can view all of SI's podcasts here. If you have any feedback, questions or suggestions, please comment here or tweet at me.
4. For my Monday column, I examined the impact the Warriors have had on the NBA’s national ratings and why the league should air more Golden State games.
4a. The LA Times on the police chasing the San Bernardino shooters.
4b. Longtime New York Daily News sports writer Phil Pepe passed away at 80.
5. FS1 will air Abby Wambach’s final U.S. National Team game when the U.S. plays China in New Orleans on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. ET. A special one-hour pregame show at 7:30 p.m. ET precedes the international friendly.
5a. The Piesman Award, given out by SB Nation to the best play by a college football lineman carrying the ball, was awarded to Southeastern Louisiana's Ashton Henderson.
5b. The NFL Network airs a two-part film beginning Tuesday at 8 p.m. on the rivalry between the 49ers and Cowboys. Part 1 of A Tale of Two Cities premieres Dec. 15 at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network and Part 2 premieres December 19 following the Jets at Cowboys Thursday Night Football game. Jeremy Renner and Sam Elliott narrate the film.
5c. Sports Business Daily’s John Ourand has his annual sports media predictions for 2016.