ESPN’s tips to improve your sports talk show


Masteller cites Mike and Mike as a show that excels at providing smart content.
Masteller cites Mike and Mike as a show that excels at providing smart content.

Talk show hosting is the most difficult genre of sports broadcasting to master. It’s not even close. Not only are the subtleties of sports talk hosting not taught in schools, but many program directors don’t teach it either. They either don’t know how or they don’t make the time.

One guy who knows sports talk radio as well as anyone is Scott Masteller, Sr. Director at ESPN Radio Network. He’s a George Whitfield for sports talk hosts.

Scott spoke last year at STAA’s One Day Ticket to Sportscasting Success seminar. What follows are some of the tips he shared for improving your sports talk show. Look for a bonus post with Masteller’s tips for getting your next gig on Friday.

Play the hits

Figure out what your audience wants. Masteller says when he worked in Dallas, he quickly realized that fans wanted to talk Cowboys football year around. “Programmers have to go where they feel the most audience is.”

Smart content wins

“There’s a lot of talent out there but there’s very few that really, really totally cut through,” Masteller says. He cites Colin Cowherd and Mike and Mike as examples of shows that excel at providing smart content.

Be prepared

Failure to prepare is preparing to fail. “[Colin Cowherd] writes out what his thoughts are going to be, where he’s going to go with them, and how he’s going to tell stories,” says Masteller. Of course, you must be willing to deviate from your plan in the event of breaking stories.

Support your opinions

The most important skill a sports talk show host can possess is giving opinions with a foundation.

Use production elements liberally

Things like actualities from newsmakers, audio drop-ins, and callers break-up the monotony of a single voice. Masteller advises that, even after three minutes of great content, listeners start to fatigue. Using production elements helps keep them engaged.

Avoid open phones

Open phone segments can be a show killer. Call segments on a specified topic can be outstanding, but never let listeners talk about whatever they want. Masteller warns, “[Open phones] just don’t drive the ratings.”

Drive revenue and ratings

Masteller says most program directors are looking for one of two things. “They’re looking for content that will drive ratings. Or, more importantly you will be told by the general manager, [they’re looking for] content that will drive revenue.”

Scott Masteller will be a keynote speaker and part of a panel critiquing sports talk radio demos at STAA’s upcoming One Day Ticket to Sportscasting Success seminar. If you are interested in participating and potentially having Scott listen to your stuff, click this link.

Photo by ESPNRadio.