Although he spent the final 10 years on the Boston sports-radio scene, ESPN 1000 market supervisor Mike Thomas wore his lifelong Bears fandom on his sleeve.
Truly, up his sleeve.
“I wasn’t one in all these guys who obtained tattoos as a young person and now wanting again, ‘Oh, man, why’d I do this?’ ” stated Thomas, who was born Downstate, grew up in Wisconsin Dells and labored in lots of higher Midwest locales. “I began getting tattoos after I was in my 30s. I believe the Bears head is likely one of the best logos in sports activities. I made a decision to place it on my arm.”
His different tattoo has a Bears connection.
When Thomas labored at WYMG in Springfield within the late Nineties, he was broadcasting reside as Bears nice Walter Payton made a promotional look at Menards for Menards Racing. Thomas was thrilled to interview Payton, who couldn’t have been nicer and extra accommodating.
To commemorate one of many highlights of his on-air profession, Thomas took the cassette aircheck tape of the interview and had its picture, label and all, tattooed on his forearm. It took the artist three hours, nevertheless it was time well-spent to Thomas.
Now that he’s working a Chicago sports-radio station, he can observe the Bears intently. However he has completed way more than that in virtually a 12 months on the job, revitalizing a station that had stagnated whereas maybe halting the notion that The Rating, the town’s authentic all-sports talker, is the dominant one on the town.
Actually, nobody can declare dominance. Sports activities discuss is powerful on each ends of the dial. However ESPN 1000 can declare victory in the important thing demographic of males 25-54 in Nielsen Audio’s summer time rankings guide.
In response to Barrett Sports activities Media, ESPN 1000 gained all three months from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday, successful 3.3-2.8 in July, 3.1-2.5 in August and three.0-2.6 in September. Nonetheless, for the complete week, from 6 a.m.-midnight, The Rating gained 2.9-2.5. And in the latest guide, for October, The Rating gained 2.9-2.5 in the important thing demo from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The Rating will get a lift in the summertime from carrying Cubs video games, and ESPN 1000 is hoping for one in all its personal after taking over the White Sox final week. However Thomas additionally has taken a granular method to reshaping ESPN 1000 after launching The Sports activities Hub and vaulting it previous the established WEEI in Boston.
“There must be extra concentrate on native digital and social media,” Thomas stated. “And with so many individuals working from residence this 12 months, we’ve seen huge will increase within the quantity of individuals which are consuming us on-line as a result of they aren’t of their vehicles for hours.”
Thomas stated creating the ESPN Chicago app was a precedence for him. In case you ever tried to seek out the station on the ESPN app, you’d perceive why — it takes a number of steps to seek out. The ESPN Chicago app isn’t fancy, however at the least you’ll be able to hear the station upon opening it. Thomas additionally was the primary within the metropolis to place exhibits on Twitch, a video-streaming platform that’s changing into inhabited by extra than simply avid gamers.
He’s added exhibits, too, pairing Jonathan Hood and David Kaplan to present the station its first native morning present in additional than twenty years. Thomas has tweaked the sound of the station, as effectively, lowering the variety of interviews to present listeners extra airtime and creating consistency from present to indicate.
“We nonetheless have key interviews and key contributors, however one factor that actually stood out to me coming in was that the followers didn’t actually have a giant voice on the station,” Thomas stated. “It was way more interview-focused. That’s been a giant change for us previously 12 months.
“One other factor we centered on have been some inconsistencies with our sound from present to indicate. Issues have been being completed a little bit bit completely different. And so we narrowed our focus to make it possible for regardless of while you tuned in, the general really feel, the general sound of the station was constant.”
The station may have a brand new sound subsequent summer time, when the White Sox return after meandering from The Rating to WLS to WGN since 2015. The Sox have been on 1000-AM from 1996 to 2005, once they gained the World Sequence, earlier than leaving for The Rating.
Thomas, who was concerned in rights partnerships in Boston with the Celtics, Bruins and Patriots – The Sports activities Hub carries all three – stated having play-by-play is important for an all-sports station. ESPN 1000 hasn’t had the rights to a neighborhood professional staff because the Bulls left for WLS in 2016. They’re on The Rating now.
“It’s simply the quantity of individuals that may spend time with the radio station,” Thomas stated. “Even in case you’re not a diehard sports-radio fan however you just like the South Siders, you’re going to in all probability spend time with ESPN 1000 now. And that offers the entire station a raise, particularly with the place the White Sox are actually.”
Thomas has completed all of this whereas navigating by a pandemic that has pressured cuts throughout sports activities media, however not at his station. Beneath Good Karma Manufacturers administration, ESPN 1000 has prevented layoffs and furloughs, which could not have occurred if the station was nonetheless beneath Disney possession with ESPN. It stays an affiliate of ESPN Radio, which leases the station to Good Karma Manufacturers.
“We actually have been centered on, now that sports activities are again, we’re again to enterprise,” Thomas stated. “And I believe the White Sox deal is an ideal instance of that. There will not be many corporations which are signing multiyear offers proper now with all of the uncertainty on this planet. And I believe that may be a excellent instance of how we really feel fairly assured as a small firm that we’re in a fairly good place to succeed.”
- Al Michaels will take a bye week when the Bears go to the Packers on Nov. 29 on NBC’s “Sunday Night time Soccer.” Mike Tirico will be part of Cris Collinsworth within the sales space. NBC stated in September that Michaels would take some video games off to chop down on journey due to the pandemic.
- The White Sox will seem on ESPN’s first “Sunday Night time Baseball” broadcast of the 2021 season once they go to the Angels at 7:30 p.m. April 4. The Sox additionally might be within the nightcap of an ESPN quadrupleheader April 5, once they go to the Mariners.