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Broadcasting LIVE From Big Events

Jason Barrett

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As the sports radio business grows and revenues for the format increase, the same can’t be said for the commitment of radio stations to broadcast LIVE from big events. I’m not talking about individual games or personality driven agendas that don’t move the ratings needle. I’m talking about the moments in sports that a broadcaster is supposed to live for being at. You know, the events that your audience plan their day or week around because they can’t miss it!

2014floydmannyFrom the Super Bowl to the World Series to the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup, those are major events. The College Football Playoff and NCAA Tournament qualify as well. Certainly others could invade that conversation too such as a popular player from a local market going into the Hall of Fame, Mayweather fighting Pacquiao (if it ever happens) or depending on your market, a trip to Spring Training or NFL Training Camp to cover a popular local team.

So if these events matter to your hosts as well as to your audience, then why would sports stations not be broadcasting from them? The answer is simple – costs!

2014radiorowI’ve watched the amount of stations at radio row during the Super Bowl decrease every year and it baffles me. The one thing worth talking about on a sports radio station in late January/early February is the Super Bowl and yet radio operators have to be talked into heading to the host city to broadcast from it. Is there a lack of interest from the audience? No. What it comes down to is operators wanting to save money rather than thinking about the benefit for the audience, the impression it gives of the brand and challenging their sales departments to step up and activate sponsors.

Is it easy to turn a profit in one week? No. But there are certain things in sports radio that you do for profit and certain things you do to build credibility, trust and loyalty with your audience. Depending on a station’s approach, five to fifteen thousand dollars is a small expense for something as big as the Super Bowl, especially when it will cost you a lot more than that if you don’t have access to great content during an otherwise dead week. It’s even worse if your competitor goes and you don’t.

2014whiteflagSecondly, rather than waving the white flag and assuming your clients won’t spend additional money, how about having some confidence in the fact that they’ll want to have a bigger presence during the hottest event of the year, one which your brand has incredible access to. Business owners make irrational decisions when they are passionate and emotionally connected to big events and there’s no better time to test that theory than when your station commits to broadcasting from them. You’d be amazed at what some advertisers do to make sure they own the branding around a signature sporting event.

I raise this point not because I want to get ahead on discussion about the Super Bowl but rather because we’re in the midst of the World Series and it’s an event that sports radio should be all over yet isn’t. I’m fortunate to work for a company that gets it. We could sit back, not send anyone and just rely on local people being interested in the story since the Giants are in it but rather than do that, we’re sending our afternoon show to Kansas City to broadcast LIVE from it. We’re also adding post-game shows with our host Damon Bruce as well as created post-game shows after each home game from a local venue.

2014sfkcWhy do we do that? Because stations are expected to step up their game and treat the situation with the proper respect that it deserves and when a World Series takes place, it’s the biggest event in baseball for the year and you rally around it. Many of my guys probably get tired of me asking them to spend 2-3 hours hosting watch parties at local bars, taking photos with fans and heading to games to track down interviews but I believe that the bigger the moment, the bigger your station should look, feel and sound.

Today, many of the biggest events in sports have turned into great television productions but radio has been losing sight of what made it special. Being live and local and around teams, players and the key people of interest, is what keeps our format important to our audience. Why would we provide less coverage when bigger opportunities arise? That makes no sense.

2014spendSure it might require spending a few extra dollars or shifting things around in your budget but those sacrifices are needed when big situations pop up because it’s what the audience deserves. Staying in your studio and hamstringing your talent and audience by providing little to no special access or coverage is not worth the praise you’ll get for winning the battle on paper with your higher ups.

I do recognize that this is a business and certain bottom lines must be met. While we may want to send our crews everywhere, that isn’t reality but I also don’t think that it’s acceptable to be absent from the key sports events of the year, especially if the team in your own backyard is involved. For national networks, it makes sense to be at a lot more locations than local stations since they serve more people. For local stations though, if a team from your town is in the World Series or NBA Finals, you should be there. A case could be made for the Stanley Cup and College Football Playoff too but it depends on your market’s appetite for those stories.

2014radiorowOne event that should not require a battle is the Super Bowl. First of all, the #1 piece of content that moves our entire format is football. Secondly, audiences today are not split 90%/10% in favor of local team content. There are TONS of people in your respective areas who have interest in the entire NFL. That includes transplants who move to your town and continue following their hometown teams. Add to that increased interest in fantasy football and sports betting and it’s baffling to me why any programmer or host would have to make a case for being present at the biggest event in professional sports.

I’ve heard the argument in the past that it’s the same people doing interviews all over the place, it turns into a guest-fest, if the local team isn’t involved then it’s not important and I’m sure in some cases there’s a degree of relevance to it. I still though don’t buy that having too many high profile quality people on your radio station is a bad thing or that two teams which are playing for the ultimate prize in all of sports are any less of a story because they don’t happen to share the same zip code as my current radio station. Peyton Manning vs. Russell Wilson, Tom Brady vs. Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers vs. Ben Roethlisberger – those are storylines local people will be talking about all week long and the next few days after the Super Bowl has been played. If they care enough about it, you should too.

2014fbfFunny enough I had this debate two years ago with a former colleague and he asked me why I felt a station needed to be there and I explained the points above that I’ve already laid out but he still didn’t agree. I then reminded him that my brand’s slogan for 4 months had been “Fueled by Football” and nowhere in that position did it say “Fueled by Local Football” or “Fueled by Football…until the biggest football event of the year occurs and we bail on it“. That seemed to connect with him because he saw the value in being consistent with the approach and hitching a brand’s wagon to the NFL, the most powerful brand in sports.

One final note on this subject. If you’re a talent and you don’t want to be there for these kind of events, shame on you. We are fortunate to do what we do and have the access that we have. If you don’t have the personal joy to talk about these events and get emotionally invested in them, then why are you on the air doing this brand of talk? Sports is fun and it provides emotional highs and lows for the audience and ourselves and being a storyteller who can take people on the journey through key events is something you should live for. If talking about the biggest events that matter to our listeners and being present and interacting with the key people involved in these storylines doesn’t appeal to you, it might be time to do a self-analysis and ask yourself whether or not this is the right format for you.

2014bebetterSome PD’s and Hosts will agree with me on this and others won’t. I’m sure everyone has valid reasons for why they do it the way they do and I respect that. I do believe that our industry can do a much better job of investing in the moments that matter most and rather than boxing ourselves in with the same negative views, we’ve got to start asking “how can we do it better, how can we own it and how can we give our audience a memorable content experience“?

Sure, you can choose not to cover big events and that’ll help your brand save some money. It may also help you win a short-term budget battle and make you look good on paper. I just wonder if that’s worth it, when the next piece of paper shows your ratings down during a time when they should easily go up. When that happens, is winning the battle still worth it if it means losing the war?

Barrett Blogs

Jimmy Powers to Receive The Mark Chernoff Award at the 2023 BSM Summit

“Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award.”

Jason Barrett

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As a former programmer turned consultant, I pay more attention than most to those who lead brands, manage talent, and create consistent success. When you look across the country at the hundreds of stations delivering sports radio content, and analyze who operates at a high level, there’s maybe ten to twenty who are changing the game, and others who are rising and hoping to become a bigger part of the conversation.

What makes this annual award special in addition to having Mark Chernoff’s name on it, is that it’s voted on by eighteen industry heavyweights. These are folks tasked with overseeing radio companies, major networks, and having exceptional track records of broadcasting success. So when they vote and an individual earns an honor, it means a little more.

If you’re in the business and follow sports radio, then you’re aware of Mark Chernoff’s accomplishments as a program director. He was one of the true architects and consistent winners, and his ability to excel as a sports radio manager has influenced and shaped many careers. Mark graciously agreed to be part of our awards ceremony a few years ago when I approached him with the idea in New York City. I’m thrilled to share that although he doesn’t attend many industry conferences on the west coast, he will be with us at the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles for the ceremony.

Which brings me to this year’s winner.

It is my honor to congratulate the leader of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Jimmy Powers. Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award. He follows Rick Radzik of 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, and Mitch Rosen of 670 The Score in Chicago. Jimmy will be in attendance at the Summit to pick up the award, and will take part in a program director panel at the show. Further details on that to be shared next week.

“It’s such a great honor not only to be mentioned in the same breath with Mark Chernoff, but to receive the ‘Mark Chernoff Award’ is really, really cool” shared 97.1 The Ticket Program Director Jimmy Powers. “With so many great program directors across the country who are deserving of this award, I truly appreciate the recognition.”

Since late 2009, Powers has led the Detroit sports radio station to unmatched local success. Brought in to build upon what was created by the late great Tom Bigby, he’s helped The Ticket become one of the format’s best examples of success. The station has consistently dominated the Male 25-54 demo, while also becoming a ratings force with Persons 12+ and Adults 25-54.

“Jimmy has done an amazing job over the years running 97.1 the Ticket,” said legendary sports radio programmer Mark Chernoff. “He knows how to work with talent, and maintain balance while managing relationships with the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons, which is not an easy job. The ratings remain high, and the Ticket continues to be one of America’s top sports stations, which reflects the great work Jimmy has done as the station’s program director.”

In addition to delivering double digit shares, quarterly ratings wins, and presenting a star studded lineup and Michigan’s top sports franchises, The Ticket has taken home plenty of hardware too. The station has won the Marconi award for best sports station in 2016 and 2022. And now, they can add the 2023 Mark Chernoff Award to their trophy case.

“2022 was another big year for The Ticket, and many in Detroit deserve credit for the brand’s consistent success, but none more so than their exceptional brand leader, Jimmy Powers,” added BSM President Jason Barrett. “Jimmy has been a staple of consistency, guiding one of the crown jewels of sports radio, managing top personalities, important play by play partnerships, and helping the brand generate large revenues. I’m thrilled that our industry voters took notice of the fantastic work Jimmy has done and look forward to celebrating his career and accomplishments in Los Angeles this March.”

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California College Students Earn Chance to Win 10 Free Tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit Thanks to Steve Kamer Voiceovers

“In order to win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event.”

Jason Barrett

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With a new year comes renewed energy and optimism for the sports media business. Yours truly is looking forward to showcasing the best our business has to offer when we gather the industry in Los Angeles, CA at the 2023 BSM Summit at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California on March 21-22, 2023. Our conference is returning to the west coast for the first time since 2019. We’ve announced some super talented speakers. We’ve got additional things in the works and I plan to make additional announcements in the next few weeks.

People often ask me what the biggest challenge is putting this event together. My answer is always the same, it’s getting people to leave the comfort of their office and spend two days in a room together learning and discussing ways to grow the business. We have great sponsorship support and exceptional people on stage and are fortunate to have a lot of folks already set to attend. Our venue this year has extra space though, so I’m hoping a few more of you make time to join us. If you haven’t bought a ticket or reserved your hotel room, visit BSMSummit.com to make sure you’re all set.

If there’s one thing our industry could get better at it’s opening our minds to new ideas and information. There’s more than one path to success. Just because you’re in good shape today doesn’t mean you will be tomorrow. Building brands, growing audiences, increasing revenue, and examining new opportunities is an ongoing process. There are many shifts along the way. We may not solve every business challenge during our two-days together but you’ll leave the room more connected and informed than when you entered it.

Each year I’ll get two or three emails from folks sharing that they learned more about the industry in two-days at the Summit than they have in ___ years inside of their building. That’s truly gratifying and what I strive to achieve when I put this event together. I remember when conferences like this didn’t exist for format folks and I take the risk and invest the time and resources to create it because I love the sports media industry and believe I can help it thrive. I see great value in gathering professionals to share ideas, information, and meet others who can help them grow their business, and if we do our part, I’m confident some will want to work with us too. That’s how we benefit over the long haul.

But as much as I focus on serving the professional crowd, I also think we have a responsibility to educate young people who are interested, passionate, and taking steps to be a part of our business in the future. The BSM website is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each month and it’s become a valuable resource for folks who enjoy sports radio and television. I think it’s vital to use our platform, influence and two-day event to connect generations and I’m happy to announce that we will once again welcome college students at this year’s Summit.

Most of us who’ve been in this line of work for two or three decades learned the business without podcasts, YouTube, social media, the web or conferences delivering two full days of sessions that taught you more about the business than what’s available inside of a class room. We learned by doing, and hoping we were right. Then we copied others who had success. Some of that still exists, and that’s not a bad thing. But where our business goes in the future is going to be drastically different.

I’d like to see the difference makers in our format remembered for years to come, and practices that have stood the test of time remain valued down the line. Change is inevitable in every business and I’m excited about the road that lies ahead especially some of the technological advancements that are now available or will soon become a bigger part of our industry. I think we can embrace the future while enjoying the present and celebrating the past. The best way to do that is by bringing together everyone who is and is hoping to be a part of the sports media universe.

So here’s two things we’re doing to make sure future broadcasters have an opportunity to learn with us.

First, I want to send a HUGE thank you to Steve Kamer Voiceovers. Thanks to Steve’s generosity, TEN (10) college students will be given FREE tickets to attend the 2023 BSM Summit in March. Steve is a USC graduate (Class of 1985) and he bought the ten tickets to help young people learn about the industry, save money and make valuable connections. When I first received his order, I thought he hit the wrong button. I reached out to tell him a mistake was made and I needed to refund him. That’s when he told me what he wanted to do for students who were pursuing their broadcasting dreams just as we both did years ago. A very classy gesture on his part.

As it pertains to the contest, here’s how it’s going to work.

To win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event. Included in your email should be a list of steps that you’ve taken or are pursuing to explore opportunities in the media industry. If you want to pass along a resume and audio or video clips too to showcase your work and experience, that’s fine as well. BSM will accept submissions until February 17th. The winners will be announced on Friday February 24th.

Helping me select the winners will be an exceptional panel of media executives. Each of these folks below will choose one person to attend our L.A. event. The final two will be picked by Steve Kamer and myself.

  • Scott Shapiro – Senior Vice President, FOX Sports Radio
  • Justin Craig – Senior Program Director, ESPN Radio
  • Jeff Sottolano – Executive Vice President, Programming, Audacy
  • Bruce Gilbert – Senior Vice President of Sports, Cumulus Media & Westwood One
  • Amanda Gifford – Vice President, Content Strategy & Audio, ESPN
  • Jacob Ullman – Senior Vice President, Production and Talent Development, FOX Sports
  • Greg Strassell – Senior Vice President, Programming, Hubbard Radio
  • Scott Sutherland – Executive Vice President, Bonneville International

To qualify for the BSM Summit College Contest, students must be enrolled in college in the state of California, pursuing a degree that involves course work either in radio, television, print or the digital business. Those attending local trade schools with a focus on broadcasting are also welcome to participate. You must be able to take care of your own transportation and/or lodging.

This is a contest I enjoy running. We’ve had great participation during our prior two shows in New York City but haven’t done it before on the west coast. I’m hoping it’s helpful to California students and look forward to hearing from many of them during the next month.

For students who live out of state and wish to attend or those enrolled at local universities who enter the contest but aren’t lucky enough to win one of the ten free tickets from Steve Kamer Voiceovers, we are introducing a special two-day college ticket for just $124.99. You must provide proof that you’re currently in school to take advantage of the offer. This ticket gives you access to all of our sessions inside the Founders Club. College tickets will be limited to forty (40) seats so take advantage of the opportunity before it expires.

The 2023 BSM Summit will feature award ceremonies with Emmis Communication CEO Jeff Smulyan and legendary WFAN program director Mark Chernoff, sessions with influential on-air talent such as Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, Joy Taylor, and Mina Kimes, big picture business conversations with executives from groups such as Audacy, iHeart, Bonneville, Good Karma Brands, Barstool, The Volume, Omaha Productions and more. For details on tickets and hotel rooms visit BSMsummit.com.

I look forward to seeing you in March in Los Angeles!

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Barrett News Media To Gather The Industry in Nashville in September 2023

“I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.”

Jason Barrett

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One of the best parts about working in the media business is that you’re afforded an opportunity to use your creativity, take risks, and learn if an audience or advertisers will support your ideas. Sometimes you hit a homerun, other times you strike out, but regardless of the outcome, you keep on swinging.

I’ve tried to do that since launching a digital publishing and radio consulting company in 2015. Fortunately, we’ve delivered more hits than misses.

When I added news media industry coverage to our brand in September 2020, I knew it’d be a huge undertaking. The news/talk format is two and a half times larger than sports, many of its brands are powered by national shows, and the content itself is more personal and divisive. I wanted our focus and attention on news media stories, not politics and news, and though there have been times when the lines got blurred, we’ve tried to be consistent in serving industry professionals relevant content .

What made the move into news media more challenging was that I’d spent less time in it. That meant it’d take longer to find the right writers, and it required putting more time into building relationships, trust, respect, and support. Though we still have more ground to cover, we’ve made nice strides. That was reflected by the participation we received when we rolled out the BNM Top 20 of 2022 the past two weeks. Hopefully you checked out the lists. Demetri Ravanos and I will be hosting a video chat today at 1pm ET on BNM’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and through Barrett Media’s YouTube page discussing the series, as well as this article.

It’s because of that growing support, trust, and confidence in what we’re doing that I’m taking a risk yet again. I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.

I am excited to share the news that Barrett News Media will host its first ever BNM Summit on Thursday September 14, 2023 in Nashville, TN. Our one-day conference will take place at Vanderbilt University’s Student Life Center Ballroom. The venue we’ve selected is tremendous and I’m eager to spend a day with news/talk professionals to examine ways to further grow the format and industry.

If you’re wondering why we chose Nashville, here’s why.

First, the city itself is awesome. The access to great restaurants, bars, entertainment, hotels, and famous landmarks is unlimited, and when you’re traveling to a city for a business conference, those things matter. Being in a city that’s easy for folks across the country to get to also doesn’t hurt.

Secondly, a conference is harder to pull off if you can’t involve successful on-air people in it. If you look at Nashville’s growth in the talk media space over the past decade, it’s remarkable. Many notable talents now live and broadcast locally, major brands have created a local footprint in the area, and that opens the door to future possibilities. I have no idea who we’ll include in the show, and I haven’t sent out one request yet because I wanted to keep this quiet until we were sure it made sense. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of interest in participating and I can’t promise we’ll be able to accommodate all requests but if you have interest in being involved, send an email to Jason@BarrettNewsMedia.com.

Third, finding the right venue is always difficult. We looked at a bunch of great venues in Nashville during our vacation this past summer, and when we stepped on to the campus at Vanderbilt University and walked through the SLC Ballroom, we knew it was the right fit. It had the space we needed, the right tech support, access to private parking, a green room for guests, and it was within walking distance of a few hotels, restaurants, and the Parthenon.

As I went through the process of deciding if this event was right for BNM, a few folks I trust mentioned that by creating a Summit for news/media folks, it could create a competitive situation. I don’t see it that way. I view it as a responsibility. I think we need more people coming together to grow the industry rather than trying to tear each other down. I hear this far too often in radio. We worry about what one station is doing rather than strengthening our own brand and preparing to compete with all audio options.

For years I’ve attended conferences hosted by Radio Ink, NAB, Talkers, and Conclave. I’ve even spoken at a few and welcomed folks who operate in the consulting space to speak at my shows. I’ll continue to support those events, read various trade sites, and invite speakers who work in a similar field because they’re good people who care about helping the industry. I believe BNM and BSM add value to the media business through its websites and conferences, and though there may be a detractor or two, I’ll focus on why we’re doing this and who it’s for, and let the chips fall where they may.

I know juggling two conferences in one year is likely going to make me crazy at times, but I welcome the challenge. In the months ahead I’ll start lining up speakers, sponsors, building the conference website, and analyzing every detail to make sure we hold up our end of the bargain and deliver an informative and professionally beneficial event. The news/talk media industry is massive and making sure it stays healthy is critically important. I think we can play a small role in helping the business grow, and I look forward to finding out on September 14th in Nashville at Vanderbilt University.

Hope to see you there!

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