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Going Through Changes

Jason Barrett




In life, people are creatures of habit. We prefer routine and being comfortable. Everything from when we wake up, shower and grab a cup of coffee, to making our commute into work and listening to a radio show to provide us a mental distraction from the chaos that lies ahead.

IMG_4815While the individual is always in control of their sleep, shower and coffee schedule, the same can’t be promised when it comes to listening to a radio show or working in the radio industry. That’s because the media business is faced with change on a regular basis. It’s not much different than professional sports. Remember, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Joe Montana and Jerry Rice all wore different jerseys at some point in their careers.

I raise that example because it’s one of the unavoidable situations that comes up when you work in this business. Anybody who works in programming knows that we’re in the business of generating ratings with the audience. Expectations are set, strategies are created, talent are secured and it’s all done to hopefully generate excitement with an audience and regular tune-ins each day. If all goes according to plan, the ratings will grow and advertising dollars will follow.

change-nothingBut what happens when the ratings don’t grow? Or when they rise for 2-3 shows on your radio station but not for one of your other shows? That’s where the most feared word in media comes into play – “change“!

It’s easy to say “give a show time” and that’s always been my mentality when crafting shows. I believe that most programs need 18-24 months to become consistent with an audience. In some cases I can tell much quicker that the show isn’t going to work but when I hire a show I go in with the mindset that it’ll take some time to win over the crowd.

However, just because you give something time, doesn’t mean it will reach the level that you need your brand to ascend to. If the show isn’t able to perform to the level that you’ve determined is going to be needed to justify continuing it, then at some point whether it’s easy or difficult, you’re going to have to deal with making changes.

changekeyI’ve told some of my producers over the years that if I lose them at some point in their careers, I want to lose them to bigger career opportunities. It feels great to know you’ve worked with someone and helped them grow and as a result, another company wants to invest more in them and give them bigger responsibility. The worst part is having to cut ties with someone because they haven’t performed or delivered the necessary results.

You’d be amazed at some of the situations that come up and require parting ways from people. From people stealing lunches out of the refrigerator to people showing up late and sleeping on the job to people lying and undercutting their peers to countless other stupid things that cause a person to lose respect and opportunity from an employer. While sports radio may be fun and a labor of love for many who work in it, people still are human and poor decision making happens to all of us at some point.

When it comes to on-air talent, the leash is usually longer. A lot of executives will put up with a lot of headaches if a talent is delivering ratings and revenue. Even things that are unacceptable in many other professions often get swept under the rug for someone who can be a difference maker in this industry.

Speaking for myself, before I cut bait with a host or show, chances are given and conversations are had. I’ll go through numerous things from changing the content direction of a show to changing the clock to conducting listener focus groups to asking for feedback from the host(s) about why they believe they’re not delivering ratings and what we can do better to be more successful. Once those avenues are explored, then it’s my job to promote the program and support the people doing it and it’s their job to execute and help us generate stronger audience numbers.

changeisgonnaWhile all involved may have the best of intentions, sometimes even after those discussions and adjustments, shows still don’t connect. When they don’t, nobody beats themselves up over it harder than I do. I’m sure many fellow programmers can relate. The last thing you want to do is tell somebody they have not performed to the level that’s required and as a result a change is necessary. But when you sign on to run a radio station, this is part of the job description. You can’t be a leader and have success if you’re afraid to deal with adversity and change.

When these situations occur, blame goes all the way around. The PD instantly becomes the bad guy and everyone inside and outside the building has their opinions on what’s going on. It becomes the companies fault, the ratings systems fault and everyone else’s fault and listeners will often react negatively due to the fact that a change is happening.

etuYou can’t as a host or programmer blame the audience and ask “why didn’t you listen more“? You can’t blame the advertisers and ask “why didn’t you spend more“? You can’t blame Nielsen and ask “why didn’t you provide more meters to people who like what we do“? You can only do one of two things, pick yourself up off the ground and find the next opportunity and make your last employer regret letting you go or sit in sorrow and blame the world for what happened.

I went thru this myself back in 2008. I programmed a radio station 590 The Fan in St. Louis which had a great thing going on when I arrived in 2006. The Cardinals reaching the WS that year certainly didn’t hurt business either. Over the next few months, budget cuts, employee dissatisfaction and lack of corporate support would lead the radio station down the drain and I’d become the fall guy for it because after all I was the face of the franchise.

changefearIt was hard to accept that back then because I believed in my abilities and my desire to win but in the grand scheme of things, we were beaten before we ever hit the airwaves. I didn’t see that when I accepted the job but I did after I stepped back, removed my emotion from the situation and figured out how I’d learn from it going forward.

When I received my next opportunity as programmer of 101 ESPN in St. Louis, I made sure I knew I’d have better corporate support and a General Manager who believed in me and the confidence that was instilled in me allowed me to focus on what I do best and fortunately thanks to hiring a lot of smart and talented people and supporting them, the station became a smashing success. The product became #1 for sports radio listening in the market and reached a level of being the 2nd highest rated sports station in the country during one particular month in 2010.

Today I sit in San Francisco where I program 95.7 The Game. In this market, my brand is the underdog taking on a heritage sports radio brand that has the Giants, 49ers and Warriors games on their air and they’ve rode the success of play-by-play to the top spot in the market for well over 20 years. When we built this station, we didn’t launch with the expectation that we’d beat our competitor in the ratings in the first couple of years. We launched with the mindset of hiring dynamic talent and building a strong and viable brand that in time could work it’s way up towards the top.

changeSetting realistic expectations is important because you don’t overtake strong brands in 1-2 years just because you’ve arrived and presented talent and a vision that you believe is superior than the competitor. If it was that easy and that formula worked that fast, I’d have already retired. You have to have a strong strategy, know where opportunities lie in the market, create a plan that will consistently show growth and establish what makes you unique to the market. When you go from 25th to as high as 6th in the span of 3 years, that’s a sign that you’re on the right track.

Since I’ve been here, we’ve shown that we will not be afraid to introduce new talent, take risks and change course if things aren’t working. One thing I always enjoy is hearing our current listeners criticize or compliment the work previously done by Brandon Tierney, Eric Davis, Sean O’Connell, Ric Bucher, Aubrey Huff and The Rise Guys. A few years ago these were foreign names to Bay Area sports radio fans and had we not taken a chance to put them on the air and introduce them, people would not have had opinions of them. Clearly they all had tremendous talent and whether the feedback on them was good or bad, it showed that new voices with strong talent, can connect in a market like San Francisco.

While one could play devil’s advocate and criticize us for not being consistent, the fact of the matter is that when you’re in the driver’s seat in a market, it’s your job to keep a winning product consistent and lock up the things that are most important to your success until you’re forced to adapt. In our case, we’ve got to keep growing to eventually cause bigger disruptions and change long-term listening habits. If that requires adjusting as we go, then that’s what we’ll do. During the past 9 months our radio station has had its highest ratings run and had we not made changes I’m not sure if that would be the case. That can certainly be debated but in a business that is judged by results, the numbers don’t lie.

changesextraChange is never easy for people but it’s a part of life (especially the media business) and I often find that I work best when I’ve got my back up against the wall. I think that you learn a lot about people in this business when the pressure is on and decision making is critical. It’s in most people’s nature to try and find a way to return to a place of comfort rather than enter foreign territory but sometimes you’ve got to be willing to gamble and put your ass on the line in order to create bigger opportunities for your brand.

When I look across the sports radio landscape, I see tons of stations who have not been afraid to take risks and as a result, have been rewarded for it. From The Score in Chicago to 710 ESPN in Seattle to 680 The Fan in Atlanta to Arizona Sports 98.7 FM in Phoenix. All made changes and continue to perform strongly. The same can be said for 101 ESPN in St. Louis, The Fan in Dallas, WEEI in Boston and The Fanatic in Philadelphia. All of these stations have continued to thrive despite dealing with change and there are plenty of others who could easily be on this list.

stephenabaylessLook at sports television and you’ll see the same. Over the past 5-10 years Monday Night Football switched from a 3-man booth to 2-man booth, First Take went from rotating hosts to using Stephen A. & Skip, Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin left ESPN while Chris Carter, Keyshawn Johnson and Ray Lewis signed on and Football Night in America lost Tiki Barber, Jerome Bettis and John Madden but added Hines Ward, Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison and Chris Collinsworth.

Some may see making changes as showing a lack of consistency and that’s fair, but some also believe it’s necessary to stay ahead of the curve. From where I sit, I’d much rather take risk and fail trying to be great than stay complacent and wait to be picked off. It certainly seemed to work out ok for Favre, Manning, Rice and Montana!

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Rachel Nichols and Baron Davis Headline Final Speaker Announcements For the 2023 BSM Summit

“I’m sure Baron and Rachel will have all eyes and ears focused on them when they take the stage together next Tuesday at 2:45pm PT.”

Jason Barrett




The 2023 BSM Summit schedule is set. After months of planning and talking to everyone across the industry, I’m ecstatic to roll out next week’s agenda including making one final announcement involving seven great additions to our conference.

For starters, it is a pleasure to welcome Showtime’s Rachel Nichols to the BSM Summit. I’ve admired her work on television for years, and am thrilled to have her guiding a session which I think many in the room are going to really enjoy.

Rachel’s guest will be former NBA star Baron Davis. Baron runs his own company, Baron Davis Enterprises, and he has been active in investing in media brands, and exploring ways to evolve the industry. Among his areas of passion, athletes taking more control of their brands, and the media industry needing to improve its track record with diversity. I’m sure Baron and Rachel will have all eyes and ears focused on them when they take the stage together next Tuesday at 2:45pm PT.

Also joining the Summit are a few longtime industry friends. For starters, VSiN’s program director Jon Goulet is someone who I’ve known and worked with, and he understands the sports betting audio space extremely well. Jon and BetQL VP of Programming Mitch Rosen will spend time with another industry friend, Bryan Curtis of The Ringer. Collectively they’ll examine the state of sports betting audio on Tuesday March 21st from 3:35p-4:10p, and what they look for when it comes to sports betting talent, and how they determine what is and isn’t success in the sports gambling content world.

With Mitch taking part in the sports betting panel, Jeff Rickard of WFNZ in Charlotte steps into The Programmer’s Panel alongside Jimmy Powers, John Mamola and Raj Sharan. The session is scheduled for Wednesday March 22nd from 9:10a-9:45a PT. Ironically, all four of these programmers work for different companies, so it’ll be interesting to hear how they differ and where they align while navigating through a few sports radio programming topics.

Next, I’m excited to introduce a social media session with Karlo Sy Su of ESPN Los Angeles and Matthew Demeke of AM 570 LA Sports. If you look at the performance of their brands on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook, they’ve each delivered strong audiences and engagement. I’m looking forward to hosting this one and learning about their processes, how they decide which platforms to focus on most, what they consider a social media win when analyzing social statistics, and how they develop their content process. Given our location, we’re calling the session ‘Social Media Goes Hollywood‘. It’s scheduled for Wednesday March 22nd from 3:35-4:10 PT.

I realize you’re not going to remember all of these session speakers and times off the top of your head, so to make it easier, log on to and scroll down past our speakers. That’s where you’ll find our detailed list of sessions/times and activities planned each day. We have eighteen sessions, two awards ceremonies, and two parties. Our kickoff party is presented by the WWE and takes place Monday March 20th from 7p-9p at the 1880 Founders Room. The ESPN Radio After Party takes place Tuesday March 21st from 6p-8p at the Lab Gastropub. Both party locations are in walking distance of the USC Hotel and our conference venue.

As an added bonus, thanks to the generosity of our friends at WWE, we will be giving away a pair of tickets to the first night of WrestleMania, and a WWE title at our kickoff party. WrestleMania takes place this year in Los Angeles at Sofi Stadium on March 25-26. You must be present at the kickoff party to win either prize.

We’ll have more to share next week including providing an ongoing blog with session news and notes for our readers. We’ll also have a ton of content available on our social media channels so if you’re not following @BSMStaff on Twitter, @BarrettSportsMedia on Facebook or @BarrettMedia on LinkedIn, what are you waiting for?

The focus now shifts to finishing our creative for next week’s show, sending information to our speakers for their sessions, and finalizing our attendees list. For those who are attending, we’ll be sending out an email on Friday or Saturday with a complete list of names of who’s coming so you can plan meetings in advance.

If you forgot to buy your ticket after seeing months of promotion about the event and meant to do so, you can still do that, but it costs more. Students on the other hand can take advantage of a low rate established for college kids at

Putting this event together isn’t easy, but I’m extremely pleased with how it’s come together. We have a lot of smart, talented, and accomplished people making time to be part of this, and I appreciate each and every one of them for doing so. Now, it’s all about the execution. Hope to see you next week in LA.

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Sports Broadcasting Icon Al Michaels To Be Honored at the 2023 BSM Summit

“This is a man who has spent more than five decades on your television screen calling the biggest games, and producing some of the most iconic moments sports has to offer.”

Jason Barrett




If you work in the sports media industry you’ve likely heard someone along the way utter the phrase “don’t bury the lead“. I’m usually good about following that advice but I didn’t do that at our 2022 BSM Summit.

We introduced the greatest tandem in sports radio history, Mike Francesa and Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo and it was a special half hour. Mike and the Mad Dog were reunited after seven years apart and every individual at the event knew they were witnessing something magical on stage. I created a Mike and the Mad Dog Award for the event, which went to Felger and Mazz, who were the absolute right choice to win it. Even Chris remarked ‘that’s the right call‘.

But I learned quickly that although the intention was right in honoring the industry’s current top performing show, when you have legends in the room and they’re in their element, the last thing you want to do is overcrowd them. The connection Mike and Chris had on the air became the gold standard by which we measure successful sports talk shows, and they didn’t need an award created to deliver a special moment, just two mics and 20-30 minutes of stage time.

As I began thinking about the 2023 BSM Summit, I knew there was an opportunity to build on what we started last year with Mike and Chris, and after talking to a few people who I trust and respect, the decision of who we would recognize became crystal clear. I believe it’s important to honor the greats in our business because those who leave a permanent mark on our industry deserve it. The man we’ve selected has spent more than five decades on your television screen calling the biggest games, and producing some of the most iconic moments sports has to offer. He’s worked with the best of the best inside the booth, has helped elevate the presentation and execution of in-game content for ABC, NBC and Amazon, and his call of the Miracle on Ice, the US Olympic hockey team’s 1980 gold medal win over Russia remains one of the best calls in the history of sports.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honored and privileged to share that Al Michaels will join us on Wednesday March 22nd at the 2023 BSM Summit for our awards presentation, where we will present him with BSM’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Michaels is one of America’s most respected sports broadcasting voices, known for his exceptional work on Monday Night Football (1986-2005), Sunday Night Football (2006-2022) and Thursday Night Football (2022-Present). He’s called the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals, Hagler-Hearns, the Olympics, the Indy 500, Horse Racing’s Triple Crown races, College Football and Basketball games, Golf, and more. He’s even held roles as the voice of the University of Hawaii, the Cincinnati Reds, and the San Francisco Giants, and was in the booth in 1989 when an earthquake rocked the Bay Area during Game 3 of the A’s-Giants world series.

The Brooklyn native turned Los Angeles resident has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and owns a ton of hardware including five sports Emmy’s, three NSMA Sportscaster of the Year honors, the 2013 Pete Rozelle Radio & Television Award distributed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the 2021 Ford C. Frick Award given out by the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Though his trophy case may be full, we’re excited to add another to his collection to show our appreciation and respect for the impact he’s made on the sports media business.

A quick reminder, the BSM Summit takes place on Tuesday March 21st and Wednesday March 22nd at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California. Tickets are on-sale at

Be advised, we have started adding sessions and times on the website. As always, the schedule is subject to change. Our final agenda will be posted by the end of next week. In addition, attendees will receive an email by next Friday with details of who will be in attendance. We hope to see you there.

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Rob Parker, Brian Long, Sean Thompson and Matt Fishman Join The BSM Summit Speaker Lineup

“I’m excited to welcome a few folks who have enjoyed success in different parts of the country, and in different areas of the business.”

Jason Barrett




As we gear up for our 5th annual BSM Summit on March 21-22, 2023, I’m starting to get a better feel for how the final puzzle may look. When this process starts I have no idea how it’s going to turn out because so much depends on who says yes and no. Many who’ve attended over the years have complimented our lineups, and I appreciate it because I put a lot of time and effort into featuring a strong mix of professionals from different areas of the industry. Though I’m proud of the work we do and the schedule we deliver, there are so many things pursued leading up to the event that I can’t help but wonder ‘what if this or that had worked out?’

One thing that some folks don’t understand if they haven’t been to the show before is that this is not a talent conference. It’s a sports media business conference. That means we feature radio, TV and digital executives, programmers, researchers, sales professionals, and yes, talent. I believe on-air performers are vital to the industry’s success and I want the best of the best sharing their wisdom with everyone in the room, but we’re also not going to do two full days of on-air conversations. Being successful in sports media requires understanding the on-air side and the business side, and we do our best to offer a blend of both.

For today’s announcement, I’m excited to welcome a few sports media pros who have enjoyed success in different parts of the country, and in different areas of the business.

First, Rob Parker is someone who has made a name for himself as a radio host, writer, TV commentator, and teacher. He’s currently heard weeknights on FOX Sports Radio, teaches students at USC Annenberg, writes for Deadspin, and is helping MLBBro gain awareness and a bigger mainstream media presence covering Major League Baseball. He’s experienced, smart, and never short on opinion. I’m looking forward to having him join Mitch Rosen of 670 The Score/BetQL, and Scott Shapiro of FOX Sports Radio for a session titled “Aircheck On Campus“. They’ll take the stage together on Wednesday March 22nd from 2:10-2:45.

My next three speakers, all come from the sports radio programming department.

Matt Fishman is the Director of Content for ESPN 850 Cleveland. Fishman has been with the brand since January 2020 following stints at SiriusXM, 610 Sports in Kansas City, and 670 The Score in Chicago. He even wrote for BSM for a few years.

Sean Thompson is responsible for programming decisions at Arizona Sports and ESPN 620 AM. He joined the well respected Phoenix brand after more than a decade in Atlanta at 92.9 The Game. Sean has also worked in affiliate relations for Westwood One, and on the air and as a programmer in music radio for Good Karma Brands in Madison, WI.

Brian Long is the program director of both San Diego Sports 760 and KOGO 600 in San Diego. In addition to guiding two of the top talk brands in his market, he has also managed Seattle Sports 710, and served as the Assistant Program Director for ESPN LA 710.

Matt, Sean, and Brian will be part of one of our final sessions on day two of the Summit. The Last Call which yours truly is hosting, will explore unique revenue opportunities created by local brands, and examine a few new ideas and missed opportunities that brands and managers may want to take advantage of in the future.

As of today, the Summit has more than forty accomplished professionals taking the stage at the Founders Club at USC’s Galen Center on March 21-22, 2023. I’ve got a few others still to announce as well, including a few cool giveaways planned for the WWE’s Kickoff party.

If you haven’t bought a ticket and wish to be in the room, visit The last day for ticket sales will be Monday March 13th. I’m hoping to release our final schedule of sessions on Tuesday March 14th. Hopefully I’ll see you in the city of angels.

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