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Making Sports Radio Better: Why Women Deserve More Opportunity

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Did you know that the first voice ever heard on an all-sports radio station was a woman’s?

The date was July 1, 1987. WFAN in New York City was the radio station, and Suzyn Waldman was the first voice to be heard when she delivered a sports update at 3pm, right before giving way to Jim Lampley who hosted the first show on the station.

waldmanAt the time nobody knew whether or not the format or its personalities would last, but twenty eight years later, Waldman is still going strong. Not only has she covered all New York teams during her illustrious career, but she is now one half of the New York Yankees radio broadcast team opposite John Sterling.

If Suzyn could stand out, and make a difference in the number one market in the country, clearly it should be easier for other women who followed in her footsteps right?

Well it certainly seemed to be going that way, when the Fabulous Sports Babe (Nanci Donnellan) burst onto the Seattle scene in 1991, as a weekday talk show host on 950 KJR.

rickscottThe station’s programmer at the time was Rick Scott, and he believed that Donnellan brought something unique to the table, which was more important than her gender.

Nanci “got it” and knew how to push buttons and generate audience reaction” said Scott. “When I brought up the idea of having a woman do mid-days, they thought I was joking. We flew Nanci to Seattle, and went to lunch with the GM, and she had him laughing so hard he was crying. That helped the cause, but there were still plenty of challenges, especially during the first year.”

Donnellan would make a major impact during her three years at KJR, and her success was noticed by ESPN Radio who brought her to Bristol, CT to take on the challenge of doing a national show in 1994. She started with only 29 affiliates, but two years later, had built the show’s affiliate list to more than 170.

By 1997 though Donnellan was facing challenges from her bosses, some of them stemming from public criticisms she shared in a book titled “The Babe in Boyland“. “Every person on the planet seemed to complain about what I was doing and how I was doing it,” said Donnellan in her book. “But I stood my ground and told all the suits to please get out of my airstream.”

Eventually the marriage between ESPN and Donnellan would dissolve, and she’d move to the ABC Radio Networks in 1997. That move would be short lived, as ABC would part ways with her a little more than a year later.

fabuloussportsbabeWhile her time at the top had come to an end, what was undeniable was her impact. Nanci Donnellan proved that women could not only share the stage with men in the sports talk radio space, but they could excel in it too.

So that should’ve opened up doors for so many more women to have success in the format right?

Not exactly.

Today, sports radio stations are measured by their ability to connect with Men 25-54. If a station delivers in that demographic, all is right in the world. But what does that say about people who are younger or older than the desired demo? Does their listening not matter?

Furthermore, what does it say about women? Are we naive to think that females don’t also enjoy sports, listening to sports radio and talking about it with their friends? Do their dollars not matter to a station’s advertisers?

womenfansGo to a sporting event today, and the stands are not 80-90% full of men. Yet sports talk radio listening according to the Nielsen ratings is fueled by heavy male listening. If those numbers are accurate, it puts programmers and radio companies in a tough spot. The goal is to deliver content which satisfies the listening audience, and produces high ratings, and larger revenues. If 4 out of every 5 listeners are men, and they respond favorably to male voices and the way men discuss sports, then it becomes much harder for women to earn a break!

Amanda Gifford who is a Program Director for the ESPN Radio Network shared her views on the situation: “The demographics of the format have a lot to do with how many women come on as hosts. It’s still completely dominated by men – 85 or 90% of audiences are male. As we see some of the “pioneers” for women who have strong opinions in the media continue to flourish – like Michelle Beadle, Jemele Hill, Sarah Spain, Kate Fagan, etc. – they will help blaze the trail of opportunities for girls/young women interested in this type of career path.”

Ratings numbers aside, there are other reasons as well contributing to the lack of females working as sports radio hosts. First, not as many women pursue a path in the radio industry. If a woman can watch other women cover sports on her television, but can’t hear a female talk about it on the radio, it’s likely to influence her decision of which medium to pursue. The better financial opportunities in television also factor in.

The other part of the issue revolves around programming philosophies and radio ratings measurement. While I know a ton of great programmers around the country who take risks and make smart, and inspiring decisions, there are still many who are creatures of habit, and unlikely to change, especially if the formula is working.

nielsenAs it pertains to ratings, the data provided to radio stations is often very inconsistent. PPM meters which are used to measure local listening and audience characteristics, have been proven to have major flaws, and the sampling sizes in many local markets are tiny. That puts radio operators and talent in a difficult spot, because they can’t draw a firm conclusion, on whether or not the programming they’re providing is working.

While I want to trust the data that says 80-90% of listening to sports stations is done by males, I’ve seen too many inaccuracies to treat it as fact. I do believe men have larger interest in listening to the format than women, but whether it’s 65&%, 75% or 85% is debatable. Even then, that’s where the numbers stand right now. They won’t grow, and become even more attractive to advertisers if the same strategy and execution continues.

When you look at the world today, women are making an impact and effecting change in all areas of society. There’s no better example than in the political arena, where women now run and receive serious consideration for President of the United States of America.

If a woman can run for the most high profile office in the nation, and gain the trust of males in leading our country, then she should be able to find a place inside of a sports radio station’s lineup right? It may seem like a no-brainer but it’s still an issue in sports radio.

engelDuring the mid to late 2000’s, Jennifer “The Little Ball of Hate” Engel hosted a radio program for ESPN 103.3 in Dallas. She started with the station as a contributor before earning a spot as a full-time weekday host. The belief was that she’d break through and disrupt the marketplace. Unfortunately, the audience wasn’t ready for the change, and although she was skilled, the show underperformed.

I spoke with a former Dallas personality about the situation: “Jen was one of the guys, and she had strong, accurate and well thought out opinions and was respected by listeners and other members of the media. However, when the radio station opted to make her the center of her own show, perceptions changed. There was a a lot of feedback from listeners about not wanting to hear “my wife” complain or lecture listeners about sports. That information was learned through professional panels and companies hired to do local market research. The station tried different marketing concepts, and supported her, but to no avail. In the end the show had to be cancelled due to poor ratings, and the market’s unwillingness to embrace a female led sports talk show“.

What I found surprising is that when I asked this same person if they still felt a woman could succeed in the format as a weekday talk show host, they remained supportive: “No question it can work. The Dallas situation hasn’t altered my belief that our format is ready for more female hosts to prosper. Having said that, it still has to be the right woman. Women in the format have to build more credibility than their male counterparts, and can make fewer mistakes. They must also be more thick skinned and determined than men. Let’s also not be naive, it depends greatly market to market. Some markets simply aren’t open minded enough to get it.”

screwsLet’s be honest, most people who run companies, prefer the safer path. The unknown is scary, especially in today’s world where instant success is necessary, or it could cost you your job. But with great risk comes great reward. However, most groups are less likely to endure criticisms, questions, and backlash from local market listeners, advertisers, and other media partners, and risk their bottom line, for an out of the box hiring decision.

They say it usually takes 18-24 months to judge a show and whether or not it will work in a local market. I’m not sure that same courtesy applies for a local show led by a female talent, and that’s unfair. It’s also a big reason why it’s so important for those who do get an opportunity to make it count.

Kate Scott who works for KNBR 680 in San Francisco, notes that when it comes to perceptions in the industry, there definitely are double standards: “Externally, there’s no doubt we’re treated differently. If I mispronounce a player’s name I’m a no-nothing idiot who only got hired because the station was looking for some diversity. If a male colleague does the same thing, aww shucks, he was out late the night before or ha, there goes so-and-so again, he sucks at those tough names.

sandragolden4But should there be different rules for men and women in sports radio? Sandra Golden of 680 The Fan in Atlanta makes an interesting point: “There are 12 people working at my station as full time hosts. NONE of the dozen are treated the same. We aren’t measured the same, and nor should we be. We all have different resumes, are paid differently, and some are more popular than others. I might add, that’s just like any other office in Pick-a-Town, USA.”

While sports radio may indeed be a fun industry to work in, it is still a business, and it’s not one built on satisfying quotas, or personal agendas. The focus is on employing dynamic, compelling, and highly entertaining personalities who possess the ability to provide thought provoking content and develop a connection with a local audience, most of which is made up of white males between the ages of 25 and 54.

Any talent who hosts a sports radio program must be able to connect with advertisers, and sell their products to the audience, and of course, generate ratings in the Men 25-54 demographic. Until the rules change, that’s what station’s require to command larger dollars.

The one area though that deserves larger discussion, is why aren’t women a bigger part of the solution? We often assume that a female on the air talking about sports, doesn’t have the same ability as a male to keep a male audience listening, but we don’t seem to have any objections when a female personality talks about rock music, sex or movies. Those issues can be largely targeted to Men too.

And what about politics? If you turn on Fox News, MSNBC, or CNN, you’ll find plenty of talented women talking about key issues, and they don’t seem to have trouble keeping male viewers watching. And those men don’t watch just because the female host looks good either. Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Walters and Katie Couric proved you don’t have to be a supermodel to be an excellent broadcaster, and connect with an audience.

fsbSo if women can be accepted talking about music, lifestyle, sex, politics, and every other part of our daily conversations, then why is it so difficult for them to earn a heavier presence in the sports radio industry? And I’m not just talking about the Sports Update Anchor, Traffic Reporter, or Morning Show Sidekick role either. I’m talking about being the face of a talk show and radio station, much like the Fabulous Sports Babe was in the 1990’s for KJR and ESPN Radio.

Maybe I’m wrong but I think Michelle Beadle and Katie Nolan have the talent to deliver a highly entertaining talk show. I also think Rachel Nichols pulls information out of guests equally or better than many male broadcasters. I also scan the country and see numerous women in local markets building strong personal brands and proving they can connect and win. Yes there are many females who aren’t ready for the spotlight, but the same can be said about some men.

As I did my research for this piece, I uncovered some things that may make a few people uncomfortable. I looked at the makeup of the 5 national sports radio networks (ESPN, Fox, CBS, NBC, Yahoo), who broadcast nationwide, and target their content to Men 25-54 audiences. In reviewing the Monday-Friday lineups of all 5 networks, I found only 1 woman, featured as a Monday-Friday talk show host. That female was Amy Lawrence, who’s hosting currently for the CBS Sports Radio Network.

betterLet this sink in for a second, between 5 national networks, there are 34 white males holding positions as Monday-Friday talk show hosts. Only 10 personalities who were female or non-white, held spots as Monday-Friday talk show hosts. That means nearly 71% of on-air personalities delivering weekday national talk shows are white males. If you look across the country on local sports stations, those percentages are even higher.

While I believe in people earning opportunities based on talent, and fit, not on their race or gender, there’s also something to be said for employing broadcasters from different backgrounds, because the audiences who we serve are diverse, and deserve to hear differing viewpoints.

I reached out to some of the best women in the sports radio industry to get their views on the challenges they face, the way they’re measured, and what needs to happen for the format to evolve and include more females. I think that as you read their answers,  you’ll gain a stronger perspective, and deeper appreciation for what they provide, how they think, and what they’ve experienced, while trying to effect change in the sports talk format.

Special Guests:

  • Sarah Spain-ESPN Radio Network and ESPN 1000 in Chicago
  • Gianna Franco-95.7 The Game in San Francisco
  • Joy Taylor-104.3 and 790 The Ticket in Miami
  • Kate Scott-KNBR 680 in San Francisco
  • Anita Marks-98.7 ESPN NY
  • Michelle Smallmon-ESPN Radio
  • Jessamyn McIntyre-710 ESPN in Seattle
  • Amy Lawrence-CBS Sports Radio Network
  • Amanda Gifford-ESPN Radio Senior Director of Daytime Programming

Why do you believe more women are taking larger interest in sports radio?

sarahspainSpain: It’s hard for women to dream of doing a job they don’t see other women doing. For so long certain jobs were almost off limits to women, so wanting to go after them seemed unrealistic. The more women are given a chance, the more women will want a chance. And that isn’t just the result of talented women pushing for jobs but also the decision makers and front office folks being forward-thinking and open-minded. As for listeners, as society becomes less rigid about gender roles, women are free to like whatever they like. Title IX was also huge. Women are now free to participate in sports, and women who play sports as kids grow up to be sports fans.

amylawrence5Lawrence: Women with an interest in working in sports radio are definitely emboldened by the success of those who’ve gone before. Now and then, I hear from women in local radio markets who tell me I’m their role model and they want to get to where I am in the business. A door that was previously locked tight has been kicked open, and that encourages other women to try their hand at radio. At the same time, sports radio is still dominated by men far more than TV. Popularity in radio has nothing to with what you look like and how attractive you are. It’s not as “glamorous” nor does it pay as well across the board. Listeners are extremely tough on their hosts, even tougher on women, so while you SEE more and more women in lead roles on sports television, it’s still relatively uncommon in radio.

katescottScott: I think a lot of things factor into it. Title IX is the foundation. My generation – as opposed to those before us –  grew up being told “yes you can”, which we applied to more than just playing sports. I also think that’s tied into the growth in female listenership. More women had the opportunity to play and fall in love with sports as a result of the law, and thus, you’ve got a larger number of women in the radio demos that now want to keep in touch with their teams.

jessamyn3McIntyre: I think that women are finding more opportunities in places other than TV and the sidelines. The industry is changing, as are attitudes about women in the industry. I think it’s indicative of the change we’re seeing in society, rather than just in sports media. More young girls are studying sports communications, and entering male-dominated industries. I’d like to think it’s a sign of the times, where there is more equality across the board in many areas both in and out of the sports communications world.

anitamarks3Marks: I believe it’s simply a case of more opportunities presenting themselves. The biggest change is that General Manager’s and Program Director’s are feeling there is stronger value in having a female voice on their station or network, and providing the platform.

How do you convince a predominantly male 25-54 audience to keep an open mind towards you and judge you by your content rather than your gender?

amylawrence6Lawrence: I make it a priority to know what I’m talking about, inside and out. I understand a good chunk of the target audience will start listening to me with a bias, whether overt or subconscious. But when I know my material cold, when I’ve watched the same games, when I can answer their questions and back up my strong opinions, many of them will eventually come to respect me. Humor helps, too. Listeners want to relate to their radio hosts. They want to know you’re like them, so while my sports revolve around the top sports stories and topics, I’m not afraid to dive into music, superheroes, lawnmowers, travel, or food in small doses. The last and most important quality as a female host is confidence. No one is going to agree with me 100% of the time, and I welcome dissenting opinions. I’ll debate with anyone as long as it’s done semi-respectfully. When challenged, the worst thing I can do is back down or become wishy-washy. If you do that you’ll get eaten alive.

joyTaylor: Being authentic is the best way to win the male sports fan over. I think I’ve been accepted because I’m not trying to constantly prove I should be there. I’m there because I worked hard, took the same path my peers took and paid my dues. I grew up in a sports city, Pittsburgh, in a sport family, and played sports my whole life. Then I went to school, started as an intern, worked a few part-time jobs, and worked my way to on-air as a producer for several years. All of those experiences have helped me earn the audience’s trust and respect.

amandagiffordGifford: Just be you. Talk sports. Have a personality. Have fun. Have an opinion. Make me think. Don’t wave the “I’m a female flag.” It doesn’t matter what gender you are as long as the content is compelling. Also, don’t take things personally and stay far away from your social media mentions – there are a lot of not nice people out there!

giannafranco4Franco: I don’t pretend to be a stat expert or sport’s almanac. I’m a fan, like the listeners, and I focus on staying knowledgeable, offering a smart opinion and staying authentic. The second you try to pretend to be something you’re not, it comes across on the air. I also try to keep in mind who my audience is. I grew up with a dad and brother who are diehard sports fans, so I have insight into that perspective, and always ask myself would this content matter to them? I also don’t lose sight of the fact that I am a voice for the local female listeners as well.

jessamyn1McIntyre: You’ve got to be tough and grow thick skin. Getting defensive never helps. The best advice I got was from Dan Patrick. He told me I had the ability to make it in this business, but to ‘not be just another cute chick‘. He explained that you can get away with a lot as ‘a cute chick‘ and probably actually maintain a job, but you’ll never truly succeed to your potential. I’ve taken that with me for almost ten years now and am grateful he took the time to point that out to me. I’ve always considered myself a hard worker, but it gave me perspective I could truly appreciate.

Do you believe women and men who perform in the sports radio format are treated the same and measured by the same rules internally & externally?

smalls3Smallmon: Unfortunately, no. There have been times when I was overlooked for positions that were given to males who were less qualified than me. I’ve gotten the ‘you never played the game, you can’t understand football’ attitude, when a man who never played football probably wouldn’t face similar questions about participating in an NFL broadcast. Also, any time there was a photo posted of me on our station’s website, there would be comments about my appearance. Radio is auditory and not visual, yet the main thing many people cared about was my physical appearance. That’s something men are lucky they don’t have to deal with as often. The double standard will probably be there for a long time, but I hope we continue to chip away at it until it’s gone.

sarahspain4Spain: The decision makers at newspapers, radio and TV studios and websites are still predominately white men hiring other white men. They need to understand the benefits of diversity, and bringing in different voices and backgrounds in order for new people to be given a shot. A change in the mindset of those folks, an increase in the number of women seeking jobs in the industry, and the continued hard work of the women who have made it will all combine to help change the climate. And, again, the longer people see women in jobs the less shocking or noteworthy it will become.

giannafranco3Franco: No, not really. I think all stations want a variety. It’s attractive to listeners, and offers a different perspective, but that also means you have to work that much harder for respect and job advancement. It’s very easy for some male hosts to not take you seriously, and use you for only fun or frilly topics, so I learned to not be afraid to speak, crack the mic, and be aggressive. You have to do that if you want to be seen as more than just the token girl on the sports station.

amandagifford4Gifford: Unfortunately I think we have a little ways to go here. Because sports talk radio is mostly dominated by males, it still is a little surprising to the audience when they hear a female voice. I think similar to the way people react to female play-by-play announcers during men’s games (like Beth Mowins or Pam Ward, for example, who have called CFB games for ESPN, or Doris Burke in the NBA as a color analyst), there is not the same benefit of the doubt that male hosts are given. I think women have to work harder to make sure they don’t lose credibility with the audience even if they only make one mistake. It’s not fair, but it’s reality.

joytaylor2Taylor: No, I do not. Just because the industry is changing does not mean it’s an equal playing field. Women have to be better, funnier, smarter, more professional, etc. Fans want to know you’re legit, rather than just accepting that you’re the new host on their favorite station. Overall, my experience has been great, but there are always moments when I know there is still work to be done.

Despite the growth, why do you believe women are still largely under-represented in the format? What needs to change for the growth to become even larger?

katescott3Scott: Women are under-represented in our industry for the same reason they’re underrepresented in a variety of industries. Growing up, we didn’t see anyone that looked like us working those jobs, so we just didn’t think they were an option. Thankfully, I had family, friends, mentors, and school advisors who told me otherwise, which – in my opinion – is where things need to start. I also think it’s important for those of us in the industry to realize the impact we can have on the future. Every time a little girl comes up to say hello at a remote broadcast, I ask her when she’s going to take my job. I think it’s our responsibility to plant that seed or, if it’s already been planted, reaffirm the fact that we believe that they can do it. Case in point, ESPN’s Linda Cohn (who also started in radio) was my favorite SportsCenter anchor growing up. I wrote her a snail mail letter my freshman year in college and about eight months later, got a short, email response from her thanking me for my support and encouraging me to intern to get into the industry. I printed that puppy out, framed it, and had it on my wall all thru college, and I’ve been working my tail off to get to work with her ever since. It’s up to us to be that person for the next generation. Hopefully, with so many more women in sports radio these days, that will lead to even MORE women working in sports radio down the road.

jessamyn5McIntyre: There’s always going to be some level of divide, based on the fact that more men play the sports we talk about than women. While we want to cater more and more to a greater audience, the bottom line is that, more men are interested in football/baseball/etc. than women. That’s not to say women won’t be interested, just like some men won’t be interested, but it says that the content itself is geared more toward men. I think the continued encouragement of women who want to get involved at a younger age will do a ton for growth. I feel as though a lot of road blocks have been taken down throughout the last ten years and that women have all the opportunities in front of them. It’s now a matter of using them to their full advantage.

amylawrenceLawrence: Yes, women are still the severe minority in sports radio. But there is no easy “fix” or formula to make the genre more balanced. The doors are definitely open for women who want to work in the business, but women have to be willing to put in the work and pay their dues, understanding both the business and the audience. It’s NOT the same as TV where the segments are much more controlled and physical appearance can go a long way. But knowledge, preparation, and dedication can lead to opportunities in this day and age of sports media.

anitamarksMarks: Sports talk radio can be intimidating. As a host, you’re out there on an island, and with listeners calling in, you need to have every T crossed and i dotted, because you never know where the show may take you. It’s like a magic carpet ride and it can be overwhelming. Right now most women in the sports broadcasting arena are primarily hired as reporters and TV hosts. As society becomes more accepting of women having opinions on sports, I believe more will venture into sports radio.

joytaylor5Taylor: I think that it’s a reflection of the fan base. Sports fans are still mostly male, so it makes sense that there would be mostly men speaking to them. Over the next 5-10 years as more women become vocal about their love for sports, and more women are accepted into the industry in more than the stereotypical roles, and the fan bases change their opinions of female personalities, this will change.

What advice would you give to a young woman who’s trying to make it in sports radio today but is having a difficult time breaking thru?

anitamarks5Marks: Hit the web! Dominate social media! Create your own podcast! Create your own YouTube channel! Intern at sports radio and TV stations – and go above and beyond what they ask of you. Build a following, be strong with your opinions, allow your personality to shine through, be persistent in sending samples of your work to stations, and don’t ever stop believing in yourself!

sarahspain5Spain: Find out what separates you from the pack and own it. For me, that’s always been my comedy background. For someone else it might be a great mind for statistics, a passion for baseball history, an interest in longform writing or breaking news coverage. Whatever it is, lead with it and show why you’re different than the many others who want a gig. Also, be as genuine as possible. People can see through you if you’re not yourself, and listeners and viewers above all else want authenticity. Also work very hard, be easy to work with and don’t have a thin skin.

joytaylor4Taylor: Be as active and as hard working as possible. Women in the industry start at a disadvantage, so they need to work harder, show up earlier, be more educated and more prepared. They aren’t given the benefit of the doubt and that’s something that will only make you better in the long run. Also, be willing to take the job that doesn’t pay well or may not be what you want to do long term. You have to work your way up and pay your dues in the media industry. There is no way around it, and it will only help you grow your talent. So many people get out of school and expect to walk right on to a set or get behind a microphone, and it doesn’t work that way. Don’t give up or get discouraged though, the hard work is worth it.

smallsSmallmon: If you can, intern anywhere that will have you. This business is hard to break into for both genders, so get involved as early and often as you can. Find a mentor. Ask questions and learn from their experiences. The first thing I do every morning is read for an hour and a half. Be prepared, because if you aren’t, someone else will be. Speak up. Have a strong opinion and stick by it. Radio is very transparent, and listeners will identify a phony pretty quickly. You’re more than what you look like; so don’t let others reduce you to that. Social media can be your best friend and your worst enemy. Take what strangers say, both negative and positive, with a grain of salt. Have fun! Like any job, this one will come with its challenges, but at the end of the day, you’re being paid to talk about sports. Never forget that you’re one of the few lucky ones who get to do this for a living.

amandagifford2Gifford: Find something that differentiates your content from anything else that’s out there. If you’re female, that’s a little easier because there aren’t a ton of women in this format. So right there you’ve got something different. Then, the “rules” are the same – have an opinion, make me think, have some fun, and stay off social media! Reach out to people in the industry to provide feedback/thoughts on what you’re doing. And practice, practice, practice.

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Angiolet, Borod, Craig & Sottolano Added To 2022 BSM Summit

“If you’re planning to attend, please buy your tickets as soon as possible. We have limited room and it’s first come, first serve.”

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We promised we had more great news to share regarding the 2022 BSM Summit. Just four days after revealing the addition of ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro to this year’s show, we’ve added four more heavyweights to March’s sports media industry conference.

First, it’s a pleasure to welcome for the first time, DraftKings Chief Media Officer Brian Angiolet to the BSM Summit. Brian joined DraftKings in April 2021 after two decades with Verizon where he helped the company strike a number of multi-billion dollar broadcasting, sports and entertainment content and advertising deals. Some of the key groups to do business with Verizon during Brian’s tenure included the NFL, NBA, Amazon, Microsoft and IBM. DK has been a large advertiser and supporter of the sports media industry for many years, in addition to becoming a larger content provider following the acquisition of VSiN. We look forward to having Brian join our sports betting executive panel (hosted by ESPN’s host Joe Fortenbaugh) to share his insights on how he sees sports betting groups participating now and in the future in the sports media content world.

Second, it’s an honor to add Fanatics Chief Commercial Officer Ari Borod to the sports betting executive panel for his first appearance at the BSM Summit. Ari’s fingerprints have been all over the sports betting business for years, first with FanDuel, then with the Action Network. He joined Fanatics in June 2021, reuniting with former FanDuel CEO Matt King, and in less than a year, the company became the official trading cards partner of MLB, purchased the Topps Trading Company, and applied for a sports betting license in New York. Possessing a massive customer base, deep executive knowledge of the sports betting business, and a desire to make a larger dent in the sports betting arena, we’re thrilled to have Ari lend his perspective on how Fanatics views the future of sports betting and the evolution of the sports media industry.

Next, I am thrilled to have Audacy’s EVP of Programming Jeff Sottolano appear on stage for the first time at the Summit. In his current role, Jeff is responsible for the content strategy and performance of Audacy’s local brands in all formats across all broadcast and digital platforms. Jeff has played a key role in the launch, development and growth of the BetQL Network, while also helping Audacy evolve its position as one of America’s top audio companies. Jeff will be part of one of my favorite sessions, The Power Panel, which includes SVP of Premiere Sports and EVP of iHeart Sports Don Martin, Cumulus and Westwood One SVP Bruce Gilbert, and SiriusXM SVP of Sports Programming Steve Cohen. All four men will participate in a lengthy discussion on sports talk programming and the various challenges facing brands, talent, and programmers today.

A BSM Summit can’t just feature new faces though, especially when familiar ones add valuable knowledge to important programming conversations. ESPN Radio Program Director, former colleague and longtime friend Justin Craig will join us for our Programmers Masterclass alongside a few other notable leaders. The group will examine what does and doesn’t work from a content standpoint when trying to capture ratings. They’ll also share which ingredients are essential in successful talent/shows, and provide an on-site review of a piece of audio content. Those interested in learning how great programmer’s think will want to be present for this panel.

If you haven’t purchased a ticket to the Summit but are planning to attend, please do so before seats are no longer available. We have limited room inside the theater and it’s first come, first serve. Additionally, all attendees in New York will receive an online registration to be able to watch the show on-demand afterwards. This can be helpful when looking to share insight with local staffs who aren’t able to attend.

For those not able to travel but interested in enjoying the Summit, we do have virtual tickets available. Details on tickets, speakers, and hotel rooms can be found on BSMSummit.com. I hope to see you there!

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ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit

“Having Jimmy with us will allow our attendees to learn how ESPN views the current sports media landscape in order to better understand where the business is headed in the future.”

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The largest player in the sports content business today is ESPN. From television to radio to streaming, social, podcasts, websites and more, the network remains a force in satisfying the appetites of sports fans around the globe.

But creating sustainable global success isn’t easy. It requires investing billions of dollars in key programming partnerships, holding off competitors who seek to elevate their own standing, and hiring and retaining talented professionals and providing an environment for them to thrive in. If that wasn’t difficult enough, a company must also embrace new technology, and accept that certain things will fail while pursuing a path to excellence.

The man charged with making sure ESPN thrives in each of these areas is Chairman Jimmy Pitaro, and I’m excited to share that he’ll be joining us in March in New York City for the 2022 BSM Summit.

I’ll have the pleasure of spending 35 minutes on stage with Jimmy discussing the state of the sports media industry, the opportunities and challenges facing operators in 2022 and beyond, the growth of sports betting, network radio, podcasts, subscriptions, social, and many other issues. No matter what space we’re talking about, ESPN has held a dominant position among all media brands. Having Jimmy with us will allow our attendees to learn how ESPN views the current sports media landscape in order to better understand where the business is headed in the future.

Jimmy has been with the Walt Disney Company since 2010. He became ESPN President in 2018 and was elevated two years later to his current role as Chairman of ESPN and Sports Content. You can learn more about his professional background by clicking here.

A reminder that the 2022 BSM Summit is an industry-only event. You must work in the media business in order to attend the show. This includes sales, public relations, advertising agency professionals and agents, as well as programming folks. If you haven’t had the pleasure yet of attending the Summit, feel free to visit our YouTube page to see some clips from past shows. It’ll give you an idea of what you can expect. You can also see the full list of speakers scheduled to appear at our 2022 show by visiting BSMSummit.com. We’ll announce a few more executive additions to March’s event later this week.

For those who manage brands and have joined us before in New York, Los Angeles and/or Chicago and are planning to come but haven’t bought a ticket yet, please do so asap. Seating is limited and once we’re full, we can’t add seats inside the room. You can also take advantage of a great hotel deal ($109 per night) with our partner Hotel Edison by clicking here.

One additional note, for those who are concerned about traveling, there is an opportunity to buy a virtual ticket. This year’s show is available both online and in person. For those planning to join us in NYC, in addition to receiving your live ticket, you’ll also get an online account so you can view the event on-demand afterwards. This can be especially helpful if you wish to replay a session or use any information afterwards to help members of your team. A big thanks to our virtual partner Nuvoodoo Media for helping make it happen.

We’re just 49 days away from putting on a spectacular show for industry folks in the big apple. We hope to see you there!

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Barrett Blogs

BSM, BNM Ready To Grow In 2022

“We’ve ended 2021 with record high’s for monthly traffic and social impressions, and our client and advertiser base the best its ever been thanks to the support of outstanding partners.”

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It’s commonplace in our business to self-reflect when a new year full of possibilities arrives. We should probably do it more often rather than reserving it for the final day of the year or the first day of the next, but in the media business, finding time isn’t always easy.

As I look back at 2021, and the obstacles, adversity, accomplishments, enlightenment, and unpredictability that awaits BSM and BNM in 2022, I’m grateful to be able to do work that many enjoy and benefit from. Since I left the programming world in 2015 not a day has passed where I thought ‘I need to get back to running a radio station‘. That may sound crazy considering I spent two decades inside of buildings, loving the job, and living and breathing it 24/7, but from the second I moved into this space, I knew it was where I needed to be.

I had my fun building brands, chasing ratings, leading corporate programming calls, and making good money, but that restricted me to working in one city for one company with one brand and one staff. Now, I get to wake up each day and help clients in multiple cities, and run my own brand, collaborating with a great group of people to tell stories about the business we love. Combine that with hosting an annual conference, working with advertising partners and industry friends to create cool content and examine ways to grow their businesses, and connecting with folks to stay plugged in on details that others won’t know about until weeks or months later, and I consider myself very lucky. The added bonus, I get to do it in running pants and t-shirts inside the comfort of my home office/studio.

But with operating a business comes a different set of challenges. In 2020, we ended the BSM Summit on a high only to watch the entire world spin out of control weeks later due to the Covid-19 pandemic. That created a bunch of short-term issues, which fortunately we were able to overcome. Fast forward to this year, and we’ve ended 2021 with record high’s for monthly traffic and social impressions, and our client and advertiser base the best its ever been thanks to the support of outstanding partners. I never assume we’re in the clear because things can change quickly, but the support we’ve received is appreciated. It fuels me to reinvest in others to continue growing our operation and helping the industry.

So let’s talk a little bit about how we’re doing that in 2022.


First, we merged Barrett Sports Media and Barrett News Media in May 2021 to bring news and opinion from both the sports/talk and news/talk worlds under one roof. We tried running them independently initially but that wasn’t the best strategy for a new brand. Since bringing them together, BNM’s exposure has increased, the content has been read more regularly, and though we have more to do to get the brand on par with BSM, we’re making progress. BSM had a 5+ year head start on BNM, and though I know at times it may seem weird to read a sports media and news media story on the same website or social media account, as I tell those who ask, sports and news have mixed together since the invention of television, radio and newspapers.

Boosting BNM’s awareness and content is a goal for 2022, and to do that I want to share two things we’re creating to help us make progress.

I’m excited to share that we are launching The BNM Rundown. This will be a newsletter we distribute 3x per week (Monday-Wednesday-Friday) via email similar to what we’ve done with the BSM 8@8. The Rundown will go out around 5pm ET on each of those three days, and it’ll contain ten (10) news media stories, five (5) advertising slots, and the latest stock prices for radio groups. There will be additional content and advertising added in the future, and we may increase delivery to five days per week down the line. I’m happy with the layout and think you’ll enjoy it. If you’d like to receive the BNM Rundown or discuss advertising opportunities inside of it, click here to sign up. A big thanks to Ryan Jaster for all the work he’s done getting it ready for distribution.

In addition to the newsletter, 2022 will become the first year where we roll out BNM’s Top 20 of 2022. Similar to how we’ve produced the BSM Top 20, we are going to do the same for the News/Talk format. Categories will be announced at a later time, and we’re expecting to present our results towards years end. There’s a lot to be done to make it a success, but if we’re able to do for News/Talk what we’ve done for Sports/Talk during the past 6 years, I’m confident folks will appreciate it.

When I look at BNM right now, I see a number of excellent writers on the site. If you’re not reading Pete Mundo, Jerry Barmash, Douglas Pucci, Rick Schultz, McGraw Milhaven, Ryan Hedrick and Eduardo Razo, you really should. Each of those guys have been rock stars for the brand, but we need more help, especially another columnist or two. If you work in news radio or TV, love writing, and live and breathe the business, email: JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

Though we do need to add columnists, a bigger hole has been a dedicated Assistant Content Editor. I’ve poured my heart and soul into BSM over the years, Demetri Ravanos has as well, and that’s helped us build a strong connection with sports radio folks. For BNM, that love, interest, and unwavering passion for telling stories about news radio and news television has been missing in the editor role. Though frustrating at times, it’s all part of building a brand. You have to go thru a few things before it all starts to click. Now after talking to a bunch of talented people over the past two months, and thinking about the brand’s need for TLC, I’m happy to announce the internal promotion of Eduardo Razo.

Since joining us Eduardo has been a steady fixture on the site, writing news, scheduling social posts, and putting an extra set of eyes on the content that comes in from our team. He cares about the site being clean, conducts himself neutrally and professionally when adding news, and he believes in the brand. If hours go by and the site doesn’t have new content, he’s the one who points it out. When Eduardo first joined us he was just learning the ropes. Over the past fifteen months he’s been consistently excellent, and I have no doubt he’ll make even more progress in his new role as BNM’s Assistant Content Editor.


Making sure Eduardo has support to help him though is also important. I’d love to be that person myself, but client projects require much of my focus, so having a strong #2 is key. I’ve been lucky to have a great one in Demetri Ravanos who I’m excited to share is being elevated to the new role of Director of Content. In his new position, Demetri will continue producing columns, creating original feature stories, and hosting a weekly podcast. He’ll also be responsible for daily social creation and scheduling, working with yours truly on client projects and Barrett Media events, recruitment of writers, growth of the BSM Member Directory, BSM merchandising, additional BSM audio projects, and oversight of BSM and BNM’s Assistant Content Editors.

That last line implies that there will be multiple editors involved in shaping BSM and BNM’s content, and with Demetri and Eduardo promoted, that means we’re adding someone to help grow BSM. I’m thrilled to welcome Ian Casselberry to our team as BSM’s new Assistant Content Editor. Ian is familiar to many in the sports media universe for his work with Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He’s also contributed to Bleacher Report, Yahoo! Sports, SB Nation Detroit, and MLive.com among others.

I’ve read Ian’s work for years and have always appreciated his passion for sports radio and sports television. Adding someone with his experience, creativity, and attention to detail has been a huge priority for me. I’m looking forward to turning him loose on January 17th when he officially begins working with us. Under his direction, and in tandem with Demetri and I, we’re going to aim to produce more quality sports media content, and continue expanding BSM’s footprint across the industry.

As awesome as all of these moves are for creating interest in reading the site, if you don’t have someone in position to help sell it, the upside is going to be limited. For the past six years I’ve been the one making those sales myself. But I’ve also had to be a consultant, social scheduler, content creator, summit organizer-creator-host, finder of new clients, and the one in charge of billing and payroll. I love being busy, but a brand’s potential can’t be maximized without help.

Placing the company’s sales efforts in someone else’s hands though requires trust. I’ve learned the past few years that unless you’re inside my world and understand everything that goes on with BSM and BNM, it’s not an easy brand to sell. Media sellers are used to working with more assets, bigger dollars, and they expect things to move faster. They’re also used to corporate environments where a crew provides support from the beginning to the end of a sale. That’s not how it works here. This is more of a family business. Our success depends on one on one relationships, accessibility, being a self-starter, and patience. It means keeping in touch with industry friends and partners even when there isn’t a sale to be made. Nobody knows this brand, business, and who we serve better than the person who’s lived it with me for the past six and a half years, Stephanie Eads, my new Director of Strategic Partnerships.

Not only has Stephanie worked in sales and customer service most of her adult life, she’s honest, organized, and outstanding with people. She’s been exposed to every aspect of my radio life for the past sixteen years, and if you’ve been to a BSM Summit before then you already know how on the ball she is at making sure things get done. This is something we’ve talked about for years, but the timing was never right. Now it is, and I’m excited to watch her blossom. Having her add extra support to help me with billing and payroll is an added bonus.

The BSM brand will also welcome a few additional writers starting this week. First, I’m glad to have Danny O’Neil joining us as a weekly columnist. I got to know Danny in Seattle at 710 ESPN Seattle over the past six years, and he’s always been smart, passionate about media, and an exceptional writer. He’s now based in NYC and his debut column will hit the site this Friday. Also joining us in a daily news writer role is Will Dundon. Will is based in Nashville where he works as a producer for 102.5 The Game. Having him involved will help us stay on top of day to day news stories.


In terms of upcoming content, the BSM Top 20 of 2021 will be released February 7-11 and 14-15. The series moves back a week this year in accordance with a later Super Bowl date. During the seven day span we will highlight the best local sports radio stations, program directors, and morning, midday, and afternoon shows. We will also recognize the best national sports talk shows and original sports podcasts. To do that, we will once again involve more than 50 program directors and executives in the voting process.

One thing we will do differently this year is create an extra piece which recognizes the top performer in twenty smaller categories. These will be determined by a combination of BSM staff and select experts for specific fields. Some of these categories will include Best Sports Betting Content Brand, Best Wrestling Audio Show, Best Sports Radio Social Brand, and more.

After the Top 20 concludes, we’ll turn our attention to the 2022 BSM Summit, which is scheduled for March 2-3, 2022 in New York City at the Anne Bernstein Theater. The show will also be available virtually for those who can’t attend in person. I’m excited about the guest speakers we’ve lined up for this year’s event, and have more tremendous additions to announce later this week and next week. I realize the Omicron/Covid-19 situation has created some concern over the past month, and we continue to monitor the situation closely. As of today, we’re planning to host the event. If the situation were to worsen and we couldn’t keep people safe and comfortable, we’d reschedule the show. I’m hopeful of seeing familiar faces and many of sports media’s best and brightest in sixty days. If you haven’t bought your ticket, log on to BSMSummit.com and do so before you’re on the outside looking in. In the meantime, stay tuned to this website and the BSM 8@8 for details. We should all know more January 15th when New York State updates everyone on their mask ordinance.

Other content projects are in the works as well for March-December. We’ve got a number of ideas we’ve talked about for March Madness, and the NFL Draft. Items like last year’s Meet The Market Managers or a programmer’s version of it may also land on the content calendar. Not to be forgotten is the importance of continuing to improve the BSM Member Directory to help people stay informed, ready, and land in front of the right decision makers when job openings arise. Seeing a few of our members earn gigs the last 4-5 months of 2021 was very cool, and we hope to see more of that in 2022. Last but not least, I’m hopeful of giving the website a new layout in either quarter 2 or 3.


As I bring this column to a close, I’d like to remind you that BSM and BNM exists because we love the business and advocate for it daily. Since 2015, I’ve prioritized professional storytelling, research, industry news, relationship building, social media marketing, and consulting. Inside information and building relationships are important, and sure, it’s occasionally fun being first, but I’ve never worried about clicks, scoops, cash grabs or ruining reputations to elevate my own. I try to think about the big picture, even if it means missing out in the short-term. That applies to who I work with in a consulting capacity as well as how I operate the site. There’s no better example of it than last week. Most of our crew had the week off. It was tough missing out on stories when we were taking a mental timeout, but people come first. If you want long-term productivity and a staff to stick with you, support and sacrifice are essential.

If there’s one thing I know, this outlet has been a great resource for industry professionals. I wasn’t as fortunate during my studio days to have a site this rich in content to learn from, debate with, and stay connected to. We’ve hired 20+ contributors to help serve the industry, and I’m honored to have each one of them here. The additions we’ve made to improve the brand in 2022 will make us even better. We’re not perfect by any stretch, but we try to be fair and accurate. I also try to be accessible, especially when difficult situations arise. There are going to be times when our crew deliver strong opinions or tackle sensitive issues, and when those instances occur, I hope you’ll remember what I said about accuracy and fairness. We won’t operate as shills for the industry but we’re also not going scorched earth on folks.

Our goal here is simple, help folks stay informed about the sports and news radio/television formats, overdeliver for clients who place their trust in us, connect our advertising partners and members to others who can benefit from their services, and give industry people access to content from other professionals so they can do their jobs better.

If we can do these things consistently we’ll be in great shape. If we miss along the way, we’ll clean up the mess, and try to learn from it. We’re nine months away from celebrating seven years in operation, and we couldn’t have made it this far without your full support. Thanks for riding with us, now let’s make 2022 a year to remember.

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