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Finding Stability In An Unstable Media Industry

Jason Barrett

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The world I grew up in was one where people stayed at the same job for a lengthy period of time. My father dedicated nearly twenty years of his life to being a member of the New York police department. Many of his partners did the same. School teachers spent decades inside the same classrooms. Your postal worker was someone who spent years stuffing your mailbox and getting to know you on a first name basis.

In media circles, the story was similar. Newspaper writers covered the same teams in the same locker rooms, and had their stories featured in the same section of the same newspaper for decades. Broadcasters talked to the same audiences on the same radio dials in the same timeslots. The relationship between employers and employees were favorable and built to last.

But then something changed.

The internet took off, causing a ripple effect on the way we consume media today. The FCC allowed big banks and corporations to buy up local radio stations, creating consolidation, and the elimination of hundreds to thousands of jobs. Radio groups started focusing on the growth of their stock prices and shareholder satisfaction, rather than the quality of their programming and the connection formed with their communities.

As a result, trust began to erode. Companies became less interested in paying top dollar for the best talent. Instead, they sought people who would do the work for less, even if it meant sacrificing quality in the process. Being profitable was more important.

Those weren’t the only reasons that change began in the radio business, but that mentality certainly caused a large number of people to reevaluate their situations. Suddenly untouchable commodities who had enjoyed large levels of success were open for business, and the radio industry as we knew it was different.

And it wasn’t just in radio either. The same was becoming a bigger issue in society. People became less patient and developed a win-now mentality, and as distractions increased, further changes were necessary. Whether it was switching cars, houses, friends, or marriages, the thought of sticking with one thing became less appealing.

I started thinking about a number of the media stories that have hit the newswire over the last few weeks, and it made me realize that loyalty is not what it once was in this industry. Every company and individual now strikes while the iron is hot or when they have an advantage to better their own situation. Becoming attached is less common, and people are now willing to say goodbye to what they’ve previously known if it helps them enjoy a better tomorrow.

Companies do the same exact thing. If money can be saved, and ratings can be increased, change is going to happen. Whether you’re a good employee or not isn’t as important as the way you impact the bottom line.

In less than one year, Mike Tirico and Heather Cox have left ESPN. They spent more than twenty years with the network. Colin Cowherd, Skip Bayless, Robert Smith and Chris Spielman all left Bristol University after more than a decade there. Even local personalities like Roger Wyland in Albany, NY, who was a fixture on Fox Sports 980 for the past fifteen years, agreed to join the competition.

When I analyze the current climate for sports media, any situation that lasts longer than five years is considered a success. If you’re accepting a position and expecting to be in it long-term, I’d encourage you to have Plan B in your pocket. The goal may be to establish a long-term relationship with your employer. You might even find yourself signing multiple contracts with the company. But understand that the odds of it happening are unlikely.

The more you’re willing to test the waters, relocate, and adapt to different situations, the better your chances are of making a better income, earning bigger opportunities, and extending your career. Your paycheck and ability to influence decisions may increase, but with those advantages comes instability. You may have to rent an apartment rather than buy a house. Driving down the road to see your family could be replaced by catching flights to visit. Even friendships and working relationships that you consider positive parts of your life, may need to be terminated or altered every couple of years.

I don’t blame any individual who leaves a place of employment for greener grass and brighter sunshine. In most cases, they’re just doing what many American’s do – accepting a position that pays more, provides a better opportunity, and offers a stronger commitment. I also don’t blame an employer from moving on if an individual isn’t meeting expectations or has an unrealistic view of the way the business world works.

But what does cross my mind, is why situations fall apart when both sides are enjoying success. If an individual commits their lives to your organization, does exceptional work, builds an audience, satisfies clients, and conducts themselves with class, shouldn’t they be worth going to bat for? If a company pays you well, treats you great, and gives you a big platform to perform on, shouldn’t that matter?

Budgets do come into play, but any smart corporate executive can figure out how to play with numbers to assure that a brand’s best talent remains in place. A talent should also be willing to get creative and work with their boss to find a suitable middle ground for both sides.

If a person leaves because the dollar value and position being offered elsewhere is impossible to replicate, that’s a different story. But in some cases, I’ve seen people leave for different opportunities over a few thousand dollars. A couple of companies not only demanded that some of their best people accept deals that were below market value, but they also wanted a long-term commitment to go with it. Most broadcasters are not going to accept those terms. It’s that type of disrespect that leads top talent to shut down negotiations and move on.

A signed agreement is the result of a strong relationship between the media company and the individual. There is no winner and loser in the deal making process. Each situation may present its own unique challenges, but if you enter into a negotiation with the mindset that you’ve got to beat your employee or employer, it’s not only going to fracture your relationship, but it’s probably not going to work.

If a few thousand dollars is going to stand between retaining your best people or watching them walk, don’t be foolish. That type of short sighted thinking has a way of coming back to haunt you in the future. That said, sports programming is not cheap. If an employer is willing to extend to make a deal happen, the employee should be appreciative and offer to help the company find solutions to offset the additional expense. That shows that you care about the company and aren’t only focused on your own personal gain.

Equally important for the company to be conscious of, is that everything that gets created through the speakers is the result of human effort, passion, and creativity. Those who deliver compelling and entertaining radio content on a daily basis, provide more of an experience for an audience than any other form of media.

Let that sink in for a second.

Writers don’t provide ten daily columns. Television shows usually run thirty to sixty minutes in length. Even podcasts, videos, and social media activity doesn’t fill up three to four hours per day for five days per week. Besides, the radio host invests themselves in those areas too. Too often talk show hosts get taken for granted, but the great ones are hard to replace. If you have a good one under your umbrella, make sure they don’t get rained on.

The biggest area of weakness for many sports media talent when it comes to this subject is that they’re insecure. Receiving a contract makes them feel safe, important, and untouchable, but in reality, most companies have the flexibility to get out of the agreements that they sign. It may calm your nerves, but the feeling you get when you sign on the dotted line is not the same one you’ll experience in the future if you’re locked into a long-term deal and being dealt a bad hand inside your workplace. In those cases, you’ll start to feel trapped.

This is why it sometimes pays not to be under contract. Sure there’s the risk of the company having the ability to drop you like a bad habit anytime they wish to. But if they do, you’ll likely be collecting unemployment while chasing your next opportunity.

The good news is, if you find a new position, you can usually get started immediately. Some situations are different and include a non-compete. Most of them though involve some form of compensation which is always positive when you’ve been let go from a job.

In the end, a contract is a piece of paper. It outlines the terms, prevents both sides from hurting each other professionally, and can be enforced inside a courtroom. But the one thing you won’t find inside of it, is a promise to care. If either party has an emotional disconnect from the other, you’ll be headed down the road to ruin. It won’t matter if you’ve been together for two years or twenty at that point.

To create an environment that everyone wishes to remain in takes hard work and clear communication. If respect is given, expectations are met, and each side wishes to extend the relationship, there’s a good chance that it’ll come together. Just remember though, the odds are not in your favor. A signed agreement won’t change that.

When the book on your career is finally written, unexpected opportunities will pop up, offers will be made that you never expected, and you’ll have multiple home addresses and business cards to show for it. Finding stability in an unstable media industry is expecting too much. But, if you’re willing to roll with the punches, and keep moving forward, you just might find yourself enjoying a great career, and looking back one day with one heck of a story to share. Just don’t expect it all to happen inside the same location.

Barrett Blogs

Barrett Sports Media’s Top 20 National Sports Radio Shows of 2022

“A total of 101 shows were eligible for voting consideration in the National Sports Radio Shows category.”

Jason Barrett

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The 8th annual BSM Top 20 series kicks off with a look at the Top 20 National Sports Radio Shows of 2022. These shows have the largest reach in America, and are distributed by the largest networks in the industry, airing across hundreds of radio stations, as well as on various digital and television outlets.

As you review this year’s selections, please remember that the results represent the collective opinions of forty six (46) industry executives. I’d like to thank Alex Reynolds, Stephanie Eads, and Dylan Barrett for helping with the Top 20 process, and Steve Kamer Voiceovers for being our exclusive sponsor for this year’s Top 20 series. Steve’s voice is heard across the nation on many top shows, stations, and networks, and if you’re not familiar with his work, take a second to learn what makes him stellar at his craft by clicking here.

As it pertains to the voting, here are a few key things to be aware of.

– These results are based on 2022’s performance. 2023 changes have no effect on the voting.

– Our executive panel consists of forty six (46) program directors and corporate executives from a number of top broadcasting companies including Audacy, iHeart, Cumulus, Beasley, Hubbard, Good Karma Brands, ESPN Radio, FOX Sports Radio, SiriusXM, Spotify, and independently owned and operated radio stations. We involve a large number of people in this process in order to include feedback from all parts of the country, as well as to prevent the results from heavily favoring one company.

 A total of 101 shows were eligible for voting consideration in the National Sports Radio Shows category.

– Voters choose their Top 20 based on a myriad of factors including the ear test, originality, ability to entertain, multi-platform impact, on-air chemistry, and ratings success. Keep in mind that voters live in different cities, have different tastes, and value certain factors higher than others. This isn’t a perfect science, but it’s the best system we’ve been able to come up with to showcase how sports radio’s brain trust view the best in the format.

And that brings us to the rankings for this year’s National Sports Radio Shows. For only the 2nd time in 8 years, we have someone at the top other than Colin Cowherd. The winner this year for best National Sports Talk Show of 2022 is The Pat McAfee Show. It was a close race, which included Cowherd earning more first place votes, eighteen (18) to McAfee’s twelve (12), but Pat scored seven more votes in the 2-5 range, allowing him to prevail by seventeen points. McAfee’s show is now consumed through podcasts, YouTube, and social media but 2022 did include eight months of distribution on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio. We congratulate Pat, AJ, and the entire crew on earning this year’s top honor, as well as every other show which appeared on this year’s list.

Now, here are the full results of “BSM’s Top 20 National Sports Radio Shows of 2022!”

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Additional Notes:

  • The Herd w/ Colin Cowherd earned a category best eighteen (18) first place votes. The Pat McAfee Show was second with twelve (12).
  • 21-25 was occupied by Outkick 3602 Pros & a Cup of Joe, The Zach Gelb Show, Spain & Fitz, and Bart & Hahn.
  • The closest contest saw You Better You Bet edge Ben Maller by 4 points.
  • Of the 101 shows eligible for consideration this year, 9 received at least one 1st place vote.

Here is the remaining schedule for the BSM Top 20 of 2022.

  • Tuesday February 7 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Morning Shows of 2022
  • Wednesday February 8 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Midday Shows of 2022
  • Thursday February 9 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Afternoon Shows of 2022
  • Friday February 10 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Program Directors of 2022
  • Monday February 13 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Stations of 2022

To view prior years of BSM’s Top 20 results, click here.

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Barrett Blogs

Jeff Catlin, John Mamola, Gordy Rush & Maggie Clifton Join The 2023 BSM Summit Lineup

Jason Barrett

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We’re less than two months away from the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles. This year’s conference takes place on March 21-22, 2023 at the Founders Room inside of the Galen Center at USC. Many industry professionals are set to attend but sports media folks tend to be a last minute crowd whether it’s buying a ticket, reserving a room or committing to be a sponsor. Yes, tickets, rooms, and a select few sponsorships are still available, but the longer you wait, the more you risk not being in the room, featured as a partner, and paying higher prices for travel. To make sure you have a seat and a place to stay, log on to BSMSummit.com. For sponsorship inquiries, email Stephanie at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

I am really excited about this year’s Summit. The venue is tremendous, the agenda is coming together nicely, and there’s no doubt we’ll have great weather when we gather in LA. Some have asked me why I don’t reveal the full schedule of sessions months in advance, and it’s because I believe in swinging for the fences and trying to do big things. To do that, you’ve got to be willing to invest time and explore every opportunity that can be impactful. It’d be much easier to fill the schedule and be done with everything but if it’s going to take a little longer to deliver the best speakers, discussions and experiences for all in the room, then that’s what I’m going to do.

Those involved in the creation of this conference know that I set a very high standard for it. We’ve run some great events over the years, and it’s because we put everything we have into making sure each session is valuable to a different segment of the industry. My goal each year is to present an action packed agenda that helps people learn, gain access to information to improve themselves and/or their brands, and create a few connections and memorable moments to justify it being worth a few days away out of the office or studio. If we can do that, it makes the sacrifices worthwhile. If we can’t execute at a high level, then I’d probably pass on doing it.

Before I tell you about the four people we’re adding to our speaker lineup, I do want to remind you that we recently announced a contest for California college students. We’re giving away ten (10) FREE tickets to the show courtesy of Steve Kamer Voiceovers. If you know a student in California please let them know about this. If they’re not in California but want to attend the event, we’ve created a special college rate to make it affordable for young people. Everything is listed on BSMSummit.com.

Now, for the new additions to the lineup.

I’m excited to welcome Jeff Catlin of The Ticket in Dallas to the Summit. This will be Jeff’s first Summit visit, and I appreciate him making time to share his programming wisdom with the rest of the room. Jeff will be part of a programming panel that kicks off day #2. That panel will include Jimmy Powers of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Raj Sharan of Denver’s Sports Station 104.3 The Fan, and our next addition, John Mamola of WDAE. John has been at all of our events dating back to our first test event in Chicago. I’m looking forward to giving him an opportunity to offer his programming insights alongside this talented group.

Also joining the Summit lineup is Maggie Clifton, Blue Wire’s Senior Vice President of Business Development. Maggie has played a vital role in growing Blue Wire’s revenue, and I’m looking forward to having her join Barstool Sports’ SVP, Head of Sales Matt Berger, and Magellan AI’s Chief Revenue Officer John Goforth on a panel that focuses on digital monetization.

Guiding that conversation will be Guaranty Media’s Gordy Rush. The Baton Rouge Vice President and General Manager who doubles as LSU’s sideline reporter on football broadcasts is well versed in monetizing content, and understanding the opportunities and challenges broadcasters face. I’m confident those in the room charged with maximizing digital revenue for their brands will gain great value from these four professionals.

There’s much more in the works that I’m looking forward to announcing in the coming weeks. Whether you own a company, manage a cluster as a GM, lead a sales team, host or produce a podcast or radio/TV show, buy advertising, oversee a brand’s social media strategy or program a network or local outlet, there’s something for every sports media professional at the BSM Summit. I invite you to come see for yourself. To do so, visit BSMSummit.com.

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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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