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Staying Ahead of the Curve In Sports Radio

Jason Barrett

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In sports media circles it’s well documented that Jamie Horowitz is looking to turn Fox Sports 1 into an opinion driven programming network. He’s gone on the record numerous times stating that he’d like to add what he calls “opinionists” to his channel’s roster. Personalities such as Colin Cowherd, Skip Bayless, Jason Whitlock, Clay Travis, and Nick Wright are fit that description.

Whether the vision and execution will work is yet to be determined, but what I appreciate about Horowitz’s strategy is that he’s aiming to develop his network as the place to turn to for the opinion leaders in sports media. So much of today’s sports content is built from reaction to what unfolds in sporting events, and commentaries made by those playing or talking about sports, so choosing to build a brand around opinionated personalities and content isn’t a bad idea. Many have said he’s essentially taking sports talk radio and putting it on television.

When you look at how Fox Sports 1 stacks up presently, they’re way behind the worldwide leader in sports in many categories. Awareness, ratings, play by play deals, digital growth and even the size of the talent roster, all fall short of ESPN. They’re also nearly forty years behind in terms of branding, comfortability, and dependability with the audience.

To turn the tide in their favor it’ll likely take a decade or more, and that’s assuming they continue to make major improvements. The process will be long, painful, emotionally exhausting, and it’ll require smart strategy, risk taking, change, and achievable short-term and long-term goals, and a firm commitment, and great amount of patience from the higher ups at Fox Sports.

Even then, the plan still may not work. But what will take place if they stay committed is the creation of a legitimate competitor, and a brand with an identity which differs from ESPN. That gives the viewer a choice when seeking sports programming.

The reason I’m interested in their approach is because I see them seizing one part of ESPN’s identity, and looking to build their own empire around it. For sports fans, ESPN represents multiple things. They offer an abundance of play by play, SportsCenter, high level reporting, opinion driven programs, documentaries, and a collection of high profile personalities. It’s their mission to serve sports fans everywhere, and venture into all areas of sports programming, not necessarily focus on one particular area.

By placing less focus on highlight shows, documentaries, and reporting, Fox Sports is putting all of their eggs in the opinion basket. In doing so, they’re hoping to establish an identity, and generate enough traction to put themselves in position in the future to consider adding other elements to that strategy.

Which brings me to the radio industry. If there’s one area where the business underperforms, it’s in creating the next big trends in original programming. From digital to podcasting to ratings measurement, and other areas, staying ahead of the curve has never been radio’s strong suit.

Today, if you turn on your television, you’ll find a strong supply of sports programming options. Channels such as ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNews, ESPNU, SEC Network, Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, NBC Sports Network, CBS Sports Network, NFL Network, MLB Network, NBA TV, and the NHL Network all have something for you to enjoy. I didn’t even mention all of the regional sports programming channels, TNT’s select coverage, the Tennis Channel, Golf Channel, beIN Sports, Pac-12 and Big Ten Networks, or the slew of others.

When you examine the digital space, another wide variety of options exists. If you’re in the mood to read sports content, ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS Sports, NBC Sports, Yahoo Sports, Bleacher Report, Vice Sports, SB Nation, Sports Illustrated, and Sporting News are available. If those brands don’t meet your needs, each sports league, and every single team in collegiate and professional sports has their own website. There are even other smaller sites which are built around specific sports, leagues, local regions, and personalities.

In sports radio, we find nearly eight hundred stations offering sports content. The majority of the formats though are similar. Brands are often attached to one of six national networks (ESPN, CBS, NBC, FOX, Yahoo, ESPN Deportes), and a large number use the same brand names, voice talent, and programming strategies.

Some of these stations will rely on their network associations to identify their brand. Other local talkers use monikers such as The Fan, The Ticket, The Game, The Score, The Zone, or The Team. The only things major differences are the personalities, content focus, network affiliations, and play by play associations. Even then, the content on these stations revolves around all-sports talk programming targeted towards each market’s local teams, and the biggest national stories making news.

We could debate station names, network associations, and the way many brands implement similar sounds and strategies, but I want to shine the light on a bigger issue – a lack of choice and originality for local audiences.

If you look at the top 25 markets, you’ll find a minimum of two sports stations offered in each city. In many cases, there are three or four radio stations offering sports talk programming. In nearly every one of these situations, each station provides all-sports programming. This means that the topics are driven by the news and results produced by the area’s local teams. Big national stories also warrant discussion.

Take for example the cities Denver, Houston, Miami and Portland. They each have at least four stations offering sports programming. Aside from offering different local shows, and on-air talent, and entering into business with different national sports networks, much of what they provide in terms of content is the same.

Sandwiched around their network hours are local programs which talk about the local market’s teams, take calls, interview guests, and possibly offer play by play of local or national games. They even provide sports updates two or three times per hour.

When the ratings and revenue are taken into account, some of these brands perform well. Others fall far below the mendoza line. For those that don’t pull their weight, they’ll either invest less, change the talent, or entertain a format change to something non-sports related. The one thing they rarely consider is a different way to present sports programming.

I want you to place yourself in the position of an owner of the third or fourth best performing sports station in a marketplace. If your competitors have a dedicated audience, strong ratings, and high revenues, do you honestly believe you’re going to make inroads by doing the same thing they do? Here let me save you a lot of time, money, and aggravation, you won’t.

So what can you do? How about doing some research in your market, discovering what matters most to people, and then creating a different form of sports programming?

Sports radio doesn’t have to consist of all-sports focused shows on radio stations which feature a mix of local and national content. It also doesn’t have to feature sports updates, personalities from the same walks of life, or the same voices and sounds that we’ve grown accustomed to.

This isn’t to suggest that you’re going to become the market’s leader by introducing a different version of the format, but if you want to create an identity, separate yourself from the competition, and help your ratings and revenue, sometimes being bold, and original pays off.

As you scroll through some of these possibilities, remember that they may work in some locations, but not in others. For example, a college sports radio network may be well received in the southeast, but not up north. This is where research comes into play. If you analyze the makeup of people in your city, and tap into their passions for specific sports, teams, people, and content, you’ll give yourself a fighting chance. That can be the difference between staying afloat, or sinking.

College Sports Programming Network: SiriusXM has done this incredibly well, and we’ve seen the same occur on television with the launch of the SEC Network, ESPNU, Pac-12 and Big Ten Network, and many others. So why hasn’t the format been offered by terrestrial radio?

Is it not possible for a company to create it and offer it to a number of stations in markets where the programming has mass appeal? Don’t you think local radio companies in college towns would have an interest?

If a group launched an all-college sports programming network, and partnered with a company like Learfield, IMG, or Westwood One to add college play by play to the mix, they’d have the ability to stand out in a number of locations. The focus would primarily be placed on football, and basketball. Other exceptions may be worth considering from time to time.

The right cities, towns, and regions have to be considered, and local operators have to be open to changing network affiliations, but if ratings and revenues aren’t high, that becomes a much easier conversation.

Hispanic Sports Programming Network: This is an area that even the television industry should be taking a closer look at. First of all, there are over three hundred and fifteen million people in the United States. Caucasians are the largest group of people, but Hispanics now represent 15% of the total population. That makes them the second largest race in our country.

When you look at states like New York, California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico, the percentages rise to well above 25%. In major cities it’s an even bigger deal. For example, Miami is 51%, Los Angeles 43%, Houston 34%, San Diego 31%, and New York City is 24%. Other major cities such as Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, and San Francisco are all above 20%.

These aren’t just some of the largest markets in America, they’re also the locations where most of the nation’s advertising gets done. Buyers realize that the Hispanic population is rapidly growing, and selling products has to extend beyond Caucasian males and females.

Rather than introduce the seventh or eighth sports television channel or launch another sports radio station which does the same exact thing, how about building a programming around Hispanic talent? I’m not suggesting either that the content be presented in Spanish. It would be delivered in English by a station comprised of Hispanic personalities.

Many in our industry label Los Angeles, Miami and Houston as weak sports markets, yet each of them are heavily Hispanic and under represented on the local airwaves. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that connecting to that audience in each of those cities is important. If done right, it could produce great results. Some will suggest that it won’t, but until I see someone try and fail, I remain optimistic about the idea.

Black Sports Programming Network: Similar to the Hispanic programming idea, African Americans are also under represented, especially on sports radio. In television, we have channels like BET which cater to the African American viewer. In radio, multiple companies have launched urban brands which have been well received by predominantly black audiences. Urban sports for some reason hasn’t been considered, at least not on-air.

In the digital space, The Undefeated was launched by ESPN. Another website Black Sports Online operated by Robert Littal has also entered the fray.

But why hasn’t radio examined the possibility? It can’t be for a lack of options. Personalities like Stephen A. Smith, Michael Smith, Jemele Hill, Stuart Scott, Jason Whitlock, and Michael Strahan have proven they can shine on the national stage, and local talents such as The 2 Live Stews, Michael Holley, and Terry Foster have demonstrated they can be difference makers too.

So why not explore it further?

According to the U.S Census Bureau, in Washington DC, African Americans outrank Caucasians 48% to 36%. In states like Mississippi, and Georgia, blacks represent 31% of the population. In Maryland it’s 29%, and in South Carolina, and Alabama, the number stands at 27%.

I’m not suggesting that a network or locally programmed station featuring all black personalities would play in every part of the country, but I challenge you to show me proof of why it wouldn’t work in some of these locations. I can find local brands built around network programming in many of these towns that don’t deliver a big number, yet an idea like this isn’t even considered, even though the statistical data suggests it’d be worth discussing.

Team Centered Sports Radio Stations: We’ve seen a few teams own radio stations, and face backlash because their content is viewed as being team controlled. But what if an independently owned radio station chose to brand themselves around a local team, and focus their entire content presentation around them? Would it be different?

Some stations seek to be everything to everyone, rather than tapping into the one or two teams that matter most. Imagine if you ran a third sports station in New York. If you went up against WFAN, and ESPN NY, and offered the same strategy that they do with different talent, you’d get killed. But if you positioned yourself as the New York Football Network, that would at least peak the curiosity of local football fans.

Using that approach, all of your shows would be built around the Giants, and Jets, and the rest of the NFL. Your talent roster would feature people who were recognizable to New York football fans, and had strong knowledge and passion to discuss the sport. You could even supplement your coverage by adding Monday, Thursday, and Sunday night football, or aim to pry away the rights to one of the market’s two local teams when their deals expired.

This isn’t just a New York idea either. If you were running the third or fourth station in another market, and a local team had a stranglehold on local audience and advertiser interest, connecting your brand to them would be wise. Teams love being the center of attention, and certain ones carry such prestige with the audience that it’s impossible to deny the value of being connected to them.

If your radio station was built around non-stop Lakers in Los Angeles, 24/7 Cowboys in Dallas, or all access Giants in San Francisco, you’d be further ahead than you would by positioning yourself as the third or fourth all-sports programming alternative. Would there be periods of the year when your station isn’t a destination? Yes. But, when you add it all up, you’d have many more months of strong listenership, and a unique identity in the marketplace. The brands sitting on top would definitely be aware of your presence.

Action Sports Programming Network: Imagine if a channel was built around the UFC, Boxing, and Pro Wrestling. Your immediate reaction is to tell me that it’d be too niche. A format like that would only make sense for SiriusXM or on a podcasting platform. And therein lies one of radio’s massive problems. It operates inside of the same box too frequently.

Did you know that of the top 50 podcasts in sports and leisure, 11 of them are either wrestling, or mixed martial arts related? Did you know that over one million people subscribe to the WWE Network? How about the pay per view business, what brings in its largest revenues? That would be Boxing, and the UFC.

Do you think the UFC, WWE, and Boxing world don’t attract advertisers, audiences, or ratings? On a weekly basis, the WWE is watched by three to four million people on Monday night’s and a few million more on Thursday’s. They also reach younger audiences which is why ESPN entered into a partnership with Vince McMahon’s company. I’m not even taking into account the audiences which watch other wrestling promotions on television.

Would this type of format work everywhere? No. Is it built better for SiriusXM than others? Probably. But would it not have appeal in certain local cities? That one we can debate.

How many local stations do we see across this country deliver weak ratings, little revenue, and offer the same exact strategy as the competition, only not as good? It happens more than you may realize. If a station or network was built around personalities like Jay Glazer, Joe Rogan, Mike Goldberg, Teddy Atlas, Chuck Liddell, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, and Jim Ross, it would have appeal.

Audiences are already seeking out the content. If radio made it easier to hear and find, some cities might just surprise you with their level of interest in the programming.

Bye Bye Sports Updates, Hello NFL Reports: The NFL is now a twelve month, three hundred sixty five days per year sport. It’s the number one subject that audiences crave, and it stretches beyond local borders. Ratings, and rights fees are at record highs, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. It’s why sports radio loves the fall, and dreads other parts of the calendar year.

In 2016, sports fans seek out information by reading multiple websites, and following specific brands and people on social media. If you think you’re giving them something they don’t know in a sports update by pointing out when your local team’s game airs later that evening or what happened the night before, you’re simply insulting their intelligence. That’s the classic case of doing updates the way they’ve always been done.

I should point out that I don’t believe sports stations need to air three updates per hour. I’m not sure they’re even needed. I love the addition of an extra voice, and I see value in using audio to redirect the audience back to your website to listen to a podcast, or piece of content from another show, but game previews, recaps, and scoring updates are a waste of air time.

However, what is undisputable, is that sports radio listeners love football. Having three to four minutes per hour to use on your airwaves for updates can be worthwhile if the content is branded, and presented around the NFL. If a station were to switch their SportsCenter, Sport Flash or Sports Update, to NFL reports, I believe the interest level would increase.

First of all, the audience is aware of local sports issues, and the bigger national stories. They aren’t always aware of what’s being discussed in other cities in print and on sports radio. If you can gather good football related audio or written stories from other areas, and present something different than what the on-air host is providing, they’ll gain value from your reports.

One thing we know about football fans, they want to be informed, or given insight that will help them with their fantasy team or upcoming bets. If you’re going to remove two to three minutes per hour from your top talent to air a sports update, it better be news that your audience can use. Football content gives you that.

Facebook Live Programming Opportunities: Sports fans are voyeurs. They love video. They’ll even watch it online without the sound. They tune in for simulcasts of a local radio show on television. They eavesdrop on personalities who broadcast on Periscope. Now with Facebook Live available, it’s become an even bigger sensation.

So how do you take advantage of it?

If you’re programming a sports radio station, have you considered conducting video chats with your audience to discuss things taking place on your airwaves? If you’re a host, are you utilizing it before or after your show? How much more invested would your audience be in the current day’s show, if an hour before you hit the airwaves, they had an opportunity to share feedback with you on something you were considering doing that day but weren’t sure about? What if your show meeting was captured on it?

Maybe your brand has a deal with a local player to call-in weekly during the season, and as part of your next agreement, it includes one in-studio visit to one of your shows, and a separate 15-minute video chat with your audience. Players and agents are usually receptive, especially when they’re being compensated and given a platform to extend their brand. You might even offer to do the chat on their turf or an area of their choosing that would make the experience unique for the audience.

The world lives on Facebook. It’s your responsibility to figure out how to utilize it to your advantage. Between the airwaves, your website, email distribution, text message pushes, and social media, the opportunity to draw people to your Facebook Live video offerings is easy.

Remember this, every single thing you do in life now is a potential video moment. Every relationship you create and develop, possesses video potential. The more you dive in, and present yourself, the brand, and those you interact with in a strong light, and the more unique experiences you create in the space, the more attached your audience will become.

Closing:

I could spend another thousand words explaining why an all-female sports programming network on television would have appeal. Why a network built around the greatest games in sports history would generate interest. How sports documentaries could be created for radio and turned into compelling programming. Or why a Spanish sports podcasting platform would draw an audience. But I think I’ve given you enough to chew on at this point.

I’m not going to predict that every one of these ideas will work. If introduced properly, offered in the right locations, and given reasonable goals and time to connect, they could. In the wrong places, with inferior talent, and run by groups expecting instant gratification, they’d fail.

It’s easy to debate what would or wouldn’t work, but the challenge is to continue thinking of different concepts, researching your market, and focusing your product strategy on what matters most to the people in your region. There’s no reason why we should consider ourselves restricted in this format. Music formats have discovered ways to create extensions of their formats, and sports can do the same. Given the results of some brands, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be testing more ideas.

Those that take the risk, not only will be trendsetters, but they’ll create additional buzz, and give themselves an opportunity to enjoy better ratings and revenue success. They’d also add some spice to a format that’s built on predictability, and either lacks the imagination to create new ideas, or fears the consequences of what might transpire if they installed them.

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

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

Jason Barrett

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

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

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

Which brings me to this year’s winner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason Barrett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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