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Pump The Brakes: Tony Romo Will Be Just Fine On CBS

Jason Barrett

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The media can be a tough crowd. Never was that more clear than when the news broke that Tony Romo was retiring and heading straight to the broadcast booth to become the lead analyst for The NFL on CBS.

Given the immediate overreactions, you’d think the former Cowboys quarterback committed grand theft or physical assault. But before you write Romo off and cry foul on CBS for undercutting Simms, pump the brakes.

I recognize that Romo hasn’t worked one television broadcast. It’s true he’ll have all eyes watching him like a hawk and waiting for him to stumble. And yes there will be immediate comparisons made to Simms, who was a staple of the CBS broadcast for nearly twenty years. But despite those less than convenient circumstances, I have confidence that Romo will settle into his new role just fine.

Why am I optimistic?

Have we forgotten that NFL television booths are made up of former players who at one point didn’t know the first thing about the broadcasting business? I realize some of us in the media want to make this job sound harder than it is but it is possible for a former player to learn how to adjust to different cameras, change his facial expressions, and insert comedic lines and timely analysis and opinion during a three hour broadcast. The last time I checked, Jon Gruden didn’t venture into a small market to learn the ropes of the television business. Instead he was thrust quickly into ESPN’s Monday Night Football programming, and judging from the results, ‘Chucky’ has done just fine.

The same can be said of Simms, Troy Aikman, and most of the remaining NFL analysts who work on network broadcasts. Maybe they weren’t thrust immediately onto the #1 broadcast team but if someone is good enough to be on the 2nd or 3rd team handling an analyst role, then let’s not act like this is the equivalent of advancing from cashier to Chief Financial Officer.

As I read numerous articles, tweets and Facebook posts about how poorly Romo would do, how unqualified he was, and why CBS was on the verge of going down like a plane without two wings, I couldn’t help but chuckle. Broadcasting a football game on television can be taught. This isn’t brain surgery or being tasked with creating algorithms. I’m not suggesting that anyone on the planet can enter a booth and be successful, but if an athlete knows the game, has an ability to speak well, looks good on camera, is familiar to the audience, and is willing to work on his craft seven days per week to be great on game day, just as they did during their playing career, they’ll be fine.

In mentioning those qualities, let’s analyze how they apply to Romo.

First, an analyst must have an ability to speak well. Judging from Tony’s interviews over the years, the way he conducts himself before and after games during press conferences, not to mention his numerous appearances in commercials and other unrelated media roles, he undoubtedly possesses that skill.

Next, they must look good on camera. In case you forgot, Romo has dated Carrie Underwood and Jessica Simpson, and is married now to Candice Crawford. Although I’m sure they enjoyed the bragging rights of being involved with the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, there had to be some visual attraction involved too to gain the attention of some of those beautiful women. Romo flashes a great smile on camera, presents himself in a classy and charming manner, and has shown that he has a good sense of humor. His ability to pass the eye test shouldn’t be a problem.

That then brings us to the understanding of the game. Romo enjoyed a successful NFL career playing the position of quarterback which requires knowing what is happening on the field on both offense and defense at all times. If Tony was able to be the leader everyone took their cue from, then I’m sure he’ll settle in when presenting information to the audience that they find valuable. This is a guy who’s very bright and entering the booth directly from the field, which gives him an advantage when talking about subjects that will come into focus next season.

The last piece of the puzzle involves the three P’s – preparation, pressure, and passion.

Starting with prep, for the past 13 seasons (and even before that when he played college ball) Romo has spent 6-7 days per week studying game film and playbooks. He’s dedicated countless hours to his craft to become highly productive, and after going undrafted and lingering for a few seasons on the practice squad, he was given a chance to start for the Cowboys. That doesn’t happen if his coaches and teammates sense that he’s not a hard worker. Heck, he’s even maintained that approach with his golf game. People who possess a strong work ethic don’t just flip a switch and turn it off. Which is why I’m confident he’ll invest himself 150% into his new line of work.

Regarding pressure, is there any NFL team under the microscope more than the Dallas Cowboys? Romo has had every single throw, turnover, game result and off the field personal decision of his analyzed, scrutinized and debated for over a decade. He’s been the face of a franchise led by high profile owner Jerry Jones and it’s never caused him to break. Sure he’s had bad games and been involved in a few losing seasons, but you don’t play the position of quarterback for America’s team as long as Romo did if you can’t handle the heat.

Last but not least is the one word that we know Romo possesses on the field, but have no way of knowing if it will transfer into the broadcast booth, and that’s passion. When Tony played on Sunday, you knew he loved the game, and left it all out on  the field. As a New York Giants fan, I especially enjoyed when he offered up those timely interceptions and fumbles, but all joking aside, he played with passion, and that was captured on video and in audio anytime he spoke before or after a game. Whether he’ll bring that same burning desire to this business is anyone’s guess, but we could say that about any player making the jump from the field to the booth. If being able to guarantee that a player would maintain passion for a role in television was a prerequisite for landing a high profile opportunity, we’d have a lot of booths operating without the presence and credibility of NFL players.

In making his transition into broadcasting, Romo is going to discover quickly that every sentence he utters, every opinion he delivers, and every prediction he misses, becomes headline news and the subject of conversation on Monday’s and sometimes for the remainder of an entire week. It’s what the sports media does. We grab the hot topic, regurgitate it until we get bored or the audience gets frustrated, and then move on. With red meat available, critics will be looking harder and listening closer to see if he has what it takes to get the job done. The second he misfires, the media vultures will be swooping down to feast on him as if he were mouthwatering roadkill.

But as media pundits standby waiting for their opportunity to pounce on him for mistakes and use it as a springboard to question his credentials and experience, let’s also not be hypocritical. If Peyton Manning or Brett Favre were being given this opportunity would the same media outrage exist? Neither Brett or Peyton have booth experience, yet when stories have been written in the past about their future possibilities in sports television, the narrative was certainly a lot more positive. I’d expect Tom Brady to receive similar treatment when his playing days are done if he wishes to pursue a move into sports television.

Something else which has not been mentioned much but deserves being brought to light is the track record of CBS Chairman Sean McManus. Without question, he’s done an excellent job over the years of identifying and hiring great analysts. While I haven’t been part of the CBS circle of trust, I have to believe that McManus wouldn’t have removed Simms from the lead analyst spot if he didn’t have a great feel for Romo and a belief in his ability to transition smoothly into this new role. I also don’t buy the stories that have been floated about Tony being receptive to leaving the booth next season to return to the field. This isn’t a stopgap job. It’s one you retain for a decade or longer, especially if you do it well.

Is McManus’ perfect? Of course not (Mike Carey? Really?). Even the greats swing and miss from time to time. That said, his batting average would be good enough to place him in the hall of fame. Call me naive or too optimistic, but I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt to an executive who nails the majority of his decisions before I assume that he’s lost his fastball.

And if you’re going to scream bloody murder over Simms being given a raw deal let me remind you of something – this is the media business. Things like this happen all the time. It’s very similar to the way business is conducted in professional sports. We don’t work for the government where 15-20 years of employment is given as long as we keep our noses clean. This industry is extremely competitive, and networks are going to constantly overturn every rock they can to find an edge to increase their ratings and revenues. Sometimes that requires demoting or parting ways with classy, talented, and loyal people, and even though it sucks and isn’t fair, it’s a reality of the business we’re in.

I’m not saying that what happened to Simms was right. Far from it. But Phil owned a seat for a very long time that many others have salivated over sitting in, and at some point, it’s going to be occupied by someone else. Although I’m sure it wasn’t his preference, he can take solace in the fact that he’ll still be well compensated, while performing in a new role that allows him to continue being seen by a large nationwide audience, and having now gone thru this experience, he’ll be further appreciated and respected by his peers.

Just because Joe Montana and Emmitt Smith sucked on television doesn’t mean Romo will. If Tony is willing to walk away from the NFL and pass up an opportunity to extend his career in order to start the next chapter of his professional life, while absorbing the extra pressure of being the guy who was added to the broadcast at the expense of Simms, then we should at least let him get inside the booth and perform before we order his tombstone and read him his last rites.

That doesn’t mean it’ll be easy. Romo is going to have to practice speaking in soundbytes and work on developing on-air chemistry with Jim Nantz. Audiences are going to expect him to be critical and speak on their behalf, which means that he’s going to have to cut the cord on his past and embrace his future. One advantage he has is that CBS’ NFL games package involves the AFC, which means he likely won’t be working a high number of Cowboys games. That would put him in an awkward position during his rookie broadcasting season.

Although it may be fun to debate if Romo will be a great game analyst on Sunday’s and whether or not he deserves to be in this position, the truth is none of us really know if he’ll excel in this line of work. Until he’s standing next to Nantz and opening his mouth for the first time, only then will we have something to measure him by. Maybe he’ll freeze when the lights go on just as he did during a few critical games during his playing days, but maybe this becomes the role for which he’s best remembered.

And think about the irony in that. Tony Romo could soon make the biggest impact of his career on Sunday’s, except this time from the inside of a broadcasting booth. Sometimes these stories just write themselves.

Barrett Blogs

BSM’s Black Friday SALE on BSM Summit Tickets is Underway!

Jason Barrett

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Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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Barrett Blogs

Mina Kimes, Bruce Gilbert, Mitch Rosen, and Stacey Kauffman Join the 2023 BSM Summit

“By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference.”

Jason Barrett

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The 2023 BSM Summit is returning to Los Angeles on March 21-22, 2023, live from the Founders Club at the Galen Center at the campus of the University of Southern California. Information on tickets and hotel rooms can be found at BSMSummit.com.

We’ve previously announced sixteen participants for our upcoming show, and I’m excited today to confirm the additions of four more more smart, successful professionals to be part of the event. Before I do that, I’d like to thank The Volume for signing on as our Badge sponsor, the Motor Racing Network for securing the gift bag sponsorship, and Bonneville International for coming on board as a Session sponsor. We do have some opportunities available but things are moving fast this year, so if you’re interested in being involved, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

Now let’s talk about a few of the speaker additions for the show.

First, I am thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Mina Kimes to the Summit for her first appearance. Mina and I had the pleasure recently of connecting on a podcast (go listen to it) and I’ve been a fan of her work for years. Her intellect, wit, football acumen, and likeability have served her well on television, podcasts, and in print. She’s excelled as an analyst on NFL Live and Rams preseason football games, as a former host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and her appearances on Around The Horn and previously on Highly Questionable and the Dan Le Batard Show were always entertaining. I’m looking forward to having Mina join FS1’s Joy Taylor and ESPN LA 710 PD Amanda Brown for an insightful conversation about the industry.

Next is another newcomer. I’m looking forward to having Audacy San Francisco and Sacramento Regional Vice President Stacey Kauffman in the building for our 2023 show. In addition to overseeing a number of music brands, Stacey also oversees a dominant news/talk outlet, and two sports radio brands. Among them are my former station 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, and ESPN 1320 in Sacramento. I’m looking forward to having her participate in our GM panel with Good Karma’s Sam Pines, iHeart’s Don Martin, and led by Bonneville’s Executive Vice President Scott Sutherland.

From there, it’s time to welcome back two of the sharpest sports radio minds in the business. Bruce Gilbert is the SVP of Sports for Westwood One and Cumulus Media. He’s seen and done it all on the local and national level and anytime he’s in the room to share his programming knowledge with attendees, everyone leaves the room smarter. I’m anticipating another great conversation on the state of sports radio, which FOX Sports Radio VP of programming Scott Shapiro will be a part of.

Another student of the game and one of the top programmers in the format today is 670 The Score in Chicago PD, Mitch Rosen. The former Mark Chernoff Award recipient and recently appointed VP of the BetQL Network juggles managing a top 3 market sports brand while being charged with moving an emerging sports betting network forward. Count on Mr. Rosen to offer his insights and opinions during another of our branding and programming discussions.

By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference. My focus now is on finalizing our business and digital sessions, research, tech and sports betting panels, securing our locations and sponsorships for the After Party and Kickoff Party, plus working out the details for a few high-profile executive appearances and a couple of surprises.

For those looking to attend and save a few dollars on tickets, we’ll be holding a special Black Friday Sale this Friday November 25th. Just log on to BSMSummit.com that day to save $50 on individual tickets. In addition, thanks to the generosity of voice talent extraordinaire Steve Kamer, we’ll be giving away 10 tickets leading up to the conference. Stay tuned for details on the giveaway in the months ahead.

Still to come is an announcement about our special ticket rate for college students looking to attend the show and learn. We also do an annual contest for college kids to attend the event for free which I’m hoping to have ready in the next few weeks. It’s also likely we’ll give away a few tickets to industry professionals leading up to Christmas, so keep an eye out.

If you work in the sports media industry and value making connections, celebrating those who create an impact, and learning about the business from folks who have experienced success, failure, and everything in between, the Summit is worth your time. I’m excited to have Mina, Bruce, Mitch and Stacey join us for the show, and look forward to spending a few days with the industry’s best and brightest this March! Hope to see you there.

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Barrett Blogs

Barrett Media is Making Changes To Better Serve Our Sports and News Media Readers

“We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future.”

Jason Barrett

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When I launched this website all I wanted to do was share news, insight and stories about broadcasters and brands. My love, passion and respect for this business is strong, and I know many of you reading this feel similar. I spent two great decades in radio watching how little attention was paid to those who played a big part in their audiences lives. The occasional clickbait story and contract drama would find their way into the newspapers but rarely did you learn about the twists and turns of a broadcaster’s career, their approach to content or the tactics and strategies needed to succeed in the industry. When personal reasons led me home to NY in 2015, I decided I was going to try my best to change that.

Since launching this brand, we’ve done a good job informing and entertaining media industry professionals, while also helping consulting clients and advertising partners improve their businesses. We’ve earned respect from the industry’s top stars, programming minds and mainstream media outlets, growing traffic from 50K per month to 500K and monthly social impressions from a few thousand to a few million. Along the way we’ve added conferences, rankings, podcasts, a member directory, and as I’ve said before, this is the best and most important work I’ve ever done, and I’m not interested in doing anything else.

If I’ve learned anything over seven years of operating a digital content company it’s that you need skill, strategy, passion, differentiating content, and good people to create impact. You also need luck, support, curiosity and an understanding of when to double down, cut bait or pivot. It’s why I added Stephanie Eads as our Director of Sales and hired additional editors, columnists and features reporters earlier this year. To run a brand like ours properly, time and investment are needed. We’ve consistently grown and continue to invest in our future, and it’s my hope that more groups will recognize the value we provide, and give greater consideration to marketing with us in the future.

But with growth comes challenges. Sometimes you can have the right idea but bad timing. I learned that when we launched Barrett News Media.

We introduced BNM in September 2020, two months before the election when emotions were high and COVID was a daily discussion. I wasn’t comfortable then of blending BNM and BSM content because I knew we’d built a trusted sports media resource, and I didn’t want to shrink one audience while trying to grow another. Given how personal the election and COVID became for folks, I knew the content mix would look and feel awkward on our site.

So we made the decision to start BNM with its own website. We ran the two brands independently and had the right plan of attack, but discovered that our timing wasn’t great.

The first nine months readership was light, which I expected since we were new and trying to build an audience from scratch. I believed in the long-term mission, which was why I stuck with it through all of the growing pains, but I also felt a responsibility to make sure our BNM writing team and the advertising partners we forged relationships with were being seen by as many people as possible. We continued with the original plan until May 2021 when after a number of back and forth debates, I finally agreed to merge the two sites. I figured if WFAN could thrive with Imus in the Morning and Mike and the Mad Dog in the afternoon, and the NY Times, LA Times, KOA, KMOX and numerous other newspaper and radio brands could find a way to blend sports and news/talk, then so could we.

And it worked.

We dove in and started to showcase both formats, building social channels and groups for each, growing newsletter databases, and with the addition of a few top notch writers, BNM began making bigger strides. Now featured under the BSM roof, the site looked bigger, the supply of daily content became massive, and our people were enjoying the increased attention.

Except now we had other issues. Too many stories meant many weren’t being read and more mistakes were slipping through the cracks. None of our crew strive to misspell a word or write a sloppy headline but when the staff and workload doubles and you’re trying to focus on two different formats, things can get missed. Hey, we’re all human.

Then a few other things happened that forced a larger discussion with my editors.

First, I thought about how much original material we were creating for BSM from our podcast network, Summit, Countdown to Coverage series, Meet the Market Managers, BSM Top 20, and began to ask myself ‘if we’re doing all of this for sports readers, what does that tell folks who read us for news?’ We then ran a survey to learn what people valued about our brand and though most of the feedback was excellent, I saw how strong the response was to our sports content, and how news had grown but felt second fiddle to those offering feedback.

Then, Andy Bloom wrote an interesting column explaining why radio hosts would be wise to stop talking about Donald Trump. It was the type of piece that should’ve been front and center on a news site all day but with 3 featured slots on the site and 7 original columns coming in that day, they couldn’t all be highlighted the way they sometimes should be. We’re actually going through that again today. That said, Andy’s column cut through. A few sports media folks didn’t like seeing it on the site, which wasn’t a surprise since Trump is a polarizing personality, but the content resonated well with the news/talk crowd.

National talk radio host Mike Gallagher was among the folks to see Andy’s piece, and he spent time on his show talking about the column. Mike’s segment was excellent, and when he referenced the article, he did the professional thing and credited our website – Barrett SPORTS Media. I was appreciative of Mike spending time on his program discussing our content but it was a reminder that we had news living under a sports roof and it deserved better than that.

I then read some of Pete Mundo, Doug Pucci and Rick Schultz’s columns and Jim Cryns’ features on Chris Ruddy, Phil Boyce, and David Santrella, and knew we were doing a lot of quality work but each time we produced stories, folks were reminded that it lived on a SPORTS site. I met a few folks who valued the site, recognized the increased focus we put on our news/talk coverage, and hoped we had plans to do more. Jim also received feedback along the lines of “good to see you guys finally in the news space, hope there’s more to come.”

Wanting to better understand our opportunities and challenges, I reviewed our workflow, looked at which content was hitting and missing the mark, thought about the increased relationships we’d worked hard to develop, and the short-term and long-term goals for BNM. I knew it was time to choose a path. Did I want to think short-term and keep everything under one roof to protect our current traffic and avoid disrupting people or was it smarter to look at the big picture and create a destination where news/talk media content could be prioritized rather than treated as BSM’s step-child?

Though I spent most of my career in sports media and established BSM first, it’s important to me to serve the news/talk media industry our very best. I want every news/talk executive, host, programmer, market manager, agent, producer, seller and advertiser to know this format matters to us. Hopefully you’ve seen that in the content we’ve created over the past two years. My goal is to deliver for news media professionals what we have for sports media folks and though that may be a tall order, we’re going to bust our asses to make it happen. To prove that this isn’t just lip service, here’s what we’re going to do.

Starting next Monday November 28th, we are relaunching BarrettNewsMedia.com. ALL new content produced by the BNM writing team will be available daily under that URL. For the first 70-days we will display news media columns from our BNM writers on both sites and support them with promotion across both of our brands social channels. The goal is to have the two sites running independent of each other by February 6, 2023.

Also starting on Monday November 28th, we will begin distributing the BNM Rundown newsletter 5 days per week. We’ve been sending out the Rundown every M-W-F since October 2021, but the time has come for us to send it out daily. With increased distribution comes two small adjustments. We will reduce our daily story count from 10 to 8 and make it a goal to deliver it to your inbox each day by 3pm ET. If you haven’t signed up to receive the Rundown, please do. You can click here to register. Be sure to scroll down past the 8@8 area.

Additionally, Barrett News Media is going to release its first edition of the BNM Top 20 of 2022. This will come out December 12-16 and 19-20. The category winners will be decided by more than 50 news/talk radio program directors and executives. Among the categories to be featured will be best Major/Mid Market Local morning, midday, and afternoon show, best Local News/Talk PD, best Local News/Talk Station, best National Talk Radio Show, and best Original Digital Show. The voting process with format decision makers begins today and will continue for two weeks. I’ve already got a number of people involved but if you work in an executive or programming role in the news/talk format and wish to be part of it, send an email to me at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

We have one other big thing coming to Barrett News Media in 2023, which I will announce right after the BNM Top 20 on Wednesday December 21st. I’m sure news/talk professionals will like what we have planned but for now, it’ll have to be a month long tease. I promise though to pay it off.

Additionally, I’m always looking for industry folks who know and love the business and enjoy writing about it. If you’ve programmed, hosted, sold or reported in the news/talk world and have something to offer, email me. Also, if you’re a host, producer, programmer, executive, promotions or PR person and think something from your brand warrants coverage on our site, send it along. Most of what we write comes from listening to stations and digging across the web and social media. Receiving your press releases and getting a heads up on things you’re doing always helps.

If you’re a fan of BSM, this won’t affect you much. The only difference you’ll notice in the coming months is a gradual reduction of news media content on the BSM website and our social accounts sharing a little about both formats over the next two months until we’re officially split in February. We are also going to dabble a little more in marketing, research and tech content that serves both formats. If you’re a reader who enjoys both forms of our content, you’ll soon have BarrettSportsMedia.com for sports, and BarrettNewsMedia.com for news.

Our first two years in the news/talk space have been very productive but we’ve only scratched the surface. Starting November 28th, news takes center stage on BarrettNewsMedia.com and sports gets less crowded on BarrettSportsMedia.com. We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future. If we can count on you to remember two URL’s (add them to your bookmarks) and sign up for our newsletters, then you can count on us to continue delivering exceptional coverage of the industry you love. As always, thanks for the continued support. It makes everything we do worthwhile.

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