It’s been called a bloodbath. The demise of a once great brand. The end of ESPN, and a few other expletives that I’d rather not repeat in this column.
Last week ESPN put into action what had been expected for the past month, a parting of the ways with many talented and dedicated sports media professionals. The total amount of people let go by the company is estimated to be near 100. As a result, a high number of qualified individuals now find themselves searching for future opportunities despite executing their jobs the way they were asked to.
Much has been written about ESPN during the past week due to the immediate shock of these layoffs. Some of the articles have been extremely insightful. From Dave Zirin’s column to Glen Macnow’s to Forbes’ story and the Wall Street Journal’s, every media outlet has shared a perspective on ESPN’s troubles. I’m just the latest to attend the party. I recognize that I’ve arrived a little late, but I wanted to collect my thoughts and make sure I was ready to mingle before putting on my three piece suit and invading the dance floor.
This is a difficult subject to write about because it’s extremely depressing. When stories like this are generated they add to the perception of ESPN’s sports media empire being on life support. That’s utterly ridiculous when you take into account that the current valuation of ESPN is 50 billion dollars and the Disney stock price is closing in on its all-time high. But when negative headline after negative headline invades the digital universe, brands earn labels that aren’t easy to recover from.
Over the years I’ve had the good fortune of getting to know some of the key people who were affected by last week’s layoffs. In addition to being leaders in their respective fields, they’ve been quality people too.
I understand that this is relevant news that deserves to be examined, but being served a daily reminder that you’ve lost your dream job and are among the unemployed, as others debate publicly whether or not you should’ve been terminated and if you provide any value to potential employers can’t be easy to digest.
We often assume that the news is just news and those who are part of the latest cycle should just “toughen up and deal with it” but when it’s your name and livelihood that have been altered, it’s not always easy to detach yourself and move on. People after all are human beings with very real emotions and these kind of life changing decisions do have lasting impressions.
Upon learning about the cuts while attending the National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas last week, it seemed that many on social media were rejoicing over familiar names and faces being given their walking papers. Others called for the worldwide leader to expand its list and take a few others.
As I sifted thru the responses, I couldn’t help but be disappointed. I realize that the style of each host, anchor, reporter and analyst is received differently, but rather than rooting for someone to be unemployed, on the street, and permanently barred from the sports media industry, there is another alternative – tune them out.
I love this business as much as anyone but let’s be honest, we aren’t curing cancer. This is simply entertainment. If an individual doesn’t provide you with the experience you’re searching for, it’s OK to change the channel or not click on their story.
The goal of every media professional is to generate reaction to their work. If the audience is moved enough to share a favorable or negative response, then the broadcaster has done their job. It’s when viewers, listeners or readers don’t respond that outlets pay closer attention. It may be tempting to verbally destroy someone on social media who’s content you don’t enjoy, but when you ignore their existence and have no opinion to share of their work, it sends a much louder message.
That’s why I believe it’s silly to play the game of “Why would ESPN fire Ed/Trent/Jayson instead of Stephen/Jemele/Michael?” Unless you’re on the inside and understand the way each person is viewed, paid, and rated, it’s a wasted discussion.
If you’ve read my work over the past two years then you’re aware that I’ve been critical of a few things ESPN has done. I believe that’s an important responsibility for anyone who chooses to write, report, and share opinions on the media industry. No matter how many friendships I hold inside the company or how much I prefer to see people succeed there, when it’s time to tackle sensitive issues my honesty and integrity are not negotiable.
Do I think ESPN has made strategic mistakes in recent years? Yes. Do I consider them as formidable as they once were? No. But if they fail it hurts the entire sports media industry. That alone should be reason enough to hope they solve their problems and create a brighter future.
Since this topic is extremely popular and contains multiple angles worthy of examination, I’ve attempted to break it up into ten different sections. Here are what I consider to be the key takeaways from last week and the questions that ESPN must answer going forward.
Is The Era of Invincibility Over?: In the span of seven days, two of the biggest media giants on the planet were significantly damaged. FOX News dropped its biggest television star (Bill O’Reilly) and ESPN halted the careers of nearly 100 sports media professionals.
It was once considered an impossible task to challenge these two brands, yet both are now showing vulnerabilities. While changes occurred for different reasons, the bottom line is that each company is weaker today than they were last week. Whether or not that continues and their competitors take advantage of it in the future remains to be seen, but these moves remind us that even the best can be rattled when they make a series of errors.
It’d be interesting to run a poll and ask industry folks who gave Jamie Horowitz and FOX Sports 1 zero chance of challenging ESPN if they still feel the same way now. Something tells me many would reconsider their position.
Although ESPN continues to offer more original sports programming and play by play than any other network, and employs the largest group of sports broadcasters in the industry, their public profile has been significantly damaged. It’s not a question if ESPN remains the top rated performer among sports networks. It’s whether or not they can retain/grow subscribers and advertising revenues and lower expenses.
If the company’s current trend continues, and another sports network or new competitor such as Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, Apple or Google enters the mix and snags a play by play agreement in the future, the stranglehold ESPN has held on the rest of the industry could be escaped. That would make things instantly different.
Personalities Matter Most: It was hard to ignore the messages ESPN sent with their personnel decisions last week. The value of writing, reporting, analysis and anchoring pales in comparison to high profile personalities who generate buzz by delivering ear shattering opinions.
To be fair, ESPN still employs many exceptional reporters, anchors, analysts and writers. If the report holds true of Adrian Wojnarowski leaving Yahoo Sports to join the company, that’d be recognized by many as a homerun hire.
But Woj’s situation aside, the majority of people impacted last week were known best for their information and analysis and less for their personalities. Guys like Jayson Stark, Marc Stein, Andy Katz and Ed Werder have been trusted reporters for nearly two decades and their departures instantly weaken the network’s credibility.
For decades ESPN built its reputation off of providing highlights, analysis, and information. When the majority of individuals departing the nation’s top sports network are involved in those areas, and sacrificed before others with a stronger flair for the dramatic, it indicates that the times have changed, and Bristol executives have placed higher premiums on other roles.
Hockey Isn’t Important: The commitment to hockey coverage was already minimal on ESPN, but with the exits of Scott Burnside, Joe McDonald and Pierre LeBrun it’s decreased even more. With John Buccigross’ future also up in the air, it’s hard to wrap your arms around the network’s vision for presenting the coolest game on ice.
At this point, Barry Melrose and Steve Levy are two of a very select few with a passion for the NHL at ESPN. Hockey may not provide the interest that other major sports do, but you’d expect a full fledged sports network to cover the game with more than 2-3 quality people.
It’s possible that ESPN has other people in mind internally who they want to groom and feature more prominently, or maybe they’ll strike a deal with TSN, the NHL Network or NBC to share content as they recently did with the MLB Network. As of now though they are significantly weaker, which isn’t saying much, given their previous standing.
Baseball Coverage Decreases: ESPN has produced some of the finest baseball content on television during its existence, but despite its history of creating stellar original programming around America’s favorite pastime, something clearly went astray. In one fell swoop, the network released analysts Dallas Braden, Doug Glanville, and Raul Ibanez, and other notable contributors Jim Bowden, Jayson Stark, Dave O’Brien and Jim Caple. A few beat reporters were also laid off.
Adding to the overhaul was the network’s decision to partner with the MLB Network to air its daily baseball program Intentional Talk on ESPN. It’s not everyday that the worldwide leader in sports plays the role of an affiliate, but in this instance they did. By securing that agreement it gave ESPN the flexibility it needed to send its longtime baseball program Baseball Tonight to a slow death. BBTN now airs each Sunday prior to the Sunday night game of the week.
MLB Network has certainly developed high quality baseball content since its inception. To think though that they’d contribute to the demise of one of ESPN’s most recognized programs is surprising. This leaves many now wondering, is ESPN a content creator of baseball programming or the MLB Network’s lead distributor?
The Future of ESPN Radio: The once dominant sports radio network is going thru an identity crisis. Is ESPN Radio committed to being a major market player? Is its main function to provide support to small market operators with lesser budgets? Or is the long-term strategy to worry less about terrestrial radio partnerships and focus more on creating television content and on-air programming for the company’s owned and operated radio brands and digital platforms?
As the network attempts to regain its footing, one key challenge it must conquer is offering consistency on its airwaves. Change often breaks up a listener’s routine and in the past two years the company has fed a steady diet of it to its audience and affiliates. That makes it harder to connect to the personalities and shows plus it gives local operators (especially in markets outside of the top 25) anxiety because much of their success stems from the network’s ability to deliver a strong consistent lineup.
Along those lines, the network has almost completely overhauled its entire lineup during the past 2 years. For starters, Colin Cowherd left the 10a-1p slot and was replaced by Dan Le Batard. With Le Batard moving up in the schedule, his afternoon drive slot was turned over to Bomani Jones who had previously hosted evenings. As Jones vacated the evening hours, Jalen Rose and David Jacoby, and Sarah Spain and Israel Gutierrez became fixtures at night. Spain and Izzy were added to the schedule when Jorge Sedano moved to Los Angeles and Jen Lada was switched to a different role. The one consistent contributor to the network’s evening programming has been Freddie Coleman, although even he was switched from hosting solo to joining forces with Ian Fitzsimmons.
But wait there’s more.
Scott Van Pelt left the 1p-4p slot with Ryen Russillo to host the late night SportsCenter. He was replaced by Danny Kanell who was let go during last week’s cuts. Russillo is now hosting solo until the company either adds a new co-host, places the show’s future in his hands or goes a different direction altogether and moves him elsewhere. Noise was made in recent months of Stephen A. Smith being added nationally in the 1p-4p slot (he’s already hosting during those hours on ESPN NY and ESPN LA), and although that possibility can’t be discounted, birds have stopped chirping about it recently.
All of these changes don’t even include the network’s most publicized move. ESPN is expected to break up Mike and Mike and the early word is that Trey Wingo and Mike Golic Jr. will join Golic Sr. for a revamped morning show. If Golic Jr. does in fact move into mornings with his father and Trey, that would explain the network’s decision last week to part ways with Robin Lundberg who recently teamed up with Jr. during the early morning hours.
The lack of consistency has caused concern among numerous affiliates. Those who have adopted the ESPN moniker aren’t likely to change affiliates because establishing a new brand name could prove costly. Others will explore adding local programs to make up for a lack of confidence in the network’s offerings. Some may even drop the network for other options.
It’s understood that the radio business isn’t driving ESPN to profitability. A sharp decision was made recently to add Justin Craig to the programming team, but the network is going to have to work extra hard over the next 12-24 months to convince stations that they’re headed in the right direction and can be trusted to provide consistently great programming.
Wrong Space Wrong Time: It’s peculiar that during a time when ESPN is panicking about its future and trying to reinvent its business model, it continues to invest in platforms that are less valued by their audience. Taking risks and introducing new personalities and forms of programming is appreciated but you also have to take calculated risks. Simply put, you leap during times of strength, not weakness.
As I looked at the list of names who were affected last week I couldn’t help but wonder if some of the departures could’ve been prevented had the company not dumped resources into platforms with less of a connection to their core audience. The work done on fivethirtyeight, The Undefeated, ESPNU, and the Longhorn Network may be solid, but they’re luxuries that the network can afford to live without.
I have applauded the network for taking a chance with The Undefeated. I feel they employ some talented writers and deliver quality content. The other brands I mentioned I have less of a personal connection to. But even if I felt they were exceptional, if my golden goose was in jeopardy of being harmed, I’d focus first and foremost on making sure it was protected before sinking resources into other areas that are less necessary.
It’s convenient to blame all of ESPN’s problems on cord cutting and bad play by play deals. Each have presented real challenges for the company and undoubtedly influenced the latest series of cutbacks. However, we can’t ignore and discount how the network has invested dollars in other niche spaces. Were these platforms more important than retaining key contributors to the network’s most important properties? I’m not sure they were.
Are there times when it’s justified? Absolutely. But when personalities begin to share personal thoughts on issues that can sever a relationship with a loyal audience, that’s where things get complicated. Many would love for ESPN to return to what it was in the 1990’s, but 2017 isn’t 1997, and ESPN isn’t going in that direction whether we want them to or not. In fact, they plan to be even more open about their personal beliefs.
Therein lies one of the network’s biggest dilemmas. How do you balance being open and honest with the audience without causing them to disconnect from your product? If you fail to acknowledge a social interest story that has everyone talking, it can lead to less eyeballs on your content. But if you do engage in discussion, that too can lead to immediate tune out.
Linda Cohn appeared last week on WABC in New York with Bernard McGuirk and Sid Rosenberg, and added that she felt the company was paying the price for being out front with its political positions. Although her opinions don’t reflect how everyone in the company feels, one thing she said in particular stood out.
“Old school viewers were put in a corner and not appreciated with all of these changes,” said Cohn. “They (ESPN) forgot their core. You should never forget your core, and be grateful for your core group.”
ESPN has to decide who it wants to be. Is it a full service sports media company that values its role as the world’s biggest distractor from everyday troubles. Or is it looking to assert social influence and stretch beyond the boundaries of sports?
Here’s the issue with the latter. Sports and politics don’t blend well. This country once enjoyed a deep connection to ESPN even as real events such as 9/11, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a highly publicized white house sex scandal took place. Sports remained the focus, and a necessary distraction from the events of the world that left many of us shaken.
Whether the company loses 5%, 10% or 50% of its audience due to sharing political opinions and exploring divisive content, the question is, why is that worth it? It’s one thing to have the President fill out an NCAA tournament bracket, and another to turn on the ESPY’s and see Caitlynn Jenner receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
There are certain situations that feel right, and others that don’t. ESPN can help itself by using better judgment, regardless of how large or small the percentage is of fans who are turned off by the company’s current positioning.
Play By Play Deals: Between the cuts in 2015 and this latest series of moves, sports leagues have been put on notice by the worldwide leader in sports. Paying astronomical rights fees for TV programming as media consumption shifts to digital platforms and large amounts of staff are lost, doesn’t appear to be a winning formula. ESPN may be bound by its existing deals, but they’ll be seeking economic relief when it’s time to discuss future arrangements.
It’s always possible that when push comes to shove ESPN caves in and continues to pay exorbitant fees to retain the NFL, NBA and MLB, but to commit over 5 billion dollars per year on play-by-play in the next go around seems like a frightening idea at best.
One thing to take into account is that although the network may not reap the financial benefits the way it once did, it still remains profitable. No matter how much the expenses hurt, ESPN understands that live sports programming is their most important asset.
When their current deals expire they’ll arrive at the negotiating table with the blood of 400-500 eliminated positions on their hands, but whether or not that’s enough to justify a reduction in rights fees remains to be seen. You can bet that FS1, Turner Sports, CBS, FOX and NBC will want in on the action too, but they’ve had a front row seat to ESPN’s challenges and are aware that one poor business decision can cripple their business.
What we don’t know is how valuable these sports networks will consider the television rights as compared to streaming. The digital space is also likely to attract competition from other non-traditional media groups.
While it’s a given that each media outlet will cry poverty and languish over the rising cost of rights fees, it’s hard to believe that when faced with the possibility of losing its most valuable programming ESPN won’t do what professional owners do and find a few extra nickels and dimes at the last minute. The only question is how many will they pony up to retain their rights?
John Skipper’s Legacy: ESPN’s President and co-Chairman has held those titles since January 2012, and been a part of every key decision involving the network’s play by play rights, company layoffs, and the subtractions of some key on-air talent. He’s bright, engaging, forward thinking, and projects a great confidence for the brand’s future.
During his time at the top there have been noticeable changes. The company has demonstrated a strong commitment to diversity, SportsCenter has been redesigned, anchors have been encouraged to share their personal connections to their favorite teams, political influence has infiltrated numerous on-air and online conversations and events (some good, some bad), and the network has included WWE programming in its content strategy. We’ve also seen ESPN become more aggressive when criticisms have been directed at the network’s people and programming.
Some say Skipper was dealt a bad deck of cards. Others say he’s made the most out of impossible situations. The rest remain split on whether his tenure as ESPN’s top executive has been a success or failure. Although the network has received more negative press in recent years than at any point in its history, it’s also remained the undisputed leader in sports media. Profits may be down compared to previous years, but ESPN continues to register in the black which many say is a testament to Skipper’s leadership during tumultuous times.
Providing a letter grade for his performance may not be possible at this time, but the next year will tell us a lot about where the company is heading. If ESPN emerges from the fire with no sign of trauma, the short-term discomfort will be seen as a necessary part of the maturation process towards making ESPN whole again. If though the company experiences life threatening injuries, it could signal the beginning of the network’s fall. Whichever way it turns out, Skipper will earn the credit or blame for it.
Can ESPN Be Fixed? The answer of course is yes, but it’s much bigger than just adding top talent, familiar faces and programming which suits our desires. If tomorrow the company followed up the addition of Woj with an announcement that deals had been struck with Dan Patrick, Peter King, and Rich Eisen we’d say they were making great decisions to improve their quality. But that doesn’t solve their economic challenges or the reality of a world spending less time with programs and splintering their interests across multiple platforms.
As Colin Cowherd mentioned during a radio interview last week with “The Bull and Fox” on 92.3 The Fan, the downward spiral for ESPN began when the company committed massive dollars to rights deals, and the consumption of media content started to shift from television to digital devices. To ESPN’s credit, they’ve built their infrastructure to be attractive across all platforms, but when the majority of income comes from subscriber fees and advertising revenues, it becomes harder to provide the same profitability.
The setbacks that have stunted ESPN’s growth remind me of what the newspaper business encountered over a decade ago. Many in the print industry understood the importance of shifting their content into the online space, but when those daily and weekly subscriptions declined, along with newspaper advertising dollars, an economic blow was impossible to avoid.
Work begins immediately to do more work with less bodies, increase advertising dollars, secure new digital revenue streams, and of course, reduce the costs of future play by play deals. It won’t be easy, but ESPN remains in the driver’s seat because it’s still a massive brand with worldwide appeal and it produces big results.
Don’t think for a second that the major sports leagues don’t understand the value they receive in return for having their programming air on ESPN’s channels too. If they need to be reminded, Skipper and his team can put them in touch with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
We have no way of knowing what the world will look like in 1 year, 2 years, 5 years or 10 years, but for the sake of all of us working in the sports media industry, let’s hope ESPN makes the right choices. One major misstep could lead to a lot more harm than 100 layoffs, and those are bad enough already.
2022 BSM Summit Adds Pablo Torre, Joe Fortenbaugh, Kazeem Famuyide & John Jastremski
“By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day Summit.”
The announcements continue for the 2022 BSM Summit. After recently sharing the news that former ESPN Radio executive Traug Keller would join us in the big apple to accept the Jeff Smulyan Award, and previously revealing the first fourteen participants scheduled to appear, it’s time to inform you of a few key talent who will participate in sessions at March’s show.
I’m thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Pablo Torre to the 2022 BSM Summit. Pablo’s been with the worldwide leader since 2012. During that time he’s served as a senior writer for ESPN.com, the host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and has appeared on shows such as Around The Horn, Highly Questionable, and The Dan Le Batard Show. He also previously co-hosted High Noon with Bomani Jones. Prior to joining ESPN he spent five years writing for Sports Illustrated. Having worked with a mixture of talent from various backgrounds, I’m looking forward to having him share his insight and opinions on the value of it at the show.
Pablo isn’t the only ESPN personality joining us in New York for the conference. I’m excited to welcome back a great friend and one of the smartest sports betting analysts on television, Joe Fortenbaugh. Joe is regularly featured on ESPN’s sports betting program Daily Wager. He also appears on other ESPN programs and segments on television, radio and digital platforms. Prior to joining the network he hosted 95.7 The Game’s morning show in San Francisco, and hosted “The Sharp 600″ sports betting podcast. He’ll moderate a conversation with sports betting executives at the show.
Given that this two-day sports media conference is taking place in the heart of New York City, it’d be silly to not include someone who’s passion, energy, sound, and content embody what New York is all about. The Ringer’s John Jastremski will make his BSM Summit debut in 2022. The ‘New York, New York’ host is known to many for his years of contributions on WFAN. It’ll be fun picking JJ’s brain on the differences between performing on a traditional platform and the digital stage.
Jastremski isn’t the only one with a connection to The Ringer who will participate at our 2022 event. My next guest is someone who I’ve followed on YouTube and Twitter for years, has infectious energy and likeability, and has taken his life experiences and sports passions and turned them into opportunities with MSG Network, SNY, The Ringer, Bleacher Report, WWE, The Source and various other outlets. Kazeem Famuyide will join us to shed light on his journey and offer his perspective on the value of traditional vs. non-traditional paths.
By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day event. I’ll be announcing the addition of a very special executive in mid-October, as well as a few high profile speakers and awards recipients in the weeks and months ahead. I’m appreciative of so many expressing interest in speaking at the conference, and as much as I’d like to include everyone on stage, I can’t. Keeping the Summit informative, fresh and focused on the right issues is important, and to do that, I’ve got to introduce different people, perspectives and subjects so our attendees gain value to further improve the industry.
A reminder, the 2022 BSM Summit is strictly for members of the sports media industry and college students aspiring to work in the business. It brings together people from more than thirty different media companies and focuses on issues of relevance and importance to media industry professionals. The show takes place March 2-3, 2022 in New York at the Anne Bernstein Theater on West 50th Street. Tickets and hotel rooms can be secured by visiting BSMSummit.com. For those unable to attend in person, the Summit will also be available to view online. Virtual tickets can be purchased by clicking here. Hope you’ll join us!
Traug Keller Named 2022 Recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award
“Former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award.”
Sometimes decisions are difficult. Other times they’re not. This was one of the easiest ones I’ve made since launching the BSM Summit in 2018.
If you haven’t attended the Summit before, one of the cool parts of the conference each year is that we take time to honor people who have left a permanent mark on the industry we love. Awards ceremonies are held both days to recognize difference makers who have made positive contributions to the sports radio business. At our 2022 BSM Summit, I am pleased to share that a great man will be celebrated for his life’s work.
It is my honor to announce that former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award. Keller becomes the third industry executive to earn the honor. Kraig Kitchin and Dan Mason were the first two to be recognized at the 2019 and 2020 BSM Summit’s.
Upon learning that Traug had been selected as the next Jeff Smulyan Award winner, Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan said, “Traug Keller has left an indelible imprint on not only sports radio, but on all of broadcasting through his remarkable career. I’m proud to call him my friend, but I’m just one of the legions of people who have loved every minute of their time with him. He’s a broadcaster’s broadcaster, but more than that he’s one of the best people I’ve ever known.”
“I am humbled for sure but thrilled to be receiving an award with the name of my good friend on it, Jeff Smulyan,” added Traug Keller, now the EVP and COO of American Media. “Jeff did what all too few leaders in business do, he took risk and action against all kinds of headwinds and the rest of us in the great business of Sports Audio were the beneficiaries of it. Thanks to BSM for this great honor and I look forward to seeing a bunch of old friends in March!”
Anyone who has crossed paths with Traug over the past three decades knows how important he was to the success of ESPN Radio. He’s been a friend to many, a great partner to hundreds of radio affiliates, and a champion for talent. His support for BSM has also meant a lot.
Perhaps even more impressive was Traug’s ability to connect with his affiliates, clients and colleagues, offering steady leadership and on-air stability for ESPN Radio. No executive leaves with a perfect record, but Keller had a knack for landing on the right side of many decisions. None as impressive though as retiring from sports radio in February 2020, one month before the sports world came to a screeching halt and a global pandemic rocked the entire advertising industry. Talk about timing Traug, haha.
In all seriousness, having Traug and Jeff together on the same stage in front of the industry to give folks an opportunity to show their appreciation for their accomplishments is a real treat. So many enjoy professional success today due to bold and smart decisions made by each of these men, and I couldn’t be happier to spend time with both in New York City this March.
For tickets, hotel and additional details regarding the 2022 BSM Summit visit BSMSummit.com.
14 Participants Announced For The 2022 BSM Summit
“The industry is rapidly evolving, so as a professional, it’s vital to learn new skills, build relationships, discover what clients want in order to generate more revenue, understand audience behavior, and pick the brains of your peers to create new ideas.”
To most people, six months is far enough away to not think much about it. But when you’re building a conference, it feels way too close to get everything done in time that’s required to execute a high caliber event.
By now you’ve likely heard that the 2022 BSM Summit is returning to New York City on March 2-3, 2022. I shared that news on July 19th, but didn’t provide many details other than the date and venue (Anne Bernstein Theater). Tickets weren’t even put on sale because I wanted to make sure a few other items were nailed down first before we started accepting payments.
Before I discuss some of those details, I want to remind folks that for the first time ever, the Summit will be available to attend both in-person and virtually. A big thanks to Nuvoodoo for partnering with us to make the Summit available online. If you’ve been to this event before, then you know the live experience is extremely valuable. That said, due to the ongoing issues in our country with Covid-19, some may prefer not to travel and watch it online instead. We’ve gone to great lengths to make this valuable for industry professionals, including pricing tickets differently on BSMSummit.com to account for the live vs. online advantages. If you’re planning to attend, you can now purchase tickets on the website.
As far as other key items are concerned, finding the right hotel partner was important. I’m pleased to share that Hotel Edison will serve as the official hotel of the 2022 BSM Summit. I know that keeping travel costs low is vital yet industry professionals also want to stay in a nice location close to the event. I think we’ve pulled that off again. Hotel Edison is only a 3-block walk to the Anne Bernstein Theater and they’ve provided an excellent rate for attendees. Rooms will go fast though, so click here to reserve your room asap to avoid missing out.
The next part of this process involved gathering sponsors. As an independent operator who focuses more on content and consulting than sales, this part isn’t always easy. I don’t have a sales team working for me nor do I have 40-hours a week to focus solely on Summit sponsors. Fortunately, I’ve built a few great partnerships over the years, so I’d like to thank ESPN Radio, Compass Media Networks, and Stone Voiceovers for offering their support once again. I know other clients will return too, but there are many other broadcasting companies and businesses with products targeted to industry professionals who haven’t been part of this event before. So here’s an opportunity to change that. Check out our Advertising page, and if you see something that appeals to your group, get in touch so we can discuss how we might be able to work together. Your support allows us to continue doing this event for the industry.
Now that we’ve taken care of the business, let’s talk about the thing that everyone cares about most, the speakers. I usually start off by announcing some of the high profile personalities who will be part of the show. This year though, I’m going to start by focusing on some of the top programming minds in the industry. It’s an honor once again to welcome Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan, Premiere Radio Networks SVP of Sports Don Martin, Westwood One and Cumulus Media SVP of Sports Bruce Gilbert, SiriusXM SVP of Sports Steve Cohen, Audacy New York Market Manager Chris Oliviero, former WFAN Program Director Mark Chernoff, current WFAN Program Director Spike Eskin, 670 The Score and 1250 The Fan Program Director Mitch Rosen, and Hubbard’s Director of Digital Content Phil Mackey to the BSM Summit.
As great as it is to have those nine gentlemen part of the event, I’m equally excited to welcome a few new faces. Joining us for the first time will be Blue Wire Podcasts CEO Kevin Jones, The Volume’s Head of Content Logan Swaim, Nuvoodoo Media’s CEO Carolyn Gilbert and EVP of Research Analysis Leigh Jacobs, and WFNZ Program Director and the creator of 92.9 The Game in Atlanta and 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, Terry Foxx.
If you’ve followed how we promote this event over the years, you know that I don’t share all the details at once. The credentials of these fourteen individuals are well documented, and having them involved is important to me. By the time March rolls around though, we’ll add 30-40 others with similar qualifications. I won’t tell you who else has committed to join us for the show, but there’s some serious firepower to be announced in the coming weeks and months. I’m especially excited to spend time on stage with one well respected executive during one of the Summit’s featured sessions.
What I value most about the Summit is that it brings the industry together and allows us to examine many different layers of the industry over a sixteen hour period with a lot of smart and successful people. In doing so, folks are able to return home with valuable knowledge and action steps to help themselves and their brands. This conference started with a focus on radio but has since expanded to cover podcasting, social media, sports betting, marketing, video, print, etc.. The industry is rapidly evolving, so as a professional, it’s vital to learn new skills, build relationships, discover what clients want in order to generate more revenue, understand audience behavior, and pick the brains of your peers to create new ideas. The more informed you are, the better your chances of being successful, and the education provided at the BSM Summit will absolutely help you grow as a professional.
Look for our next announcement early next week. There’s a lot to dive into in New York and I’m eager to spend time with the industry’s best and brightest, as we work on making 2022 a huge bounce back year for the sports media business.
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