Opinions about ESPN’s programming have been mixed over the past few years, but few have found fault with the network’s 30 for 30 series. And for good reason. It’s without question one of the best pieces of programming ESPN offers. The latest documentary of the Celtics-Lakers rivalry is a prime example.
If you watched the three part series then you’re well aware of what I’m talking about. If not, do yourself a favor and block out a few hours to get caught up. It’s absolutely worth your time.
As I watched the documentary last Tuesday and Wednesday night, a few things stuck with me. I began thinking about why the rivalry between those two franchises was so special. Sports fans often mention how the Lakers-Celtics rivalry helped save the NBA, and it’s no surprise that the league grew its attendance, sponsors, and television presence during that time period. What was once considered a league with limited upside, became hip, cool and exciting, and it set the table for future stars to come along and help advance the game to an even higher level.
What made this story compelling was that it involved two teams with a ton of skill and star power. They were led by two charismatic superstars with an insatiable desire to win, who to this day remain among the best I’ve ever witnessed perform on a basketball court. They also represented two very different cities and races and brought a unique style of play to their respective franchises. When the verbal offerings and prior histories of both organizations were added to the equation, it amplified the animosity each team and its players had for one another.
But it wasn’t until Los Angeles won the NBA championship on Boston’s home court in 1985 that the rivalry rose to a different level. Up to that point, the Celtics had dominated the competition, winning all 8 matchups against Los Angeles. It may have infuriated Los Angeles basketball fans that their beloved franchise couldn’t get over the hump against Boston, but fans on the other side had little reason to believe the Lakers would prevail. Once Celtics players and fans were left with a bitter taste in their mouth, forced to watch the Lakers celebrate, the tension grew and the stakes were magnified.
To hear Pat Riley, James Worthy, Kurt Rambis and Magic Johnson share how deep their hatred for the Celtics runs, even to this day, reminds you of what makes rivalries powerful. Those same feelings were shared on the other side from Danny Ainge, M.L Carr, Kevin McHale and Larry Bird towards the Lakers. Winning may have mattered most but doing it against an arch nemesis made it more important and that much sweeter.
When people care deeply about winning, value competition, and know that a legitimate opponent could derail them from achieving their goal, it makes everyone push a little bit harder. It makes great players like Magic Johnson challenge themselves to elevate their game to another level. It forces every coach and player to treat each possession like it could alter the outcome of a ball game.
That’s what competition is all about. Great players, coaches, and teams rise to the occasion. Others crumble when they feel the pressure.
When I reflect back on the Lakers-Celtics story I can’t help but think about how it applies to sports radio. Every quarter hour on the air is an opportunity to form a connection with an audience or send them away. Great talent treat their opportunities with a sense of urgency. Marginal players do not.
But it goes even deeper than executing content consistently.
Most sports radio folks don’t study their opponents. They focus on themselves. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in order to take advantage of a competitor’s weaknesses you have to know what they are and then craft your strategy to best help yourself.
The other issue worth raising is how many in sports radio operate in silence. They head into a building, develop a rundown, execute it on the air, and then head home. They don’t publicly celebrate victories or display ill will towards competing radio stations, unless the individual has gone thru a bad personal experience working for them. Radio people are more worried about keeping the peace and maintaining good relationships for future professional reasons than creating headlines and ruffling the feathers of rivals, co-workers and corporate folks.
But for a rivalry to reach its full potential the audience has to know and feel it on the airwaves. It also has to be felt internally by every member of the radio station. Sometimes that means not being afraid to let it be known why you believe your product and people are superior and the competitor is inferior.
How many times have we seen a media personality offer a strong opinion about another host or station and instantly the buzz and chatter produces increased audience interest and engagement? It doesn’t just occur on-air either. Your account executives are doing it with clients too. Sometimes they take the high road when discussing competitors with potential advertisers, other times they may deliver a verbal uppercut.
Is it any coincidence that the press for ESPN and FS1 has increased since the two brands and their employees began offering unfiltered opinions on the state of each product? Look in Boston and Philadelphia at the way media coverage intensified once WEEI and 98.5 The Sports Hub and WIP and 97.5 The Fanatic began waging battle. If you watch political television, you’ve seen this executed on a daily basis whether you’ve watched CNN, MSNBC or FOX News. And whether it’s been Mike and the Mad Dog, Bill Simmons, Howard Stern, Steve Jobs or Eric Bischoff, many others in various businesses have used the same exact strategy.
To be honest, I wish we had a little more of it in sports radio. There are many cities with 2-3 sports stations yet the buzz for their local competitive battles is minimal. That may be a reflection of the market or the personalities of the individuals involved, but when the audience feels the stakes are raised and they have an influence on the outcome, it becomes more interesting and entertaining.
I’ve told this to numerous folks I’ve talked to over the years, people will always be fascinated by other people. If an on-air talent possesses an ability to create drama on a daily basis, they stand a greater chance of engaging an audience and increasing their ratings. Stats, information, and interaction are all nice, but thought provoking opinions which pierce the skin of others and demand a response will always produce a higher level of interest.
Isn’t that a big part of why we love sports? The game may be the main event but it’s all the hype and drama before and afterwards that keeps the conversation alive and makes the result matter. If emotions didn’t run high and players didn’t express themselves about various situations, the world of sports would be a lot less fun, intense, and compelling.
Speaking for myself, when I operated brands I had no room in my soul for positive sentiments towards those I competed against. I may have respected them and understood why they were successful but to be my best and exhaust the most out of my teams I needed to mentally invest myself in beating them. That may not work for everyone, but when you can paint a picture in your mind of the competitor taking food off your child’s plate and money out of your bank account, I promise you it becomes easier to push yourself towards knocking them off.
Mark Cuban once said “work like someone is working twenty four hours a day to take it all away from you” and that has always been my mindset. I didn’t move to new cities to make friends or enjoy new scenery. Nor was I worried about what competitors thought of me or anything I said or did to gain an edge. My focus was on hiring talented people and creating a vision to help my brands connect and produce results. The thought of failing didn’t exist because I believe that once you allow room for the potential of failure to occupy space inside your mind, you’re already defeated.
Milwaukee Bucks owner Wes Edens offered a great line this week when he said “the guys in Philadelphia want to talk about the process, I’d rather talk about results.” That’s how most business people think and operate. If you can achieve success while being friendly with everyone, great. If it requires being more aggressive and unfiltered, so be it. Either way, it’s all about productivity.
The majority of sports media members I’ve been around want to be great and win the ratings book. If another brand or individual is preventing them from reaching their destination, it’s not uncommon for them to develop a mean streak and offer strong opinions about them. We too often worry about playing nice and keeping our noses clean but winning in business sometimes requires getting dirty. It’s why Kevin McHale didn’t hesitate to take down Kurt Rambis with a hard clothesline in the 1984 NBA Finals. It may not have been popular, but it let the Lakers know that Boston wouldn’t be intimidated. Once the Celtics gained the mental edge, the Lakers never recovered.
I know a number of on-air performers who are extremely talented and successful yet some programmers wouldn’t hire them because they rock the boat with certain things they say in public or on social media. If it’s interesting, accurate, and creates additional buzz and engagement for the radio station, why is that a bad thing? We preach the importance of authenticity, honesty, being fearless and living one’s life on the radio, but when industry people or issues are brought to the forefront, we get nervous and look to muzzle our best talent.
There’s obviously a big difference between being irresponsible and offensive, and discussing uncomfortable subjects and firing public jabs against members of the brotherhood. But when the stakes are high, all is fair in love and war. Jesse Ventura used to say “win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat” and while I don’t believe in cheating to win, there’s also no radio playbook which says you must play nice and shake hands with the opponent.
Business is cutthroat. When you operate in a results oriented industry where money is gained or lost each day, you can’t be afraid to upset the norm. If it means calling out an opponent and in doing so alienating a future employment option, you can’t be afraid to take a risk to win. If you have the skill and backbone to back up your words, and a sound reason to support your position, the competitor may hate hearing it and continue disliking you and your approach, but they’ll have a tough time ignoring your success and impact. You may increase the number of industry friends you make but playing it safe doesn’t help you gain significant wins.
What makes rivalries special are when two sides have the talent to achieve and a burning desire to prevent the other from reaching their ultimate destination. Sometimes it may be ugly or uncomfortable, but that’s what competition brings out of us. The better the opponent, the more we crave beating them, and when we win, the accomplishment has greater meaning.
The more the intensity and public awareness grows for a battle you’re involved in, the more the audience will become consumed by it. If they continue listening and helping you create success, advertisers will follow, and in the grand scheme of things, that matters a whole lot more than whether or not you’re well received by your competitor or by members of the media inside of a press box.
Black Friday Sale TODAY For 2022 BSM Summit Tickets
“BSM’s Black Friday sale on Summit tickets will begin at 12:01am ET on Friday November 26th and expire at 11:59pm later that same night.”
There are less than 100 days remaining until the 2022 BSM Summit takes place in New York City. We’ve announced 31 participants for the show so far, and have more to reveal in the weeks and months ahead. I think you’re going to like what’s still to come.
Putting this conference together isn’t easy. It requires months of meetings, brainstorming, promotion, selling sponsorships, pursuing speakers, and creating everything that attendees see on stage over a two day period. I’m thankful to have help from some amazing partners, but as I’ve mentioned previously, this isn’t an event that makes us rich or ends with 5-10 new clients signing up to work with BSM. The goal each year is simple, make sure the conference is valuable for those who attend, and don’t run BSM out of business by doing it. As long as those two things remain solid, it’s worth doing.
Some might wonder, why go thru months of headaches if you’re not going to break the bank or immediately add clients. That’s fair to ask. If you look at it from a pure business standpoint, one could easily make a case that pouring this type of energy into something else could be more lucrative. But money was never the motivation for doing this. I felt the sports media industry lacked a signature event where smart, successful media professionals (who don’t often cross paths) could gather at one location to laugh and learn together, and I wanted to change that. If over a two day period attendees could gain insight, information, ideas, and introductions, it’d put everyone in a stronger position to remain successful.
I’ve unapologetically loved the sports media business since I started listening to Mike & the Mad Dog on WFAN and watching SportsCenter on ESPN. I was fortunate to live and work in a number of cities over the past two decades, learning how different companies and people operate, and I remain involved today thru my work with BSM. I mention this because I also know media people. They tend to wait until the last minute to book hotel rooms, airfare, and purchase tickets, even if they can save money by acting sooner. I know, I used to do it too. I can’t control when you book your room or plane ticket, but I do want to give you an added incentive to buy your ticket to this year’s show. Seating is limited, and once the last seat is filled, that’s it. We can’t make extra room.
With that in mind, most of you are either taking today off or working inside a much quieter building. If you’ve thought about coming to the Summit, take 5-10 minutes to log on to BSMSummit.com to take advantage of our special Black Friday sale. We’ve reduced tickets for the day, so whether you’re planning to attend in NYC or watch the conference online, there’s a discount to help you out. Just $199.99 for live tickets, and $124.99 for virtual.
BSM’s Black Friday sale on Summit tickets expires at 11:59pm tonight. In the meantime, Hotel Edison in NYC is offering rooms for just $109 + taxes to Summit attendees. Click here to take advantage of the special room rate we’ve secured for this year’s show. Those of you planning to fly to NYC for the show, there have been a ton of great deals offered by American, Southwest, United, JetBlue and Frontier. It might be worth checking into today since Black Friday often has even better sales on travel.
If you’re interested in learning more about the industry, staying a step ahead, forming new relationships, strengthening existing ones, exploring potential business deals, and celebrating the business you’re in, I hope you’ll join us either online or in New York City for the 2022 BSM Summit. I’m making it easier on you, by offering lower ticket prices today. The rest is up to you!
Craig Carton, Fred Toucher, Mike Felger To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit
“Few understand what it takes to deliver success in this format consistently like Craig, Fred and Mike, and I’m glad they’re making the time to share their knowledge with us.”
When you talk to industry people about successful brands in sports talk radio, most conversations include WFAN and 98.5 The Sports Hub. The New York and Boston sports radio brands are consistently recognized for their ability to deliver large audiences and revenues.
Helping to create that success is a mixture of strong play by play partnerships, skilled programmers and even more importantly, some of the most dynamic on-air personalities in the format. Fortunately for us, a few of those gamechangers will be present to share their opinions and insights on content matters in New York City at the 2022 BSM Summit.
Starting in New York, it’s an honor to welcome WFAN afternoon drive host Craig Carton to the 2022 BSM Summit. Heard daily on ‘Carton and Roberts‘ alongside Evan Roberts, which is also featured on TV on SNY, Carton has made his presence felt ever since returning to the airwaves in November 2020. Prior to taking on the challenge in afternoons, Craig spent a decade partnering with Boomer Esiason on ‘Boomer and Carton‘, forming one of the most successful sports radio morning shows in the country. In addition to enjoying success in New York, Craig has also experienced the ups and downs that come with performing in different markets. His radio travels have taken him to Philadelphia, Denver, Buffalo and Trenton, NJ. The Syracuse graduate and outspoken host is expected to join BSM President Jason Barrett for a one on one conversation at this year’s Summit.
Shipping up to Boston, it’s a pleasure to welcome two of the format’s highest rated performers to New York City. They’re heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub in morning and afternoon drive, and at the Summit, they’ll interact together during an in-depth content conversation with BSM President Jason Barrett.
Fred Toucher is one half of the Sports Hub’s popular morning show ‘Toucher & Rich‘, which recently added syndication. The Detroit native started his career in Georgia before moving to Boston in 2005. Toucher & Rich, which includes Rich Shertenlieb, officially moved into the sports talk format in 2009. Since making the format switch, the duo have consistently produced some of the best ratings in the entire format in mornings during the past fifteen years. Toucher & Rich have also been recognized by industry executives as one of the top two morning shows in the format each of the past three years in the BSM Top 20, including taking top honors in 2018.
Mike Felger on the other hand is heard on the ride home alongside Tony Massarotti on The Sports Hub. The Marconi Award-winning afternoon radio show has been a fixture in Boston since the station’s inception in 2009. During the past twelve years, Felger & Mazz have been a steady force atop the Men 25-54 ratings including recently delivering an impressive 18.9 share in the summer book to finish 1st. The Milwaukee native also hosts a show for NBC Boston, and has previously served as a columnist for the Boston Globe. Similar to Toucher & Rich, Felger & Mazz have earned high praise from format execs in the BSM Top 20. They’ve been voted one of the top 2 afternoon shows each of the past 2 years including grabbing the top spot in 2019.
We’re excited to add all three of these men to the lineup for the 2022 BSM Summit. As vital as it may be to spend time on business issues in order to stay ahead of a rapidly changing media climate, without great talent and content, the rest is irrelevant. Few understand what it takes to deliver success in this format consistently like Craig, Fred and Mike, and I’m glad they’re making the time to share their knowledge with us.
To reserve your hotel room, purchase tickets or learn more about the speakers we’ve lined up for the 2022 show, visit BSMSummit.com. We hope to see you online or in New York City this March.
BSM Summit Adds Borrell, Crain, Cutler, Goldstein, Scott, Shapiro & Thomas
“The Summit is just 104 days away, so if you haven’t purchased your ticket yet, please do so. Half of the room is already full and seating for the conference is limited.”
The 2022 BSM Summit continues to add firepower to the sports media industry’s premier conference. After previously announcing the first twenty one participants to take part in March’s event in New York City, another seven talented media professionals have been added to the speaker schedule.
Making his BSM Summit debut in 2022 will be the media industry’s leading business analyst Gordon Borrell. The well respected and accomplished CEO of Borrell Associates is featured frequently in the trades and mainstream publications for his insights on advertising trends and forecasts in local media. Borrell will join Amplifi Media CEO Steven Goldstein on stage at the Summit for an in-depth discussion on the advertising climate in 2022. The two men will offer insights and opinions on what advertisers value most, where they’re expected to invest future dollars, which categories will continue to rise and decline, and what brands can do to position themselves better to increase revenue. Additionally, Borrell will be hosting his local advertising conference in Miami a few days after the Summit. Those interested in heading to South Beach and learning more about the marketing world can learn more by clicking here.
Switching to the content end, the Summit is thrilled to welcome The Volume’s Jake Crain to New York City. The host of The JBoy Show will also be making his debut at the conference. Crain will be part of a talent panel along with John Jastremski and Kazeem Famuyide.
Also making his debut at the Summit will be Carl Scott. Meadowlark Media’s Executive Director of Audio will join our podcasting panel featuring Blue Wire CEO Kevin Jones and The Volume’s Head of Content Logan Swaim. Hubbard Radio’s Digital Content Director Phil Mackey will guide the conversation.
Not everyone participating at the Summit will be new to the audience though. Returning to the stage as part of our GM’s discussion will be newly appointed Audacy Boston Market Manager Mike Thomas. Thomas recently led ESPN 1000 in Chicago as the station’s GM after working with Mark Hannon to turn 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston into one of sports radio’s top performing stations. It should be noted that each time Thomas appears at the Summit it follows a recent promotion. We figure by 2023 or 2024 he’ll be running the entire industry.
A Summit isn’t complete without attention given to programming matters. To help us address some of those key issues, we’re excited to welcome back the Vice President of FOX Sports Radio & Podcasts Scott Shapiro. The passionate network executive who oversees many of the nation’s top national programs is always a great listen for folks interested in learning how programmer’s view and tackle the industry’s most important affairs.
Last but certainly not least, voice talent extraordinaire Jim Cutler will return to the stage to lead a session on storytelling. One of the industry’s prominent station voices and creative minds has a penchant for putting on entertaining and informative sessions. If you’ve attended the conference before, you’re already aware. To those planning to catch this one, you’re in for a treat.
Keep an eye out over the next two weeks. We’ll be making additional announcements involving a few high profile talents we’ve lined up for the 2022 BSM Summit. A reminder, the event is just 104 days away, so if you haven’t purchased your ticket yet, please do so. Half of the room is already full and seating for the conference is limited. I realize some folks may prefer to wait until the last minute to make sure the world is safe. If you’re not comfortable flying to NY for the show, we do have an option in place to enjoy the conference virtually thanks to NuVoodoo Media. For more information on tickets, click here.
That said, the in-person environment is excellent. If you haven’t attended the Summit before I think you’ll find the two days in New York City to be time well spent. This conference is not open to the general public. You must either presently work in an area of the media industry or be pursuing a degree in the broadcasting field.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that we still have some sponsorship opportunities available for the show. We’re thrilled to have the support of great partners, ESPN Radio, Premiere Networks, FOX Sports Radio, Stone Voiceovers, Compass Media Networks, Point to Point Marketing, and Core Image Studio. If you’d like to be part of the event too, email JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com for additional details.
One final note, airfare is low right now. There are roundtrip flights to and from New York from many major cities for less than $200.00. We’ve also secured a low hotel rate of $109.00 per night at Hotel Edison in NYC to help companies and individuals keep costs down. The sports media industry has endured two years of difficulty due to the pandemic, preventing many from networking, learning, celebrating, and growing. The two days we spend together in the big apple won’t solve every issue facing our business, but I promise you’ll leave the show more informed, more connected, and better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.
Hope to see you in New York on March 2nd and 3rd.
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