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A Mixed Bag of Sports Media Subjects

Jason Barrett

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There have been a number of things happening in sports and media that have captured my attention lately. Rather than writing a normal column which focuses on one particular issue, I’m going to use my platform today to cover a few topics in rapid fire fashion. Fasten your seat belt.

FACING THE MUSIC AFTER A MISTAKE IS ALWAYS A WISE DECISION

Like many of you, I screamed my head off at the television when watching the final play in the Minnesota Vikings-New Orleans playoff game. I was shocked by what happened and questioned Saints safety Marcus Williams’ judgment along with the rest of the nation.

But it’s what happened afterwards that gained my attention and respect.

Rather than ignoring the media, which most would’ve done in that moment and for good reason, Williams stood tall handling the heat. He knew he screwed up and let down every fan of the Who Dat nation, and felt a responsibility to acknowledge his mistake and pledge to learn from it. As furious as fans were and as emotional as we become over wins and losses, it’s harder to want to kick a guy when he’s down when he has the decency to look you in the eye and say “I’m sorry. I screwed up. This is my fault.”

Why does that matter? Because it applies to many of us in the sports radio business.

If you’re a host or program director and your ratings are down, your market manager and corporate bosses don’t want to hear excuses. They want to know that you’re accountable and prepared with an informed explanation of what happened and a solution to avoid future missteps. If they sense that you care, have a game plan, and understand the situation, they’re more likely to support you during the tough times.

If you’re producing a show and the topic you pitched falls flat or the guest you booked doesn’t show up, own it. It’s live radio. Things don’t always go according to plan. All you can do is develop the angle, talk to the guest, confirm that they’re on schedule, and have a backup plan ready in case something doesn’t work. Your show unit and program director are going to ask questions when something you promised doesn’t come to fruition. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be doing their job, keeping you honest, and letting you know they expect better.

There are many daily situations that take place in our business which put us in position to either fall flat on our face or rise above the tide. Remember, everyone has a bad moment. It’s how you respond that determines whether people remain confident in your abilities or not. Judging from Marcus Williams’ performance throughout the season and how he conducted himself after the lowest moment of his professional career, I’m sure many in New Orleans are going to have his back going forward.

THE VIKINGS RADIO FINAL CALL PLEASED FANS, NOT MEDIA FOLKS

From that same Vikings-Saints game came another issue. The final call heard on KFAN in Minneapolis by the voice of the Vikings, Paul Allen.

Nobody expected the Vikings to walk off the field with a victory on the final play. It was something that had never happened during the course of NFL playoff history. So when Stefon Diggs took a Case Keenum pass 61 yards into the end zone to send the Vikings past the Saints and into the NFC title game versus the Philadelphia Eagles, the entire broadcast team got caught up in the moment.

If you were listening to the final play and judging the execution of Allen and Vikings color analyst Pete Bercich by normal broadcasting standards, you’d probably tear it to shreds. It was not the way broadcasting schools instruct you to call a play. In fact, Bercich stepped all over Allen and the excitement felt by both men contributed to them becoming fans with microphones for a few minutes.

But here’s the thing about local sports that makes it different. A local team’s broadcast crew is there to be the eyes and ears of the fan who isn’t. They’re invested in the team’s success and they live the highs and convey the lows of each developing situation. In Allen’s case he’s called Vikings games for 16 seasons. Bercich on the other hand has spent 11 years in the booth after spending years wearing the purple as a player and coach. Given the team’s track record of being on the wrong side of history, what Allen and Bercich experienced Sunday was unfamiliar and they let their true emotions pour onto the radio airwaves.

Depending on your preference for a sports broadcast, you may have hated the final radio call of the Vikings game, or played it ten times. My guess is that many who didn’t like the execution, are probably not living in Minneapolis or rooting for the Vikings.

Whether you enjoyed the call or not, I think it’s important to remember that the real art of broadcasting a game is having the ability to paint a picture with words and let the audience feel and hear the moment in its purest form. Maybe it wasn’t what the radio gods would have preferred or executed the way broadcast trainers have taught it but it was exactly what Minnesota sports fans needed during that moment in time. Taking that into account, Allen and Bercich increased their hero status with Vikings fans this past Sunday.

WOULDN’T BARSTOOL SPORTS HAVE MADE SENSE FOR TERRESTRIAL RADIO?

On Wednesday, Barstool Sports launches a 24-hour radio channel on SiriusXM. To sports radio traditionalists that might not mean much. After all, there are many channels on SiriusXM, so who cares about another one right?

Well, you may want to pay attention. Barstool has built an army of fans. They’ve also earned their fair share of critics. The company’s content isn’t for everyone, but for those who do enjoy it, they are rabid, loyal and invested in the company’s success. Given the company’s impact online and on social, they’re throwing punches with the heavyweights and proving they’re a force to be reckoned with. They’ve also struck a chord with younger fans, an audience which terrestrial radio has a tougher time reaching.

For the past two decades, the national sports radio space has been dominated by ESPN and FOX. Others such as CBS, NBC and SB Nation have operated networks too, but they’re far behind the top two networks. One could easily make the case that SiriusXM has created much more buzz and interest in its national programming than those other brands, despite not being on terrestrial channels and requiring a fee to listen.

What’s interesting to me about this partnership is why a brand like Barstool was not pursued more aggressively and given a bigger national platform by one of those terrestrial networks. One would assume the Barstool brand and personalities working for the company would have created a lot more interest. A few sources I spoke to mentioned that Barstool’s use of foul language and the negative press received over the years provided some concern. I get that they’re not squeaky clean but if the ultimate goal is to increase ratings, revenue and brand relevance, then just as ESPN figured out how to create a TV show with the company, I’m sure the same could have been done by a terrestrial radio partner.

What I find ironic is that some of the issues that concerned traditional broadcasters about Barstool were the same ones they embraced when giving Howard Stern a larger platform a few decades earlier. All Stern did for them was produce big ratings and revenue, despite creating edgy content and negative headlines.

It’s also interesting that SiriusXM is the company which took the plunge. That would be the same group which was smart enough to recognize Stern’s power and lure him away to satellite radio thus building a thriving company in the process. That left a moon sized crater in morning drive on FM radio stations and now SiriusXM is taking a page out of the same playbook by pledging their support to Dave Portnoy’s band of misfits.

I believe that Barstool will help Sirius increase subscribers but I can’t imagine the company having a Stern like effect on business. However, if they produce even a tenth or twentieth of the impact that Stern did, that would be a huge victory for the suits at SiriusXM. That leaves me to wonder, why wasn’t that enough to excite even one terrestrial radio group?

FACEBOOK SENDS THE MEDIA INDUSTRY BACK TO PANIC STATION

Last week’s announcement from Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg that the world’s largest social media platform would soon begin favoring posts from friends and family and decreasing the material you see from media outlets, has created a tidal wave of concern among broadcasters. As many inside offices throw darts at the Facebook czar’s image and offer four-letter expletives to describe how they feel about his recent decision, that won’t change the fact that Facebook is adjusting its strategy and execution.

Although the impact has yet to be seen or felt, many media brands anticipate being forced to spend more money to have their content reach audiences which use Facebook for daily reading and conversation. The social company feels its platform has become a playground for fake news, even contributing to the outcome of the prior election. Zuckerberg said Facebook feels a responsibility to make sure its services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being, and he’s willing to accept that people will spend less time on the platform if it means it their time spent on it becomes more valuable.

Take off your business cap for a second and listen closely to what I’m about to tell you. Facebook has ZERO obligation to help your brand create or sustain success. King Zuckerberg didn’t make his fortune by looking out for everyone else’s interests. He did it by building a must-have brand with worldwide appeal and utilized it to increase his own company’s worth and bottom line.

We forget that our brands have little control over the audience developed on Facebook. We use our airwaves, email newsletters, text alerts, billboards, live events and marketing campaigns to promote our product’s benefits and remind the audience of how they can learn more by following us on Facebook, but lose sight of the fact that while we may be able to target our content to specific audiences on the platform, those people actually belong to Facebook, not us.

Some will say that it feels like a one-sided relationship. There’s some truth to that. But, the reality is that Facebook has the audience that our brands need to drive ratings, web traffic, increase brand awareness, attend events, and support advertisers. You can label them as evil, but they’re a necessary evil.

In sports radio, we often preach about the importance of staying fresh, relevant and ahead of the curve. That’s what Facebook is doing. We may not like it because we’ve become creatures of comfort with a preference to continue with ‘business as usual’, but the reason they’ve become a global entity is because they continue to take risks, evolve, lead the charge and react when necessary.

It reminds me of that scene in Moneyball when the scouts are all in the room telling Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) that the problem they need to solve is finding a way to replace Giambi, Damon and Isringhausen who are leaving via free agency. Beane counters that they’re not looking at the big picture which shows that the A’s are a low budget team faced with a competitive disadvantage and unless they reinvent their approach they’ll wind up in the exact same position in the future.

I cautioned folks 10 months ago about a lack of social activity and why being invisible to our most passionate fans was a bad recipe. “Social Media” is meant to be a form of communication where two sides engage in dialogue. It’s not meant to be a place where brands push content at engaged audiences who express their points of view about the material they’re receiving only to not even earn a response from the brand which created it.

Ironically, that’s what radio, television and print have done to audiences for decades. Some of that approach is warranted, but building a relationship with an audience requires time, effort, interest and forming a personal relationship. To expect three industries to execute differently when the way they know is different than how social companies think and operate is asking a lot. Except these social groups are making the rules now. Not traditional media.

It’s too late to blame ourselves for breathing too much life into Facebook. My fear is that some groups will take this news and run now towards Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, assuming they’ll solve the problem. But, they won’t. They reach smaller audiences and want the same thing that Zuckerberg has. If you think they won’t do to your brand what Facebook has, you’re extremely naive. These platforms are led by sharks who want to use their access to the audience and their personal information to take a much bigger bite out of your corporate bank account. It’s that simple.

Allow me to leave you with six takeaways which I hope will serve you well going forward.

  1. Educate yourself on Facebook’s adjustments to best take advantage of reaching your audience
  2. Further invest in additional ways to gain more access and control of your audience’s information
  3. Develop a plan for engaging more with your fans on social media and analyze what is/isn’t working
  4. Create a brand that’s so important/successful that you too can make major changes and not miss a beat
  5. Understand that the rules will continue to change in social spaces and you either adapt or risk extinction
  6. Stay alert, informed and open minded about emerging social channels which may look to challenge Facebook

Barrett Blogs

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

Jason Barrett

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

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

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

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

Now, for the new additions to the lineup.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason Barrett

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

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

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

Which brings me to this year’s winner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason Barrett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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