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Something To Bet On

Jason Barrett

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By nature I’m passionate about the radio industry and quick to defend it. Two decades of labor, five market stops, hundreds of relationships, and countless positive experiences have shaped my views that way. I don’t apologize for that. It doesn’t mean the industry doesn’t have its share of flaws, but all things considered, it’s a pretty great business, one which I believe has more room for growth than ever before.

A few weeks ago I attended Radio Ink’s Forecast 2019 at the Harvard Club in New York City. From start to finish the event was jam packed with information, and featured a who’s who of industry movers and shakers. In what can only be described as a monumental upset, I was asked by Radio Ink officials to moderate a panel featuring ESPN Audio SVP Traug Keller, Cumulus and Westwood One SVP of Sports Bruce Gilbert, and Entercom Regional President Susan Larkin. I’d like to thank whoever spiked the punch to convince them to think of me. It’s appreciated.

Over the course of forty minutes we tackled a variety of subjects from sports gambling to gaming, improving diversity in sports radio management, attracting larger advertisers to sports radio, the state of ratings measurement, and changing the perception of sports radio being niche. One of the headlines which stood out most was Traug’s declaration of sports gambling becoming even bigger for the sports format than what initial projections suggested.

“This is bigger than people think,” said Keller. “The numbers coming out of New Jersey are staggering.”

If he’s right, which I do think he is, this is going to be a massive opportunity for sports media brands. The initial projections from Gambling Compliance, an independent provider of gambling industry data and research, listed sports betting as a 2 billion dollar industry. After the Supreme Court made their decision though, those projections increased to between 3.1 and 5.2 billion by the year 2023. The state of New Jersey supplied a small dose of what’s to come when during their first 17 days of legalized sports betting activity, the state raked in 16.4 million dollars.

You read that news and it instantly grabs your attention and gets your mind thinking about ways to capitalize. The challenge for brands is going to be setting boundaries so the airwaves don’t get polluted with non-stop gambling messaging. That means not allowing every Tom, Dick, and Harry who bills themselves as a gambling expert to gain time on shows, even if they’re offering dollars to do so.

It also means having to create systems to avoid having situations where four of five minutes of commercial breaks feature sports gambling commercials. GM’s are going to have to work with their sales managers to make sure pricing is set high enough so not everyone can play in the space. I’d also expect more hugs needed in the sales department when sales managers and GM’s have to deliver bad news to account executives, rejecting buys from other sports gambling groups because they’ve either sold out inventory or reached maximum capacity on what the programming team will allow on the air.

Regardless of the challenges, many in sports media circles expect an influx of cash thanks to sports gambling legalization. It’s the topic everyone has been talking about, and it was voted the #1 sports business story of the year in the Sports Business Journal. The only question is will the entire pot of gold be discovered in 2019, 2020 or later.

That got me to thinking about how the rise of sports gambling will influence future programming on radio, television and in print. We’ve already seen the NY Post form a partnership with VSiN to provide sports betting written content. The TVG Network also joined forces with VSiN. The new owner of the Los Angeles Times has said he plans to evolve the newspaper’s sports section by including coverage of eSports, and it’s safe to assume that sports betting will gain further attention too. Plus the upstart digital TV channel Cheddar has regularly produced content aimed at sports gaming and betting enthusiasts.

But what about traditional radio and TV outlets?

If you turn on SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt, one of his most popular segments is Bad Beats. Tune into a sports radio station and you might hear an Action Update from VSiN or a sports betting expert appearing on a show to educate fans on potential moneymaking opportunities surrounding an upcoming game. Even FOX Sports Radio entered the fray this year by adding the weeknight show Straight Outta Vegas with RJ Bell to its schedule. FS1 did the same with the addition of Lock It In featuring Clay Travis, Cousin Sal, Todd Fuhrman, and Rachel Bonnetta. ESPN+ also followed suit by partnering with the Action Network on the show I’ll Take That Bet.

If you paid attention to industry news this week, you saw Darren Rovell announced his exit from ESPN to join the Action Network, where he’s expected to serve as an executive and cover the business of sports betting. Barstool Sports has gained strong social buzz this football season with the creation of their betting program Sports Betting Advisors featuring Dave Portnoy, Big Cat and Stu Feiner. Bleacher Report got involved in the space by launching a show with Chris Simms and Adam Lefkoe, and others such as The Ringer and Westwood One have created podcasts built around sports gambling content.

I think it’s fair to say that each of these brands understand what’s at stake. Groups like VSiN and the Action Network prepared well in advance by hiring good people, creating good content, and establishing relationships, even before the supreme court opened the door for states to make decisions on the future of legalized sports betting. Because they took the risk and got in early, they’re now in great position to take full advantage of it.

We’ve seen leagues like the NBA, MLB and NHL evolve their views on sports gambling, striking deals with the MGM casino for use of their data, logos and advanced statistics. DraftKings and FanDuel have opened locations in New Jersey and used their apps to generate larger revenues. Buffalo Wild Wings has even expressed interest in making sports betting available inside their bars and restaurants.

So what does it all mean?

Well, the obvious point is that the space is going to expand rapidly. Audiences will soon be treated to more of this type of content, and major advertisers, especially ones who are after the sports fan’s betting dollar, will be looking to sports media brands to help them build their customer base. You’ll likely see networks creating sports betting experts the same way they have sports analysts, and programming features will become part of shows you never would have expected them to be included in.

But is sports radio positioned to prosper from it? If you measure it from the over the air side, yes. Ratings, talent endorsements, and play by play associations are attractive to brands like StubHub, FanDuel, DraftKings, MGM and Buffalo Wild Wings. But it’s the digital space (where most economic projections expect bigger growth) where I have a few concerns.

I spent some time surfing thru the websites of a number of sports radio stations to see which local brands were developing original sports betting podcasts. I then examined the podcast charts by typing in ‘sports betting’ and ‘sports gambling’ to see which podcasts appeared in those categories. To my surprise, local sports radio underwhelmed.

What stood out most was that there weren’t many original local podcasts available on sports betting/gambling from local sports stations. National outlets did a much better job, along with groups like VSiN, Action Network, The Ringer, Barstool Sports, etc.. Among the few exceptions were The Sharp 600 by Joe Fortenbaugh of 95.7 The Game, a podcast done independently of the radio station, and KNBR’s Tom Tolbert, who’s hosting the Corndogs and Underdogs podcast.

Some of you reading this will be quick to point out that the iTunes charts can be easily manipulated. That’s true. They can. Which begs the question, why aren’t sports radio stations doing it then? Whether the system is imperfect or not, it’s where legions of sports fans turn to find podcasts, and advertisers judge whether or not you’re easily discovered there. If your content isn’t located under the category it’s built for on the first page, let alone the first three, good luck commanding larger dollars.

It left me wondering, if spending is expected to increase in the sports betting category, and major advertisers like DraftKings and FanDuel seek more of that content, especially digitally, why would they turn to a local sports radio station? They can find what they want on the national level, and thru popular sports digital brands, but local sports radio stations with their strong social followings, and 13-18 hours per day to promote content don’t deliver enough unique content or buzz on the subject matter.

If you’re inside of a sports radio station today, one of the most important conversations that should be taking place frequently between management and on-air talent should be about owning the sports betting space across multiple platforms. By the way, that doesn’t mean picking a part-time staff member and having them do a 30-minute podcast to say you’re present in the space. It means getting creative, and attacking the opportunity the same way you would a play by play partnership, or entering football season when you hire contributors for your main programs.

These are different times then before. When I programmed stations, I wasn’t a huge fan of sports betting content on the air. There were a lot of scammers looking to use the station’s airwaves to line their pockets, and although it may have been attractive to sales to add easy money for five minutes of garbage, I believed it was more important to put talent in a position to succeed, and respect the audience’s time.

But that was before legitimate people started creating content in the space, and before the supreme court granted authority to each state to decide their own fate. Fifteen years ago we looked at fantasy football content as a niche thing that wasn’t built for the mainstream, and now it’s a huge part of the American sports fan’s life. The same holds true with sports betting.

If there’s one major issue our business has it’s that we sometimes react too late. We’ve got to be thinking ahead and preparing ourselves to be a preferred destination when windfalls of cash become available, not walking in the door and promising to customize something after interest has picked up. Anyone can play the stock market afterwards, but it’s those who study trends, ask questions, and ultimately roll the dice who benefit the most.

Who’s your station’s go to expert on gambling? How are you elevating them across your shows, website, and social media channels? Are you hiring outside contributors or oddsmakers and building them up the same way you have ESPN, FOX or CBS NFL reporters? Do you have shows designed specifically for podcasting? Twitter? Instagram? Facebook? Have you asked the clients who have the most to gain in this space to share their ideas with you on how to create memorable content? What are you bringing to the table that isn’t available anywhere else?

If you solve those problems, I want you to ask yourself if you’re confident of your programming matching up with some of the other brands I mentioned earlier. If I walked into your building tomorrow as the buyer of DraftKings or FanDuel’s advertising, and I had seven figures to spend with one brand, could you convince me you had more to offer in this space than what those other groups have available?

This is what you’re going to be up against. Keep in mind, I’ve focused mostly on the audio part of this discussion. If I dove deep into each sports station’s social media video content and written pieces on the topic of sports betting I’d be terrified of what I’d find. It certainly wouldn’t measure up against the content being supplied by those other outlets. That points to an obvious opportunity for brands to explore partnerships with others who can bring things to the table that they can’t.

I consider this a critical conversation, and I’m thrilled that it’s going to be part of our agenda at the BSM Summit in Los Angeles in February. VSiN Chairman and co-founder Brian Musburger, Action Network Head of Media Chad Millman, and FanDuel President and COO Kip Levin have graciously agreed to spend time discussing the present and future of sports betting, lessons they’ve learned since entering the space, and what media brands can do to help themselves. 95.7 The Game morning man and Sharp 600 podcast host Joe Fortenbaugh will moderate the discussion.

Given what’s at stake from a monetization and interest standpoint, this is an area we can’t afford to miss the mark on. The reality right now is that the VSiN’s, Action Network’s, Barstool’s, Ringer’s, and Bleacher’s of the world know this space better and deliver better talent and content in it than local sports radio. So too do national brands like FOX, CBS and ESPN. If sports gambling is indeed the elixir that the sports format has been waiting for, then we’ve got to make sure we’re capable of matching up with the best that any other media brand can provide. If not, we’ll soon be waving goodbye to another lost opportunity, and this one could have grave consequences.

Barrett Blogs

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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Barrett News Media To Gather The Industry in Nashville in September 2023

“I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.”

Jason Barrett

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One of the best parts about working in the media business is that you’re afforded an opportunity to use your creativity, take risks, and learn if an audience or advertisers will support your ideas. Sometimes you hit a homerun, other times you strike out, but regardless of the outcome, you keep on swinging.

I’ve tried to do that since launching a digital publishing and radio consulting company in 2015. Fortunately, we’ve delivered more hits than misses.

When I added news media industry coverage to our brand in September 2020, I knew it’d be a huge undertaking. The news/talk format is two and a half times larger than sports, many of its brands are powered by national shows, and the content itself is more personal and divisive. I wanted our focus and attention on news media stories, not politics and news, and though there have been times when the lines got blurred, we’ve tried to be consistent in serving industry professionals relevant content .

What made the move into news media more challenging was that I’d spent less time in it. That meant it’d take longer to find the right writers, and it required putting more time into building relationships, trust, respect, and support. Though we still have more ground to cover, we’ve made nice strides. That was reflected by the participation we received when we rolled out the BNM Top 20 of 2022 the past two weeks. Hopefully you checked out the lists. Demetri Ravanos and I will be hosting a video chat today at 1pm ET on BNM’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and through Barrett Media’s YouTube page discussing the series, as well as this article.

It’s because of that growing support, trust, and confidence in what we’re doing that I’m taking a risk yet again. I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.

I am excited to share the news that Barrett News Media will host its first ever BNM Summit on Thursday September 14, 2023 in Nashville, TN. Our one-day conference will take place at Vanderbilt University’s Student Life Center Ballroom. The venue we’ve selected is tremendous and I’m eager to spend a day with news/talk professionals to examine ways to further grow the format and industry.

If you’re wondering why we chose Nashville, here’s why.

First, the city itself is awesome. The access to great restaurants, bars, entertainment, hotels, and famous landmarks is unlimited, and when you’re traveling to a city for a business conference, those things matter. Being in a city that’s easy for folks across the country to get to also doesn’t hurt.

Secondly, a conference is harder to pull off if you can’t involve successful on-air people in it. If you look at Nashville’s growth in the talk media space over the past decade, it’s remarkable. Many notable talents now live and broadcast locally, major brands have created a local footprint in the area, and that opens the door to future possibilities. I have no idea who we’ll include in the show, and I haven’t sent out one request yet because I wanted to keep this quiet until we were sure it made sense. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of interest in participating and I can’t promise we’ll be able to accommodate all requests but if you have interest in being involved, send an email to Jason@BarrettNewsMedia.com.

Third, finding the right venue is always difficult. We looked at a bunch of great venues in Nashville during our vacation this past summer, and when we stepped on to the campus at Vanderbilt University and walked through the SLC Ballroom, we knew it was the right fit. It had the space we needed, the right tech support, access to private parking, a green room for guests, and it was within walking distance of a few hotels, restaurants, and the Parthenon.

As I went through the process of deciding if this event was right for BNM, a few folks I trust mentioned that by creating a Summit for news/media folks, it could create a competitive situation. I don’t see it that way. I view it as a responsibility. I think we need more people coming together to grow the industry rather than trying to tear each other down. I hear this far too often in radio. We worry about what one station is doing rather than strengthening our own brand and preparing to compete with all audio options.

For years I’ve attended conferences hosted by Radio Ink, NAB, Talkers, and Conclave. I’ve even spoken at a few and welcomed folks who operate in the consulting space to speak at my shows. I’ll continue to support those events, read various trade sites, and invite speakers who work in a similar field because they’re good people who care about helping the industry. I believe BNM and BSM add value to the media business through its websites and conferences, and though there may be a detractor or two, I’ll focus on why we’re doing this and who it’s for, and let the chips fall where they may.

I know juggling two conferences in one year is likely going to make me crazy at times, but I welcome the challenge. In the months ahead I’ll start lining up speakers, sponsors, building the conference website, and analyzing every detail to make sure we hold up our end of the bargain and deliver an informative and professionally beneficial event. The news/talk media industry is massive and making sure it stays healthy is critically important. I think we can play a small role in helping the business grow, and I look forward to finding out on September 14th in Nashville at Vanderbilt University.

Hope to see you there!

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Jimmy Powers, Raj Sharan, Matt Berger and John Goforth Added to 2023 BSM Summit Lineup

“BSM is having a special Holiday SALE this week. Individual tickets are reduced to $224.99 until Friday night December 23rd at 11:59pm ET.

Jason Barrett

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In less than a hundred days, the BSM Summit will return to Los Angeles for two-days of networking, learning, laughing, and celebrating. The conference hasn’t been held on the west coast since 2019, and we’re looking forward to returning to the city of angels on March 21-22, 2023, and bringing together sports media professionals at the Founders Club, located inside the Galen Center at the University of Southern California.

For those of you who haven’t purchased your ticket(s) yet, BSM is having a special Holiday SALE this week. From today (Monday) through Friday 11:59pm ET, individual tickets are reduced to $224.99. If you’re planning to come, and want to make sure you’re in the room, take advantage of the extra savings and secure your seat. To buy tickets, reserve your hotel room, and learn more about the Summit’s speakers, click here.

We’ve previously announced twenty one (21) participants who will join us on stage at the 2023 BSM Summit. Today, we’re excited to expand our lineup by welcoming four (4) more additions to March’s industry spectacular.

First, BSM is thrilled to have two accomplished sports radio programmers contributing to the event. Jimmy Powers of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit will make his Summit debut in L.A.. Fresh off of a Marconi victory earlier this fall, The Ticket’s brand manager will share his insights on the present and future of sports radio on one of our programming panels. Also taking part in that panel will be the leader of 104.3 The Fan in Denver, Raj Sharan. Raj appeared on stage at the 2022 BSM Summit in NYC, and we look forward to having him return to lend his voice to an important sports radio programming discussion.

But programming won’t be the only thing we invest time in out west. Growing a business, more specifically, a digital business will be part of our conference agenda as well.

When it comes to maximizing digital revenue, few brands understand the space better than Barstool Sports. Charged with growing the brand’s revenue is Senior Vice President and Head of Sales Matt Berger, and we’re looking forward to having Matt join us for a conversation that will focus on monetizing digital opportunities. Before joining Barstool, Matt sold for Bleacher Report/House of Highlights. He’s also worked for Warner Brothers and the Walt Disney Company. We’re excited to have him share his wisdom with the room.

Also taking part in our digital sales panel will be John Goforth of Magellan AI. John knows the radio business well from having served previously as a sales manager and salesperson. Since leaving traditional media and joining Magellan AI, John has studied the podcasting advertising space and learned who the top spenders are, who’s making big moves with their podcast advertising budgets, and which publishers are best positioned to benefit. Having his expertise on stage will help many in the room with trying to better understand the digital sales space.

There are other speaker announcements still to come. We have some big things planned, which I’m hoping to reveal in January and February. I want to thank ESPN Radio, FOX Sports, Showtime, and Point to Point Marketing for coming on board as partners of the 2023 BSM Summit. The support we’ve received heading into Los Angeles has been tremendous, and we greatly appreciate it. If you’re looking to be associated with the Summit as an event partner, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

That’s all for now, but be sure to take advantage of the Summit Holiday Sale. You have until Friday night December 23rd at 11:59pm ET to take advantage of discounted tickets. Happy Holidays!

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