Connect with us
Register for the BSM Summit Now

Barrett Blogs

If ESPN Is Going To Pay Big Money To Talent, Stephen A. Smith Should Get Plenty!

“Stephen A. Smith is not a middle of the pack talent who executives would need to be convinced to hire. If ESPN doesn’t give him a lucrative deal, someone else will.”



If there’s one pet peeve of mine in the sports media industry it’s that people can get way too jealous and nasty over other people’s success. Rather than focusing on their own situations and ignoring the outside noise, many waste energy bitching and moaning about things beyond their control. This is especially true when money is involved.

If you want to see what that looks like scroll thru Twitter or Facebook and look at the sea of negativity directed at ESPN for reportedly being willing to pay their franchise player Stephen A. Smith 8-10 million dollars per year as part of a new contract. It’s the same type of public outcry from fans and media members whenever a professional sports team signs a major superstar to a rich and lengthy contract.

The story which was first reported by Andrew Marchand of the NY Post has created a lot of buzz over the past 24 hours. ‘Why would ESPN pay someone that much money?’ ‘They’re going to pay a guy who doesn’t keep up with the sports he covers?’ ‘For all the mistakes Stephen A. makes on the air they reward him like this?’ And my personal favorite ‘I work my tail off and this guy gets paid this? What a joke.’

I’m not sure why high dollar amounts for celebrity figures trigger such negative reactions but they do. It doesn’t seem to matter that the company which agreed to the deal was comfortable with it, only that the public decided the number was too high. Making the matter more amusing is how many people say they don’t watch, listen or care about an individual yet can recite numerous examples of what they’re about.

As far as Stephen A. Smith’s contract drama is concerned, fans aren’t the only ones worked up over it. A number of media people were too. I saw a barrage of negative comments on social media, many displeased by what the reported salary was, and who’d be earning it.

It made me wonder ‘why do media people care?’ It’s not like the situation impacted their paychecks, or limited their company’s ability to make future investments. If it’s doing neither then what’s the big deal?

The reality of this situation is simple. Stephen A. Smith is a high profile personality who commands a lot of your attention. Whether you hate him or love him doesn’t matter. He has an innate ability to lure eyeballs to the screen and create instant chatter. He’s not a middle of the pack talent who industry executives would need to be convinced to hire. If ESPN doesn’t give him a lucrative deal, someone else will.

Is 10 million per year excessive for a television and radio personality? Perhaps. But how can you say it is or isn’t worth it to ESPN? Do you know what they generate financially off of Stephen A. Smith? Do you know what they’d lose from a revenue standpoint if he wasn’t on radio and television? Do you think the company hasn’t studied how his presence on First Take, SportsCenter, NBA programming, and other shows improves their ratings? We seem to forget that the company knows this information better than anyone else. If they didn’t think it made business sense, they wouldn’t do it.

What I don’t understand is why so many in our business get bothered by it. You should be thankful that ESPN is willing to invest that type of freight in top people. It makes the market better for everybody else who’s trying to earn a better living as an on-air talent. Isn’t that a good thing? The only ones who should hate it are the companies themselves who’d rather not spend a fortune on talent, and advertisers who will eventually be asked to spend bigger dollars to be associated with the network’s top talent.

Over the past few years these type of headlines have become a more frequent occurrence. People took exception to ESPN paying big money to Mike Greenberg. The same occurred when FOX Sports lightened their bank account to sign Colin Cowherd and Skip Bayless. Were those guys supposed to apologize for agreeing to deals that would pay them well? Did their prior performances for their employers not show they could consistently deliver results? If you were in the exact same situation you would be rushing to your agent’s office to sign the contract before the company reconsidered.

What’s interesting is that I don’t hear a lot of people lose their minds over the annual earnings of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or Howard Stern. All are making more than 10 million a year and they should be. Whether you like them or not doesn’t matter. They’ve built brands, produced results, and would have no shortage of suitors waiting with enticing offers if they hit the open market. Smith is no different.

Say what you want about Stephen A’s loud aggressive style and his recent struggles with presenting facts (that issue does deserves criticism) but you’re not going to win an argument trying to convince me that he hasn’t performed. He’s had a lot of success at ESPN for a long time, and if you polled most sports fans across the country asking them to name the 3 most recognized personalities on ESPN he’d be on the list.

There’s also something to be said about when your contract comes up and if it’s a buyer or sellers market. Right now, it’s a sellers market. If Stephen A. were to hit free agency, it wouldn’t take long for him to land a record contract. Do you think it’d be smart business for ESPN to allow one of their franchise talents to hit free agency when brands like DAZN, FOX Sports, Turner/Bleacher Report, and possibly Amazon and Facebook could be ready to pounce and spend silly money to get him?

Too often people get bent out of shape over what someone’s pay check is instead of stepping back and assessing the situation logically. They look at the individual and the dollar figure attached to their name, and start trying to poke holes in that person’s success. They’ll also rip the company for what they consider a poor financial decision simply because they don’t like this person.

In this particular case, if ESPN decides to fatten Stephen A’s wallet, I’m pretty sure they’ll have plenty of cash left to continue running their empire. So I’ll ask you again, why exactly do you care if the nation’s top sports media outlet opens up their wallet to pay a man who they consider a prime asset? If it’s about production, consistency, brand, and buzz, Stephen A. checks all those boxes. He’s worked hard to ascend to the highest level and ESPN understands his value to their company.

You don’t have to like Stephen A. Smith or agree with him, but you’re not the one signing his paycheck. ESPN is. If you really want to render him extinct from your life, don’t watch his show, listen to his radio program or follow him on social media. But if you did that, you wouldn’t have anything to bitch about when his next contract comes up.

Barrett Blogs

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, 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 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!

Continue Reading

Barrett Blogs

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.”



Photo Credit: ESPN Images

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

Continue Reading

Barrett Blogs

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 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.

Continue Reading


Copyright © 2021 Barrett Media.