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As LeBron Tried To Quit, Real Kings Had To Save The NBA’s Season

“In his biggest challenge as a social justice leader, LeBron James whiffed when he stormed out of a contentious players’ meeting and voted to cancel the NBA season, which required intervention from Barack Obama and Michael Jordan.”

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Colin Kaepernick, he is not. If social activism would be the imprint that distinguished LeBron James from his contemporaries, all he has done now is feed the critics who told him to “shut up and dribble.’’ I can’t get past the image of James, when his strength and empathy were needed most inside a ballroom of emotional players, storming from a volatile meeting and vowing to burst the NBA Bubble last week after he and his Lakers teammates had voted to end the season.

He was ready to quit. Run from the pressure. Not take the final shot. Stomp out of the arena and rip apart his jersey, as we’ve seen before.

Only this wasn’t quitting in a playoff game. Or quitting on Cleveland to take his talents to South Beach. Or quitting on Cleveland again to take his show-business whims to Hollywood. This was the moment defining James as an American leader — how to maximize the collective voice of athletes incensed about another case of police brutality against a Black man — and, stunningly, his initial response was to shut down the league and go home. After all, his kids missed him in Los Angeles, and furthermore, his ex-Miami teammate, 40-year-old Udonis Haslem, was pushing too hard in demanding answers from James as the league’s longtime face and power broker. Would a boycott of games extend through the rest of the postseason? Was it time to return to work? Did LeBron have a plan?

Somehow, he did not.

“My mind began to figure out, what is the plan going forward? And if we don’t have a plan, then what are we talking about? Why are we still here?’’ said James, explaining his mindset at that moment. “There was no plan going forward, no plan of action. And me personally, I’m not the type of guy who doesn’t have a plan and then is not ready to act on it.’’

So, according to multiple reports, James got up from the large gathering of league players and coaches and said, “We’re out,’’ as every teammate but Dwight Howard followed, soon to be joined out the door by the other Los Angeles team, the Clippers. LeBron could have stayed inside the room all night — where did he have to go anyway, locked in a Bubble? — and hashed out the issues until a plan was formulated. Instead, as if the scene was beneath him, he exited while 11 other teams were voting to continue the postseason, which was not a good look for The King.

Kaepernick never quit, kneeling on a sideline until the NFL stopped paying him and TV networks stopped showing him. Martin Luther King Jr. never quit, stopped only by an assassin in Memphis. Quitting is an option no legitimate civil rights leader ever considers, yet James was doing just that as a petty megalomaniac — angry he couldn’t gain a consensus hours after the Milwaukee Bucks had launched the Great Sports Boycott of 2020, and frayed by his often-stated weariness of life inside the league’s restrictive campus. “He was at a place where he was fighting with his mind and fighting with his heart,” teammate Danny Green said.

But he was thinking with his ego. And when history records the story of these surreal times, it will remember how James nearly brought down the NBA — and probably other leagues, by extension of his clout — before two esteemed elders bailed him out and rescued sports, at least until the next crisis. It surprises no one that former President Barack Obama was one of them, taking a late-night call from James and Players Association president Chris Paul after the contentious session and, for starters, urging James not to go home. Rather, Obama reminded them that the Bubble, confining and soul-sucking as it is, still allows players their best chance to make mass statements about racial inequality and that they should work with the NBA instead of boycotting the season. The result: Though the league already is paying $300 million into a fund for the purpose, commissioner Adam Silver is creating a social justice coalition, turning NBA arenas into Election Day polling sites and asking ESPN and Turner Sports to help with expanded social justice awareness, such as public service announcements and morepregame coverage of players kneeling after recently abandoning that part of the story, as the NFL’s broadcast partners did post-Kaepernick.

“Fifteen years in this league, I’ve never seen anything like it. The voices that were heard, I’ll never forget it,’’ said Paul, who kept the peace in the room while James was saying peace-out. “Guys are tired. We’re all hurt. We’re tired of seeing the same (police brutality) over and over again and everybody expecting us to be OK just because we get paid great money. We’re human. We have real feelings. And I’m glad that we got the chance to get in a room and talk with one another and not just cross paths and say, `Good luck in your game today.’ ‘’ We understand the platform we have, and we wanted to keep our foot on the pedal.’’

Wrote Silver in a letter to players in the NBA and WNBA, whose teams also boycotted games last week: “I have heard from several of you directly and I understand the pain, anger, and frustration that so many of us are feeling in this moment. I wholeheartedly support NBA and WNBA players and their commitment to shining a light on important issues of social justice. I understand that some of you feel the league should be doing more. I hear you — and please know that I am focused on ensuring that we as a league are affecting real change both within our organization and in communities across the country.’’

     In a statement, Obama’s office said: “As an avid basketball fan, President Obama speaks regularly with players and league officials. When asked, he was happy to provide advice to a small group of NBA players seeking to leverage their immense platforms for good after their brave and inspiring strike in the wake of Jacob Blake’s shooting. They discussed establishing a social justice committee to ensure that the players’ and league’s actions this week led to sustained, meaningful engagement on criminal justice and police reform.”

LeBron? He took a Twitter shot at President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. He reminded us about the wonderful public school he has created, for at-risk children, in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. And when the season resumed over the weekend — the games he was willing to abandon because he didn’t like the tone in the room — he sidestepped his epic failure to lead. He even cracked wise about breaking ranks, saying, “I’ve had numerous nights and days of thinking about leaving the Bubble. I think everyone has, including (the media). There hasn’t been one person that hasn’t thought in their mind, `I got to get the hell out of here.’ It probably crosses my mind once a day.”

He could afford to smile only after the intervention of Obama, probably the one man on the planet who could talk James out of leaving. “President Obama is a great man. He’s a great man,’’ he said, taking his usual shot at Trump. “I wish he was still the President of the United States.’’

How curious at age 35, after taking relentless political stands on social media and going to war against Trump, that LeBron required not only the 44th President to calm the seas … but Michael Jordan. He was the second savior, the bridge between the owners and players, and an effective one at that. As chairman of the league’s Labor Relations Committee, Jordan used his position as Charlotte Hornets owner to urge other owners to simply let the players vent and understand their frustrations. This was no small feat, knowing some owners didn’t support the idea of painting “BLACK LIVES MATTER’’ prominently on the three Bubble courts. But the owners obeyed Jordan and listened. Then he counseled the players, advising them to stay united and making sure they finish what they’ve started at Disney World. “He was huge in making sure that whatever we want to do together, we get it done,” Rockets star Russell Westbrook said.

Oh, the irony. Only last year, James was calling himself “the greatest player of all time,’’ assuming the Cavaliers’ 2016 rally to beat the Warriors finally had elevated him above Jordan in the age-old debate. And while never saying it, James figured he was a slam-dunk winner in any social awareness comparison, knowing Jordan shied from political positions as a capitalist during his playing career and once said, infamously, “Republicans buy sneakers, too.’’ But here was Jordan, in 2020, wisely ruling out quitting as an option. The other day, Jordan’s former teammate in Chicago, Craig Hodges, recalled how he was rejected by Jordan and Magic Johnson when he suggested the Bulls and Lakers boycott Game 1 of the 1991 NBA Finals after the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers.

“I knew the answer before I went to them,” Hodges told CBS Sports. “What’s funny to me is how quick they dismissed it. Both conversations lasted less than two minutes. Magic was coming on the court the day before the first game, and I asked him about it and he tells me `it’s too extreme.’ I’d already discussed it with Mike in the locker room, and he tells me, `Man, that’s wild, man.’ “

Almost 30 years later, Jordan was urging James to keep playing. But he did so from a more enlightened social platform. “I am deeply saddened, truly pained and plain angry,” Jordan said in May after George Floyd was choked to death. “I see and feel everyone’s pain, outrage and frustration. I stand with those who are calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of color in our country. We have had enough.’’

It remains doubtful whether the season will finish. One more police shooting, God help us, and everyone goes home. As James should have anticipated, the Bucks were horrified by the Blake shooting just 40 miles down I-94 from Milwaukee. “One thing that moved me as a human being was that, if you really want to accomplish something, you can. We were able to get his family’s number within, like, 30 minutes,” said two-time reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, recalling how Bucks players spoke to Blake’s family the day of their boycott. “We came together as a team, went in a circle, talked to his dad, and his dad was tearing up telling us how powerful what we did on that day was for him and his family. That’s bigger than basketball. We’re going to remember the way we felt for the rest of our lives.”

On that, James could agree. “Obviously, the Bubble season will never be forgotten. In sports, this is the first time we’ve been able to do something like this, but this moment is much bigger than us playing basketball,’’ he said. “Hopefully, years down the line, when America is in a better place, you can look back at this moment and be like, `That was one of the catapults that kind of got it going.’ ‘’

The Clippers also voted to cancel the season, remember, and while Pat Beverley and even superstar Kawhi Leonard avoid criticism because they don’t carry LeBron’s weight, they are dealing with daily anxiety that could crack their title hopes. Marcus Morris, for instance, is a headhunter who could sabotage his team at any moment after again trying to maim Luka Doncic on Sunday. In that cranky-mood vein, who knows if the Bubble has six more weeks of staying power when we haven’t even discussed the ongoing coronavirus threats, heightened by this week’s arrival of close family members and friends of the players?

And who knows if the league honors its pledge to support the players? “All you can do is give us your word. If the word you have given us is not fulfilled, then we’ll attack that moment,’’ said James, whose teammate, Anthony Davis, went so far to say, “We won’t play again,’’ if the owners don’t keep their word. Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, one of the league’s young social justice leaders who voiced ballroom feelings independent of James, has his doubts. “I’m not as confident as I would like to be, I’ll say that,’’ said Brown, who drove from Boston to his native Atlanta to march in a protest months ago. “I think promises are made year after year. We’ve heard a lot of these terms and words before. We heard them in 2014 — reform. We’re still hearing them now. A lot of them are just reshaping the same ideas and nothing is actually taking place. Long-term goals are one thing, but I think there’s stuff in our wheelhouse as athletes with our resources and the people that we’re connected to that short-term effect is possible as well.

“Everybody keeps saying, `Change is going to take this, change is going to take that.’ That’s the incrementalism idea that keeps stringing you along to make you feel like something’s going to happen, something’s going to happen. People were dying in 2014, and it’s 2020 and people are still dying the same way. They keep saying `reform, reform, reform,’ and ain’t nothing being reformed.’’

There was no shortage of symbolism when Bucks guard George Hill, the first player to demand league support after the Blake shooting, explained why he was late in taking the court Saturday. “You want the honest truth? I take a s— every time before the game,’’ he said.

A fitting parable for an NBA s—storm, wouldn’t you say?

Sure, he’s still LeBron James. He’s still seeking his fourth championship, still an elite player, still routinely capable of a 36-point triple-double used to oust Portland in the first round, still a model family man who has avoided scandal despite living half his life in the searing public eye.

But suddenly, for the first time in forever, it doesn’t seem like he’s The King anymore.

BSM Writers

Jimmy Pitaro Deserves Some Credit For Monday Night

“Pitaro and ESPN’s executive team had to sign off on a broadcast in which Peyton and Eli were in separate remote locations, without a host to play traffic cop and guide continuity between plays. This all could have blown up in ESPN’s face.”

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Over the last several months, Jimmy Pitaro and ESPN got raked over the coals after the New York Times story on Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor and the subsequent fallout that was effectively a mushroom cloud and the talk of the industry. Ultimately, the buck stops with the leader, but fairness should dictate that leaders also receive accolades for great accomplishments. After just one episode, we can confidently say that landing Peyton and Eli Manning for Monday Night Football qualifies in that regard.

Monday Night Football With Peyton and Eli Manning on ESPN 2, reviewed.
Courtesy: ESPN2

Every TV network executive would have walked from Alaska to Omaha to land Peyton Manning. Andrew Marchand has accurately referred to him as the “white whale of sports TV”; he was so sought after that CBS, who has arguably the best color commentator in all of sports in Tony Romo, tried to lure Manning to the booth before ultimately reaching a new deal with Romo. Any way you slice it, getting the Manning brothers for 10 episodes of Monday Night Football on ESPN2 was a major coup for Pitaro, ESPN, and Disney. 

Nonetheless, it was not without risk. Pitaro and ESPN’s executive team had to sign off on a broadcast in which Peyton and Eli were in separate remote locations, without a host to play traffic cop and guide continuity between plays. This all could have blown up in ESPN’s face. Imagine the chatter if the Manning broadcast was a dud, which it easily could have been given their format is unlike anything that has ever been tried before.

Instead, Peyton and Eli were a revelation. Peyton, with his combination of star-power, personality, and brain processing, is remarkably unique. During the fourth quarter of a close game between the Raiders and Ravens, he was somehow able to simultaneously interview Russell Wilson while immediately breaking down the film of all 22 players from key plays of a game he wasn’t even there for. Eli didn’t get as many words in, but when he did speak he had funny deadpan humor.

Full disclosure: I was traveling during the first half, which by many accounts was not as well executed as the second half, after they settled in.

There will undoubtedly be a number of attempts to replicate this announcing format, but it’s unlikely that any of them will work as well as this one, because none of them will have Peyton Manning. Remember how excruciating it was when TNT tried to do Players Only broadcasts for the NBA? Kevin Clark, speaking on The Ringer’s Press Box podcast with Bryan Curtis, called this a “Black Swan” event — it’ll never happen again because Peyton is one of one. 

Anyways, back to Pitaro and ESPN: They’ve certainly taken their lumps and that’s life when you lead an organization that is the bellwether of the industry, facing myriad challenges, some of which are structural (cord-cutting eating into hefty subscriber fees) and some of which are self-inflicted (if you’ve read this far you already know what many of those are and there’s no need to re-hash). 

Ryan Shirts

However, it bears mentioning that in addition to making the content compromises — and opening up the checkbook for millions of dollars — to land Peyton Manning, Pitaro and ESPN have had a lot of big wins over the last several years. They locked up a monopoly on SEC football rights (in a deal so substantial the conference lured Oklahoma and Texas to join), expanded their NFL deal to get into the Super Bowl rotation, bought up all the UFC rights (which, more than anything else, has propelled the growth of ESPN+ to 15 million subscribers), and brought back the NHL. Sure, all of these wins probably came as a result of bidding the most money, but I’m old enough to remember when ESPN was supposed to be on a death spiral. Reports of ESPN’s demise — at least in live rights; talk programming and journalism have not remained the priorities they once were — were premature. 

ESPN has been described as an ocean tanker, which turns very slowly. Jimmy Pitaro deserves some credit for his steering, in the macro, through some turbulent waters.

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BSM Writers

Did The Manningcast Work?

“The first show was great, but as is the case most of the time, there is room to grow.”

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Is it a variety show? Is it a podcast?  The first of 10 scheduled Manning MegaCasts, hosted by Peyton and Eli Manning, on ESPN2 proved it was a little bit all of the above. It was almost like Beavis and Butthead meets Statler and Waldorf. It was fun to watch the Manning brothers poke fun at each other and at the same time, criticize some of the action they saw on the field. 

The show debuted as an alternative to the regular Monday Night Football broadcast and was met with rave reviews. To me, there was some great, some not so great, and definitely some room to grow. 

Raiders – Ravens: Peyton, Eli Manning on 'MNF' best moments
Courtesy: ESPN2

I love the concept, providing an alternative for those that would rather be entertained than tune into a traditional broadcast. Now, as a play-by-play broadcaster, it makes me pause to think about what the future may hold. There will always be a spot for a traditional broadcast, especially with viewers that have a rooting interest in the game. I’m not sure that hardcore fans of the Ravens and Raiders were tuned in for more than a passing glance. Those folks want to see the game, not the fluff or interviews and the like, offered on the alternative broadcast. That fluff though is what will earn ESPN those fringe viewers that are curious and intrigued by what a “ManningCast” might have to offer them. 

Sitting down to watch the game, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I know that Peyton has a personality that in some cases is larger than life. I was pleasantly surprised to see what Eli brought to the table as well.  The guys played off each other well, each taking a turn to take a shot at the other. I’ll get into some of the best of those barbs a little later. 

Peyton is comfortable in front of the camera and has no trouble talking. That was the issue I had early in the game. The elder Manning really dominated the conversation. There were no times in the first few minutes of the first quarter that I felt I could take a breath because so much was coming at me. They really didn’t allow the game to breathe at all. The constant conversation while entertaining at times just kept on coming. Peyton was talking fast and once in a while he was talking over Eli. 

It didn’t help that the Manning’s were in different studios. I wondered if there was a “delay” in their feeds and if that was the reason for talking over one another at times. The delay was quite evident when Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson joined the brothers for the later stages of the game. Wilson seemingly couldn’t get a word in, because Peyton and Eli were talking over him. 

Peyton has that quality to be able to teach the game in a way that it’s understandable. Some of his commentary was a look behind the curtain at how he played and viewed the game. Knowing what to expect when coming to the line of scrimmage, understanding the coverages and realizing what teams are trying to do to disguise things. It was fascinating to hear the brothers go through play calls and how it is relayed from the coordinator to the quarterback and finally to the team. You aren’t going to get that on a traditional game broadcast. 

It was also impressive to hear the guys interview both former players, current players and Charles Barkley. It so often is the case that the current athletes are very guarded in what they say to a regular ole member of the media. That was not the case in the Manning Cast. From Travis Kelce not knowing who the Chiefs were playing next, to Russell Wilson calling out the NFL overtime rule.  Ray Lewis was a fascinating guest, providing some great stories and terrific insight into the game he once played at such a high level. Charles Barkley, well, he’s Charles Barkley. In other words, he was as fantastic as you’d expect. 

The guests added to the broadcast and made me realize that if this Manningcast actually had a host, it wouldn’t have worked as well. A broadcaster would have gotten in the way to me. Yeah, they could have used a professional at times. Maybe someone to get them into and out of the commercial breaks, because that was a little rough early in the game. But that’s the only a host could have fit in. 

The first show was great, but as is the case most of the time, there is room to grow. I really think the Manning Cast would be so much better if the guys were actually in the same room. The dynamic between them, which was already great, would be that much better. Imagine them demonstrating plays on each other. Both putting on helmets and doing what they probably did as kids in their basement, roughing each other up.

Ok, so they’re a little older now, but I seriously think having them in the same place would make things much smoother. With all the technology out there, eliminating that dreaded delay between the Manning’s and their guests would improve the telecast as well. 

Monday Night Football With Peyton and Eli Manning on ESPN 2, reviewed.
Courtesy: ESPN2

This alternative broadcast would be a great place to teach some casual fans all about the great game of football. Not sure why this came to my mind, but like the old days of the NHL, when “Peter Puck” an animated hockey puck would teach you the game. “Peter” was part of the NBC game of the week broadcast. An animated Peyton and Eli teaching those that need to know the finer points of the game, would be spectacular. 

I can’t wait to see how they improve from last week to this week and who the guests will be this time around. Hopefully, they iron out some of the small issues that plagued them in the first telecast and continue to improve. I realize that this show is unscripted and it’s supposed to be a little looser than a normal show might be, but there are some slight fixes as I’ve pointed out that will make it even better.

With all the success the Manningcast had, I can’t help but wonder how all of these accolades are being taken by the regular MNF booth. ESPN in effect has promoted and created competition for its own product. Perhaps the novelty will wear off? Maybe, but it almost seems like the Manning’s are being groomed for a possible move to the main booth. I’m not sure what the feeling is amongst all the parties, but it’s certainly a dynamic worth watching. 

Here are some of my favorite moments from Manningcast show number one, in no particular order:

  • Derek Carr with an overthrow on the Raiders first play from scrimmage, leading Peyton to say about the Raiders season, “Lookin’ at ah 6-11, 6-11 right now.”
  • Raiders’ fans were loud during an offensive series leading to a bad snap and a few false start penalties, leading to this exchange: 

“They aren’t used to it”, said Eli Manning. Then Peyton responded, “Drink your beer, quiet down and let [Derek] Carr play quarterback.” 

  • Peyton putting on a football helmet to demonstrate the calls at the line for the Ravens. The helmet was way too small. “Helmet doesn’t fit”, Peyton said. “Shocking that a helmet doesn’t fit you”, Eli commented. “They didn’t have a XXL helmet for that forehead.”  
  • With Charles Barkley as a guest, Peyton asked him what position Michael Jordan would play if he were in the NFL, “Tight End”. Then Barkley was asked about Larry Bird playing a position, “there’s no place for no slow 6’10” guys in the NFL”, said Barkley.  

Eli: “Punter”

Charles: “that’s about it…”

  • Also, with Barkley on the show…

Peyton: “Hey Charles, you ever get booed at home? Never happened to you, right?” 

Barkley: “I played in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That was a regularity.” “You were lucky, Peyton. Everybody liked you. Eli knows what it’s like to get booed at home.”

Eli: “He had that stadium trained. The fans would get fined if they talked when the Colts were on offense. If a guy was trying to order a beer, everyone would tell him to quiet down until the defense was on the field.”

Eli’s fire alarm goes off in the middle of the show. 

Peyton: “Eli what’d you do?”

  • With Ray Lewis on the show, the trio recalled a game where the Giants played the Ravens in Eli’s rookie season as the starting QB. The younger Manning leading the team to the line of scrimmage, calling out the defense…

Eli: “Hey #52 (Lewis) is the Mike (linebacker)”

Lewis: “No, I’m not the mike. He’s the Mike!”

Eli: “Yeah Ray’s right, the other guy’s the Mike”

It was also revealed in that game in 2004, Eli had a quarterback rating of 0.0 and of course Peyton pointed out, “the same GPA Belushi had in ‘Animal House.’”

  • Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce on the Manningcast

Kelce: “[Watching this game] I’m not trying to get too technical because I think we’re playing the Chargers this week. Oh wait, maybe we’re playing Baltimore. I don’t even know — I’m getting lost in the season already.” 

  • Peyton about 5 minutes later: “Hey, Travis, just so you know, you do play the Ravens next week, so make sure you don’t fly to Los Angeles to play the Chargers.”

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BSM Writers

What Is The Next Advertising Money Cannon?

“In states where betting is legal, stations are having to squeeze live reads and segment sponsorships in wherever they can. Everyone is trying to make sure they aren’t leaving money on the table.”

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If I could tell you that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I know there is another advertising revenue stream out there that can repeat what sportsbooks did for sports radio AND that I know exactly what it is, I could handpick my next employer and name my price.

A Supreme Court decision to make sports gambling a state issue and not a federal one completely changed the advertising landscape. In states where betting is legal, stations are having to squeeze live reads and segment sponsorships in wherever they can. Everyone is trying to make sure they aren’t leaving money on the table.

“There is no question about the significant impact sports betting has had on revenue, both from the station side as well as for our on-air personalities who have become brand ambassadors,” Dennis Gwiazdon, VP and Market Manager of Cromwell Broadcasting’s Nashville cluster told me.

Stations in states that are yet to legalize gambling can see the boom and know it is coming eventually. What about states where gambling is already legal? What about states like Alabama or Utah, which are routinely viewed as two that could realistically never legalize sports betting? Is there a boom on the horizon for them?

I spoke with managers in three different markets. I wanted to know where they saw reason for optimism. The answers were interesting.

Earlier this month, John Ourand of Sports Business Journal took a look at the deal FOX signed with crypto.com. The site is the title sponsor of the network’s College Football Extra. Ourand theorizes that could open the door for crypto companies eventually spending money on sports television the way sportsbooks do.

What is the outlook for radio? Jeff Tyler, iHeartMedia’s area president in Wisconsin, is intrigued by the idea, but he isn’t telling his sellers to go rushing out to make deals.

“There are a lot of variables around crypto,” he told me via email. “So as a company we have a plan to work within this category but not put the company at risk or do anything that could negatively affect our listeners and partners.”

Jeff Tyler (@JeffTyler) | Twitter

Ken Brady, the sales manager at 1010XL in Jacksonville, knows that cryptocurrency has a buzz around it right now. He is not sure what the appetite for it is in terms of an ad market or what the industry’s appetite is for radio advertising.

“There is little chatter about cryptocurrency in our market or with partners,” he says. “This is something we need to understand and explore better.”

I asked all three men if there was a sector where they saw potential. Tyler had an interesting answer. He sees potential in eSports. He thinks teams and companies could benefit from connecting with stations with a dedicated listener base.

“Our brands could help them grow their fan base and activate them to attend more events in person and online.”

Gwiazdon has his eye on another vice. Just like gambling came out of the shadows and now functions under government regulation, it is only a matter of time he thinks before marijuana does the same.

“What immediately comes to mind is the legalization of marijuana at the state and, eventually, federal level,” he says. “There’s so much money in that industry – as evidenced where it has already become legal – that it could easily equal or surpass what’s happening with sports betting right now.”

What is interesting is that amongst this trio, Gwiazdon is the only one that lives in a state where there is absolutely no legal marijuana. What he sees as a potential boom for Tennessee is already legal in both Wisconsin and Florida, albeit exclusively for medical purposes.

A lot of sellers have big plans for pot and cannabis products where they are legal. Very few of them know all the answers though. That is why the RAB has a marijuana FAQ section on its website and advertising agencies specializing in marijuana have sprung up.

For 1010XL, the boom never really materialized according to Ken Brady.

100+ "Ken Brady" profiles | LinkedIn

“We have had little success with this category, the players who have come in seem to be interested in demos outside our strengths or have been flakey with no real appetite for a solid campaign that will work.”

Businesses built by someone following their passion for marijuana are flaky? Well, color me shocked!

Jeff Tyler told me iHeart is looking at this on a market by market basis. Wisconsin has made medical marijuana legal. Tyler can’t have his sellers approaching businesses the way sellers in neighboring states like Illinois or Michigan, where it has fully been decriminalized can.

“Until it’s fully legalized the advertiser revenue is very limited,” he said. “We have a team that leads this vertical for iHeartMedia and have states like Colorado that already have fully legalized marijuana so we have a solid plan and guidelines to follow with these advertisers. CBD is a small category with some hit spots in some markets.”

There may never be another category like sports betting. The money cannon that industry was ready to fire was unpresedented. You can’t bank on it happening again.

I asked Dennis Gwiazdon if it was possible that the radio industry will have to play a very proactive role in creating the next boom. He told me that may be the best way to think about it. What he is sure of is that no idea can be dismissed as the industry looks to find another stream of revenue that has the potential of the sportsbooks.

“We definitely have to get smarter at how we generate revenue. Relying on the old, tried and true ways won’t hold up forever. The good news is our business model is already undergoing a sea of change in terms of how we scale our radio/digital/entertainment assets for wider distribution and access. But some of us are further down the road than others. The audio industry is still the ultimate personal experience. How we continue to maximize – and monetize – our relationships with fans is the key to our survival.”

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