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The Bubble Worked, But The NBA is Collapsing Fast

“A long-prospering league has been slammed by all-time low ratings, $1.5 billion in losses and no assurance of when fans will return to arenas, obscuring a monumental success story: a COVID-free season.”

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And to think we called it the Trouble Bubble. In truth, the NBA’s foray into bio-domery will be remembered as a resounding science-and-health success, a miracle in an otherwise abominable year in American life. If you had said not a single player would test positive for COVID-19 in more than three months of restrictive confinement, I’d have shoved nasopharyngeal swabs up your nostrils and demanded another test for recreational drugs.

Yet other than Lou Williams’ chicken-wing run at that acclaimed dining establishment — the Magic City strip club — there was no epidemiological drama at Disney World. The NFL has become an ignorant, whack-a-mole misadventure hellbent to wipe out more games, if not the entire season, especially when protocol-breakers such as the Tennessee Titans conduct secret practices during a team-wide outbreak. Major League Baseball, which bumbled through outbreaks, is inviting more team infections and mass public transmissions by allowing fans at playoff and World Series games in Texas.     

The Most Magical Place on Earth? It has been The Safest Place in the Pandemic. The Silverdome won, the coronavirus lost.

“It just demonstrates that these basic protocols we’re all following are working,’’ said commissioner Adam Silver, who should whisper to avoid the wrath of President Trump. “By wearing a mask, exercising the appropriate protocols, hand washing, appropriate cleanliness, et cetera, by maintaining physical distance, I think we’re learning it can be done, that you can strike a balance between public health and economic necessity.’’

Necessity, in this case, was not too strong a word. Because while the Bubble worked, the NBA’s future is in danger of bursting amid a growing financial crisis and all-time abysmal ratings. It was vital to complete a season and crown what is likely to be a historic champion and story line: LeBron James, winning one for the late Kobe Bryant, the previously dysfunctional Lakers and his own polarizing legacy while championing civil rights and, at 35 years and nine months, persevering in isolation when younger superstars succumbed to attrition. What awaits the league, by comparison, is seismic distress.

Unlike the NFL, which has maintained solid ratings as a reliable home-viewing spectacle, the NBA has been ravaged by the timing and fallout of the pandemic. The league will lose a reported $1.5 billion this season and might take a bigger bath next season, whenever it takes place, if arenas can’t accommodate game experiences — season-ticket holders, luxury-suite owners, corporate partnerships, concessions — that account for about 40 percent of the league’s total revenues. With a dismal outlook in the China market, the plight of some franchise owners whose businesses have been wracked by the virus and, yep, those grotesque TV numbers, no one knows what the NBA will look like in the future.

The players have made it clear the Disney World Bubble is a one-off. They also know the league would like them to sacrifice a chunk of their salaries next season, after accepting 15 percent cuts this season, part of what Silver calls “difficult discussions’’ that already have begun with the National Basketball Players Association. Conceivably, without a labor deal, the league could cancel the collective bargaining agreement via the “Force Majeure’’ clause — get used to that contractual phrase, the worst in sports — and shut down the season. The optimistic news is, Silver has maintained solid working relationships with player advocates such as James and Chris Paul and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts. That said, a league that has enjoyed prosperity for decades is slamming to a halt. And the players don’t want to hear about pay decreases after spending weeks or months in basketball lockdown.

So, with no widespread vaccine in sight, imagine a world without the NBA. Imagine attempting a season inside arenas when the country isn’t ready. No longer protected by a Bubble, will multiple players contract COVID as we’ve seen in the NFL, MLB and college football? The NHL, which also completed a COVID-free season, is pondering several regional Bubbles next season. Might the NBA consider the same experiment? “We need to negotiate everything: when training camp starts, when we start (the season), how we’re going to continue operating potentially under reduced BRI (basketball-related income), frankly,’’ Silver said at his annual Finals news conference. “I think we all understand the essential parameters. And in some of the conversations I’m having with individual players, I think everybody understands, just like in the country, that there’s public health considerations. And the economy is a public health issue, as well, working and trying to strike that right balance. So part of my job is to study what’s happening in other industries, what other leagues are doing, including international soccer leagues. All of that’s on the table right now.”

Armed with credibility in infectious disease prevention, Silver still is overreaching on one immediate goal: admitting spectators into arenas via rapid testing as early as January. It’s one thing to administer daily tests toplayers, coaches and team personnel in a Bubble; it’s quite another, and at substantial expense, to test fans who haven’t been in Bubbles. What if a test is inaccurate? The risks are significant — to the players, as well.

“Based on everything I’ve read, there’s almost no chance that there will be a vaccine at least that is widely distributed at least before we start the next season. I do not see the development of a vaccine as a prerequisite,” Silver said. “My sense with rapid testing is, we may not have 19,000 people in the building. We’ll see. But with appropriate protocols in distancing and with advanced testing, you will be able to bring fans back into the arenas. … The question is: Will there be truly rapid tests, point-of-care (tests) that don’t get sent to the lab? Are there instant results? A lot of pharmaceutical companies are focused on that. There’s a marketplace for that.

“I think we all know, nothing has really changed in this virus. I think the majority of states right now, cases are ticking back up again. There are predictions of a combination of flu and coronavirus season. What that will mean? People are moving back indoors. In some cases, people have COVID fatigue and aren’t following the same protocols. And so, we’re looking at a lot of the same factors we looked at in determining what to do this season. There are advancements clearly in the treatment of people once they get the disease. I think to identify quickly a player who is positive, sort of we’re seeing that in the NFL right now, watching closely what’s happening with that protocol, can they play through it, how will that work, will there be additional spread once they’ve identified a player that has it? So those are all the things we’re looking at.’’

The more he looks at the NFL, the more he has to be mortified. Which scene was more unsettling: Face-of-the-league Patrick Mahomes sharing a close-contact moment after Monday night’s game with Stephon Gilmore, who later tested positive for COVID? Or Titans players working out at a Nashville school when they were supposed to be avoiding one another? “I’ve followed every protocol, yet it happened to me,’’ Gilmore tweeted. “Please be sure to take this seriously.’’

Silver has bigger problems than the coronavirus. The American public has stopped watching his league. Facing competition that doesn’t exist in its normal June timeframe — the NFL, MLB and countless political news shows on Trump-Biden overload — the NBA Finals have crashed just as the two conference finals crashed. Not since the ‘80s, pre-Michael Jordan, have the first three Finals games rated so poorly. There was a spike in Game 4, after a Miami victory in which Heat star Jimmy Butler told James he was “in trouble,’’ but with the Lakers one victory from a championship, only southern California will be watching Friday night when the players don Black Mamba jerseys.

What should concern the league is that the matchup seemed compelling: James and the Lakers, a global megastar and a boutique franchise, facing the refreshing, ahead-of-schedule Heat and a snarling badass in Butler. Is it possible America is simply burned out on James after almost two decades in the public eye? Or, as Trump says, are certain segments of this country tired of the NBA protests, the game boycotts after the police shooting of Jacob Blake? “BLACK LIVES MATTER’’ has been draped across the Bubble courts since July. Are some people tuning out because of it?

“People are tired of watching the highly political @NBA,” Trump tweeted last month after NBA players continued to kneel before games. “Basketball ratings are WAY down, and they won’t be coming back. I hope football and baseball are watching and learning because the same thing will be happening to them. Stand tall for our Country and our Flag!!!’’

Surprisingly, Silver told ESPN that the social justice banners likely will vanish. Is this a smart comment when asking for more payouts from a league of predominantly Black players? “I would say, in terms of the messages you see on the court and our jerseys, this was an extraordinary moment in time when we began these discussions with the players and what we all lived through this summer,’’ Silver said. “My sense is there’ll be somewhat a return to normalcy — that those messages will largely be left to be delivered off the floor.’’ 

James has been at the forefront of activism, of course. It’s unfortunate if people are too distracted by it to recognize his accomplishment. Giannis Antetokounmpo, two-time defending MVP, was overwhelmed by the burden and went home early. Doc Rivers, who was supposed to finally one-up the Lakers in L.A., lost his job as Clippers coach and was hired in Philadelphia. Who’s still here, carrying so much on his massive shoulders? LeBron. He sensed that  the Lakers, with older pieces and Anthony Davis capable of fading from dominator to dud, might not have the energy to win a Game 7 if the Heat extended the series. So when James woke up from his pregame nap Tuesday, he knew what to write in a group text to his teammates.

“Must win.’’

“I felt like for me, personally, this was one of the biggest games of my career,” James said. “I wanted to relay that message to my teammates, the type of zone I was in, the type of moment it was and the kind of team we were playing against. … They are just a gritty, so damn-well-coached team. I feel like if we’re going to be a championship ballclub, if we want to really be a championship team, that we got to have that same grit and that same attitude. It was my mindset. I’m still in it.”

No, James will not be Greatest Of All Time is he wins his fourth title to accompany six misses. Jordan is the undeniable G.O.A.T., no matter what ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy says. “Comparison is the thief of joy,’’ he said. “It’s a far different discussion between who is the better player. I always say you have the first pick, I’ll have the second pick, and I’ll be very happy whichever player I got. But as far as career — and when you talk about longevity, records broken — I don’t think LeBron James’ career will take a backseat to anyone.’’

Yes, it will. But there’s no disgrace in that. Because in the weirdest year of our lives, he footprinted the unprecedented: spending three-plus months in a Bubble, away from his kids, and reminding a recently-doubting world that he is the most important athlete of his time: a political reformer, a franchise fixer, a mature leader who maximized disparate pieces and, still, a champion. He was the one who created a comfort zone for players before the Bubble, saying, “I have no reason not to trust Adam.’’ Sure enough, other than a few unspecified infections among Disney employees who weren’t tested daily, basketball was allowed to proceed, and LeBron James was allowed to survive and thrive.

You’d like to think the NBA will be fine without him. As seen already, it won’t be.

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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