What started as a small project to gauge the industry’s perception of sports radio’s best talent, brands, and programmers five years ago has turned into one of our most popular content pieces of the calendar year. The majority of the votes have been received, and during the weeks of February 1-5 and 8-12 we will reveal the results of the BSM Top 20 of 2020.
Similar to past years, we will highlight the Top 20 local Major/Mid Market morning, midday and afternoon shows, the Top 20 local Major/Mid Market sports radio stations and programmers, the Top 20 National sports radio shows, and the Top 20 Original Podcasts. Votes are cast by executives in the sports/radio industry. We’ve already received 51 submissions and are just waiting on a few final ballots to trickle in before adding up the totals.
During my programming years, I heard format people frequently complain about lists done by publications without asking the industry for its input. There was a belief that folks on the outside don’t know the talent, stations, and programmers as well as those responsible for creating the content and producing local market success. So I created this annual series to give sports format leaders an opportunity to recognize the best performers from the prior year.
Having done this as long as I have, I’ve learned that lists will always create mixed reactions, no matter what the final results show. Some executives have a strong grasp on what’s taking place across the country and listen to a lot of different content and talent. Others are immersed in their own radio station and don’t have the time or interest to worry about a large number of out of market hosts and/or brands. That said, I’ve managed to build a lot of relationships over the years, and though tracking down leaders from various radio companies can be an exhausting process, I think it’s helpful and productive for industry people to get a read on how they’re seen by the format’s top programming minds.
But analyzing the best of 2020 isn’t as easy as prior years. A number of people lost jobs this year due to layoffs. Some shows downsized from 3 to 2 or 2 to 1 members. Some people changed markets and/or timeslots, and other programs were cancelled before the clock ran out on 2020. Our one rule which never changes is that a show/talent must end the year on the air with the radio station, and in the timeslot for which they are being given voting consideration. The rest is subjective and left to the voters to decide on such as originality, ability to entertain, multi-platform excellence, length of service, and ratings success.
I want to thank Steve Stone Voiceovers for signing on as our exclusive sponsor for this year’s Top 20 series. A total of 240 shows, stations and PD’s will be highlighted next month, and it’s a cool feeling knowing your peers respect your work and view your contributions as significant to the sports radio industry.
Before I wrap up, I do want to point something out which many lose sight of. The amount of people under consideration for recognition is lengthy. For example, there are 81 program directors eligible for voting consideration in the Major and Mid Market categories. The morning show category has a total of 79 shows, Middays have 100, Afternoons are at 90, National shows are 86, Original Podcasts at 117, and Stations are a combined 91.
This means that while 240 shows, brands and people will earn recognition, nearly 400 who were on the ballot won’t make the cut. Sometimes we lose sight of how big the sports format is, and what it takes to stand out against a large number of competitors. As someone who listens to a lot of different sports radio brands across the country, trust me when I tell you that there are a lot of good shows and people out there who easily could make a case to be on the list but don’t get the attention that others do. That doesn’t mean a station or host is lacking skill, it just means a greater focus needs to be placed on increasing awareness in the format.
Regardless, next month we’ll shine the light on the industry’s best for the prior year. I can’t tell you how to feel about being on the list or how to respond after the results come out and you learn where you stand, but what I can say is that there’s a lot of positives associated with being recognized by industry leaders, so appreciate it, celebrate it how you feel is appropriate, and then get back to the grind because the on-air performance you deliver today and tomorrow could be the difference between making or missing the cut of the BSM Top 20 of 2021.