The BSM Top 20 of 2020 rolls on, and this time rather than highlighting the shows that occupy the sports radio airwaves, we’re going to shine the light behind the curtain on the men and women responsible for guiding some of America’s top sports radio brands. Programmers were tested more than ever in 2020, as a pandemic forced adjustments to daily communication, day to day operations, and a rethinking of how to reach the audience across multiple platforms due to changes in daily listening behavior. Combined with the challenge of creating on-air sports talk during a time when the world of sports offered no new live moments, and industry professionals and audience members alike learned which stations were in strong hands and which ones weren’t.
Before you jump ahead to see the results, please join me in thanking Steve Stone Voiceovers for sponsoring our Top 20 series. As an independent platform we depend on industry support, and Steve’s help makes this series possible. Secondly, I want to acknowledge my son Dylan Barrett, who handled all of the creative for this year’s Top 20 series. He spent all of January digging thru personality and brand accounts to find pictures, editing them in Photoshop, and the images you’ll be sharing on social media or printing off to hang inside your office or studio are a reflection of his hard work. If you don’t like the photo we used to recognize your show or station, may I suggest bugging your program director or market manager to spend a few dollars in 2021 on new station photos 🙂
Lastly, radio companies have recently been trying to rename the title of the person in charge of the programming department. Some are now called Brand Managers, others Operations Managers. We’re going to call them what they are – Program Directors. After all, they run the PROGRAMMING department. Having talked to as many people as I do in this business, I’ve heard many say they’d like to become a program director. I’ve yet to hear one person say they aspire to be a brand manager. If the industry can create a better title that takes into account a PD’s involvement with ratings, revenue, strategy, innovation, content, creativity, digital, vision, marketing, recruitment, leadership, negotiating, and audience development, we’ll look at redefining this category, but until that happens, we’re not going to stick them with a title that makes them sound like they manage a local Walmart.
As it pertains to the voting, here are a few things to keep in mind.
#1 – These results are based on 2020’s performance. 2021 changes have no impact on the voting. Our one specific rule that has been in place since we started this series in 2015 is that a show/individual must finish the year in the position for which they are being considered. Therefore, someone like Joe Zarbano, who exited WEEI in Boston in January, was eligible for voting consideration since he programmed the radio station thru the end of 2020. A programmer such as Terry Foxx, who ran 92.9 The Game in Atlanta until April, was not eligible since he didn’t finish the year with the radio station. Terry was though eligible in the Mid Market category since he now programs WFNZ in Charlotte.
#2 – Our executive panel consists of program directors and corporate executives from a number of top broadcasting companies including Entercom, iHeart, Cumulus, ESPN Radio, FOX Sports Radio, SiriusXM, Spotify, Hubbard, Good Karma Brands, Emmis, and independently owned and operated radio stations. We involve a large number of groups in order to receive feedback from all parts of the country, as well as to avoid the results heavily favoring one company. BSM President Jason Barrett does not vote, he simply presents the results.
#3 – A total of 31 programmers were eligible for voting consideration in the Major Market Program Directors category.
#4 – Our executive panel picked the Top 20 program directors using a few factors; station success, multi-platform excellence, industry respect, and creative ideas. Keep in mind that our voters live in different cities, have different tastes, and work for different companies, so certain items may be given more or less merit with each individual. This isn’t a perfect science, but it’s the best system we can think of to showcase sports radio’s best.
And that brings us to the rankings for this year’s Major Market Sports Radio Program Directors. The top honor this year goes to Spike Eskin of Sports Radio WIP in Philadelphia. Under Spike’s leadership, WIP has consistently created impact in Philadelphia, earning recognition as one of the sports format’s best brands. He won this category by eight (8) points, holding off the man many recognize as the GOAT of sports radio programmers, Mark Chernoff. BSM congratulates Spike and his entire team on a well deserved honor, as well as all of the other PD’s who earned a spot on this year’s list.
Now, here are the full results of “BSM’s Top 20 Major Market Sports Radio Program Directors of 2020!”
- Spike Eskin earned the most 1st place votes with nine (9), Mark Chernoff was second with seven (7).
- Spots 21-25 were filled by Len Weiner, Raj Sharan, Adam Klug, Chuck D’Amico and Kyle Brown.
- The tightest races saw Chris Kinard slip by Chad Abbott by four (4) points, and Dave Tepper hold off Len Weiner by three (3) points.
- Of the 31 program directors eligible for consideration this year, eleven (11) earned at least one (1) 1st place vote.
Here is the remaining schedule for the BSM Top 20 of 2020.
- Monday February 8 = The 2020 Top 20 Major/Mid-Market Sports Stations
- Tuesday February 9 = The 2020 Top 20 Original Sports Podcasts