After three and a half years with Barrett Sports Media, contributing thousands of articles, hundreds of feature columns, interviews and podcasts, my biggest takeaway was a sense of purpose.
I was struggling to find a job in sports media, but knew I loved the industry and wanted to contribute in some way. Stumbling into a group so passionate about sports radio, a medium that represents just a small niche of the entertainment world was a perfect fit. Getting the opportunity to write for BSM immediately did two things. It gave me a voice and credibility.
I met and interviewed people who I’ve always admired, and I was repeatedly impressed with the respect they showed me in return. Hosts I grew up listening to like Mike Francesa and Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo. Two great conversations with Craig Carton. Nick Wright, Rick DiPietro, Stugotz and Jalen Rose. I was welcomed into the Mets radio booth to watch Howie Rose and Wayne Randazzo work. Traveled on-site to Bristol, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Sports radio stations all around the country are connected by this website, and I was in the middle of it. I went from constantly knocking on radio station doors hoping for an acknowledgement, to now having them interested in what I have to say about the industry. That’s the benefit of connecting yourself with Jason Barrett.
As I learned on the job, JB quickly gained enough trust to give me a platform with the freedom to write what I want. And over the years, I learned I’m more passionate and interested in the radio side of sports radio than the sports aspect. As much as I remain a die-hard fan, I find the conversation surrounding sports more interesting than the score of a game.
The Mets pulled Jacob deGrom too early? I’ll get over it.
The Jets signed a nondescript wide receiver? Boring.
Colin Cowherd with another hot take about backwards hats?! Oh, Hell No!
I enjoy writing. It’s not as exciting as being on-air and certainly doesn’t offer the same rush of live radio, but I enjoy the control. It’s calculated, well-thought, opinionated and still offers excitement when big news breaks, knowing people within the industry will turn to BSM for info.
But with everyone I’ve met and everything I’ve learned, the most exciting aspect about being part of BSM is that we were building something. There are months and years where the build is slow, and others where the progress is substantial. But knowing the vision for BSM is always bigger than its current state kept me wanting to contribute as much as I could.
And that’s part of why I’m so excited to be joining Mediaite. They’ve built a great platform and audience, but covering sports media is a new venture. I never mind putting countless hours into a project that has big aspirations and an upwards trajectory. Even when the financial compensation was small or nonexistent, my passion for sports media remained more than a hobby. The time I spent contributing to BSM kept me on track.
Let me be clear, I am not patting myself on the back. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but staying on track has energized me to get there. Staying on track, learning about the industry and from the people who are in it, has shown me how many different and unique paths there are to success.
My tenure with BSM began because JB responded to an email from someone he never heard of, who held very little credibility within the industry. For anyone in management who might be reading this, I understand the number of unsolicited emails you receive can be a nuisance at times. But responses go a long way, even if it’s “I don’t have time for this right now.”
I’ve sent hundreds of emails to program directors around the country in the last 10 years. Many of them went ignored. That’s one of the great respects I have for Mark Chernoff. Leading WFAN, he surely receives tons of unsolicited emails, but he always responds. His replies are quick and equally cold whether he has something positive or negative to say. ‘I’ll get to this later…I can’t listen right now…this is terrible…this is not bad.’ But I always appreciate that he takes the time to respond.
I’m very grateful JB responded to my email when I reached out back in September 2017, even though I had little to offer other than a clear passion for the industry. He noticed that, and it turned into a three and a half year mutually beneficial partnership. His reply to that email gave me a sense of purpose, a credible voice, and a career doing something I love.
Gary Bettman Wants You To Have More Access
“Both of these partnerships we have are outstanding examples of being extraordinarily fan-friendly.”
In the wake of the NHL’s latest national television contract, Commissioner Gary Bettman has solidified the league’s broadcast future. Recent contracts dictate that the league will be appearing on ESPN and TNT/TBS next season after its relationship with NBC concludes after 10 years. Still, the key to both deals is streaming and Bettman explained how there is more work to be done.
“First and foremost whatever media package you’re going to do, particularly on a national basis, you want to make sure you’re getting the most exposure, the best possible production, the best possible promotion that you want to be able to give your fans as much access to the game as possible,” Bettman said on Episode 299 of my Sports with Friends podcast.
The deal with Turner is for seven years worth a reported $225 million. ESPN’s contract is also for seven years for more games than Turner and is reported to be more than $400 million.
The keys to these deals are the streaming apps. Both ESPN+ and HBO Max are key components to each deal that are making out-of-market games as well as exclusives available to subscribers. Still, the controversial decision made by the Regional Sports Networks to require cable subscriptions to stream the local teams is impacting cord-cutters across the US.
“Media distribution and the platforms are going to continue to evolve,” Bettman explained. “Frankly with new technology also represents improved camera coverage. The productions are better than they’ve ever been. You have HDTV, which didn’t exist decades ago. We use more technology, whether it’s player tracking or any of the other statistics that we use. With SAP and Amazon and Apple, the opportunities to get within the game, because there are more distribution platforms have never been greater.”
My takeaway from Bettman’s statements on the subject is that both he and the broadcast people in his office are well aware of the facts presented. While some fans are expecting a quick fix, these deals are complicated. Each team has its own contract with an RSN. Bettman can’t legislate a new way to circumvent those contracts. Plus, he still believes in linear television.
“There is some cord-cutting going on, but linear television still predominates, and more people are watching on a big screen TV in a large room with a couple of other family members or friends,” Bettman said. “Or when you go to a bar sports bar, you see what’s on in the background.”
Because I’ve known Bettman for over a decade, I take him at his word. We did discuss him coming back on the podcast for episode 399 (which would be in June 2023). I’d love to see progress made on the issue then.
“I think there is an evolution going on, but I think it’s easy to over-generalize,” Bettman said.”
The deal with NBC was profitable in many ways over the 10 years. Originally, games were aired on the Outdoor Life Network (OLN), and now to NBC and NBC Sports Network, which be shutting down by the end of 2021.
The ESPN deal was signed in March. The Turner contract was made public in late April.
“Both of these partnerships we have are outstanding examples of being extraordinarily fan-friendly,” the commissioner said. “Giving more content than ever before in more places than ever before. We couldn’t be more excited to have the Walt Disney Company (ESPN) and Warner Media (Turner) working with us and the game. Our organization is excited and thrilled, and we know both of their organizations are thrilled as well. This is an exciting time for us.”
Other highlights from the 45-minute conversation had to do with competitive balance. Unlike the NBA, the NHL regularly has quality teams with records above .500 that don’t make the playoffs.
We talked about the impact that Covid-19 has had on the league. Bettman addressed the decision to create the “playoff bubble” in Toronto and Edmonton as opposed to an American city.
He also discussed the fact that the NHL and NHLPA extended their collective bargaining agreement by four years while negotiating the return to play in the summer of 2020. That’s with former MLBPA head Donald Fehr at the helm. My memories of the canceled World Series made the NHL extension seemingly impossible.
Finally, Bettman addressed his legacy. He takes being the first commissioner in modern sports to be openly booed as a badge of honor, noting that nowadays all commissioners get booed. “(NFL Commissioner) Roger Goodell got booed at the draft last week,” Bettman said.
Still, he knows his legacy will always be connecting to canceling the 2004-2005 season. Yet, the growth of the league is unprecedented, and he has been the architect of that.
Bettman sees no end to his tenure, or at least wouldn’t admit it to me. Maybe we can address that in two years for episode 399.
Media Noise Podcast – Episode 27
Demetri Ravanos begins this week’s episode by looking at Thursday Night Football moving to Amazon exclusively in 2022 and what it means for future business deals with the NFL. Russ Heltman drops by next to offer his thoughts on Rob Parker and Chris Broussard’s heated discussion over Tim Tebow being the beneficiary of white privilege and his value to ESPN as a college football analyst. Seth Everett closes things out by weighing in on Gary Bettman’s legacy and the NHL’s recent deals with broadcast groups.
News & Sports Is A Perfect Marriage For Sales
“Plenty of sellers have a news talk/sports talk combo to sell especially if they are in AM-heavy clusters.”
There are a lot of similarities in sports talk and news talk radio sales. And there are some differences, some of which are actually complementary and work to the sellers’ advantage. I was fortunate to sell news and sports talk as a combo for years.
As Jason Barrett recently announced, the Barrett Sports Media and News Media web sites have merged. Plenty of sellers have a news talk/sports talk combo to sell especially if they are in AM-heavy clusters. One of my 2021 resolutions was to seek out the positive in most situations so let’s look at the similarities the two formats offer to a salesperson.
- Both are foreground formats. For the most part, spoken word radio listeners are seeking to focus on what is being said. They don’t listen to podcasts or talk shows so they can free their mind up to think about other things. Plenty of music listeners have their minds completely elsewhere and don’t even hear what the air person has to say. In fact, most music jocks are told to shut up and play the music. Great selling point for live liners, spots and why our commercials are worth more money.
- We have very loyal customers. The best results for any advertiser comes from the heaviest users of a station- their “P1’s”. Most news/sports talk tsl comes from a much smaller % of the cume. Listeners to Sean Hannity, Jim Rome, Ben Shapiro, and Colin Cowherd stay put. Music listeners tend to chase the hottest song or diary responders to music stations will flip to the station with the contest to win concert tickets. Often this can lead to fewer spots needed in a schedule to achieve a better frequency.
- We got the dough. Nothing sells luxury goods and services like a news/sports talk radio station. Look at any consumer index survey and these two formats will always score near the top. Make sure you load up on luxury car dealers, independent import car repair, jewelers, stockbrokers, realtors and home services companies.
- Sports formats can skew younger especially with stations that have guy talk driven hosts. Some sports stations have local play by play and that can cume in a younger audience. News talk radio is heavy 55+ and especially 65+. Younger buyers will carry a bias at times vs news radio and the age of the listener.
- The news talk format is conservative and mostly anti-liberal/Democrat in general. Some national advertisers would not allow their commercials to fall into the Rush Limbaugh show for example. Sometimes, buyers will not place ads on a conservative station for personal reasons. In sports, at least traditionally, that doesn’t happen as often. Historically sports have steered away from conservative or liberal positions on any politics. We have a chance to change that. See below.
- Sports talk typically has 80/20 Male to Female audience. News talk skews much more female and can be a 60/40 split Male to Female. That opens the door to what a 45–64-year-old woman may be more interested in home services, jewelry and more!
A Happy Couple
- A sports and news talk combo buy provides a great one stop shop for anything with a male skew. And, make sure you point out the earning power differences. We used to have fun with a graphic that pointed out with our combo you get customers and with the rock stations you got convicts. Get it? Customers or Convicts?
- If you are selling to male store owner and he is over 40 years old there is a good chance he listens to one of your shows. Just ask him.
- It may be time to start talking politics. If you have a conservative news talk station loaded with local news and political talk in the morning and Shapiro, Savage, and Hannity at other times, you got a conservative station. If you have a local show or two on the sports station, why not encourage them to speak up? Occasionally, the talent will not be conservative Republicans and certainly most athletes who speak out on political matters and command attention are not republican conservatives. Seems like a perfect balance for buyers who object to one lean over the other.