If you work in sports media, you get asked all the time about how to catch a break. When I was fresh out of college, Seymour Siwoff, the legendary late longtime owner of Elias Sports Bureau, advised me to go into accounting instead of this business, but if I insisted on it to have an “angle”. What this meant was to find a niche covering something where either the public has more interest in the topic than is served, or jump in early on a growing space as Elias was decades ahead of the curve in pioneering statistical compilation and analysis. Clearly, gambling is one of those growing spaces, and I discussed last month how the proliferation of the industry has given top talents unprecedented leverage. Furthermore, the next decade will assuredly bring considerable opportunities for aspiring broadcasters and journalists to become stars in coverage of women’s sports.
Women’s sports are in a fascinating position where they’ve already experienced exponential growth for the past generation, but might still be in the first few innings — there remains ample runway. As female athletes become bigger and bigger stars, media jobs will pop up in their orbits.
Allison Galer, founder of the agency Disrupt the Game, which represents Lisa Leslie, Chiney Ogwumike, Crystal Dunn, Liz Cambage, Chelsea Gray and other women involved in sports, has advice for media job seekers: “Just figuring out how to differentiate yourself and create value, just leaning into what makes you different from everyone else that’s trying to get into sports. Obviously, if someone has an interest in women’s sports they should dive right into it because the opportunities are going to continue to grow.”
Sharon Chang, a partner and broadcasting agent at WME whose clients include Taylor Rooks, Cari Champion, Stephanie Ready, and Michele Tafoya, says she is “very bullish” about the future of women’s sports.
“It will only continue to grow because female athletes are extremely compelling to watch. They’re fierce. They’re now freely speaking their truth. They’re able to use social media to amplify their voices. They’re not afraid to go against the grain and the system.
“As long as female athletes who are vocal continue to authentically share their stories and excite fans with their physical prowess, mental toughness and grace during game play, then networks, streamers and other media and digital platforms would want to continue to cover them. The popularity of the women playing these sports will help drive it—and the upcoming Olympics in Japan should help as well. I’m very bullish about the future of women’s sports.”
You can see this growth happening all over the place. Without making a value judgment for or against her stance with the media at the French Open, the fact that the Naomi Osaka story is massive news in and out of the sports bubble is a sign of how enormous an international star she is. The College Softball World Series aired on ABC for the first time ever this past weekend. The LA Sparks inked the WNBA’s first ever beer sponsorship, with Molson Coors, in March. Endorsement deals for individual women athletes are all over the place, including many spots airing during NBA playoff games. Barstool Sports recently navigated the NCAA compliance maze and hosted a women’s golf tournament (whether you love or loathe Barstool, you can’t deny that from a business perspective they skate to where the puck is going). Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair main evented a night of WrestleMania. The NWSL is expanding to add a 12th team, in Sacramento.
“WNBA games actually aired on Lifetime as well as Oxygen in the early 2000’s. Now the league is partnered with ESPN and CBS Sports Network, along with some games airing on broadcast TV nets like ABC and CBS,” the WME agent Sharon Chang noted in discussing how far the league has come in its 25 years.
Certainly, many media members cover women’s sports very well on TV and in print, and it bears mentioning that the site “Just Women’s Sports” raised $3.5 million in funding from investors like DraftKings and Kevin Durant’s Thirty Five Ventures a couple months ago.
Nevertheless, it feels like there is a massive brass ring to be snatched by someone who wants to be the Woj, Shams, Schefter, Rapoport, or Passan — cover the WNBA, NWSL, and other women’s sports. If you’re in college right now, I’m certainly not gonna tell you that you couldn’t become the next Woj, but I’d reckon it’d probably take you at least a couple decades to accomplish (Shams’ success in his 20s is a huge outlier unlikely to be replicated anytime soon). Contrastly, an aspiring newsbreaker with talent, 24/7 hustle, and also some luck could be a marquee source for WNBA or NWSL scoops by the next presidential election.
“It’s a relationship business, and really an in-person business,” says Disrupt the Game founder Allison Galer. “Even throughout the pandemic you could get on a Zoom or hop on FaceTime. The agents, executives, players, etc. are only going to give information out when it serves a purpose, and to people they trust. And now they have the choice between sharing information with media members or choosing to put out information on athletes’, executives’ or agents’ own social platforms, in their own words. With Woj and Shams what’s been awesome for me to see and learn is that they’re everywhere. They’re constantly talking to people. They make the effort and they hustle. It’s not like they’re sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring — they are out there trying to make it happen.”
“The WNBA and the NWSL both have some amazing media that are working super hard every day to cover these leagues and athletes,” Galer continues. “As the WNBA and NWSL both continue to grow, I have no doubt there is room for each league to have their own unique versions of media personalities to mirror in a sense what Woj and Shams have been able to do in the NBA, and that ultimately they will work to grow the WNBA and the NWSL with great, honest media coverage.”
I would bet on the WNBA in particular to have an economic boom in the next decade for a number of reasons. There are currently only 12 teams. Big markets like Houston, Miami, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, Detroit, and Denver don’t have a franchise, nor do states like Wisconsin and Tennessee, which support collegiate women’s sports. The other key is that the increased investment and exposure of the sport has ensured that there is more than enough talent coming up through the youth and college ranks to sustain expansion without going too far in diluting the quality of play.
Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai reportedly bought the New York Liberty for under $15 million in 2019. Even if the league is not currently profitable, I predict that their TV deals will grow a lot in the coming years. Furthermore, with the way that assets have boomed in the past couple years, there will be a lot of business people for whom the intangible value of owning a WNBA team is far greater than what Tsai paid for the Liberty. I could easily see 12 teams becoming 20, and $15 million franchise valuation becoming $50-100 million, between now and 2035.
But back to the main topic at hand: More women’s sports getting broadcasted across linear and streaming networks, with bigger stars, and increasing athletic talent will create jobs for play-by-play announcers, color commentators, directors, producers, and journalists who are looking to make it in the sports media industry.
5 Goals: Rob ‘World Wide Wob’ Perez
“I’ve always had aspirations, hopefully with FanDuel in collaboration with another network, to apply NFL Red Zone to the NBA.”
This month’s subject of five goals is Rob Perez, better known to NBA Twitter as World Wide Wob. The content creator and producer for FanDuel shared with me five things he wants to accomplish or see happen.
1. I want to make FanDuel, my licensing partner in content creation, as happy as possible.
My goal is to drive people to their web site or app, and spread the reach of the brand. I’m sure there’s a more formal word for that, but I want to organically integrate FanDuel into everything I do.
I don’t want to just be a commercial — hey 20% off, or here’s a free bet — because people are drowning in those across various forms of communication. All the content I do is naturally involved, and if someone’s asking about who’s favored it’s a very seamless type of content integration in which I can include them and drive them to FanDuel if they’d like to put their money where their mouth is.
I would certainly love the opportunity to continue working with them — not just because they pay me to do so, but I do find value in working with a sportsbook of that size that is turning into a content company. Of course, they’re always gonna be a sportsbook. It makes them the most money. But, giving you additional reasons to engage with that brand, if you have an itch to bet on something, is what my job is.
I want to continue to be the face of the NBA for them, having a very casual conversation about the game itself — whether that’s off the court stuff, or all the coaching departures earlier this week. Integrating the FanDuel logo into all this feels much more real than a 30-second commercial between timeouts. I want you to enjoy the experience of the show, and gamble if you so choose.
2. NBA Red Zone.
I’ve always had aspirations, hopefully with FanDuel in collaboration with another network, to apply NFL Red Zone to the NBA. It would work best on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and sometimes Sunday, when there are 8-9 concurrent games.
That’s why I’m where I am today. I’m watching every single dribble of every single game. But, I would never expect any other normal human with responsibilities outside of NBA content creation to ever keep up with what’s going on between the Kings and Pistons while there’s seven other games on, one of which is nationally televised.
So, if the NBA ever decides to have a true commitment to their version of the Red Zone — they’ve tried versions of it on NBATV, but I’ve never seen one hopping between games every 15-20 seconds, hot switching any time there’s a play stoppage — I’d love to do it.
You’d have a Scott Hanson type host who is as integrated with the league as it gets. I hope maybe one day I have the opportunity where what I do on my own personal timeline merges with true rights partnership from the NBA. Just based on the feedback I get on my Twitter page, there would be demand for it.
3. Do another NBA variety show.
In the past, I had a show called Buckets that I did with Cycle and ESPN. It had sketches, pre-produced talk segments, and interviews. Think of it like Jimmy Kimmel or Jimmy Fallon’s shows, but applied to the NBA.
Inside the NBA is obviously the gold standard for an NBA talk show. But, those guys are going to retire at some point. What I do on Twitter Spaces, Twitch, and Periscope — I want the ability to blow that out with some more production resources.
Right now, I’m doing everything myself, from playing DJ to directing to taking calls to actually running the show and talking basketball and researching stats — I’m doing it all on the fly. While I’m certainly happy to do that, I know what we could create with a team around me because we’ve done it in the past. I would love to do a weekly variety show based around the NBA.
4. Some more work life balance.
My entire day for 11 months out of the year revolves around the NBA. It’s my job and I’m happy to. I love following it. At some point, I feel like I’m gonna get burned out, and I don’t want to ever get to the point where doing this feels like work.
It felt a little bit like work this year, and that might be because I’m on Year 8 doing this. [RG note: at this point, I mentioned how last offseason was so condensed after the bubble, and how the energy felt partially zapped out of sports with a lack of fans]. I’m gonna watch regardless because I’m a crazy person, but I think a lot of people would agree with you that the return to normalcy is helping with the engagement on a mainstream scale.
This offseason will be condensed again. We have the Olympics, which of course I’m going to watch because stars will be playing. Summer League is in August. There’s free agency and the draft. There’s barely going to be one month — September — where there probably won’t be a whole lot of NBA news or events.
But then we’re going back to the normal schedule from before the pandemic, which means Media Week will be the first week of October. There’s one month off before it all starts again, and I’m hoping I don’t get burned out by it.
Being on the East Coast, it’s impossible to follow the NBA 24/7. I don’t know how people with kids and families do it. Getting back to the West Coast is a personal goal of mine, which will happen this summer when I move back to Los Angeles. These hours will allow me to get back to a more normal life.
5. I want the Knicks to win a championship in my lifetime.
Just being a die hard Knicks fan and not seeing a title in my lifetime, that’s a personal goal. I’ve put so much work into watching every effing game since I was eight years old with Patrick Ewing and John Starks in the NBA playoffs.
I was young, but I was old enough to know that I wanted to stay up for those games. I was emotionally invested. I would even get to the point where I was putting towels underneath the door so my parents couldn’t see that the TV was on. They thought I was sleeping.
Of course I want my team to win a championship, and I don’t want to die without seeing that mountaintop. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be a Red Sox or Cubs fan and going all those years without seeing them win, then having it happen. I want to experience it once.
Whatever it takes to get there. I have too many gray hairs on my head, and every single one of them I can attribute to a single Knicks game from the past decade. Being a fan while trying to create objective NBA content will always be a challenge, but being a Knicks fan will always take precedent over a career because it means that much to me.
Forget the Email, Just Smile & Dial
“Don’t confuse marketing with sales. We are not human advertisements or, even worse, spam.”
Back in August of last year, the pandemic was still front and center, acting as a roadblock for business. Retailers were in business and at the stores, but what about the advertising buyers? Where were they?
Well, the ad-buying community, corporate employees, and most white-collar workers were still at home. So were most of us in radio sales. So, when it came to prospecting for new accounts, some of us gave up, most sent emails, and a few brave souls hit the phone. Earlier this year, I wrote about the sales trainer John Barrows and how he got to the top by cold calling 400 prospects a week! That’s not cold emailing. That’s cold CALLING. And to be exact, if Barrows was working a 10 hour day on the phones Monday through Friday, he would dial at least eight prospects an hour.
Does that send a chill down your spine? Or does it make you want to run to your keyboard to avoid rejection and send some more cold emails? Back in August, when most of our ad buyers were at home, not near a business phone, Jeb Blount and Anthony Iannarino were recording a podcast about why you should hit the phone, not the email. Both sales consultants and authors thought we could improve our connect rate immensely by working the phones over email.
Both authors agreed that we need to have conversations with people about our stations, personalities, shows, and the sports world! We can hire an automated CRM service to send emails!
Now I am all for some well-crafted custom emails sent to targets that do not answer phones or listen to voice mails but not as the first activity in a sales sequence. Don’t confuse marketing with sales. We are not human advertisements or, even worse, spam. Our job isn’t to create awareness for buying sports radio packages; it is to make the sale!
We are consultants offering custom solutions to the unique challenges your clients have. And consider that if you pick up the phone and connect with the advertising buyer and get the appointment, you won’t need an email!
Both consultants agree that you don’t need email to warm up a client when using the phone to get the appointment! I recently tested this theory myself and decided that with the pandemic subsiding in most metropolitan areas and more buyers going back to the office, I could start hitting the phones more.
It worked. I got more appointments faster and wasted less time. I even got help. I had a business owner who I reached out to via email with a custom approach. I offered a few excellent ideas on how I could help him. Crickets. I let 2.5 weeks go by before I picked up the phone to dial the business and ask for him. They told me he was out on vacation and asked me if I had personal interaction with him. I explained no I was looking to connect with him on an advertising idea. The receptionist said you need to talk to Jane, the ad buyer. I was connected immediately.
I left a voice mail. The next day I received a return call indicating interest in my idea, and we set the appointment. Now, why didn’t I try that in the first place!
If you want a custom phone pitch that I wrote out for myself, send me an email at email@example.com. Now it’s time to smile and dial!
Media Noise – Episode 33
It has been a busy week at BSM. Demetri Ravanos talks about Domonique Foxworth and the future of commentary on ESPN. Kate Constable stops by to discuss her column on Sarah Spain and the sometimes ugly realities of life as a woman in sports media. Finally, Brian Noe and Demetri discuss Le’veon Bell’s Twitter rant and how depressingly relevant it is in the radio business.