Connect with us
Jim Cutler Demos

BSM Writers

Rick Cordella is Leading NBC Sports with Tradition and Innovation in Mind

“It’s a good opportunity with a top show to have it exclusively on Peacock, and we’ll see what it does for our business.”

Derek Futterman

Published

on

Rick Cordella NBC
(Illustration) | Rick Cordella; 'Sunday Night Football' and NBC Sports Logos - Courtesy: NBCUniversal | Peacock Logo - Courtesy: Jenny Kane, AP Photo | NFL Wild Card Logo on Field - Courtesy: Robin Alam, Icon Sportswire via Getty Images | NBC Sports Microphone - Courtesy: Simon Bruty, Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

With innovations in sports television underscoring the emphasis on direct-to-consumer technology, NBC Sports is set to air the first-ever exclusive live-streamed National Football League playoff game on Peacock. The matchup between the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs takes place on Saturday, Jan. 13 at 8 p.m. EST/5 p.m. PST and will feature a commentary team of play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico, analyst Jason Garrett and sideline reporter Kaylee Hartung. This game is one of three Wild Card round playoff matchups that NBC Sports will be airing this weekend, something that was not originally in its 11-year agreement with the NFL.

Although the contest will be available on broadcast television in the Miami and Kansas City marketplaces, there is national appeal to football, especially a consequential playoff game. The NBCUniversal subsidiary reportedly paid the league $110 million in order to present the matchup after the company learned it was available to be sold to a streaming platform. The league has been expanding in the space over the last several years through ventures including Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime Video and NFL Sunday Ticket with Alphabet subsidiary YouTube/YouTube TV.

For new NBC Sports president Rick Cordella, it is a chance to expand the company’s longstanding relationship with the league. At the same time, it provides Comcast a chance to drive subscriptions, ingratiate Peacock to prospective consumers and reduce overall churn. Data from Nielsen Media Research reveals that Peacock accounted for 1.3% of all total-day viewing among persons 2+ in November 2023. As a whole, streaming constituted 36.1% of all viewing in this category, the largest share among means of television dissemination. Continuing to expand the reach and relevance from the streaming service is part of the company’s business strategy as it executes ongoing endeavors and deliberates potential future opportunities.

“It’s part of everything we do,” Cordella said. “Every rights deal we look at – we look at it through a broadcast, cable and Peacock lens – and we try to determine where the content is best put forth across those varying NBCU platforms.”

Cordella was part of the team that helped launch Peacock after serving as executive vice president and general manager of digital media for NBC Sports Group. Under his previous role, he was responsible for overseeing various aspects of the business and was integral in pioneering and executing seminal projects. Some of these included live-streaming the Super Bowl and Olympics for the first time, along with hosting and publishing many on-demand clips.

“Obviously I was at Peacock for almost four years, so I know everyone over there and have great relationships and we work really well together,” Cordella said. “When an opportunity to invest in sports comes up, we sit down and we do our models and our analysis, and that includes the Peacock team.”

Part of the proposition that would ensure effectiveness with this expenditure pertained to the Peacock exclusive regular-season game the platform aired on Dec. 23 as part of a holiday exclusive doubleheader. Featuring a commercial-free fourth quarter and a reduced advertising load of more than 40%, the game averaged 7.3 million viewers and accounted for the largest prime-time audience on the night.

While the exclusive game was part of the deal with the NFL, placing it in prime time was not and was done to resemble the forthcoming Wild Card doubleheader. Saturday’s matchup will be preceded by the Cleveland Browns against the Houston Texans at 4:30 p.m. EST/1:30 p.m. PST, which will also be available to simulcast on Peacock and watch on Telemundo.

“A big audience coming in to watch an NBC Wild Card game, and us being able to promote to that audience saying, ‘Coming up next,’ that immediate adjacency to a Peacock exclusive playoff game I think made a lot of sense on many different levels,” Cordella said. “The NFL actually were the ones who came up with that idea, so I give them a lot of credit for that, but it’s a good opportunity for us. It’s a good opportunity with a top show to have it exclusively on Peacock, and we’ll see what it does for our business.”

Outside of the holiday exclusive contest, NBC Sports Digital amassed an average minute audience (AMA) of 1.56 million viewers for Sunday Night Football broadcasts during the 2023 season, and three matchups drew more than 2 million consumers. Kansas City was the second highest-rated metered market for the property, generating a 20.2 household rating and 45.0 share. For the year, Sunday Night Football averaged a total audience delivery (TAD) of 21.4 million viewers, its best finish since 2015, and was up 8% on the year. The prime-time property is on pace to be the No. 1 ranked show in prime time television for a 13th consecutive year.

“We were happy with the schedule; we’re happy with how things turned out,” Cordella said. “I think also a little bit of this is the writers’ strike was going on too, so there’s probably less content available elsewhere which helped, I think, overall sports content this fall. But we were happy with the numbers overall and it seems sports TV ratings are defying a little bit of the overall TV gravity.”

Digital platforms in television provide users with a variety of options to watch and engage with both linear and nonlinear material, concurrently putting in to play a shift in the business model of various legacy networks. Peacock eclipsed 30 million subscribers last year with overall losses peaking at $2.8 billion, an improvement on the company’s initial projection of a $3 billion loss in January 2023.

As its growth continues, the company has negotiated deals and incorporated Peacock therein. For example, the recent seven-year deal with the Big Ten Conference includes an exclusive streaming package that includes men’s and women’s basketball games, along with early round games in both tournaments. The network recently concluded its first season of B1G Saturday Night for football in the conference featuring play-by-play announcer Noah Eagle, color commentator Todd Blackledge and sideline reporter Kathryn Tappen. This broadcast team will be on the call for the Browns-Texans game on NBC before the Peacock exclusive playoff game that night with Tirico, Garrett and Hartung.

“We have a great NFL booth right now with Mike and Cris, and we hope that lasts forever, so I wouldn’t say that Todd and Noah are the next SNF folks; that’s not in our calculus whatsoever,” Cordella said. “We have them on Saturday nights, we have the Big Ten deal for another six years and we hope that those two are the voice of Saturday night football on broadcast TV for the duration of that contract and beyond.”

The Sunday Night Football team called the exclusive Peacock game during the regular season and will be on the linear television game on Sunday night when the Los Angeles Rams face the Detroit Lions. NBC Sports elected to have Tirico on the call for both matchups because of his experience and work with the company, including as its primary host for Olympics coverage.

Tirico assumed play-by-play duties on Sunday Night Football when Al Michaels left the property to sign a deal with Amazon Prime Video to work on its Thursday night schedule of games. Michaels was given an emeritus title by NBC Sports, which included contributing to NBC’s broadcast of the NFL playoffs and the Olympics. The network’s decision to exclude him from the commentary assignment in a year where it is televising three games elicited both surprise and confusion from fans and industry professionals.

“We love Al – Al’s the best play-by-play guy in history and continues to do incredibly solid work on Thursday Night Football,” Cordella said. “It really had nothing to do with Al; it had more to do [with the fact that] we have an incredible Big Ten team. This is the first year we had the Big Ten team, so we have a full unit that goes with the biggest games on Saturday night prime time, and to reward that team; to use that team in a bigger spot here seems to make a lot of sense for us.”

Whether Michaels appears on NBC in future seasons remains to be seen, although Cordella did note that they hope to use him down the road. The nature of the company’s contract with the NFL calls for certain years with one Wild Card game and others with two. It will also air Super Bowl LX from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. on Feb. 8, 2026, marking the first time it will broadcast the game since the Los Angeles Rams championship to conclude the 2021 season.

“There’s no sort of riff,” Cordella said regarding the accord between NBC and Michaels. “I saw some of the headlines and I kind of blanched at them. They weren’t really all that accurate. We have a great relationship with Al.”

Starting at Rotoworld in 2003 while he was in graduate school at Boston College, Cordella wrote for free on the website to gain repetitions in the field. When NBC acquired Rotoworld in 2006, Cordella came to the company in the acquisition and ultimately ended up overseeing the portfolio of fantasy sports content.

There is a growing number of sports fans choosing to wager in varying capacities following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to declare the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) unconstitutional wherefore states have reserved power over its legality. Various broadcast networks have experimented with how they can leverage this interest and implement it within the broadcasts, ideating and conducting trials aspiring for auspicious results.

“Overall my thoughts are that you don’t necessarily need a separate gambling theme,” Cordella explained. “We’ve experimented that in a few different areas and have pulled back because I think it’s just a matter of acknowledging why people are watching the game and some of the interesting odds that may be taking place, but you don’t have to be a dedicated feed for it or you don’t need to hit the viewer over the head with constant gambling sort of updates. We’ve had varying degrees of integration.”

When Cordella began working at NBC Sports in 2006, the company was being led by chairman Dick Ebersol, a venerated luminary who received the NFL’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award for his contributions. He was fortunate to be in the same division and is cognizant of the division’s longevity and accomplishments. In making decisions, he seeks to utilize the expertise of the team around him and values his colleagues.

“I know I’m not the smartest guy in the room, and I have a lot of smart folks that work at NBC Sports that you can lean on to get the right answers to the right problems,” Cordella said, “so it’s more of a collaborative sort of environment I hope.”

Cordella was named president of the division shortly after the departure of chairman Pete Bevacqua, who joined the University of Notre Dame to serve as its athletic director. Bevacqua has been shadowing current athletic director John Swarbrick in the role and will assume full responsibilities during the first quarter of this year.

Before the conclusion of last year though, NBC and Notre Dame came to an agreement on a new media rights agreement, retaining Fighting Irish football home games on the network. Financial details of the contract were not disclosed, but it is believed to help ensure the school remains independent of a conference. Notre Dame had the 10th-highest average number of viewers during the college football regular season, according to a report from the Action Network.

“The motivation is it’s a good financial deal for NBCU first and foremost,” Cordella said. “On top of that, it’s a 31-year partnership that we’ve had with that school and the special relationship that we have with Notre Dame, and we want to continue it. This sort of fits hand in glove with our Big Ten deal as well where you look across 15 nights of prime time. We’ll have a few that are Notre Dame and the rest being Big Ten.”

NBC lost the broadcast rights to the National Hockey League following the 202-21 season, ending a 16-year stint with a closing video narrated by Mike “Doc” Emrick. The network could opt to bring another professional sports league on its air in the next few years though with the expiration of media rights for the National Basketball Association.

The Walt Disney Company (ESPN/ABC/ESPN+) and Warner Bros. Discovery (TNT/TBS/Max) are within the penultimate year of their deals with the league worth a reported average total of $2.67 billion. Collectively, the 30 franchises surrounding the National Basketball Association garnered $10.58 billion in revenue last season, up $500 million from the previous season.

“I think with any big property we run analysis on it,” Cordella said. “The NBA is no different than any other property that would come to market. [It] is certainly a bigger property that comes to the market very rarely.”

An exclusive 45-day negotiating period with existing rightsholders commences on March 9, during which renewals and/or new deals can be formally discussed. If the rights then hit the open market, NBC Sports will consider numerous factors and render a determination. Numerous reports have suggested that the league is looking to broaden the scope of dissemination in its next deal by utilizing linear and digital platforms.

While the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament was televised by Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery networks this year, it remains unknown if the league will look to bundle those games separately. There are also questions surrounding the viability of regional sports networks surrounding the ongoing Ch. 11 bankruptcy of Diamond Sports Group, making a prediction of a new deal’s structure somewhat enigmatic.

“We’ll certainly take a look at the NBA,” Cordella said, “but it has to make sense, and we’ll be disciplined when we approach it.”

NBC Sports previously carried the NBA Finals from 1991 until 2002, but the marquee championship round matchup has since been affiliated with Disney on ABC. Last season’s NBA Finals between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat averaged 11.64 million viewers on ABC, and the NBA playoffs in totality were the most-watched in five years. Bringing the games back to NBC is a potential outcome that remains ambiguous, although there is ostensible interest.

“It’s like asking if we want the Super Bowl,” Cordella said. “The NBA Finals is a fantastic property – the NBA’s a fantastic property. When the time comes when they’re out of their exclusive negotiating period, we’ll certainly hope we sit down with them and see what is available to look at. Until then, it’s hard to speculate.”

NBCUniversal continued its efforts to add sports programming on Peacock with the two-year deal it inked with Major League Baseball to air an exclusive Sunday morning regular-season game. At the moment, it has not yet been determined if MLB Sunday Leadoff will return for the 2024 season or if the company is interested in expanding its package of MLB rights.

“We like being in business with baseball,” Cordella said. “We’re working on what we can do in the future together and we’ll see. We’d love to make it work and be in business with baseball.”

Cordella will oversee the company’s production of the Olympic Games this summer, which are slated to take place from Paris, France. On top of that, NBC Sports will continue its partnerships with the PGA Tour, Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Premier Leagues, properties that tend to elicit interest and viewers. The key, however, will be ensuring the business is strong and making prudent decisions based on both qualitative and quantitative metrics.

“Certainly we have one of the best sports portfolios of any media company out there,” Cordella said. “How do we sort of justify to continue the investment that we have in it?”

Through long-term deals with sports entities, internal and external factors are at risk of changing and altering the scope of the contract. The Peacock exclusive NFL Wild Card Game was derived out of the league’s penchant for exploring capabilities in the streaming space, and NBC determined it was a chance it wanted to take. Cordella never could have imagined helping to lead the company into the future, but he feels prepared for the challenge. With the strength of its existing rights and forthcoming aspirations, NBC Sports will aim to capitalize on the dynamism imbued in the marketplace and serve as a premium content provider in the space.

“You’re a steward of the NBC Sports brand,” Cordella said of his role. “I grew up on NBC Sports, and it’s sort of again [a] pinch-me kind of moment that I’m now leading it. How do you make sure NBC Sports matters like it did when I was growing up? Other people look at the Olympics and all that stuff. It’s really all those things combined into one, and we’re navigating each and every day and pushing the ball forward.”

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.

BSM Writers

WWE’s Paul Heyman Joins the 2024 BSM Summit

“I am thrilled to share that on Wednesday March 13th in New York City, we will welcome a man who has experienced every part of the wrestling and entertainment business both on-air and behind the scenes.”

Jason Barrett

Published

on

The final few weeks leading up to the BSM Summit are my least favorite time of the entire process. Between last-minute preparations, unexpected changes, laying out a schedule that fits everyone’s schedule, giving speakers direction, and handling the creative for the banners, programs and what appears on the screen, it can be overwhelming. This event isn’t created and produced by a large organization. It’s done by BSM’s small team and a few volunteers. There is no production team. That’s me. There is no sales team. That’s Stephanie. The creative squad that brainstorms ahead of the show? That’s me peppering Dave Greene, Demetri Ravanos and Stephanie Eads with every single thing that pops into my head.

I share this because on Monday I’ll be releasing our full schedule for the 2024 BSM Summit. You’ll find it on BarrettSportsMedia.com/Summit. If you type in BSMSummit.com it will take you to that page. I’m also hoping to announce our final collection of speakers. You guys will like some of the folks coming to speak who we’ve yet to announce.

Booking this event month’s in advance could be easily done. I could execute a radio conference in my sleep. But I’m not interested in easy. I’m focused on delivering a two-day event that unites professionals across the entire media universe, many who you may never share space with again. I believe in this concept because it helps you learn, stay sharp, discover what others do to create success that you may not have thought about, and in the process, you build new connections.

Creating an event that dives into radio, podcasting, social media, newsletters, television, video execution, sales and promotions, the economic climate, and programming strategy, requires thinking outside the box and swinging for the fences. Think about it. Where else are you going to hear the CEO of a radio company one minute, two local sports talk show hosts the next, four digital executives after that, four social media superstars once they’re done, and cap it all off with discussions about business, entertainment, and the future? It may not be perfect or rolled out the way a few would prefer but it works for us. By the time we hit the stage on March 13-14, that’s when the six months of hard work pay off and the fun begins.

Speaking of fun, if you’ve been to a Summit before, you’ve heard me connect the world of sports media to professional wrestling. The battle for audience attention, understanding how to leverage social media, incorporate advertising, create interest in on-air talent, and design programming to capture ratings are something the two world’s have in common. We’ve been fortunate to have Shawn Michaels and Eric Bischoff speak at prior shows but never have we had a speaker involved who’d be part of the upcoming main event for WrestleMania.

I am thrilled to share that on Wednesday March 13th in New York City, we will welcome a man who has experienced every part of the wrestling and entertainment business both on-air and behind the scenes. It is an honor to have the great Paul Heyman joining us at this year’s Summit.

If you’re unfamiliar with Mr. Heyman, here’s the cliff notes version of what you need to know. Currently, Paul serves as the special counsel for WWE Universal Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns. Reigns has been world champion for 1269 days, and the storyline he’s involved in (The Bloodline) has been a massive hit on television and digital for the WWE. Roman will be competing in the main event at the WWE’s largest show of the year, WrestleMania with Heyman in his corner. The event has become so big that The Rock has returned to become part of the story.

As an on-air character, Heyman is gifted in his ability to command the audience’s attention. His promos are always well thought out, well executed, and interesting. Learning about his process as a talent and what goes into creating a compelling monologue is going to be a real treat for on-air folks in the room.

In addition, Paul is an accomplished writer, executive, promoter and booker. He’s served as the lead writer for both WWE RAW and Smackdown, leading both to the top of the ratings charts. He’s also been on the other side as the leader of an underdog promotion (ECW) tasked with building a brand and competing against the top dog, WWE. Paul is also well versed in advertising having co-founded the Looking4Larry Agency, which is known for its wildly imaginative campaigns for 2K Sports, NASCAR, Smart Cups, Monster Trucks, EA Sports and the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas.

Talent have praised his creative ideas and ability to design and structure compelling television. Audiences have emotionally connected to his on-air commentaries, and on Wednesday March 13th, BSM Summit attendees will learn what it takes to create, cut through, and command the room’s attention when I sit down with Paul Heyman for an in-depth conversation.

A reminder, tickets for the 2024 BSM Summit are on-sale through BSMSummit.com and the BSM Store. Prices will increase on March 4th so act now and save money before it’s too late. I hope to see you in NYC in three weeks.

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading

BSM Writers

Sports Broadcasts Should Remain Political-Free Zones

There’s a time and place for opinions on other things, but during a game isn’t that time or place. Be smart and think before you speak.

Avatar photo

Published

on

A cartoon depicting political candidates talking sports
Credit: Maia Lathrop / Clarion

Political thoughts and ads are everywhere. It seems like everything these days is politicized. Sports hasn’t escaped either. Athletes take stands, some commentators have made their political positions well known too.

In this case, politics is more of a catch-all term. It doesn’t just mean Democrat or Republican, it can mean making a comment on any hot button issue in America or anywhere else. Controversies that create a public stir. We’ve had a few over the course of the last few weeks that drummed up lots of emotion and certainly could have been avoided.

The most recent example took place last weekend at the NBA All-Star Saturday on TNT. As I’m sure you know by now, Kenny Smith had some things to say about the Steph Curry/Sabrina Ionescu 3-point shootout. Such choice things as, “She should have shot it from the women’s line, that would have been a fair contest.” Ionescu more than held her own, with 26 points which would have qualified her for the men’s finals in the event. Smith’s partner Reggie Miller didn’t make things much better, when he chimed in, “According to you, you want her to be playing with dolls.” Smith’s response: “Playing with dolls is good, too.” The fallout was swift thanks to social media.

Smith went on to Stephen A. Smith’s ESPN show earlier in the week to defend his commentary. “I think it’s much ado about nothing, honestly,” Smith said, when asked about the controversy. “Most people who know basketball understood what I was talking about. Actually, I was advocating for her, more than anything else, because basketball is muscle memory. So, he practices from one range, she practices from another.” Smith further explained, “Most people just don’t check the tape, they want to just check the bait. My history and track record speaks for itself,” Smith said. “I was clueless why people thought I didn’t want equality.”

Can. Worms. Opened. I get it, social media can make things appear one way when they are intended in another. My question to Smith and Miller, why make the commentary at all in that moment? Ionescu is a terrific basketball player and shooter. Everybody knew the rules going into the exhibition, so why make a stink about it? Or, if the need outweighs the caution, how about putting some notes down on paper so that you aren’t taken out of context? There are ways to make the commentary smoother. It’s not like the event was a surprise.

Talk shows fall into a different light. That’s all about opinion and it is likely up to each individual to understand how far to push it. Hosts should know their markets and from there can figure out what may or may not work. Topics like these generally lead to more fan engagement, because everyone has an opinion. It’s up to the host or hosts to keep the topic ‘on the rails’ or it becomes a free for all.

When it comes to announcers, hosts and reporters in the industry, mistakes can happen. I get that. It’s live and sometimes thoughts can go awry. We’ve seen it countless times. My question is this, why even go there? What is the benefit? Some like to try and make a name for themselves, to be controversial just for the sake of “look at me” or “listen to me” and trying to make headlines. That’s kind of sad to me. There is more to lose than to gain in these cases.

We’ve seen cases of misspeaking and/or controversial ‘hot button’ statements made on air that have proven costly to livelihoods. One of the more recent moments took place in May 2023. Glen Kuiper and the A’s were in Kansas City and had visited the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum earlier in the day. He was discussing the visit on air when he dropped the n-word. His claim was that his pronunciation of “negro” was misheard. After an investigation, he was fired. Kuiper was one of the best local television announcers.

Before that Reds announcer Thom Brennaman was caught on a hot mic, making a homophobic remark. Brennaman was pulled from the broadcast mid-game and suspended. The Reds later told Brennaman that he would not be returning, which prompted his resignation. To his credit Brennaman owned it and is trying to improve himself as a person. He’s been forgiven by the LGBTQ+ community in Cincinnati, after he attended several meetings with leaders. They weren’t easy as he told me a couple of years ago, but he made the extreme effort.

If there’s one entity in sports broadcasting that needs to stay out of the fray, and be ‘politic proof’ it’s the sports broadcast and telecast. The booth needs to remain pure. It needs to be a sanctuary for fans and broadcasters alike. There aren’t many fans that are tuning into a baseball, basketball, football or hockey broadcast to learn about your opinions about anything else but the game. Fans look to escape that when listening to or watching a game. Sports is the place we go to forget about the real world for 3-4 hours at a time.

We all have opinions about things in the sport and out of it. Opinions about the game you are broadcasting is what you’re there for, right? For example, I can’t stand the ‘ghost runner’ at 2nd base in extra innings in Major League Baseball. It’s gimmicky and takes away from the way the game was meant to be played. Me expressing that opinion as the game heads to extras is appropriate, as long as you don’t lose track of the game. My thoughts on the Presidential race or a Senate race is inconsequential in the scope of my baseball broadcast. Be engaging to your audience about things they care about in the moment, the game.

I hate when people tell us in the industry to “stick to sports”. Nothing grates on me more. I keep thinking, oh, because I talk about sports, that’s all I know? So, all that doctors know about is medicine then, right? It’s a simple-minded criticism, but I have to say, in these cases, in a booth, we should stick to the sports aspect of things.  There’s a time and place for opinions on other things, but during a game isn’t that time or place. Be smart and think before you speak.

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading

BSM Writers

Jeff Rickard Understands The Benefits of Attending the BSM Summit

“Over the past five or six years, the industry has been growing up a lot.”

Demetri Ravanos

Published

on

Jeff Rickard is one of the truly familiar faces of the BSM Summit. He’s not involved in the planning or with the company, but it’s an event he never misses.

“It went from a small group in Chicago the first year to recognition from everyone in our industry, and there’s a lot to be gained when we all get together from different markets and cities,” said Rickard of the event’s growth. “We’re not competing against each other. Instead, we’re there to bring each other ideas, lift each other up, and give each other not just support necessarily, but different ways of looking at and doing things. It allows you to kind of take some energy from another building and bring it back to your own.”

Since the BSM Summit first launched as an invite-only event, Rickard has held jobs in Indianapolis, Boston and Charlotte. In fact, it was at the 2022 Summit in New York where he had his first meeting that would lead to him taking the reins at WFNZ.

Different jobs have come with different situations. Rickard has been able to talk with fellow attendees about translators, transitions to FM, and building digital strategies. He appreciates the networking opportunities that exist at the Summit, but the access to new points of view have helped him grow as a programmer.

“Over the past five or six years, the industry has been growing up a lot,” he says. “In the last, I don’t know, three to four years, I think BSM has helped that along the way.”

The “radio is dying” narrative is a popular one. We can pretend that it only exists outside of our industry, but how many of us know someone very much inside the industry that exclusively speaks the language of doom and gloom when asked about future goals and plans? 

Rickard says that coming to the Summit is a necessity for anyone stuck in or around that mindset. Radio may not be as popular as ubiquitous as it used to be, but there is still enthusiasm for sports radio. That is something to feed off of!

“Local sports radio, if done right, will always attract an audience, because [listeners] can go to Sirius XM and they can go to ESPN and they can get the main stories of the day, and they can talk about the Chiefs winning another Super Bowl, and they can talk about if the Golden State Warriors being past their prime,” he says. “That’s all great, but if you’re in Indianapolis or Charlotte and you want to hear about respectively the Pacers or the Hornets, you know that we’re going to be talking about them. I think we’ve learned about the things that our local audience is going to want.”

Lessons Rickard has learned at past BSM Summits have had a major impact in Charlotte. WFNZ’s cume isn’t just up since he arrived. It has nearly quadrupled. 

According to Rickard, that is the result of valuing all perspectives. He’s a programmer, but that doesn’t mean he is only paying attention to sessions featuring other programmers. He also isn’t focused only on executives that could offer him the next opportunity. Rickard encourages any programmer that attends the BSM Summit to come and take notes when talent from other markets are on stage. 

“You have to realize that they’re not on a level below you. They are in large part you’re partners,” he says. “I always enjoy listening to guys that are highly successful, at those summits, talk about what motivates them, what they’re thinking about, how they go ahead and put a show together. There’s a reason we hire those talented people because they’re really good at what they do. They’re really good at attracting an audience, and they’re better at holding that audience. That’s why they’re speaking at a conference like BSM.”

Day-to-day operations are always on the minds of the people that attend the BSM Summit. When Jeff Rickard comes to New York next month though, he wants to hear conversations about the bigger picture. Whether it is from the stage or at networking events, he wants to be part of the conversations that are fundamental to the future of radio as a medium and broadcasting as a business. The one at the forefront of his mind? Audience measurement.

“We’ve been dealing with Nielsen for a long time,” he says. “There’s good, there’s bad. We all understand the system and how it works. But with so many of our listeners coming to us now through an app or coming to us by downloading what we’re doing online, they’re coming to us straight to the website. We’re starting to be able to kind of pick and choose our own numbers. We can see with certain day parts and certain guests or certain topics that, ‘wow, a lot of people checked into the app at that particular time.’ 

“So I think moving forward, the biggest thing for our industry is how do we continue to more accurately assess who our audience is and what’s really happening there on a moment to moment basis. I think we’re getting better every year, but I’m curious to see what the industry believes is the future for the next ten years, because I don’t think we’re using it now.” 

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Advertisement

Upcoming Events

Barrett Media Writers

Copyright © 2024 Barrett Media.