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Picking Up The Pieces After a Devastating Setback

Jason Barrett

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On Tuesday night, the NFL owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to return to Los Angeles. Owner Stan Kroenke got his wish to bring football back to the nation’s 2nd largest market, and will now reap the financial benefits of a geographical change.

Although I’m excited for the people of Los Angeles to have an NFL team once again in their backyard, I’m sick to my stomach thinking about my friends in St. Louis who have now had the NFL punch them in the gut for the second time. St. Louisans invested themselves in supporting the team and its sponsors for the past 20 years, while raising their children to become fans of the team. But today they wake up to the reality that they’ll soon have no games to attend on Sunday when the next NFL season rolls around.

ramsGone are the hopes and dreams of experiencing future Super Bowl championship parades down Market Street. Businesses who count on the team’s Sunday crowds will now suffer from their departure, and politicians in the show-me state will now have to show they’re committed to not letting this moment define them and their city.

Was it right? No. Was it fair? Absolutely not. But as cold and harsh as that might be, the NFL is a business. We lose sight of that when these situations arise because we sink our heart and soul into these franchises, only to discover later that the only true attachment they want from us is the one that includes access to our bank accounts.

I have no issue whatsoever with Los Angeles having a team. The NFL definitely should have a franchise there, and those fans who lost their teams 20 years ago, didn’t deserve that pain either. But I don’t believe you set a good precedent when you destroy the lives of a few million people in one city to make the lives of a few million others in another city better.

stanIt’s even more baffling when you consider how calculated this move was. Stan Kroenke bought the Rams in 2010 after Georgia Frontiere passed away. He held a minority stake in the club at that time and Georgia’s family had an interested buyer in Shahid Khan (now the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars) who wanted to keep the team in St. Louis. Kroenke though exercised his right to match the bid and took over control of the franchise.

When he assumed control he said “I’ve been around St. Louis and Missouri a major portion of my life. I’ve never had any desire to lead the charge out of St. Louis. That’s not why we’re here. We’re here to work very hard and be successful in St. Louis.

But although that sounded good, his actions over the next 5+ years told a different story.

Kroenke started out by transferring his ownership of the Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets to his son Josh who was 30 years old at the time. That was the loophole he explored so he could become owner of the Rams and maintain ownership of his existing teams. If you think “Silent Stan” was suddenly washing his hands with all business related to those two franchises you’re kidding yourself. But on paper, he covered his tracks.

Then he explored trying to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012. The winning bid went to Magic Johnson’s group but reports started to surface that Kroenke was interested in the Dodgers because he wanted to build his own media network, and after gaining the opportunity to move the Rams out of St. Louis and back to Los Angeles, offer their programming on a Kroenke owned channel.

This very model has been constructed in Denver with the addition of Altitude Sports. He’s also purchased a number of radio stations in Colorado and is expected to use one of those signals to further promote and sell content built around the Nuggets and Avalanche.

jeffAs Stan was investigating purchasing land and forging relationships with local politicians in California, the Rams product remained stagnant. He refused to show his face or speak publicly to calm the fears of local fans, and the only time he spoke on the record was when Jeff Fisher was hired as Head Coach. If you’re not looking to leave town, and ticket sales and advertising revenues are declining, you’d think it would make business sense to address the elephant in the room and help get your business back on track.

But that wasn’t going to happen.

In the NFL’s guidelines for relocation, it states that no team has an entitlement to relocate simply because it receives another opportunity to enhance club revenues in another location. Considering that St. Louis was the only one of the three cities with an actual stadium plan and commitment, it’s hard to understand how this relocation was anything but a money grab.

Roger Goodell and his people saw the dollar signs in Los Angeles along with a promise for a new home for their growing NFL Media empire and Stan was the guy with the deep pockets and huge grapefruits who was willing to turn his back on his home state to get it done. Jabs were thrown at the people in St. Louis for not offering more support, when in reality they were given every reason to not attach themselves to the team. Lost in all of this was the reality that the NFL saw Oakland and San Diego as being more lucrative.

rams2It’s easy for people in glass houses to throw stones and attack St. Louis fans for not attending games but when you’re handed a lemon of a product which delivers a 50-109-1 record over 10 years, and your owner won’t speak publicly about his intentions in your city, while he rubs elbows and furthers dialogue with Los Angeles leadership and explores every angle to leave (including attempting to break his lease to play more home games in London), it’s impossible to be supportive.

Bear in mind, the team didn’t reach the playoffs once during the previous 11 seasons, and if you look at their performance since Stan took over in 2010, they’re 36-59. They haven’t had one winning season under his ownership.

The issue here though was never about ticket sales. It was about the opportunity to increase his franchise value and own net worth by returning to Los Angeles. When you take into account the numerous business opportunities he gains from parking, to hotels, to restaurants, to higher rights deals, to possibly even gaining a tenant in the Chargers or Raiders, there’s a reason why Stan Kroenke is a multi-billionaire – he knows how to make money!

None the less, what’s done is done. The city of St. Louis and its great people will now have to pick themselves up off the ground, and decide how to repair the damage. One of my favorite quotes comes from William A. Ward and it says “Adversity causes some to break, others to break records“. St. Louis will have to decide if they’re going to let this moment break them, and if the past is any indication, I don’t believe they will.

So how does that translate to the sports media business? Here’s how.

stl2With the Rams leaving town, local people will further invest themselves in supporting the Cardinals and Blues. If you’re the team’s rights holders KMOX and Fox Sports Midwest, or any of the local sports stations (101 ESPN, CBS Sports 920, 590 The Fan KFNS), that’s good news. In moments like these, people tend to gravitate to those who love them back.

Because those other two local franchises have remained loyal and happy with their standing in the St. Louis community, I’d expect them both to benefit from it. Media outlets who put an even heavier focus into supporting them will be rewarded for it.

If you remember when the Los Angeles Angels announced they were signing Albert Pujols following the 2011 season, it was a dark day for St. Louis baseball fans. He was the face of the franchise, a good man, and he had won multiple MVP awards and a couple of World Series titles. His departure would’ve been the equivalent to New York losing Derek Jeter.

As painful and heartbreaking as it was for many, they stood behind their Cardinals. General Manager John Mozeliak went to work to rebuild the franchise, and as luck would have it, the Cardinals that season reached the playoffs and advanced to the NL Championship series where they lost in 7 games to the San Francisco Giants.

cardsMeanwhile, Pujols’ Angels didn’t reach the post-season that season and they’ve only done so once during his 4 years in the city of Angels. Their only October visit resulted in a three game sweep courtesy of the Kansas City Royals in the first round of Wildcard play in 2014. During that same period, the Cardinals have advanced to the post-season every year.

Another way I expect the city to rally is to further stand behind the media members of the community who stood up for them during this tumultuous time. Personalities like Bernie Miklasz, Randy Karraker, Kevin Wheeler, Frank Cusumano, Tim McKernan, and Howard Balzer have defended the local people and the city, while explaining why it remains vibrant and economically sound. They’ve not been afraid to challenge the NFL, its leaders and bylaws, and the Rams hierarchy, who were set on chasing the pot of gold that awaited them in Inglewood.

Today they may not feel their efforts made a difference because the team was given the green light to pack up and head West, but in taking the positions that they did, and putting every ounce of their energies into fighting for their team, city and people, they gained respect, and a deeper appreciation and loyalty from the local audience. That’s something that will mean much more down the road when they reflect back on who they were to their communities.

Anheuser-Busch headquartersNo matter how hollow the feeling might be, people in St. Louis will never forget how those media folks had their backs during the toughest of times. The one way fans can and will repay them, is by listening more to their shows, watching their TV programs, reading their website articles, and supporting their station’s advertisers. I’d also expect some local advertisers to ramp up their efforts and further invest in these people and brands because they recognize how important it is to do so during hard times like this.

One issue that will need to be examined over the next year or two is whether or not four sports stations and two News/Talk brands with sports content and relationships can turn a profit in Market #22. It’s one thing to fill the airwaves with sports programming, but it’s another to be a financial success. I’m not sure if there are enough advertising dollars in the market to support all of those brands. I certainly hope that there are but it’s not going to be easy.

The last side of this conversation that I want to focus on is how it will impact the ratings side of the business. It goes without saying that the loss of a football team usually means less audience and lesser interest in sports talk programming Monday-Friday. Stations may explore adding an NFL affiliation with another team such as the Bears, Chiefs, Colts or Titans, but that isn’t going to make up for the loss of a local team. I’m not even sure yet if a St. Louis sports fan is going to want to hear anything about the NFL next Fall. There are still a few months between now and then so we’ll have to see how the healing process plays out.

That said, if you look around the country, there are plenty of markets that thrive despite not having a football franchise. They pledge their support to NBA, NHL and MLB teams, and in some smaller cities, college sports drives heavy listening. None of us are nostradamus and can predict whether St. Louis will receive another NFL team or capture the interest of the NBA, but for now, the focus for brands who operate Sports and News/Talk programming has to revolve around the people, franchises and universities who remain committed to staying there.

1045Look at Nashville, Portland, Charlotte, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis. All of those cities have 2 pro teams or less and when you combine their college programs, there are plenty of sports options for people to sink their teeth into. Stations like The Fan in Charlotte, Portland and Indianapolis, and The Zone in Nashville, perform very well despite not having either an MLB, NBA or NFL franchise. As a matter of fact, The Zone is one of the top rated sports talkers in the country.

However, there are less sports talk radio stations in those cities than there are in St. Louis. That’s something to be aware of.

As it applies to ratings and revenue, I’d rather lose 16 football games on Sunday than 162 regular season baseball games. Many of those games air M-F and can have a big impact on a station’s performance, depending of course on which team you’re aligned with.

Most radio operators prefer to feature their best talent M-F 6a-7p, and add play-by-play around them to provide a cume, marketing and advertiser boost. As long as lineups remain stable and of interest to the local market, there are plenty of other ways to add sponsor dollars, marketing awareness and cume increases.

rams3I’m not going to suggest that losing an NFL franchise doesn’t impact business. It definitely stings and will cause some of these brands to have to adjust their strategies and expectations. It also forces them to have to modify their image because you’re no longer a three sport town.

But if the things that matter most in our business are building and connecting with an audience, generating ratings, and utilizing high profile personalities, their ratings, and our access to people through our on-air, online, and social platforms to secure advertising dollars, then that still remains doable.

It may have to be done differently, and it will take time for the emotions to subside, but a media business in St. Louis can still prosper, and listeners will still seek out hearing local people talk about local sports subjects – with or without the Rams! Knowing the passion of those fans as I do, I expect them to become more supportive of the brands and people who remain there. If you don’t believe me, ask the Cardinals and Albert Pujols how this story ends. I’m sure they haven’t forgotten.

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Jeff Catlin, John Mamola, Gordy Rush & Maggie Clifton Join The 2023 BSM Summit Lineup

Jason Barrett

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We’re less than two months away from the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles. This year’s conference takes place on March 21-22, 2023 at the Founders Room inside of the Galen Center at USC. Many industry professionals are set to attend but sports media folks tend to be a last minute crowd whether it’s buying a ticket, reserving a room or committing to be a sponsor. Yes, tickets, rooms, and a select few sponsorships are still available, but the longer you wait, the more you risk not being in the room, featured as a partner, and paying higher prices for travel. To make sure you have a seat and a place to stay, log on to BSMSummit.com. For sponsorship inquiries, email Stephanie at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

I am really excited about this year’s Summit. The venue is tremendous, the agenda is coming together nicely, and there’s no doubt we’ll have great weather when we gather in LA. Some have asked me why I don’t reveal the full schedule of sessions months in advance, and it’s because I believe in swinging for the fences and trying to do big things. To do that, you’ve got to be willing to invest time and explore every opportunity that can be impactful. It’d be much easier to fill the schedule and be done with everything but if it’s going to take a little longer to deliver the best speakers, discussions and experiences for all in the room, then that’s what I’m going to do.

Those involved in the creation of this conference know that I set a very high standard for it. We’ve run some great events over the years, and it’s because we put everything we have into making sure each session is valuable to a different segment of the industry. My goal each year is to present an action packed agenda that helps people learn, gain access to information to improve themselves and/or their brands, and create a few connections and memorable moments to justify it being worth a few days away out of the office or studio. If we can do that, it makes the sacrifices worthwhile. If we can’t execute at a high level, then I’d probably pass on doing it.

Before I tell you about the four people we’re adding to our speaker lineup, I do want to remind you that we recently announced a contest for California college students. We’re giving away ten (10) FREE tickets to the show courtesy of Steve Kamer Voiceovers. If you know a student in California please let them know about this. If they’re not in California but want to attend the event, we’ve created a special college rate to make it affordable for young people. Everything is listed on BSMSummit.com.

Now, for the new additions to the lineup.

I’m excited to welcome Jeff Catlin of The Ticket in Dallas to the Summit. This will be Jeff’s first Summit visit, and I appreciate him making time to share his programming wisdom with the rest of the room. Jeff will be part of a programming panel that kicks off day #2. That panel will include Jimmy Powers of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Raj Sharan of Denver’s Sports Station 104.3 The Fan, and our next addition, John Mamola of WDAE. John has been at all of our events dating back to our first test event in Chicago. I’m looking forward to giving him an opportunity to offer his programming insights alongside this talented group.

Also joining the Summit lineup is Maggie Clifton, Blue Wire’s Senior Vice President of Business Development. Maggie has played a vital role in growing Blue Wire’s revenue, and I’m looking forward to having her join Barstool Sports’ SVP, Head of Sales Matt Berger, and Magellan AI’s Chief Revenue Officer John Goforth on a panel that focuses on digital monetization.

Guiding that conversation will be Guaranty Media’s Gordy Rush. The Baton Rouge Vice President and General Manager who doubles as LSU’s sideline reporter on football broadcasts is well versed in monetizing content, and understanding the opportunities and challenges broadcasters face. I’m confident those in the room charged with maximizing digital revenue for their brands will gain great value from these four professionals.

There’s much more in the works that I’m looking forward to announcing in the coming weeks. Whether you own a company, manage a cluster as a GM, lead a sales team, host or produce a podcast or radio/TV show, buy advertising, oversee a brand’s social media strategy or program a network or local outlet, there’s something for every sports media professional at the BSM Summit. I invite you to come see for yourself. To do so, visit BSMSummit.com.

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Jimmy Powers to Receive The Mark Chernoff Award at the 2023 BSM Summit

“Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award.”

Jason Barrett

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As a former programmer turned consultant, I pay more attention than most to those who lead brands, manage talent, and create consistent success. When you look across the country at the hundreds of stations delivering sports radio content, and analyze who operates at a high level, there’s maybe ten to twenty who are changing the game, and others who are rising and hoping to become a bigger part of the conversation.

What makes this annual award special in addition to having Mark Chernoff’s name on it, is that it’s voted on by eighteen industry heavyweights. These are folks tasked with overseeing radio companies, major networks, and having exceptional track records of broadcasting success. So when they vote and an individual earns an honor, it means a little more.

If you’re in the business and follow sports radio, then you’re aware of Mark Chernoff’s accomplishments as a program director. He was one of the true architects and consistent winners, and his ability to excel as a sports radio manager has influenced and shaped many careers. Mark graciously agreed to be part of our awards ceremony a few years ago when I approached him with the idea in New York City. I’m thrilled to share that although he doesn’t attend many industry conferences on the west coast, he will be with us at the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles for the ceremony.

Which brings me to this year’s winner.

It is my honor to congratulate the leader of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Jimmy Powers. Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award. He follows Rick Radzik of 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, and Mitch Rosen of 670 The Score in Chicago. Jimmy will be in attendance at the Summit to pick up the award, and will take part in a program director panel at the show. Further details on that to be shared next week.

“It’s such a great honor not only to be mentioned in the same breath with Mark Chernoff, but to receive the ‘Mark Chernoff Award’ is really, really cool” shared 97.1 The Ticket Program Director Jimmy Powers. “With so many great program directors across the country who are deserving of this award, I truly appreciate the recognition.”

Since late 2009, Powers has led the Detroit sports radio station to unmatched local success. Brought in to build upon what was created by the late great Tom Bigby, he’s helped The Ticket become one of the format’s best examples of success. The station has consistently dominated the Male 25-54 demo, while also becoming a ratings force with Persons 12+ and Adults 25-54.

“Jimmy has done an amazing job over the years running 97.1 the Ticket,” said legendary sports radio programmer Mark Chernoff. “He knows how to work with talent, and maintain balance while managing relationships with the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons, which is not an easy job. The ratings remain high, and the Ticket continues to be one of America’s top sports stations, which reflects the great work Jimmy has done as the station’s program director.”

In addition to delivering double digit shares, quarterly ratings wins, and presenting a star studded lineup and Michigan’s top sports franchises, The Ticket has taken home plenty of hardware too. The station has won the Marconi award for best sports station in 2016 and 2022. And now, they can add the 2023 Mark Chernoff Award to their trophy case.

“2022 was another big year for The Ticket, and many in Detroit deserve credit for the brand’s consistent success, but none more so than their exceptional brand leader, Jimmy Powers,” added BSM President Jason Barrett. “Jimmy has been a staple of consistency, guiding one of the crown jewels of sports radio, managing top personalities, important play by play partnerships, and helping the brand generate large revenues. I’m thrilled that our industry voters took notice of the fantastic work Jimmy has done and look forward to celebrating his career and accomplishments in Los Angeles this March.”

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California College Students Earn Chance to Win 10 Free Tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit Thanks to Steve Kamer Voiceovers

“In order to win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event.”

Jason Barrett

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With a new year comes renewed energy and optimism for the sports media business. Yours truly is looking forward to showcasing the best our business has to offer when we gather the industry in Los Angeles, CA at the 2023 BSM Summit at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California on March 21-22, 2023. Our conference is returning to the west coast for the first time since 2019. We’ve announced some super talented speakers. We’ve got additional things in the works and I plan to make additional announcements in the next few weeks.

People often ask me what the biggest challenge is putting this event together. My answer is always the same, it’s getting people to leave the comfort of their office and spend two days in a room together learning and discussing ways to grow the business. We have great sponsorship support and exceptional people on stage and are fortunate to have a lot of folks already set to attend. Our venue this year has extra space though, so I’m hoping a few more of you make time to join us. If you haven’t bought a ticket or reserved your hotel room, visit BSMSummit.com to make sure you’re all set.

If there’s one thing our industry could get better at it’s opening our minds to new ideas and information. There’s more than one path to success. Just because you’re in good shape today doesn’t mean you will be tomorrow. Building brands, growing audiences, increasing revenue, and examining new opportunities is an ongoing process. There are many shifts along the way. We may not solve every business challenge during our two-days together but you’ll leave the room more connected and informed than when you entered it.

Each year I’ll get two or three emails from folks sharing that they learned more about the industry in two-days at the Summit than they have in ___ years inside of their building. That’s truly gratifying and what I strive to achieve when I put this event together. I remember when conferences like this didn’t exist for format folks and I take the risk and invest the time and resources to create it because I love the sports media industry and believe I can help it thrive. I see great value in gathering professionals to share ideas, information, and meet others who can help them grow their business, and if we do our part, I’m confident some will want to work with us too. That’s how we benefit over the long haul.

But as much as I focus on serving the professional crowd, I also think we have a responsibility to educate young people who are interested, passionate, and taking steps to be a part of our business in the future. The BSM website is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each month and it’s become a valuable resource for folks who enjoy sports radio and television. I think it’s vital to use our platform, influence and two-day event to connect generations and I’m happy to announce that we will once again welcome college students at this year’s Summit.

Most of us who’ve been in this line of work for two or three decades learned the business without podcasts, YouTube, social media, the web or conferences delivering two full days of sessions that taught you more about the business than what’s available inside of a class room. We learned by doing, and hoping we were right. Then we copied others who had success. Some of that still exists, and that’s not a bad thing. But where our business goes in the future is going to be drastically different.

I’d like to see the difference makers in our format remembered for years to come, and practices that have stood the test of time remain valued down the line. Change is inevitable in every business and I’m excited about the road that lies ahead especially some of the technological advancements that are now available or will soon become a bigger part of our industry. I think we can embrace the future while enjoying the present and celebrating the past. The best way to do that is by bringing together everyone who is and is hoping to be a part of the sports media universe.

So here’s two things we’re doing to make sure future broadcasters have an opportunity to learn with us.

First, I want to send a HUGE thank you to Steve Kamer Voiceovers. Thanks to Steve’s generosity, TEN (10) college students will be given FREE tickets to attend the 2023 BSM Summit in March. Steve is a USC graduate (Class of 1985) and he bought the ten tickets to help young people learn about the industry, save money and make valuable connections. When I first received his order, I thought he hit the wrong button. I reached out to tell him a mistake was made and I needed to refund him. That’s when he told me what he wanted to do for students who were pursuing their broadcasting dreams just as we both did years ago. A very classy gesture on his part.

As it pertains to the contest, here’s how it’s going to work.

To win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event. Included in your email should be a list of steps that you’ve taken or are pursuing to explore opportunities in the media industry. If you want to pass along a resume and audio or video clips too to showcase your work and experience, that’s fine as well. BSM will accept submissions until February 17th. The winners will be announced on Friday February 24th.

Helping me select the winners will be an exceptional panel of media executives. Each of these folks below will choose one person to attend our L.A. event. The final two will be picked by Steve Kamer and myself.

  • Scott Shapiro – Senior Vice President, FOX Sports Radio
  • Justin Craig – Senior Program Director, ESPN Radio
  • Jeff Sottolano – Executive Vice President, Programming, Audacy
  • Bruce Gilbert – Senior Vice President of Sports, Cumulus Media & Westwood One
  • Amanda Gifford – Vice President, Content Strategy & Audio, ESPN
  • Jacob Ullman – Senior Vice President, Production and Talent Development, FOX Sports
  • Greg Strassell – Senior Vice President, Programming, Hubbard Radio
  • Scott Sutherland – Executive Vice President, Bonneville International

To qualify for the BSM Summit College Contest, students must be enrolled in college in the state of California, pursuing a degree that involves course work either in radio, television, print or the digital business. Those attending local trade schools with a focus on broadcasting are also welcome to participate. You must be able to take care of your own transportation and/or lodging.

This is a contest I enjoy running. We’ve had great participation during our prior two shows in New York City but haven’t done it before on the west coast. I’m hoping it’s helpful to California students and look forward to hearing from many of them during the next month.

For students who live out of state and wish to attend or those enrolled at local universities who enter the contest but aren’t lucky enough to win one of the ten free tickets from Steve Kamer Voiceovers, we are introducing a special two-day college ticket for just $124.99. You must provide proof that you’re currently in school to take advantage of the offer. This ticket gives you access to all of our sessions inside the Founders Club. College tickets will be limited to forty (40) seats so take advantage of the opportunity before it expires.

The 2023 BSM Summit will feature award ceremonies with Emmis Communication CEO Jeff Smulyan and legendary WFAN program director Mark Chernoff, sessions with influential on-air talent such as Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, Joy Taylor, and Mina Kimes, big picture business conversations with executives from groups such as Audacy, iHeart, Bonneville, Good Karma Brands, Barstool, The Volume, Omaha Productions and more. For details on tickets and hotel rooms visit BSMsummit.com.

I look forward to seeing you in March in Los Angeles!

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