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The XFL’s Return is About Strategy and Second Chances

Jason Barrett

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Imagine for a minute what it would be like if we didn’t allow people to learn from their mistakes and earn second opportunities. Bill Belichick wouldn’t be leading the Patriots into another Super Bowl. Nick Foles wouldn’t be starting against him. Steve Jobs wouldn’t have saved Apple and turned it into a global success. Oprah Winfrey wouldn’t have become a revered TV personality. Jay-Z and Lady Gaga wouldn’t have become international music stars.

I could list example after example, but you get the point.

Failure owns real estate on the highway to success. You can try to avoid it, but at some point in your life, it’s going to suck you in. What’s important to remember when you face it is that it’s there to teach you a lesson. It may bruise your ego and make you question if you’re good enough or on the right track, but nobody reaps a lifetime of rewards without having their convictions challenged and their confidence rattled.

blankI bring this to light because on Thursday, Vince McMahon announced he was ready to gamble a second time on the XFL. The league is scheduled to begin play in 2020 and McMahon is hoping this time to learn from his past mistakes and see his dream of running a successful football league finally become a reality.

When the XFL folded in 2001, it was in bad shape. Sponsors fled. So too did the league’s television partner, NBC. Most importantly though, the audience had rejected the brand because the on the field product was inferior to what they were accustomed to watching.

McMahon at that time tried to introduce sex, violence and sideshow antics to give people a reason to tune in, coupled with appearances by WWE personalities. The problem with that formula was that although Americans can’t turn away from observing a car crash, once they see what’s taken place, they drive away. Which is exactly what they did every time an XFL game appeared on their TV schedule.

As bad as the original XFL on the field product was, some of the league’s ideas were good. Players were mic’d up. Unique camera angles were introduced. Player introductions were featured before the first series of play. They were innovative at the time, and wound up becoming a bigger part of the NFL’s television experience.

Upon announcing the news, social media was flooded with people declaring the league dead upon arrival. I ran a poll question on Twitter asking folks what percentage chance do they give the league of being successful the second time around. 58% said 0-25%, 23% went with 26-50%, 13% voted for 51-75% and 6% gave it a 76-100% chance of succeeding.

blankWhat I find interesting about that is that we haven’t learned our lesson. We’ve allowed our memories of the old XFL to shape what we think the second version will be. We’ve also read into comments made in a press conference and decided from them whether or not this league will work. We haven’t seen one player signed, one game played, one media partner added or one football executive hired to help McMahon make the most of his second chance.

I point this out because when the XFL held its introductory press conference nearly two decades ago, they promised an aggressive style of play and a whole lot of male focused entertainment. They also fired a few shots at the NFL. The public ate it up, and once the league began airing their edgy promos, mainstream interest grew. It spread so fast that the league’s first game was watched by an estimated 14 million people, helping it deliver an incredible 9.5 rating. The problem was that after football fans tuned in, just like a car crash, they observed the scene and drove away.

None of us know whether or not the XFL will work in 2020. But what I love about this story is how it involves strategy and the pursuit of redemption.

One thing to know about Vince McMahon, when he sees an opening, he seizes it. It’s why the WWE Network has become a success, WCW is no longer in business, and why brands like YouTube, Facebook, E and others have invested millions in doing business with him.

blankIt’s no secret that the NFL has turned off a lot of fans with their willingness to allow players to speak their minds on social and political issues. The decision to give players a choice of either standing, sitting or kneeling during the national anthem is another which has troubled people and generated a lot of negative national media attention.

But that’s not all.

NFL TV ratings have declined each of the past two seasons. Booth reviews and over-analyzing the rules have led to debates over what is and isn’t a catch, QB’s have been treated like they operate behind a force field, pass interference often affects the outcome of games, and kickoffs have been changed to discourage collisions between players running at maximum speed.

Add to the conversation CTE issues, frequent stories of players being arrested (does Ray Rice ring a bell?), and a seven month period where the most popular sport in our country goes on hiatus, leaving fans starving for something to sink their teeth into. That’s especially noticeable during the months of February and March.

When you take all of that into consideration and combine it with the rise of social media and brands such as Amazon, Twitter and Facebook expressing interest in paying for content, sports betting being on the brink of legalization, and the WWE’s television deal with USA expiring in September 2019, you can see why McMahon is rolling the dice.

So how do you take advantage of those opportunities? You do what McMahon is doing.

For starters, the XFL will play a ten game season starting in late January or early February. That’s right when the NFL ends their season and interest is at its peak. The rule book will be simplified to keep the pace of the game fast, commercial breaks will be shorter to retain interest, and traditional things like a halftime break will be eliminated to make games shorter. McMahon also plans to incorporate fan participation and online activities into the XFL experience.

blankThe biggest noise was made though when McMahon announced that any player who competes in the XFL will be required to stand for the national anthem, and players with prior arrests will not be invited to participate. The WWE Chairman and CEO said he’s looking to provide family friendly entertainment and place the focus on the game of football, not on issues beyond the gridiron.

Given his lifelong connection to the world of professional wrestling and the XFL’s prior use of WWE stars, many wondered if McMahon would align the two brands again. Recognizing how that could affect the perception of the league, McMahon said the WWE’s talent will have zero involvement with the XFL nor will any members of its broadcast team. He also made it clear that he was looking to stay out of the spotlight himself and hire smart football people to help him create a high quality football product.

McMahon’s strategic approach is smart and one that each broadcasting executive would pursue if faced with trying to launch a product opposite a dominant competitor. Whether it’ll work or not will depend on what the product looks like in 2020 and what the football fan’s appetite is for more football right after the NFL season expires.

But not to be forgotten in this story is the lesson of learning from failure and taking second chances.

Vince McMahon is an entertainment industry hall of famer. He built the WWE into an iconic brand by taking risks, among them creating WrestleMania, which had it failed, would have likely bankrupted the company. He didn’t need to invest his money and gamble again on the XFL, but it’s a project he loves and is passionate about it. As a result, he’s taking a second chance to try and get it right.

blankMaybe this will turn out bad and Vince’s legacy takes a hit. But ask yourself this question, if you were 72, highly successful, and had the stain of the XFL on your professional record, would you have the guts to try again to erase that mistake or would you just let it linger and take it with you to the grave one day?

The reality is that most people in McMahon’s shoes would’ve worried too much about their reputation being tarnished to risk pursuing the same dream that became their worst nightmare. It’s easy to operate safe and avoid publicly being ridiculed but learning from mistakes and bouncing back is what makes many of the things we do in life important.

As I think about this story, I’m reminded of a scene in the movie “Pursuit of Happiness” where Christopher Gardner (Will Smith) tells his son, “You got a dream? You got to protect it. People can’t do something themselves so they want to tell you that you can’t do it. If you want something, go get it.”

Well, Vince, you deserve credit for crafting a good strategy and having the courage to try again. But this time, you’ll need more than that to make this work. Football fans are going to expect a quality product. If they don’t get it, they’ll once again have two words for you, “You’re Fired.”

Barrett Blogs

Barrett Sports Media’s Top 20 Major Market Sports Radio Midday Shows of 2022

“A total of 45 shows were eligible for voting consideration in the Major Market Sports Radio Midday Shows category.”

Jason Barrett

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The 8th annual BSM Top 20 series rolls on with a look at the Top 20 Major Market Sports Radio Midday Shows of 2022. As you review this year’s list, please remember that the results are a collective snapshot of how forty six (46) industry executives view the best in this category. I want to thank Alex Reynolds, Stephanie Eads, and Dylan Barrett for helping with the Top 20 process, and Steve Kamer Voiceovers for being our exclusive sponsor for this year’s Top 20 series. Steve’s voice is heard across the nation on many top shows, stations, and networks, and if you’re not familiar with his work, take a second to learn what makes him stellar at his craft by clicking here.

As it pertains to the voting, here are a few key things to be aware of.

– These results are based on 2022’s performance. 2023 changes have no effect on the voting.

– Our executive panel consists of forty six (46) program directors and corporate executives from a number of top broadcasting companies including Audacy, iHeart, Cumulus, Beasley, Hubbard, Good Karma Brands, ESPN Radio, FOX Sports Radio, SiriusXM, Spotify, and independently owned and operated radio stations. We involve a large number of people in this process in order to include feedback from all parts of the country, as well as to prevent the results from heavily favoring one company.

 A total of 45 shows were eligible for voting consideration in the Major Market Sports Radio Midday Shows category.

– Voters choose their Top 20 based on a myriad of factors including the ear test, originality, ability to entertain, multi-platform impact, on-air chemistry, and ratings success. Keep in mind that voters live in different cities, have different tastes, and value certain factors higher than others. This isn’t a perfect science, but it’s the best system we’ve been able to come up with to showcase how sports radio’s brain trust view the best in the format.

And that brings us to the rankings for this year’s Major Market Sports Radio Midday Shows. Congratulations is in order once again for 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Zolak & Bertrand. This is the Boston duo’s third time winning the category including repeating as the top midday program. The Hub’s midday team finished fourty three (43) points ahead of Joe DeCamara & Jon Ritchie to secure this year’s win. BSM congratulates Scott, Marc, Hardy, Rick Radzik, Jim Louth and the entire Sports Hub team on earning this year’s top honor, as well as every other show which gained a spot on this year’s list.

Now, here are the full results of “BSM’s Top 20 Major Market Sports Radio Midday Shows of 2022!”

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Additional Notes:

  • Zolak & Bertrand received a category best seven (7) first place votes. DeCamara & Ritchie were second with four (4).
  • 21-25 belonged to In The LoopThe Players ClubNick & Chris, Bump & Stacy, and Jay & Z.
  • The closest contest saw K&C Masterpiece slip by Steiny & Guru by 2 points.
  • Of the 45 shows eligible for consideration this year, 8 received at least one 1st place vote.

Here is the remaining schedule for the BSM Top 20 of 2022.

  • Thursday February 9 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Afternoon Shows of 2022
  • Friday February 10 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Program Directors of 2022
  • Monday February 13 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Stations of 2022

To view prior years of BSM’s Top 20 results, click here.

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Barrett Blogs

Barrett Sports Media’s Top 20 Mid Market Sports Radio Midday Shows of 2022

“A total of 67 shows were eligible for voting consideration in the Mid Market Sports Radio Midday Shows category.”

Jason Barrett

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on

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The 8th annual BSM Top 20 series rolls on with a look at the Top 20 Mid Market Sports Radio Midday Shows of 2022. As you review this year’s list, please remember that the results are a collective snapshot of how forty six (46) industry executives view the best in this category. I want to thank Alex Reynolds, Stephanie Eads, and Dylan Barrett for helping with the Top 20 process, and Steve Kamer Voiceovers for being our exclusive sponsor for this year’s Top 20 series. Steve’s voice is heard across the nation on many top shows, stations, and networks, and if you’re not familiar with his work, take a second to learn what makes him stellar at his craft by clicking here.

As it pertains to the voting, here are a few key things to be aware of.

– These results are based on 2022’s performance. 2023 changes have no effect on the voting.

– Our executive panel consists of forty six (46) program directors and corporate executives from a number of top broadcasting companies including Audacy, iHeart, Cumulus, Beasley, Hubbard, Good Karma Brands, ESPN Radio, FOX Sports Radio, SiriusXM, Spotify, and independently owned and operated radio stations. We involve a large number of people in this process in order to include feedback from all parts of the country, as well as to prevent the results from heavily favoring one company.

 A total of 67 shows were eligible for voting consideration in the Mid Market Sports Radio Midday Shows category.

– Voters choose their Top 20 based on a myriad of factors including the ear test, originality, ability to entertain, multi-platform impact, on-air chemistry, and ratings success. Keep in mind that voters live in different cities, have different tastes, and value certain factors higher than others. This isn’t a perfect science, but it’s the best system we’ve been able to come up with to showcase how sports radio’s brain trust view the best in the format.

And that brings us to the rankings for this year’s Major Market Sports Radio Midday Shows. We have a new king atop the category. Congratulations to Matt Jones and the Kentucky Sports Radio crew on picking up this year’s win, knocking off defending champion The Really Big Show. This was a tight race, which Jones won by eight (8) points over Aaron Goldhammer and Tony Rizzo. BSM congratulates Matt and the KSR team on their victory, and every other show which gained a spot on this year’s list.

Now, here are the full results of “BSM’s Top 20 Mid Market Sports Radio Midday Shows of 2022!”

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Additional Notes:

  • Buck Reising and The Really Big Show tied with the most first place votes, four (4). Kentucky Sports Radio was next with three (3).
  • Spots 21-25 were claimed by John CanzanoJT The BrickAdam Gold, One Bills Live and Josh & Swain.
  • The battle for 2-4 was tight with The Really Big Show edging Baskin & Phelps by 3 points, and Baskin & Phelps slipping by Buck Reising by 1 point.
  • Of the 67 shows eligible for consideration this year, 14 received at least one 1st place vote.

Here is the remaining schedule for the BSM Top 20 of 2022.

  • Thursday February 9 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Afternoon Shows of 2022
  • Friday February 10 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Program Directors of 2022
  • Monday February 13 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Stations of 2022

To view prior years of BSM’s Top 20 results, click here.

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Barrett Blogs

Barrett Sports Media’s Top 20 Major Market Sports Radio Morning Shows of 2022

“A total of 31 shows were eligible for voting consideration in the Major Market Sports Radio Morning Shows category.”

Jason Barrett

Published

on

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The 8th annual BSM Top 20 series continues with a look at the Top 20 Major Market Sports Radio Morning Shows of 2022. As you review this year’s selections, please remember that the results represent the collective opinions of forty six (46) industry executives. I’d like to thank Alex Reynolds, Stephanie Eads, and Dylan Barrett for helping with the Top 20 process, and Steve Kamer Voiceovers for being our exclusive sponsor for this year’s Top 20 series. Steve’s voice is heard across the nation on many top shows, stations, and networks, and if you’re not familiar with his work, take a second to learn what makes him stellar at his craft by clicking here.

As it pertains to the voting, here are a few key things to be aware of.

– These results are based on 2022’s performance. 2023 changes have no effect on the voting.

– Our executive panel consists of forty six (46) program directors and corporate executives from a number of top broadcasting companies including Audacy, iHeart, Cumulus, Beasley, Hubbard, Good Karma Brands, ESPN Radio, FOX Sports Radio, SiriusXM, Spotify, and independently owned and operated radio stations. We involve a large number of people in this process in order to include feedback from all parts of the country, as well as to prevent the results from heavily favoring one company.

 A total of 31 shows were eligible for voting consideration in the Major Market Sports Radio Morning Shows category.

– Voters choose their Top 20 based on a myriad of factors including the ear test, originality, ability to entertain, multi-platform impact, on-air chemistry, and ratings success. Keep in mind that voters live in different cities, have different tastes, and value certain factors higher than others. This isn’t a perfect science, but it’s the best system we’ve been able to come up with to showcase how sports radio’s brain trust view the best in the format.

And that brings us to the rankings for this year’s Major Market Sports Radio Morning Shows. For the first time ever, the award goes to Angelo Cataldi & The Morning Team. Angelo is retiring from WIP next week, and the voters are sending him out on top. The longtime Philadelphia morning man was involved in a tight race for the top spot, and ended up holding off Toucher & Rich by twelve points to score the victory. BSM congratulates Angelo, Al, Rhea, PD Rod Lakin, and the entire morning team on their well deserved recognition, as well as every other show that earned a spot on this year’s list.

Now, here are the full results of “BSM’s Top 20 Major Market Sports Radio Morning Shows of 2022!”

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Additional Notes:

  • Toucher & Rich and Boomer & Gio tied for the most first place votes with seven (7). Angelo Cataldi & The Morning Team were one behind with six (6).
  • 21-25 was occupied by Joe Rose, John & HughSean Salisbury, The Locker Room, and Pat & Aaron.
  • The closest contest saw Moser, Lombardi & Kane hold off Joe Rose by 1 point to claim 20th place.
  • Of the 31 shows eligible for consideration this year, 7 received at least one 1st place vote.

Here is the remaining schedule for the BSM Top 20 of 2022.

  • Wednesday February 8 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Midday Shows of 2022
  • Thursday February 9 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Afternoon Shows of 2022
  • Friday February 10 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Program Directors of 2022
  • Monday February 13 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Stations of 2022

To view prior years of BSM’s Top 20 results, click here.

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