Connect with us

Barrett Blogs

Pay Attention to the ESports Revolution




Sports radio is full of people with unique and interesting stories of how they got to where they are. One of those interesting stories in Jon Lunceford. He currently hosts Jox Primetime on JOX 94.5 in Birmingham. 


Lunce was a professional gamer for a time before he launched his media career. That’s why we thought he was the perfect guy to write a little bit about the esports revolution. You may not pay attention to professional video gaming, but your kids certainly do. Is sports radio ready for the day when who Robert Kraft signs to play for the Patriots is less relevant in the pop culture landscape than who he signs to play for his esports team?

Professional gamers are everywhere. Sure, they have their own YouTube channels and Twitch streams, but Turner Sports is putting big events on television. Your tween sons are probably watching DisneyXD’s block of gaming-related shows every weeknight.

In his guest column for BSM, Jon Lunceford talks about his experience as a pro gamer, how the industry has caught the attention of some of the sports world’s most powerful names, and what sports radio can do to embrace esports in a way that isn’t jarring for our current listeners.


It’s a sunny afternoon in Los Angeles, and Oklahoma City forward Paul George arrives at the newly built Banc of California Stadium.  Also in the building is Los Angeles Laker guard Josh Hart.  Could this be it?  Is Paul George taking his talents to the Lakers next season?

Don’t get your hopes up quite yet Laker fans.  George isn’t there to meet with Hart about potentially joining the franchise that some think he may end up with this season.  Instead, he is joining Pistons big man Andre Drummond, Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried plus UFC fighters Tyron Woodley and Demetrious Johnson along with more athletes and entertainers to play in the first ever Fortnite Celebrity Pro-AM at E3.


If you’re in sports media, and you haven’t heard about esports, it’s time you started paying attention, because the athletes, coaches and executives you already cover are, and they are putting their money and brands into the vastly growing world of professional video gaming.

If you don’t know who Faker, Ninja or Daigo are – don’t worry, you’re not alone.  But these are some of the biggest stars in the world thanks to their success in games like League of Legends, Fortnite and Street Fighter.

I know what you’re thinking…no one cares about video games and the nerds that play them. We have more important things to discuss each day on our radio programs.  I get it.  I work in a market where it’s Alabama and Auburn football all the time, even now in the middle of the summer when there is nothing going on with either of those schools.

However, at the end of the day, it doesn’t hurt to follow the money.

That’s what I did.  As a college football player over a decade ago, I unfortunately got injured and had to stop playing.  However, I found a new competitive outlet – esports.  At the time, it wasn’t near as big as it is now, but I found a way to keep my competitive juices flowing while earning free trips to Germany, China, South Korea and all over the United States. I also won a little money while I was at it.  

While college football or basketball may be the only reason you ever want to talk about collegiate sports, it might be worth keeping an eye on esports.  Scholarships are being handed out around the nation for the top esports players out of high school.  High schools themselves are getting in on the action with the already established High School Esports League and now the National Federation of High Schools has partnered with PlayVS to bring esports to a number of member associations this year.  While esports is very worldwide now, this brings it to us on the local level.

After graduation, there are many professional leagues that not only pay full time salaries to compete, but the prize money is growing with each competition and into the millions for many games.

Esports revenue is growing at an incredible rate – 41.3% year-over-year according to Newzoo, an esports data gathering firm.  Esports is expected to make approximately $1.5 billion in revenue in 2020 with over 300 million people watching esports around the world.  ESPN, NBC and Turner have already signed deals to carry various events on their networks.

So what does this mean for sports radio?

First, let’s look at TV trends.  We have all watched ESPN struggle over the last few years.  Whether it’s due to their layoffs or politically leaning programming, the Sports Leader is going downhill.  The NFL is a league that as a whole has seen a decrease in viewership over the last couple of years for multiple reasons.  While most reports will point to people not tuning in due to the protests or bad match-ups in primetime, many young viewers are just finding interest in something else.

According to a survey from Limelight Networks, men 18-25 are spending more time online watching video gaming and esports events on average (1.95 hours) than sports (1.67 hours), news (1.45 hours) or other TV programming (1.88 hours).

If we look at Nielsen’s Total Audience Report from 2017, we see that live TV viewing has gone down 16 minutes since 2015 while viewing content on a smartphone or tablet has gone up 1 hour and 41 minutes in those two years.  Radio has been a constant, sitting at the same amount of time listened each day over the years.  However, it went from the second most used medium to the third most used behind smartphones.

It’s all about understanding where people are, and how these future generations will consume media differently than most adults in our core demographic of 25-54 do now.  There doesn’t have to be a seismic shift into all of the sudden paying attention to esports and making it a part of our daily sports radio lives.  However, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

One of the major stories in sports media has been the lack of viewers for ESPN’s new early lineup including Get Up! and High Noon.  Both shows are struggling to build their brands and get viewers this summer before football season starts back up.  While I am sitting here reading an article about their numbers being under 200,000 viewers at certain times, I am also watching a stream of Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, who is currently doing nothing but sitting in the lobby on Fortnite in front of 150,000 viewers.  I flip over, and watch a regular season game from the League of Legends Championship Series that currently has 165,000 viewers.  


While those numbers aren’t beating ESPN for standard daily viewership, there are multiple reasons why those esports numbers are more intriguing to a potential sponsor looking to spend their money in a more efficient way.  Not many organizations can show over 1 billion measurable views like the League of Legends Championship Series can, as they just hit that mark this summer.

It’s also curious when you look at the money and viewership involved with the biggest esports event each year, The International, and compare it to major events in traditional sports like The Masters.  Last year’s International saw five winners made $2.17 million each, more than this year’s Masters winner Patrick Reed made at $1.98 million. The International wasn’t quite as highly viewed as The Masters, but it is getting closer.  The International 2017 peaked at 10.9 million viewers while The Masters 2018 peaked at 16.8 million viewers.  The International 2018 is August 15-25 in Vancouver if you’re curious.

While I am on the younger side of sports radio, in my early 30’s and right in the middle of the Millennial generation, I understand that esports isn’t what I need to talk about daily on my radio show.  Most people out there would rather hear me discuss whether I think Tua Tagovailoa or Jalen Hurts should start for Alabama next season for the 50th time instead of talking about the Overwatch League playoffs.  But that doesn’t mean that no one wants to hear it.

Slowly we are starting to see gaming and esports products pop up.  Westwood One has Checkpoint Radio which stations can carry each week to discuss the latest in gaming.  Many radio personalities are starting their own podcasts to discuss topics like esports as well.

The best way we’ve found to discuss esports is by finding a way to tap into that small part of our listeners that does enjoy video games, whether they did as a child, or their children now play games.  When recapping weekend events a few weeks ago, I mentioned E3, and in doing so, was able to relate it to sports games we all have played at one point or another such as FIFA, Madden, NBA 2K and more.  It generated great discussion among listeners who wouldn’t have cared about discussing video games normally.


The most important thing with esports is to try and understand it.  Is it a sport?  As someone who has played college football and competed in esports professionally, I always say no despite understanding every argument that says it is.  But it still can have a place in sports.  

Former ESPN President John Skipper said that esports was not a sport in his mind and that he was only interested in doing “real sports” on the network.  Nevermind that the World Series of Poker is one of ESPN’s biggest attractions and isn’t even remotely close to a sport, nor is the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

I’m sure many of your kids are playing Fortnite non-stop, but the difference with video games is – there is always a next game.  Once the Fortnite fad dies down, there will be another game that your kids will be playing while professional athletes and celebrities jump on to promote it.  That allows esports to be so accessible to the general public and why watching it online has become so large.  

Of the eight personalities on our radio station, only one other person besides me has played sports on at least the collegiate level.  Yet video games are something that everyone can play no matter their age or experience.  It’s something that is easy to pick up and use to connect us with our friends, family, coworkers and even complete strangers.

It’s something that when we watch professionals play, they are literally playing the same game I am.  There is nothing different about the game I’m playing of League of Legends compared to the game that a professional is playing in front of a sold out crowd at the Staples Center or Madison Square Garden, and yes. That is happening. 


The accessibility is unparalleled and is why multiple professional team owners such as Robert Kraft, Stan Kroenke and more have bought into the Overwatch League or the League of Legends Championship Series.  It’s why across the world, we see celebrations in football, basketball, baseball and soccer that mimic dances found in Fortnite.  

It’s why Adam Silver and the NBA have bought in, creating the NBA 2K league.  Because while I may not ever be able to go out and play with LeBron James in the NBA, I can certainly pick up a copy of NBA 2K and play the same way the pros do.

When the entire sports world is buying into something, it might be worth it for sports radio to take a look at it.

Esports isn’t the norm right now, and it may take a long time before it is.  For now, we’ll wait and see if Paul George goes back to LA, but this time to play basketball instead of Fortnite.

Barrett Blogs

Rachel Nichols and Baron Davis Headline Final Speaker Announcements For the 2023 BSM Summit

“I’m sure Baron and Rachel will have all eyes and ears focused on them when they take the stage together next Tuesday at 2:45pm PT.”

Jason Barrett




The 2023 BSM Summit schedule is set. After months of planning and talking to everyone across the industry, I’m ecstatic to roll out next week’s agenda including making one final announcement involving seven great additions to our conference.

For starters, it is a pleasure to welcome Showtime’s Rachel Nichols to the BSM Summit. I’ve admired her work on television for years, and am thrilled to have her guiding a session which I think many in the room are going to really enjoy.

Rachel’s guest will be former NBA star Baron Davis. Baron runs his own company, Baron Davis Enterprises, and he has been active in investing in media brands, and exploring ways to evolve the industry. Among his areas of passion, athletes taking more control of their brands, and the media industry needing to improve its track record with diversity. I’m sure Baron and Rachel will have all eyes and ears focused on them when they take the stage together next Tuesday at 2:45pm PT.

Also joining the Summit are a few longtime industry friends. For starters, VSiN’s program director Jon Goulet is someone who I’ve known and worked with, and he understands the sports betting audio space extremely well. Jon and BetQL VP of Programming Mitch Rosen will spend time with another industry friend, Bryan Curtis of The Ringer. Collectively they’ll examine the state of sports betting audio on Tuesday March 21st from 3:35p-4:10p, and what they look for when it comes to sports betting talent, and how they determine what is and isn’t success in the sports gambling content world.

With Mitch taking part in the sports betting panel, Jeff Rickard of WFNZ in Charlotte steps into The Programmer’s Panel alongside Jimmy Powers, John Mamola and Raj Sharan. The session is scheduled for Wednesday March 22nd from 9:10a-9:45a PT. Ironically, all four of these programmers work for different companies, so it’ll be interesting to hear how they differ and where they align while navigating through a few sports radio programming topics.

Next, I’m excited to introduce a social media session with Karlo Sy Su of ESPN Los Angeles and Matthew Demeke of AM 570 LA Sports. If you look at the performance of their brands on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook, they’ve each delivered strong audiences and engagement. I’m looking forward to hosting this one and learning about their processes, how they decide which platforms to focus on most, what they consider a social media win when analyzing social statistics, and how they develop their content process. Given our location, we’re calling the session ‘Social Media Goes Hollywood‘. It’s scheduled for Wednesday March 22nd from 3:35-4:10 PT.

I realize you’re not going to remember all of these session speakers and times off the top of your head, so to make it easier, log on to and scroll down past our speakers. That’s where you’ll find our detailed list of sessions/times and activities planned each day. We have eighteen sessions, two awards ceremonies, and two parties. Our kickoff party is presented by the WWE and takes place Monday March 20th from 7p-9p at the 1880 Founders Room. The ESPN Radio After Party takes place Tuesday March 21st from 6p-8p at the Lab Gastropub. Both party locations are in walking distance of the USC Hotel and our conference venue.

As an added bonus, thanks to the generosity of our friends at WWE, we will be giving away a pair of tickets to the first night of WrestleMania, and a WWE title at our kickoff party. WrestleMania takes place this year in Los Angeles at Sofi Stadium on March 25-26. You must be present at the kickoff party to win either prize.

We’ll have more to share next week including providing an ongoing blog with session news and notes for our readers. We’ll also have a ton of content available on our social media channels so if you’re not following @BSMStaff on Twitter, @BarrettSportsMedia on Facebook or @BarrettMedia on LinkedIn, what are you waiting for?

The focus now shifts to finishing our creative for next week’s show, sending information to our speakers for their sessions, and finalizing our attendees list. For those who are attending, we’ll be sending out an email on Friday or Saturday with a complete list of names of who’s coming so you can plan meetings in advance.

If you forgot to buy your ticket after seeing months of promotion about the event and meant to do so, you can still do that, but it costs more. Students on the other hand can take advantage of a low rate established for college kids at

Putting this event together isn’t easy, but I’m extremely pleased with how it’s come together. We have a lot of smart, talented, and accomplished people making time to be part of this, and I appreciate each and every one of them for doing so. Now, it’s all about the execution. Hope to see you next week in LA.

Continue Reading

Barrett Blogs

Sports Broadcasting Icon Al Michaels To Be Honored at the 2023 BSM Summit

“This is a man who has spent more than five decades on your television screen calling the biggest games, and producing some of the most iconic moments sports has to offer.”

Jason Barrett




If you work in the sports media industry you’ve likely heard someone along the way utter the phrase “don’t bury the lead“. I’m usually good about following that advice but I didn’t do that at our 2022 BSM Summit.

We introduced the greatest tandem in sports radio history, Mike Francesa and Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo and it was a special half hour. Mike and the Mad Dog were reunited after seven years apart and every individual at the event knew they were witnessing something magical on stage. I created a Mike and the Mad Dog Award for the event, which went to Felger and Mazz, who were the absolute right choice to win it. Even Chris remarked ‘that’s the right call‘.

But I learned quickly that although the intention was right in honoring the industry’s current top performing show, when you have legends in the room and they’re in their element, the last thing you want to do is overcrowd them. The connection Mike and Chris had on the air became the gold standard by which we measure successful sports talk shows, and they didn’t need an award created to deliver a special moment, just two mics and 20-30 minutes of stage time.

As I began thinking about the 2023 BSM Summit, I knew there was an opportunity to build on what we started last year with Mike and Chris, and after talking to a few people who I trust and respect, the decision of who we would recognize became crystal clear. I believe it’s important to honor the greats in our business because those who leave a permanent mark on our industry deserve it. The man we’ve selected has spent more than five decades on your television screen calling the biggest games, and producing some of the most iconic moments sports has to offer. He’s worked with the best of the best inside the booth, has helped elevate the presentation and execution of in-game content for ABC, NBC and Amazon, and his call of the Miracle on Ice, the US Olympic hockey team’s 1980 gold medal win over Russia remains one of the best calls in the history of sports.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honored and privileged to share that Al Michaels will join us on Wednesday March 22nd at the 2023 BSM Summit for our awards presentation, where we will present him with BSM’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Michaels is one of America’s most respected sports broadcasting voices, known for his exceptional work on Monday Night Football (1986-2005), Sunday Night Football (2006-2022) and Thursday Night Football (2022-Present). He’s called the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals, Hagler-Hearns, the Olympics, the Indy 500, Horse Racing’s Triple Crown races, College Football and Basketball games, Golf, and more. He’s even held roles as the voice of the University of Hawaii, the Cincinnati Reds, and the San Francisco Giants, and was in the booth in 1989 when an earthquake rocked the Bay Area during Game 3 of the A’s-Giants world series.

The Brooklyn native turned Los Angeles resident has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and owns a ton of hardware including five sports Emmy’s, three NSMA Sportscaster of the Year honors, the 2013 Pete Rozelle Radio & Television Award distributed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the 2021 Ford C. Frick Award given out by the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Though his trophy case may be full, we’re excited to add another to his collection to show our appreciation and respect for the impact he’s made on the sports media business.

A quick reminder, the BSM Summit takes place on Tuesday March 21st and Wednesday March 22nd at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California. Tickets are on-sale at

Be advised, we have started adding sessions and times on the website. As always, the schedule is subject to change. Our final agenda will be posted by the end of next week. In addition, attendees will receive an email by next Friday with details of who will be in attendance. We hope to see you there.

Continue Reading

Barrett Blogs

Rob Parker, Brian Long, Sean Thompson and Matt Fishman Join The BSM Summit Speaker Lineup

“I’m excited to welcome a few folks who have enjoyed success in different parts of the country, and in different areas of the business.”

Jason Barrett




As we gear up for our 5th annual BSM Summit on March 21-22, 2023, I’m starting to get a better feel for how the final puzzle may look. When this process starts I have no idea how it’s going to turn out because so much depends on who says yes and no. Many who’ve attended over the years have complimented our lineups, and I appreciate it because I put a lot of time and effort into featuring a strong mix of professionals from different areas of the industry. Though I’m proud of the work we do and the schedule we deliver, there are so many things pursued leading up to the event that I can’t help but wonder ‘what if this or that had worked out?’

One thing that some folks don’t understand if they haven’t been to the show before is that this is not a talent conference. It’s a sports media business conference. That means we feature radio, TV and digital executives, programmers, researchers, sales professionals, and yes, talent. I believe on-air performers are vital to the industry’s success and I want the best of the best sharing their wisdom with everyone in the room, but we’re also not going to do two full days of on-air conversations. Being successful in sports media requires understanding the on-air side and the business side, and we do our best to offer a blend of both.

For today’s announcement, I’m excited to welcome a few sports media pros who have enjoyed success in different parts of the country, and in different areas of the business.

First, Rob Parker is someone who has made a name for himself as a radio host, writer, TV commentator, and teacher. He’s currently heard weeknights on FOX Sports Radio, teaches students at USC Annenberg, writes for Deadspin, and is helping MLBBro gain awareness and a bigger mainstream media presence covering Major League Baseball. He’s experienced, smart, and never short on opinion. I’m looking forward to having him join Mitch Rosen of 670 The Score/BetQL, and Scott Shapiro of FOX Sports Radio for a session titled “Aircheck On Campus“. They’ll take the stage together on Wednesday March 22nd from 2:10-2:45.

My next three speakers, all come from the sports radio programming department.

Matt Fishman is the Director of Content for ESPN 850 Cleveland. Fishman has been with the brand since January 2020 following stints at SiriusXM, 610 Sports in Kansas City, and 670 The Score in Chicago. He even wrote for BSM for a few years.

Sean Thompson is responsible for programming decisions at Arizona Sports and ESPN 620 AM. He joined the well respected Phoenix brand after more than a decade in Atlanta at 92.9 The Game. Sean has also worked in affiliate relations for Westwood One, and on the air and as a programmer in music radio for Good Karma Brands in Madison, WI.

Brian Long is the program director of both San Diego Sports 760 and KOGO 600 in San Diego. In addition to guiding two of the top talk brands in his market, he has also managed Seattle Sports 710, and served as the Assistant Program Director for ESPN LA 710.

Matt, Sean, and Brian will be part of one of our final sessions on day two of the Summit. The Last Call which yours truly is hosting, will explore unique revenue opportunities created by local brands, and examine a few new ideas and missed opportunities that brands and managers may want to take advantage of in the future.

As of today, the Summit has more than forty accomplished professionals taking the stage at the Founders Club at USC’s Galen Center on March 21-22, 2023. I’ve got a few others still to announce as well, including a few cool giveaways planned for the WWE’s Kickoff party.

If you haven’t bought a ticket and wish to be in the room, visit The last day for ticket sales will be Monday March 13th. I’m hoping to release our final schedule of sessions on Tuesday March 14th. Hopefully I’ll see you in the city of angels.

Continue Reading


Barrett Media Writers

Copyright © 2023 Barrett Media.