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Something To Bet On

Jason Barrett

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By nature I’m passionate about the radio industry and quick to defend it. Two decades of labor, five market stops, hundreds of relationships, and countless positive experiences have shaped my views that way. I don’t apologize for that. It doesn’t mean the industry doesn’t have its share of flaws, but all things considered, it’s a pretty great business, one which I believe has more room for growth than ever before.

A few weeks ago I attended Radio Ink’s Forecast 2019 at the Harvard Club in New York City. From start to finish the event was jam packed with information, and featured a who’s who of industry movers and shakers. In what can only be described as a monumental upset, I was asked by Radio Ink officials to moderate a panel featuring ESPN Audio SVP Traug Keller, Cumulus and Westwood One SVP of Sports Bruce Gilbert, and Entercom Regional President Susan Larkin. I’d like to thank whoever spiked the punch to convince them to think of me. It’s appreciated.

Over the course of forty minutes we tackled a variety of subjects from sports gambling to gaming, improving diversity in sports radio management, attracting larger advertisers to sports radio, the state of ratings measurement, and changing the perception of sports radio being niche. One of the headlines which stood out most was Traug’s declaration of sports gambling becoming even bigger for the sports format than what initial projections suggested.

“This is bigger than people think,” said Keller. “The numbers coming out of New Jersey are staggering.”

If he’s right, which I do think he is, this is going to be a massive opportunity for sports media brands. The initial projections from Gambling Compliance, an independent provider of gambling industry data and research, listed sports betting as a 2 billion dollar industry. After the Supreme Court made their decision though, those projections increased to between 3.1 and 5.2 billion by the year 2023. The state of New Jersey supplied a small dose of what’s to come when during their first 17 days of legalized sports betting activity, the state raked in 16.4 million dollars.

You read that news and it instantly grabs your attention and gets your mind thinking about ways to capitalize. The challenge for brands is going to be setting boundaries so the airwaves don’t get polluted with non-stop gambling messaging. That means not allowing every Tom, Dick, and Harry who bills themselves as a gambling expert to gain time on shows, even if they’re offering dollars to do so.

It also means having to create systems to avoid having situations where four of five minutes of commercial breaks feature sports gambling commercials. GM’s are going to have to work with their sales managers to make sure pricing is set high enough so not everyone can play in the space. I’d also expect more hugs needed in the sales department when sales managers and GM’s have to deliver bad news to account executives, rejecting buys from other sports gambling groups because they’ve either sold out inventory or reached maximum capacity on what the programming team will allow on the air.

Regardless of the challenges, many in sports media circles expect an influx of cash thanks to sports gambling legalization. It’s the topic everyone has been talking about, and it was voted the #1 sports business story of the year in the Sports Business Journal. The only question is will the entire pot of gold be discovered in 2019, 2020 or later.

That got me to thinking about how the rise of sports gambling will influence future programming on radio, television and in print. We’ve already seen the NY Post form a partnership with VSiN to provide sports betting written content. The TVG Network also joined forces with VSiN. The new owner of the Los Angeles Times has said he plans to evolve the newspaper’s sports section by including coverage of eSports, and it’s safe to assume that sports betting will gain further attention too. Plus the upstart digital TV channel Cheddar has regularly produced content aimed at sports gaming and betting enthusiasts.

But what about traditional radio and TV outlets?

If you turn on SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt, one of his most popular segments is Bad Beats. Tune into a sports radio station and you might hear an Action Update from VSiN or a sports betting expert appearing on a show to educate fans on potential moneymaking opportunities surrounding an upcoming game. Even FOX Sports Radio entered the fray this year by adding the weeknight show Straight Outta Vegas with RJ Bell to its schedule. FS1 did the same with the addition of Lock It In featuring Clay Travis, Cousin Sal, Todd Fuhrman, and Rachel Bonnetta. ESPN+ also followed suit by partnering with the Action Network on the show I’ll Take That Bet.

If you paid attention to industry news this week, you saw Darren Rovell announced his exit from ESPN to join the Action Network, where he’s expected to serve as an executive and cover the business of sports betting. Barstool Sports has gained strong social buzz this football season with the creation of their betting program Sports Betting Advisors featuring Dave Portnoy, Big Cat and Stu Feiner. Bleacher Report got involved in the space by launching a show with Chris Simms and Adam Lefkoe, and others such as The Ringer and Westwood One have created podcasts built around sports gambling content.

I think it’s fair to say that each of these brands understand what’s at stake. Groups like VSiN and the Action Network prepared well in advance by hiring good people, creating good content, and establishing relationships, even before the supreme court opened the door for states to make decisions on the future of legalized sports betting. Because they took the risk and got in early, they’re now in great position to take full advantage of it.

We’ve seen leagues like the NBA, MLB and NHL evolve their views on sports gambling, striking deals with the MGM casino for use of their data, logos and advanced statistics. DraftKings and FanDuel have opened locations in New Jersey and used their apps to generate larger revenues. Buffalo Wild Wings has even expressed interest in making sports betting available inside their bars and restaurants.

So what does it all mean?

Well, the obvious point is that the space is going to expand rapidly. Audiences will soon be treated to more of this type of content, and major advertisers, especially ones who are after the sports fan’s betting dollar, will be looking to sports media brands to help them build their customer base. You’ll likely see networks creating sports betting experts the same way they have sports analysts, and programming features will become part of shows you never would have expected them to be included in.

But is sports radio positioned to prosper from it? If you measure it from the over the air side, yes. Ratings, talent endorsements, and play by play associations are attractive to brands like StubHub, FanDuel, DraftKings, MGM and Buffalo Wild Wings. But it’s the digital space (where most economic projections expect bigger growth) where I have a few concerns.

I spent some time surfing thru the websites of a number of sports radio stations to see which local brands were developing original sports betting podcasts. I then examined the podcast charts by typing in ‘sports betting’ and ‘sports gambling’ to see which podcasts appeared in those categories. To my surprise, local sports radio underwhelmed.

What stood out most was that there weren’t many original local podcasts available on sports betting/gambling from local sports stations. National outlets did a much better job, along with groups like VSiN, Action Network, The Ringer, Barstool Sports, etc.. Among the few exceptions were The Sharp 600 by Joe Fortenbaugh of 95.7 The Game, a podcast done independently of the radio station, and KNBR’s Tom Tolbert, who’s hosting the Corndogs and Underdogs podcast.

Some of you reading this will be quick to point out that the iTunes charts can be easily manipulated. That’s true. They can. Which begs the question, why aren’t sports radio stations doing it then? Whether the system is imperfect or not, it’s where legions of sports fans turn to find podcasts, and advertisers judge whether or not you’re easily discovered there. If your content isn’t located under the category it’s built for on the first page, let alone the first three, good luck commanding larger dollars.

It left me wondering, if spending is expected to increase in the sports betting category, and major advertisers like DraftKings and FanDuel seek more of that content, especially digitally, why would they turn to a local sports radio station? They can find what they want on the national level, and thru popular sports digital brands, but local sports radio stations with their strong social followings, and 13-18 hours per day to promote content don’t deliver enough unique content or buzz on the subject matter.

If you’re inside of a sports radio station today, one of the most important conversations that should be taking place frequently between management and on-air talent should be about owning the sports betting space across multiple platforms. By the way, that doesn’t mean picking a part-time staff member and having them do a 30-minute podcast to say you’re present in the space. It means getting creative, and attacking the opportunity the same way you would a play by play partnership, or entering football season when you hire contributors for your main programs.

These are different times then before. When I programmed stations, I wasn’t a huge fan of sports betting content on the air. There were a lot of scammers looking to use the station’s airwaves to line their pockets, and although it may have been attractive to sales to add easy money for five minutes of garbage, I believed it was more important to put talent in a position to succeed, and respect the audience’s time.

But that was before legitimate people started creating content in the space, and before the supreme court granted authority to each state to decide their own fate. Fifteen years ago we looked at fantasy football content as a niche thing that wasn’t built for the mainstream, and now it’s a huge part of the American sports fan’s life. The same holds true with sports betting.

If there’s one major issue our business has it’s that we sometimes react too late. We’ve got to be thinking ahead and preparing ourselves to be a preferred destination when windfalls of cash become available, not walking in the door and promising to customize something after interest has picked up. Anyone can play the stock market afterwards, but it’s those who study trends, ask questions, and ultimately roll the dice who benefit the most.

Who’s your station’s go to expert on gambling? How are you elevating them across your shows, website, and social media channels? Are you hiring outside contributors or oddsmakers and building them up the same way you have ESPN, FOX or CBS NFL reporters? Do you have shows designed specifically for podcasting? Twitter? Instagram? Facebook? Have you asked the clients who have the most to gain in this space to share their ideas with you on how to create memorable content? What are you bringing to the table that isn’t available anywhere else?

If you solve those problems, I want you to ask yourself if you’re confident of your programming matching up with some of the other brands I mentioned earlier. If I walked into your building tomorrow as the buyer of DraftKings or FanDuel’s advertising, and I had seven figures to spend with one brand, could you convince me you had more to offer in this space than what those other groups have available?

This is what you’re going to be up against. Keep in mind, I’ve focused mostly on the audio part of this discussion. If I dove deep into each sports station’s social media video content and written pieces on the topic of sports betting I’d be terrified of what I’d find. It certainly wouldn’t measure up against the content being supplied by those other outlets. That points to an obvious opportunity for brands to explore partnerships with others who can bring things to the table that they can’t.

I consider this a critical conversation, and I’m thrilled that it’s going to be part of our agenda at the BSM Summit in Los Angeles in February. VSiN Chairman and co-founder Brian Musburger, Action Network Head of Media Chad Millman, and FanDuel President and COO Kip Levin have graciously agreed to spend time discussing the present and future of sports betting, lessons they’ve learned since entering the space, and what media brands can do to help themselves. 95.7 The Game morning man and Sharp 600 podcast host Joe Fortenbaugh will moderate the discussion.

Given what’s at stake from a monetization and interest standpoint, this is an area we can’t afford to miss the mark on. The reality right now is that the VSiN’s, Action Network’s, Barstool’s, Ringer’s, and Bleacher’s of the world know this space better and deliver better talent and content in it than local sports radio. So too do national brands like FOX, CBS and ESPN. If sports gambling is indeed the elixir that the sports format has been waiting for, then we’ve got to make sure we’re capable of matching up with the best that any other media brand can provide. If not, we’ll soon be waving goodbye to another lost opportunity, and this one could have grave consequences.

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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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