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The Future Becomes The Present at CES

“After spending a week at CES I’m excited, curious, optimistic, and cautious about the future.”

Jason Barrett

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A week in Sin City can feel like an eternity, especially when you’re in town covering CES (Consumer Electronics Show). Day after day you’re inside a hotel or convention center battling mobs of people to check out the latest inventions from some of the world’s top technology brands, hoping to get a jump start on the future before it becomes the present.

Although it’s a long week, there’s much to gain from it. As you’re introduced to various products, your mind starts to race with ideas. You begin thinking about the way the world will change, and contemplating what’s important to the future of your business, and what’s just fun to look at, but has little value to your line of work.

Whenever I attend a conference, I like to take a day or two to process what I saw before writing a column. So much gets tossed in your direction in a short period of time, and though we’re in a constant rush to feed the machine with content, I believe it’s important to step back and evaluate things. Had I rushed to write this piece after my first day or two at CES, I’d have told you flying taxi’s were going to be huge, and Google was on a different level than Amazon. By week’s end, I wasn’t convinced of either.

Starting with Google, they made a statement with their marketing on the outside, but when you went on the inside to talk to their people, they were energetic, personable, and happy to show you around, but didn’t take a ton of time explaining their products. They had a lot of items on display utilizing voice technology. That made it clear they’re bullish on the space. But I was there three different times, and not once did the staff look to engage, and discuss what they were introducing to the marketplace.

Meanwhile, Amazon operated with much less space, but everywhere I turned it felt like the company had assigned someone to their products who had a great understanding of them. Their people were less bubbly, but much more interested in sharing and showing what their products can do.

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Whether it was the way Alexa worked inside Audi’s new electric vehicle or how their technology would improve consumer experiences with printers, television, refrigerators, alarms, and thermostats, Amazon reps were informed and confident about what they have in store for consumers. Their attention to detail during demonstrations made it very easy to become excited about what they were selling.

I had been told previously to expect nothing from Apple, so when I left for Las Vegas I had zero expectations. Sure enough, they weren’t to be found on site. However, they did display a huge banner outside of the Las Vegas Convention Center which created a lot of chatter. Displayed on the side of a hotel and taking up the equivalent of thirteen floors, Apple sent a powerful message to attendees: What Happens on Your iPhone, Stays on Your iPhone.

It’s clear that Tim Cook’s company is betting big on privacy meaning a great deal to customers. The banner was installed to remind consumers that Apple doesn’t attempt to sell your data while Amazon and Google both use it. That message I’m sure resonated with many who saw it.

During my travels to the Aria, Venetian, Sands, Mandalay Bay, Westgate, and Las Vegas Convention Center North and South halls, I tried to think of how certain products could affect the future of the radio business. For example, if a session took place and focused on 5G, autonomous cars, or voice technology, that was relevant to our business. If speakers scheduled for sessions had a connection to the radio industry, I tried to be there too to learn how they saw radio’s future opportunities.

What I didn’t do was get too caught up in stuff that may be fun, but had little connection to radio. Case in point, robots may become personal assistants for people in the future, but unless you believe they’ll be hosting future talk shows, I’m not too concerned about where they fit.

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If you were looking to find technology to analyze your breast milk, your baby’s poop, or restock your refrigerator with beer when you run out, it was there. So too were electric mirrors, voice enabled light bulbs and toilets, bread makers, laundry folding machines, and headbands used to measure your brain signals and focus levels.

Though they’re each interesting and worth looking at for a few seconds, they had little connection to radio, therefore I enjoyed them for what they were, visual distractions. The only exception I made was stopping by the DreamWave area to test out their new massage chair. It would take one hell of a sales job to convince me to spend six thousand dollars on a chair, but they came damn close. The product was perfect for anyone dealing with physical pain or soreness.

Aside from enjoying my fifteen minutes of relaxation, I spent a lot of time exploring the future of autonomous vehicles and smart cities. When you see what each manufacturer has planned for consumers it’s pretty impressive. But whether it looks good in a show room at CES or not isn’t what matters. The big questions are, is it realistic, and if so, how soon?

Self-driving cars and digital roadways may be on the horizon, but opinions are very divided on how soon they’ll become a reality. That was made immediately clear during the very first session I attended when a group of speakers debated the pros and cons of building digital cities and relying on self driving vehicles.

When you factor in the construction that will be needed to create smart cities, the privacy concerns of having automakers know your in-vehicle habits, the challenge of making driver’s feel comfortable about giving up control behind the wheel, the cost of these vehicles, where they get stored, who insures them, and how situations will be handled when glitches or emergencies occur, there’s a lot still to figure out.

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Can that be solved in 5 years? I don’t believe so. But whether it’s 5 years, 10 years, or longer, car companies would not be investing their time and resources towards this project if they weren’t committed to seeing it all the way thru. The future of driving will eventually change. When it does, it’s going to make the battle for content consumption even more interesting.

Much has been made the past few years about 5G being the savior to all of our internet problems. The next generation of internet speed is said to be lightning quick, capable of making the process of downloading songs, streaming movies, and loading websites nearly 10 times faster than 4G. According to most experts, it’s expected to be in place in 2020. Verizon, AT&T and Sprint though plan to launch 5G smartphones by late 2019.

CES provided opportunities for the world’s top mobile companies to hype up the arrival of 5G. Verizon in particular did a fantastic job of showing how things will work once 5G becomes available. CEO Hans Vestberg provided a number of examples, and called upon a few different participants to illustrate how much better things will be once 5G is introduced. If time allows I recommend watching the presentation. You can do so by clicking here.

Other sessions which earned my attention revolved around gaming, podcasting, and social media. Jemele Hill announced plans to launch an exclusive podcast for Spotify titled UnBothered starting in March. The music streaming service appears eager to ramp up its podcast offerings. Twitter announced plans to introduce single player camera angles during games as part of their partnership with Turner and the NBA. eSports was on display too with revenue growth and future impact being key areas of focus.

Speaking of eSports, I ventured over to the Luxor to scout the HyperX eSports arena. The venue is spectacular, and if places like this existed across the country, kids, and young adults would flock to it. There were 20 gaming spaces for people to play, big screens to watch competitive battles, merchandise for sale, and a private area for individuals or companies to reserve for private events.

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If you work in sports radio, chances are you’ve heard a lot about the growth of eSports, but questions remain about whether or not it’s a fit for the sports format. The most popular game of 2018 was Fortnite, and while it may be fun to play, hearing it discussed on sports radio isn’t as appealing. Would it be different if the games being talked about were sports focused? Probably not, but at least they’d be sports themed.

That said, millions of people are playing video games. The investors behind these eSports teams aren’t investing millions of dollars because they’re bored. Arenas have been selling out for eSports events, sponsorship dollars are increasing, and talent agencies have started signing gamers just as they do professional athletes. Whether or not eSports can become mainstream is up for debate, but consumption of competitive gaming has been generating major interest, especially with younger fans. How that will carry over to sports radio, television, and print in the future though remains unclear.

As intriguing as competitive gaming may be, traditional operators are more enthusiastic about the growth of sports betting. As state after state loosens the reigns to allow legalized sports gambling, media brands are searching for ways to reap the rewards from being active in the space. If you stopped by Caesars Palace, you’d see signage everywhere highlighting the casino’s partnership with the NFL. Given how strict the NFL has been towards gambling in the past, this new relationship serves as a reminder that these are very different times.

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Caesars may have the NFL association, but when I want to learn more about what’s going on, the place I go to is the South Point Casino, home of VSiN (Vegas Stats and Information Network). Brian and Brent Musburger held a special sports betting summit as part of CES week which included Gavin Maloof, Jimmy Vaccarro, Vinny Magliulo, Johnny Avello, Matthew Holt, Darren Rovell, Wayne Kimmel, and others. The three hour event offered tons of insight into legalization, betting safety, guarding against athletes affecting the outcome of games, and more.

As I watched the on-stage discussion though, I kept thinking about the critical importance of monitoring trends and identifying talent. If you rewind the clock to a few years ago, media brands weren’t rushing to sign guys like Vaccaro, Avello, Magliulo or Todd Fuhrman. Nor were they creating sports betting shows and featuring them in their weekday lineups. These guys were known in Vegas and inside the sports betting industry, but traditional operators viewed the space as niche. Now, everyone wants them because they’re experts in their field, sports gambling is becoming mainstream, and the money to be made figures to be substantial.

It wouldn’t have made sense to attend CES and not drop in on conversations with WWE’s Stephanie McMahon and George Barrios. I grew up a wrestling fan, but since becoming a media professional I’ve gained a far greater appreciation for how WWE operates as a business. That’s a testament to the vision and execution created and enforced by Vince, Stephanie and Shane McMahon, and Paul “Triple H” LeVesque.

What impresses me about WWE is that they’ve become a major global attraction. They’ve done so by continuing to develop new stars and programming, expanding their audience, increasing their revenue streams, and taking giant risks. In today’s cluttered media climate they stand out as one of the most forward thinking and successful digital brands, and consistently do a great job of sharing their story and creating buzz. You could see and feel that when Stephanie talked about the rise of women in professional wrestling, and she shined in spite of being poorly set up by a moderator who wasn’t fully prepared for the conversation.

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As I bring this column to a close, I find myself excited, curious, optimistic, and cautious about the future. CES showed that the world’s best technology companies are working hard to create the next big things in our lives, but not every invention will be important to us. Especially for many of us involved in the radio business.

What concerns me is that there have been far too many examples of the radio industry being slow to adapt. We’ve also had a tendency to rely on others to create solutions rather than leading the charge ourselves. It’s far too common to find folks comfortable with where they sit today, and less worried about how they may be affected tomorrow.

If you walked around CES, you saw people everywhere who were driven by innovation and creativity. I thought about radio and its need to continue launching new products, formats, programs, and personalities, while also exploring new platforms and technologies. We sometimes forget that many of these great products that feature us still own the real estate, data, and audience. We are simply renters.

Aside from iHeart’s Bob Pittman, Beasley’s Caroline Beasley, and NPR’s Jarl Mohn taking part in panels at CES, I didn’t see any radio groups on display. To be fair, I didn’t expect to. Should we have been there? What would we have showcased? I’m not sure, but I do know that we can’t wait for opportunity to find us. It’s imperative that we work ahead and prepare for what’s next. Brands like VSiN and The Action Network are great examples of that.

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We also need to do research to understand the challenges and best case scenarios ahead, and have confidence and conviction in what we’re working on. You’re going to take some lumps early on when you introduce new ideas. If you’re not prepared to be bloodied, don’t get in the ring.

I know the radio industry is excited about voice technology and the arrival of 5G. Both will make our business better. Autonomous cars and smart cities may take longer to embrace simply because they’re much further away. What we can’t do though is assume that these things will make us necessary. We’ve got to do a much better job of selling the value and success of our business, get more creative, take more chances, and make our brands, talent, and platforms a vital part of each listener and advertiser’s life. Anything less is asking for trouble.

The faster technology works, and the more time people have to enjoy content inside their homes or vehicles, the tougher the challenges will be to stand out. Competition is increasing, and coming from every form of media, not just audio providers. If your brand isn’t known for more than its format and signal, you’re on the fast track to becoming forgotten instead of seen as a vital part of the future. The good news, you still have time to change it. Just don’t wait too long because the future’s on the verge of becoming the present.

Barrett Blogs

Julie Talbott to Receive The Jeff Smulyan Award at the 2023 BSM Summit

“The best leaders are the ones who empower their people, work with their talent, and study situations to determine where room for growth exists.”

Jason Barrett

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Each year at the BSM Summit, we take time to recognize some of the true difference makers in the sports media industry. It’s become a special part of the event, and it reminds everyone in the room of what’s possible if you do your job well and create impact.

Four awards in total are presented over the two-day event thanks to our friends at Premiere Networks. Each award has a different focus.

The Jeff Smulyan Award is presented to a radio industry executive who has led by example, taken risks, produced results, and made a significant difference for the sports radio business. The Mark Chernoff Award is given to sports radio’s top programmer. The Mike and the Mad Dog Award is presented to the top local sports radio show in America. And The Champions Award along with a financial contribution from BSM is given to an industry member who has used their platform to make a difference for others.

Since we began taking the Summit live in 2019, Mitch Rosen and Rick Radzik have been recognized as winners of the Mark Chernoff Award. Adam Schefter and the team of Keith Murphy and Andy Fales have been recipients of the Champions Award. And the top rated combination of Mike Felger and Tony Massarotti received the first ever Mike and the Mad Dog Award at the 2022 BSM Summit in NYC.

Which brings us to the Jeff Smulyan Award.

A number of top notch executives have joined us to accept this honor over the years. It started in Los Angeles with Kraig Kitchin, continued in New York City with Dan Mason, and then Traug Keller took home the honor during our last show, which also took place in the big apple.

As we looked to 2023, the goal was to identify someone who’s been active in growing their company’s footprint across the sports radio industry. Equally important was someone who has the full confidence and trust of their people, a track record of delivering results, and has uncovered new business opportunities to lead their company forward.

After a brief conversation, Jeff and I knew exactly who the right person was.

It is my honor to announce and congratulate Julie Talbott, President of Premiere Networks on being named our recipient of the 2023 Jeff Smulyan Award. Julie will be present in Los Angeles at the Founders Club at the Galen Center at USC to accept the honor at the 2023 BSM Summit on March 21-22, 2023.

“I’m humbled and honored to receive this award – especially with Jeff Smulyan’s name associated with it. I’ve been a fan of his throughout the years” shared Julie Talbott. “Premiere Networks and FOX Sports Radio are dedicated to delivering the best multiplatform sports audio content the industry has to offer, and this award truly recognizes the amazing efforts of our entire team, who I couldn’t be more proud of.  Thanks to Jason Barrett and BSM for this incredible honor.” 

“I have known Julie for many, many years and our industry doesn’t have a better ambassador than her” added Jeff Smulyan. “She has worked tirelessly to build Premiere into a remarkable enterprise and she has made legions of friends and admirers along the way. She is so deserving of this award and I couldn’t be happier that my friend, Julie Talbott is the winner of the 2023 Jeff Smulyan Award. Nothing makes me happier than to present it to her this March at USC!” 

“FOX Sports Radio’s growth under Julie’s watchful eye has been impressive, but when combined with Premiere’s performance and reach, and seizing opportunities in the digital space by launching strong brands such as The Volume, in partnership with Colin Cowherd, you start to see how she’s put her magical touch on the industry,” explained BSM President Jason Barrett. “The best leaders are the ones who empower their people, work with their talent, and study situations to determine where room for growth exists, and few have the respect, trust, and confidence of their people better than Julie Talbott.”

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Omaha Productions, The Volume, Dirty Mo Media and Silver Tribe Media to Appear at the 2023 BSM Summit

Jason Barrett

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The 2023 BSM Summit is five months away but the process to build sports media’s annual industry event continues. We’ve already announced 11 participants for our next show including Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome and Joy Taylor, but by the time this show takes place, attendees can expect to hear from 50-60 people as the agenda becomes action packed.

I do want to share one thing for those inquiring about speaking. Though I appreciate the interest, I’m selective in who we feature on stage because it’s important to keep the show fresh and full of actionable content. There are tons of smart people in this industry but I can’t accommodate everyone. I try to create sessions that benefit radio, digital and television executives, programmers, general managers, talent, agents, salespeople, production staff, etc. and to do that, we’ve got to cover a lot of different subjects over a two-day span. My goal is to send folks home with ideas and information to improve their brands, while providing a space for groups and individuals to meet since it opens the door to additional business. We’ve been fortunate to have good support and participation over our past four events, and I’m expecting this one to be even bigger and better.

Before I announce the latest additions to our speaker lineup, I want to thank Premiere Networks for their continued support of the Summit. They’ve been wonderful partners for years, and I appreciate them joining us to create the annual Awards ceremony. It is always a hit with attendees. More to come soon on this year’s honorees.

I’d also like to thank Harker Research for returning as a partner of the event, and MRN Radio for signing on as a new partner. Harker has sponsored all of our live events, and MRN has been in attendance for those shows. Having their support makes a difference. They join Premiere Networks, Stone Voiceovers and Core Image Studio as Summit partners. If you haven’t secured a sponsorship but would like to be, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com. She can update you on what we still have available.

As far as the content is concerned, I’m excited to announce a very cool session we’re adding which will include involvement from Omaha Productions, The Volume, Dirty Mo Media, and Silver Tribe Media.

Everywhere you look these days, athletes are taking more control of their own messaging. They’re also more interested in content creation and are investing in people to help build today and tomorrow’s sports media empires. Whether it’s been Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dale Earnhardt Jr. or broadcasters such as Colin Cowherd, Bill Simmons, Dave Portnoy and Pat McAfee, the era of personality-led audio networks has arrived. This session will examine where we are, where we’re going, what’s been learned, and how it will affect change across traditional media moving forward.

Jack Rose of Silver Tribe Media will moderate the session. Joining him on stage will be Logan Swaim, Head of Content at The Volume. Richelle Markazene, Head of Audio for Omaha Productions, and Mike Davis, President and Executive Producer of Dirty Mo Media. Each of these folks have great insight and experience with leading personality-built brands, and Jack’s understanding of the media landscape through his work with Michael Klein’s company make him an ideal fit to guide the conversation. This is a session that traditional media folks are going to want to be present for.

If you haven’t purchased a ticket or booked your hotel room, don’t wait until the last minute. Everything you need to be in attendance for the Summit is available at BSMSummit.com. We are excited to host the show at The Founders Club at the Galen Center on the campus of the University of Southern California. This is a great location and the biggest room we’ve run our conference in yet. I’m hoping to see you there.

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Jeff Smulyan, Mark Chernoff, Scott Shapiro, Scott Sutherland and Evan Cohen To Participate at 2023 BSM Summit

“The 2023 BSM Summit is a two-day media industry conference designed to help broadcasting professionals.”

Jason Barrett

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Building an annual sports media conference is no day at the beach. It takes months to assemble and involves a lot of different steps. We analyze what matters to those attending, brainstorm ideas, create a sketch of the show to make sure there’s enough variety to satisfy different segments of the industry, pursue tons of speakers who have experience and an ability to add something unique or valuable on stage, and create sales decks and talk to existing and potential clients about supporting the show. If all of it doesn’t flow seamlessly, we run the risk of not delivering the type of event I expect us to.

Fortunately, over the years we’ve put together a pretty good conference. I’m proud of how it’s grown and that’s only possible because we’ve had great support across the industry. If you work in sports media and value learning, relationship building, and connecting with teammates, peers and competitors, this is an event you need to be at. It’s one that companies looking to reach sports broadcasting professionals should be involved in from an advertising standpoint too. Though there’s a lot of work still to be done, when we arrive in Los Angeles for the 2023 BSM Summit at USC’s Founders Club at the Galen Center on March 21-22, 2023, I’m expecting our team will deliver another top-notch performance.

To help us make that happen, I’m thrilled to share that we’ll have participation from some of the industry’s most accomplished broadcasting professionals. Joining us on site for our awards ceremonies will be the man who started the sports talk format, Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan. Also making the trip to the west coast will be former WFAN program director and CBS Radio/Entercom/Audacy sports format captain Mark Chernoff. Both men are honored annually with awards in their names. We’ll reveal the winners of both of those awards in the weeks and months ahead.

Additionally, I’m pleased to welcome back Scott Sutherland. Scott serves as the Executive Vice President of Regional Media Operations for Bonneville International Corporation, and is responsible for the strategic development and business growth of the company’s market leading sports brands in Phoenix, Denver, Seattle, Salt Lake City and Sacramento. Also returning to the Summit is FOX Sports Radio’s Vice President of Programming Scott Shapiro. Scott is charged with guiding FOX Sports Radio’s daily content strategy, and always enjoys lending his perspective on key issues facing talent, brands, and content leaders.

I realize many of you reading this who work in the industry are last minute planners. That’s ok, but I’d encourage you to reserve your hotel room in advance if you wish to stay close to the Galen Center. Our hotel partner is the USC Hotel, and you can learn more about the discounted rate we’ve established for attendees by clicking here.

The 2023 BSM Summit is a two-day media industry conference designed to help broadcasting professionals. The sports media industry is rapidly changing and the more we can learn from one another and take advantage of information and relationships, the better it’ll serve us moving forward. To attend this show, you must be involved in the media business whether it’s on-air, digital, behind the scenes, in management, sales, ad buying, talent representation or something else. We will also allow college students to attend the show in person if they are pursuing a future in sports broadcasting. Details on student tickets will be made available closer to the holidays.

In the meantime, if you want to make sure you have a seat in the room to enjoy the sessions and network with industry professionals, purchase your ticket(s) by visiting BSMSummit.com. I look forward to seeing you there.

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