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The Talent Vote: Sports Talk Program Directors

Demetri Ravanos

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The BSM Top 20s are generators. They generate clicks, comments, and conversation in our industry. Every year, JB reaches out to dozens of PDs and executives to generate those lists.

I thought it might be fun this year to add a new twist and let talent get in on the conversation. Everyday a new Top 20 is released, I will turn to a few talents in those same categories with a simple question: If you had a vote, who would be #1 on your ballot?

The state of Pennsylvania dominated the PD lists this year, with Spike Eskin of 94 WIP in Philadelphia taking home the top honor for major markets and Jim Graci of 93.7 the Fan in Pittsburgh placing first amongst his peers in mid markets. That was what the executives chose. Now it is time to ask the talent what they think.

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JORGE SEDANO – ESPN LOS ANGELES

I have worked (and currently work) with a lot of great programmers over my two decades in sports radio. Most days, being a programmer is a thankless position. There are a lot of different personalities to manage on a staff. You need to get buy in from the talent, producers, other managers and the support staff. Few have connected and garnered the respect of the talent and staffs they manage like ESPN Radio’s Amanda Gifford. 

When she managed me directly (circa 2013-16), the staff was loaded with a list of talent that is too long to list here. The common thread was she was widely respected by everyone, from the part time board op to the biggest stars on the network. 

There is a reason she has climbed to the heights she’s reached in the industry. Obviously, Amanda has strong convictions and opinions on what makes an individual or a show better. However, she is a great listener and is willing to collaborate with the talent on how to get the best out of their respective shows. People value being heard and having input on the products they touch on a daily basis. She gets that and it’s part of what makes her the best at what she does. 

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As the manager of a national brand, Amanda Gifford was not eligible to receive votes in the BSM Top 20 Program Directors lists.

JOSH INNES – ESPN 97.5 (HOUSTON)

I’ve had the great fortune of working for some of the most amazing Program Directors in this format. I worked for legendary programmer Andy Bloom at WIP in Philly. Andy is currently doing other things, but he would no doubt be one of your top 3 programmers on this list.  I currently work for a great young programmer in AJ Hoffman who is building something great in Houston. 

That said, the guy who gave me my major market break is the guy who should sit at the top of your list of top current programmers in sports radio. That person is Gavin Spittle. 

In 2009, Gavin was faced with a situation that many would have viewed as a demotion. He was sent from 105.3 in Dallas, a 100,000 watt blowtorch, home of the Dallas Cowboys, to a 5,000 watt AM Station in Houston. Over the next 4 years, he took Sports Radio 610,  a terribly rated radio station and elevated it to a consistent Top 10 finisher in the market. He and his staff flattened the competition. Houston sports radio has never recovered from his exit. 

In 2014, Gavin got the call to go back to Dallas to resurrect the very station that sent him off 4 years earlier. His job was to challenge the legendary Ticket for ratings supremacy. He has done just that. The amazing part is he has done this with many of the pieces that were in place when he took over. 
Gavin’s guidance has certainly elongated the careers of many personalities. 

Gavin listens to talent. He respects talent. He is willing to be the butt of the joke. He makes you better. He’s a friend. He is the best Sports Radio PD in America.  

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Gavin Spittle finished 6 in the BSM Top 20 of Major Market Sports Program Directors

MARK ZINNO – FORMERLY 92.9 THE GAME & XTRA 106.3 (ATLANTA), 105.7 THE FAN (BALTIMORE)

Chris Kinard has been a top programmer for over a decade now in one of the most challenging and diverse markets in the country. Consistently battling the news/political/talk format(s), especially over the last four years, and managing to keep the station’s ratings top 10 across the board speaks volumes to his ability to understand a changing landscape as well grow the audience of The Fan. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook DC as a sports talk city due to its politics-centric persona, but any four-sport town has the challenge of grabbing a wide array of listeners/fans and the balancing act managing the talent to “play the hits” is something that not every programmer in three/two-sport markets has to deal with. Chris strikes a great balance of managing his talent to ensure maximum reach to as many fans as possible and really develops the station brand on many fronts.

Speaking of which, Chris’s ability as a brand manager can’t be underscored. He has grown the station profile through many successful events and promotions over the years, surpassing his sports talk competition at every level. Chris continues to be one the most talented and unique programmers in the country. He welcomes challenges and continually exceeds expectations with original and distinctive ideas. 

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Chris Kinard finished 8 in the BSM Top 20 of Major Market Sports Program Directors

SETH HARP – ESPN 98.1 (GAINESVILLE, FL)

It’s Andy Roth at The Fan in Cleveland. The station is the sports heartbeat for the city and her fans. The imaging, the shows, the hosts, the topics and the social media are all woven together. You can tell there is a plan and it’s being executed on a daily basis. Attention to detail that is Top 10 and even Top 5 market quality. Andy is sports radio’s version of a franchise Quarterback.  

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Andy Roth finished 2 in the BSM Top 20 of Mid Market Sports Program Directors

NICK KAYAL104.5 THE ZONE (NASHVILLE), 92.9 THE GAME (ATLANTA)

Terry Foxx is a winning Program Director. Terry was involved in giving me an opportunity in Atlanta at 92.9 The Game and hired me on my birthday in 2020. Terry started The Fan in Pittsburgh as well as The Game in Atlanta and now has inherited WFNZ in Charlotte.

Terry is a no non-sense kind of guy. Come in, do your job, keep your head down and work hard. I believe he’s one of the better programmers in the business today. 

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Terry Foxx finished 7 in the BSM Top 20 of Mid Market Sports Program Directors

As the week rolls on, we will dive into every single list that JB puts out. That means next up is stations. Stay tuned!

By the way, just because I didn’t reach out to you to contribute doesn’t mean you can’t have a say. Who do you think the best program director in sports talk radio is? Feel free to add your comment below.

Barrett Blogs

BSM’s Black Friday SALE on BSM Summit Tickets is Underway!

Jason Barrett

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Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: What Does The Return of Bob Iger Mean to ESPN?

Demetri Ravanos

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Demetri Ravanos has questions about Disney going back to the future with Bob Iger. This entire episode of Media Noise is all about what the change at the top of the Walt Disney Company indicates about the future of ESPN.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: What Is Realistic For FOX at the World Cup?

Demetri Ravanos

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On this special holiday edition of Media Noise, Demetri Ravanos dives into the controversy and criticism surrounding FOX’s coverage of the World Cup in Qatar.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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