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5 Tips From Rocky Which Can Help Your Talk Show

Jason Barrett

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If you were born in the seventies and are a child of the eighties, chances are you’re familiar with some iconic movies. Star Wars, E.T, Back To The Future and countless others have stood the test of time and earned our respect and appreciation but there’s one particular series that I hold in high regard.

I’m talking about Rocky, which has now added a new twist with the recent release of “Creed”.

Creed06467.dngI had a chance last weekend to see the movie and I thought the writing, production, and story created by Ryan Coogler was brilliant. There was a connection between the past and the present and the general public seemed to agree because the film has produced nearly 70 million dollars in 2 weeks.

After watching “Creed” with my son Dylan, I realized that he hadn’t been exposed to the Rocky series. I felt he’d enjoy it and connect to it the way I once did, so I picked up the Rocky 1-4 DVD set and this past week we started watching them one by one. As I expected, he loved them too.

I began thinking about the reasons why I felt a connection to those films and why my son who’s nearly thirty years younger felt the same. For a film to span generations and deliver the same reaction, it has to have certain ingredients. Consider that Rocky 1-3 each generated over 200 million dollars, and Rocky 4 produced 300 million. If the formula leads to that type of success, I’m interested in understanding it better.

What I discovered was that the same reasons my son and I love Rocky, are the same reasons the best sports talk shows stand out. There are many components in a show that help it resonate with an audience which is constantly being bombarded with distractions. I think you’ll agree as you sort through this piece, that the similarities between the two are very similar.

rocky3aEvery Talk Show Needs A Villain – In Rocky you get some of the best of all-time, Apollo Creed, Mr. T, Ivan Drago, etc. Whether it’s Apollo’s insults towards Rocky and painting him as a hopeless bum, Mr. T verbally attacking Rocky’s wife and sending his trainer Mick to his death, or Drago killing Apollo inside the ring, all of those characters evoke an emotion of anger and frustration and make us more sympathetic and emotionally attached to the Rocky character. When you hear Drago say “If he dies, he dies“, it’s impossible to not want to jump through the screen and hit him yourself. That’s what a villain brings to the content experience.

If you look at it from a talk show perspective, the villain usually comes in the form of a central figure on the day’s biggest topics. For example, “The NFL Referees blew the call and screwed us“, “Greg Hardy should be cut by the Dallas Cowboys but Jerry Jones is asleep at the wheel“, “Dave Stewart and Tony LaRussa got fleeced by the Braves and have damaged our future“, “Jed York’s ego caused the 49ers to lose Jim Harbaugh and become mediocre“.

Whichever example you use, when we highlight a topic that is timely and built around a polarizing figure or questionable decision, it puts the host in the hero position. This makes the audience pull for you and it keeps them engaged in your content. Most people in the world root for good over evil and they want the underdog or blue collar guy to knock off the favorite or white collar individual.

The one exception to this is when you have a talk show that is built around a controversial figure. Love and hate are two big reasons why audiences tune in and a big part of why shows like First Take and Bill O’Reilly generate the buzz and success that they do. Regardless of your personal feelings towards them, they embrace the role of the villain and in doing so, they grab your attention.

If you paint an effective picture of a character and outline why they deserve our wrath or attention, you place yourself inside the crowd and 99 times out of 100, they’re going to stand right by your side. Even if they don’t though, they’re still invested in what’s being said and that’s what matters most in measuring success.

rocky1aEvery Talk Show Needs Laughter – Rocky delivers some memorable one-liners that are still remembered forty years later. Classics such as “Women weaken legs“, “You’re going to eat lightning and crap thunder”, “I feel like a Kentucky Fried idiot” and “Why do I want to fight? Because I can’t sing or dance” stay with us because they’re timely, well executed and offer a nice change of pace. By creating moments that allow us to laugh, it breaks things up and makes the dramatic scenes stand out more.

In a talk show, the same challenge exists. Every host can hit hard with opinions, interact with or take on a caller, and ask a good question of a guest, but when the intensity is building, do you have the clock in your head and the wit and creativity to mix it up by offering a strong one-liner? If not, do you have a go-to drop to help emphasize your points in a funny fashion? Can you keep the audience on the edge of their seat wondering if today will be the day you have them emotionally angry, happy, sad, or laughing?

Being naturally funny and self-deprecating goes a long way with people. Those who can pull it off will find the audience sees them as being human, relatable and capable of not taking themselves too seriously. Those who can’t are usually perceived as being unapproachable, out of touch or even worse, a complete asshole. We can all be on a quest to find the truth in sports and seek to deliver opinions that rattle a person’s bones, but when you allow and invite light hearted moments to become part of your daily experience, you benefit a lot more from it.

rockycastEvery Talk Show Needs a Great Supporting Cast – In Rocky, Sylvester Stallone plays the lead role and as great as he is, he earns legendary status because he’s surrounded by great villains (Creed, Drago, T) and a memorable supporting cast (Adrian, Paulie, Mick, Thunderlips, etc.). These people play a vital role in helping introduce love, sadness, drama, anger and doubt into the story and without them the movie would miss the mark. Every twist and turn in the Rocky series, revolves around those words and every key moment includes those people.

Now think about it from a talk show perspective. Do you have an update anchor involved in your program? Does the producer play a role? Do you use your voice guy or callers to add to the content? Are there set guests who are with you daily or weekly and have become a part of the show’s dysfunctional family? Maybe the Program Director or General Manager is brought into the show as “The man” trying to hold you back. You can use created voices/characters too.

Regardless of the approach, all of these things contribute to the show’s entertainment value. Rather than going it alone and focusing on yourself, think about how you can use others to further lift the show and help you showcase the multiple sides of your personality. The more you offer to the audience, the harder it is for them to change the dial.

rocky2aEvery Talk Show Needs Authenticity – One of the real beauties of the Rocky character is that he represents everyone in the world who’s trying to make ends meet to survive and prove they’re not a failure. He’s a normal guy from the streets of Philadelphia who was given an opportunity and took advantage of it, even when the whole world doubted him. He may not be the sharpest tool in the shed but he’s kind, respectful, funny, genuine and honest. We see a man who might not be the best in his sport, but has heart and courage and is willing to try. Those qualities make us root for him. He’s the real life version of David overcoming Goliath.

As a personality, you have to be yourself and put yourself on display. Every positive attribute and every flaw should be showcased every single day. When people know who you are and what you represent and can count on you to be consistent, it makes it easier to listen to you. People tune in for hosts for multiple reasons but if they feel like you’re putting on an act or holding back, they’ll sniff it out and stop listening.

Who you are on the air should be reflected by who you are off the air. What we see on social media or when a camera is on, should be consistent with the person we listen to through the speakers. Sometimes people feel the need to try and change their voice to sound stronger or play a character on the air to generate bigger buzz and it may work for a little while but it can’t be sustained. Being yourself, embracing your strengths and weaknesses, and not being afraid to invite the audience in, are things you can do until the day you retire.

rocky4Every Talk Show Needs Drama – If there’s one quality that separates a Rocky movie from many others, it’s the film’s consistent ability to produce high level drama. From Balboa’s quest to connect with Adrian, to his troubles with Paulie, to his issues with Mick, to the loss of people close to him, to the fight’s themselves, each movie provides twists and turns which leave you emotionally spent.

If you’ve watched these films and didn’t feel a sense of nervousness or excitement when Apollo slid down at the count of 9 and Rocky won the title, or when Mr. T says “My prediction? Pain!“, or when Ivan Drago utters “I must break you”, then get your pulse checked immediately. Each movie delivers a powerful story that is easy to connect with and the journey through that story is what makes it important to us.

It’s no different than what you deal with each day when building topics on a talk show. Any host can hit the airwaves and ask “How confident are you that this team can make the playoffs“. It’s low hanging fruit. You give an opinion on a timely issue, relay a few stats, build some hope, generate calls and tweets, and then sign off and go home.

rocky4aBut is that memorable? Will it leave your audience confused, excited, nervous, angry and talking with their friends and families about what they heard on your show? No!

What works is when you can dig deeper into a topic and find a creative and compelling way to tell the story. That stirs emotion.

Think about some of the items I’ve mentioned above. Does the story include a villain? Does it include laughter? Are their others in the show adding something different to the discussion? Is there conflict? What parts offer me hope and which ones have me concerned?

Once you have those elements, then it comes down to the headline you create, the way you frame the story, and your ability to extend the conversation in a compelling way.

Close your eyes for a second and envision one listener in a car listening to you. Can you hold their attention for five minutes? Ten minutes? If you can’t, you’ve got no ratings.

The way to invade someone’s mind is by being authentic, offering a firm position, using facts to support your stance, and delivering the story creatively.

colinThe reason Colin Cowherd stands out to so many in our industry is because he’s an amazing storyteller. He doesn’t go into a show reliant on phone calls and he doesn’t take the bait on simple topic points. He also puts time into writing some of his opinions and analogies and he understands when to stick to the script and when to toss it aside.

For example, if Colin was hosting a local show in Arizona today, I doubt you’d hear him build a segment by asking “Did the Diamondbacks give up too much for Shelby Miller“. The obvious answer is yes and with that response comes little drama, suspense or unpredictability. If the audience can figure out the answer without having to think too much about it, then why would they stick around to listen to you?

While I’m no nostradamus and not inside Colin’s brain, I do think that if he was hosting locally in Arizona today, he’d offer something different on the subject. I’d expect him to use the topic as a starting point for explaining why in life you sometimes pay more for things than what they’re worth, and how a short-term benefit can often be worth the long-term pain.

That’s what a great storyteller does. They look beyond the headline and search for ways to make it interesting, making sure that drama is a part of every single conversation.

By taking this path, it makes the local listener forget about how much the team gave up and gives them a chance to see the story from another perspective. You think they’ll care as much about Miller’s asking price next October if it results in a World Series title? No!

By approaching it differently and more creatively, it lends itself to becoming content that lives in the mind of the audience well beyond the show. And that’s what counts.

rocky3Think for a second about the Rocky story and picture it as a real life topic today. Some hosts would hit the airwaves asking “Do you think this underdog can shock the world and knock off the champion? Your calls and tweets next“. They’d give their opinion, field the audience’s reaction, maybe invite a guest or two on the show, and then blame the subject matter if the ratings for the segment were low.

But if you took a great storyteller like Sylvester Stallone or Ryan Coogler (writer and director for “Creed”) and gave them the microphone, you’d be taken through a very different emotional experience with the content. Based on the results their films have produced, I think they’d do ok in the ratings!

Because they concentrate on telling a powerful story that can move an audience and they incorporate all of these qualities above, we’re still discussing these movies forty years later. The only question now is, when will there be a Creed 2? And will it be as successful as the first one?

Ask yourself, “Is my show selling out the theatre on a daily basis“? “Do I leave people wanting more like “Creed” has? Am I incorporating these qualities into my show? If not, you may want to consider it. Who knows, they could help you stay relevant for the next forty years!

Barrett Blogs

Barrett Sports Media’s Top 20 National Sports Radio Shows of 2022

“A total of 101 shows were eligible for voting consideration in the National Sports Radio Shows category.”

Jason Barrett

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The 8th annual BSM Top 20 series kicks off with a look at the Top 20 National Sports Radio Shows of 2022. These shows have the largest reach in America, and are distributed by the largest networks in the industry, airing across hundreds of radio stations, as well as on various digital and television outlets.

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

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

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

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

 A total of 101 shows were eligible for voting consideration in the National Sports Radio Shows category.

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

And that brings us to the rankings for this year’s National Sports Radio Shows. For only the 2nd time in 8 years, we have someone at the top other than Colin Cowherd. The winner this year for best National Sports Talk Show of 2022 is The Pat McAfee Show. It was a close race, which saw Cowherd earn more first place votes, eighteen (18) to McAfee’s twelve (12), but Pat scored more total votes including seven more votes in the 2-5 range, allowing him to prevail by seventeen points. McAfee’s show is now consumed through podcasts, YouTube, and social media but 2022 did include eight months of distribution on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio. We congratulate Pat, AJ, and the entire crew on earning this year’s top honor, as well as every other show which appeared on this year’s list.

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

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Additional Notes:

  • The Herd w/ Colin Cowherd earned a category best eighteen (18) first place votes. The Pat McAfee Show was second with twelve (12).
  • 21-25 was occupied by Outkick 3602 Pros & a Cup of Joe, The Zach Gelb Show, Spain & Fitz, and Bart & Hahn.
  • The closest contest saw You Better You Bet edge Ben Maller by 4 points.
  • Of the 101 shows eligible for consideration this year, 9 received at least one 1st place vote.

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

  • Tuesday February 7 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Morning Shows of 2022
  • Wednesday February 8 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Midday Shows of 2022
  • Thursday February 9 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Afternoon Shows of 2022
  • Friday February 10 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Program Directors of 2022
  • Monday February 13 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Stations of 2022

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

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Barrett Blogs

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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