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Everyone Can Relate To The Scoreboard by Bob Richards

Jason Barrett

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For the past two decades, sports radio stations across the country have made a stronger commitment to pairing broadcasters and former athletes. It’s been labeled as the “winning combination” inside industry circles and when built properly and executed well, it can draw larger audiences to the dial.

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The idea is to put the broadcaster in charge of handling the formatics, topic building, audience engagement, and sponsor reads, while delivering the opinions that are representative of the local fan base. The athlete meanwhile provides the on the field insight and experience and utilizes their relationships inside the game to create content that is unique and unable to be duplicated.

On the surface that formula may make sense but there are also a few things that aren’t often taken into consideration.

First, an athlete certainly does provide great name value to draw in the common fan. That doesn’t mean though that they’re going to click with the broadcaster you pair them with. Some air talent are insecure, jealous, and agitated by the fact that the former player didn’t have to pay dues to earn their spot. Quite frankly, they don’t have the right mental makeup to be part of that type of program.

Secondly, the athlete doesn’t always respect the medium or care to put in the hard work that’s required to help a show succeed. Some players lose sight that their career may have helped them gain entry inside the building but that only lasts for so long. A number of them turn to this line of work because they’re not sure what to do when their playing days are done, and this seems like an easy transition. Once they recognize that their is a homework assignment every day and night, they get frustrated, mentally check out and eventually leave.

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Most most athletes who break into this business usually do so between the ages of 35-50. That’s often when a personality’s career is just taking off. For a broadcaster who has paid dues and chased success and finally has it within their grasp, the last thing they desire is to be connected to an athlete who was given a shortcut to the same position and doesn’t care to invest themselves as much as they do in the opportunity. In many instances, they believe that the athlete is in foreign territory and doesn’t belong in it because they don’t understand the rules of the radio game nor care about them the same way.

But that’s where even the smartest broadcasters in this business can be wrong and make a major mistake.

The reason some of these pairings perform at a high level is because both men involved in the creation of the program understand their roles and how to present something of value to the audience. They realize their own strengths and weaknesses and how to use them to build a show that connects with everyone. They share a strong work ethic individually and collectively, and they place a high priority on developing a chemistry and relationship that carries onto the airwaves. There is no “ego” in worrying about who the star is or how much mic time they receive, only a focus on creating good content and lifting each other up.

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I’ve been lucky to work with some great former athletes, coaches and front office executives like Lorenzo Neal, Eric Davis, D’Marco Farr, Chris Duncan, Rick Venturi and Tony Softli who did their homework and cared about what they were presenting. I found them all to be excellent to work with because they had a number of things in common – they loved to compete and win, they believed in preparation, and they were willing to accept coaching and criticism when they weren’t taking care of their responsibilities. These guys made their living for years off of winning and losing, and they understood that when they made plays and put more W’s on the board, it led to more money in their pockets.

Because I understood their mentality and could relate it to the sports radio business, they were able to digest a lot of what we do, and have their own successes. I learned that what I was worried would appear foreign to them, actually became very simple for them to pick up because it all tied back to wins/losses, strategy, preparation, teamwork, and being accountable.

If you’re an on-air talent, producer or programmer and you have an athlete on your team, remember this. Just because a former player didn’t grow up on teases, re-sets and TSL and take the same road to radio stardom that you did, doesn’t mean they don’t have the same desire or an ability to understand how to execute. It sounds cliche but the best teams in sports often deliver the best results, and in radio it’s not much different.

One person who has had experience with this subject is Program Director Bob Richards. Bob has worked in Boulder and Denver, Colorado, Buffalo, New York and was most recently in charge of programming for 790 The Zone in Atlanta before the station flipped formats. Having managed a number of former athletes during his career, I thought he’d have some great insight to offer and I think you’ll really enjoy the way he lays out tackling this topic.

Everyone Can Relate To The Scoreboard

Here we are getting ready to celebrate the New Year, a time for resolutions to do things differently in an effort to create better results in various areas of our lives. For me, I’m praying to God that 2016 brings a FATTER bank account and a THINNER body. It’s the same prayer I had last year but I apparently I didn’t communicate it very well and he got the two mixed up!

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I’m a big advocate of prayer but prayer isn’t a strategy, especially when it comes to your air staff and communicating with them to get the most out of them. If your staff is composed of air talent who come from a radio background and former players who have played for one of the major sports leagues, you’re sitting on a potential time bomb that you need to manage before it blows up.

Air talent working with former players creates an interesting dynamic. Think about it, the radio guys view the jobs they do as their career and they think former players view their job as a hobby they do to satisfy their egos! They question the player’s motivation and dedication. They take issue when players seem to operate under different rules. They think some players can be condescending, operating from the position that if you didn’t play the game you can’t possibly have an opinion, let alone a correct opinion.

Their fear is that the players think show prep and guest acquisition is beneath them and they either won’t participate in remotes and client meetings or they don’t know how to act in those situations. Throughout my career I’ve heard it all. If it isn’t being verbalized between members of the air staff it’s being thought about. So what’s a manager to do?

Clearly there are significant benefits to having former players on your air staff. They bring a much higher profile to a new show both with the audience and with potential guests. It’s important that the staff understands those benefits and buys into them. Former players usually come with unique issues. The higher the profile, the more issues, especially with regards to scheduling. Helping the staff understand why it’s worth it is key.

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For me, the answer to getting buy in from the staff is the same answer as getting more out of the former player, it’s a meeting I call the Scoreboard. The key to managing a former player is to appeal to the one thing they can relate to – COMPETITION! They have to know if they’re winning or losing and what’s working and what isn’t.

In this meeting I start with a picture of an NFL scoreboard. It shows the score is 21–17, it’s the 4th quarter with two minutes left, the visitors have the lead but the home team has the ball on their own 20. Both teams are out of time outs.

I then ask the former player(s) what they know from looking at the scoreboard and I get the obvious answers. Most will say the visitors scored three touchdowns and kicked three extra points and the home team scored two touchdowns and kicked a field goal. There are other ways to have achieved those point totals and we discuss what those unlikely but possible scenarios might have been.

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Then I ask, what is the strategy we can assume from looking at the Scoreboard? We spend time discussing that a field goal does the team no good, they need a touchdown and since they have no time outs and 80 yards to go, they most likely won’t be running the ball. The defense is going to counter by using extra defensive backs, defending the boundaries so the offense can’t get out of bounds to stop the clock, and likely dialing up different blitz packages.

After we go through all the scenarios based on nothing more than looking at the Scoreboard I then ask the most important question of the former player(s). Do you expect that your teammates can read the scoreboard and know everything we just discussed? How would you feel about a teammate who couldn’t read the scoreboard, didn’t know how many points a touchdown was, and had to be told what to do in every case, then didn’t follow what they were told because they thought they knew a better way?

After I hear all the macho answers about the different ways that teammate would no longer be a teammate, I put up the second slide. It says, under no circumstances should anyone in the room answer any of the questions I’m going to ask next.

Then I put up ratings, AQH, Cume, Shares, ATE, etc. and I inform them that this is a radio scoreboard. Can you read it? Do you know who’s winning? Can you figure out how they put up those points? Can you develop a strategy based on what you see? If your answer to any of these question was no, are you being the best teammate you can be?

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The reality is they don’t need to understand all of the ratings minutia, that’s my job. What they do need to understand is that in the PPM world attention to detail matters, proper execution matters, getting one person in their target demo to listen for 5 more minutes a day can mean the difference between winning and losing, and being paid a bonus or missing out.

The Scoreboard meeting is meant to put everyone on notice of what my expectation is of them, all of them. It’s meant to appeal to their sense of competition. It’s meant to get them to come in for individual coaching sessions tailored to their level of knowledge and to get everyone on the team to the same basic level of understanding about why we do what we do and what my expectations are of them.

In the follow up individual meetings we go into what we can learn from the ratings and how we can manipulate them. They learn the importance of cross promotion with other dayparts, how to create a Target User Profile that defines who their audience is and help focus content decisions. They see the first of a few weekly reports, an On Time Report detailing how often they go into break on time ranked against the stations other shows and their competition.

I publish a “Social Media” report monthly that looks at Twitter and various social media follower totals that ranks them against other air talent in the market. There is a weekly website report that details the number views of their show page vs. other shows. I also publish a podcast download report that details the number of downloads vs. the stations other shows. Everything is designed to educate them on how they’re doing, how they can get better and to promote competition, the very thing former athletes thrive on.

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In my career I’ve had the privilege of working with both the good and the bad when it comes to former players transitioning to air talent. It was easy to see why Alge Crumpler was a four time Pro Bowler. He was a tireless worker who couldn’t put in enough time to learn his new craft. Former Quarterbacks Dave Archer and DJ Shockley came with the same preparation for show they put into a game plan.

Rodney Harrison recorded his weekly show for Westwood One from our studios in Atlanta and every week he came in with pages of handwritten notes well before his recording was supposed to start. I’ve also had to fire two very well known players from the Falcons Super Bowl team who didn’t give their radio jobs the respect it deserved. Both were hired by the competition and subsequently fired by them!

The New Year is only a few days away, and people treat the holiday like it’s some sort of life changing event, but the truth is, if the ratings and work ethic sucked last year, they’re going to suck next year. The way you change that is by motivating your staff to work as a team, and be laser focused on proper PPM blocking and tackling by tapping into the one thing they all understand – COMPETITION!

Bob Richards has served as an On-Air Talent, Program Director, Operations Manager, Vice President and Market Manager. He has worked in many different markets and formats can be reached by email at BobRichardsRadio@gmail.com or on Twitter @radiorichards.

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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