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.
Black Friday Sale TODAY For 2022 BSM Summit Tickets
“BSM’s Black Friday sale on Summit tickets will begin at 12:01am ET on Friday November 26th and expire at 11:59pm later that same night.”
There are less than 100 days remaining until the 2022 BSM Summit takes place in New York City. We’ve announced 31 participants for the show so far, and have more to reveal in the weeks and months ahead. I think you’re going to like what’s still to come.
Putting this conference together isn’t easy. It requires months of meetings, brainstorming, promotion, selling sponsorships, pursuing speakers, and creating everything that attendees see on stage over a two day period. I’m thankful to have help from some amazing partners, but as I’ve mentioned previously, this isn’t an event that makes us rich or ends with 5-10 new clients signing up to work with BSM. The goal each year is simple, make sure the conference is valuable for those who attend, and don’t run BSM out of business by doing it. As long as those two things remain solid, it’s worth doing.
Some might wonder, why go thru months of headaches if you’re not going to break the bank or immediately add clients. That’s fair to ask. If you look at it from a pure business standpoint, one could easily make a case that pouring this type of energy into something else could be more lucrative. But money was never the motivation for doing this. I felt the sports media industry lacked a signature event where smart, successful media professionals (who don’t often cross paths) could gather at one location to laugh and learn together, and I wanted to change that. If over a two day period attendees could gain insight, information, ideas, and introductions, it’d put everyone in a stronger position to remain successful.
I’ve unapologetically loved the sports media business since I started listening to Mike & the Mad Dog on WFAN and watching SportsCenter on ESPN. I was fortunate to live and work in a number of cities over the past two decades, learning how different companies and people operate, and I remain involved today thru my work with BSM. I mention this because I also know media people. They tend to wait until the last minute to book hotel rooms, airfare, and purchase tickets, even if they can save money by acting sooner. I know, I used to do it too. I can’t control when you book your room or plane ticket, but I do want to give you an added incentive to buy your ticket to this year’s show. Seating is limited, and once the last seat is filled, that’s it. We can’t make extra room.
With that in mind, most of you are either taking today off or working inside a much quieter building. If you’ve thought about coming to the Summit, take 5-10 minutes to log on to BSMSummit.com to take advantage of our special Black Friday sale. We’ve reduced tickets for the day, so whether you’re planning to attend in NYC or watch the conference online, there’s a discount to help you out. Just $199.99 for live tickets, and $124.99 for virtual.
BSM’s Black Friday sale on Summit tickets expires at 11:59pm tonight. In the meantime, Hotel Edison in NYC is offering rooms for just $109 + taxes to Summit attendees. Click here to take advantage of the special room rate we’ve secured for this year’s show. Those of you planning to fly to NYC for the show, there have been a ton of great deals offered by American, Southwest, United, JetBlue and Frontier. It might be worth checking into today since Black Friday often has even better sales on travel.
If you’re interested in learning more about the industry, staying a step ahead, forming new relationships, strengthening existing ones, exploring potential business deals, and celebrating the business you’re in, I hope you’ll join us either online or in New York City for the 2022 BSM Summit. I’m making it easier on you, by offering lower ticket prices today. The rest is up to you!
Craig Carton, Fred Toucher, Mike Felger To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit
“Few understand what it takes to deliver success in this format consistently like Craig, Fred and Mike, and I’m glad they’re making the time to share their knowledge with us.”
When you talk to industry people about successful brands in sports talk radio, most conversations include WFAN and 98.5 The Sports Hub. The New York and Boston sports radio brands are consistently recognized for their ability to deliver large audiences and revenues.
Helping to create that success is a mixture of strong play by play partnerships, skilled programmers and even more importantly, some of the most dynamic on-air personalities in the format. Fortunately for us, a few of those gamechangers will be present to share their opinions and insights on content matters in New York City at the 2022 BSM Summit.
Starting in New York, it’s an honor to welcome WFAN afternoon drive host Craig Carton to the 2022 BSM Summit. Heard daily on ‘Carton and Roberts‘ alongside Evan Roberts, which is also featured on TV on SNY, Carton has made his presence felt ever since returning to the airwaves in November 2020. Prior to taking on the challenge in afternoons, Craig spent a decade partnering with Boomer Esiason on ‘Boomer and Carton‘, forming one of the most successful sports radio morning shows in the country. In addition to enjoying success in New York, Craig has also experienced the ups and downs that come with performing in different markets. His radio travels have taken him to Philadelphia, Denver, Buffalo and Trenton, NJ. The Syracuse graduate and outspoken host is expected to join BSM President Jason Barrett for a one on one conversation at this year’s Summit.
Shipping up to Boston, it’s a pleasure to welcome two of the format’s highest rated performers to New York City. They’re heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub in morning and afternoon drive, and at the Summit, they’ll interact together during an in-depth content conversation with BSM President Jason Barrett.
Fred Toucher is one half of the Sports Hub’s popular morning show ‘Toucher & Rich‘, which recently added syndication. The Detroit native started his career in Georgia before moving to Boston in 2005. Toucher & Rich, which includes Rich Shertenlieb, officially moved into the sports talk format in 2009. Since making the format switch, the duo have consistently produced some of the best ratings in the entire format in mornings during the past fifteen years. Toucher & Rich have also been recognized by industry executives as one of the top two morning shows in the format each of the past three years in the BSM Top 20, including taking top honors in 2018.
Mike Felger on the other hand is heard on the ride home alongside Tony Massarotti on The Sports Hub. The Marconi Award-winning afternoon radio show has been a fixture in Boston since the station’s inception in 2009. During the past twelve years, Felger & Mazz have been a steady force atop the Men 25-54 ratings including recently delivering an impressive 18.9 share in the summer book to finish 1st. The Milwaukee native also hosts a show for NBC Boston, and has previously served as a columnist for the Boston Globe. Similar to Toucher & Rich, Felger & Mazz have earned high praise from format execs in the BSM Top 20. They’ve been voted one of the top 2 afternoon shows each of the past 2 years including grabbing the top spot in 2019.
We’re excited to add all three of these men to the lineup for the 2022 BSM Summit. As vital as it may be to spend time on business issues in order to stay ahead of a rapidly changing media climate, without great talent and content, the rest is irrelevant. Few understand what it takes to deliver success in this format consistently like Craig, Fred and Mike, and I’m glad they’re making the time to share their knowledge with us.
To reserve your hotel room, purchase tickets or learn more about the speakers we’ve lined up for the 2022 show, visit BSMSummit.com. We hope to see you online or in New York City this March.
BSM Summit Adds Borrell, Crain, Cutler, Goldstein, Scott, Shapiro & Thomas
“The Summit is just 104 days away, so if you haven’t purchased your ticket yet, please do so. Half of the room is already full and seating for the conference is limited.”
The 2022 BSM Summit continues to add firepower to the sports media industry’s premier conference. After previously announcing the first twenty one participants to take part in March’s event in New York City, another seven talented media professionals have been added to the speaker schedule.
Making his BSM Summit debut in 2022 will be the media industry’s leading business analyst Gordon Borrell. The well respected and accomplished CEO of Borrell Associates is featured frequently in the trades and mainstream publications for his insights on advertising trends and forecasts in local media. Borrell will join Amplifi Media CEO Steven Goldstein on stage at the Summit for an in-depth discussion on the advertising climate in 2022. The two men will offer insights and opinions on what advertisers value most, where they’re expected to invest future dollars, which categories will continue to rise and decline, and what brands can do to position themselves better to increase revenue. Additionally, Borrell will be hosting his local advertising conference in Miami a few days after the Summit. Those interested in heading to South Beach and learning more about the marketing world can learn more by clicking here.
Switching to the content end, the Summit is thrilled to welcome The Volume’s Jake Crain to New York City. The host of The JBoy Show will also be making his debut at the conference. Crain will be part of a talent panel along with John Jastremski and Kazeem Famuyide.
Also making his debut at the Summit will be Carl Scott. Meadowlark Media’s Executive Director of Audio will join our podcasting panel featuring Blue Wire CEO Kevin Jones and The Volume’s Head of Content Logan Swaim. Hubbard Radio’s Digital Content Director Phil Mackey will guide the conversation.
Not everyone participating at the Summit will be new to the audience though. Returning to the stage as part of our GM’s discussion will be newly appointed Audacy Boston Market Manager Mike Thomas. Thomas recently led ESPN 1000 in Chicago as the station’s GM after working with Mark Hannon to turn 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston into one of sports radio’s top performing stations. It should be noted that each time Thomas appears at the Summit it follows a recent promotion. We figure by 2023 or 2024 he’ll be running the entire industry.
A Summit isn’t complete without attention given to programming matters. To help us address some of those key issues, we’re excited to welcome back the Vice President of FOX Sports Radio & Podcasts Scott Shapiro. The passionate network executive who oversees many of the nation’s top national programs is always a great listen for folks interested in learning how programmer’s view and tackle the industry’s most important affairs.
Last but certainly not least, voice talent extraordinaire Jim Cutler will return to the stage to lead a session on storytelling. One of the industry’s prominent station voices and creative minds has a penchant for putting on entertaining and informative sessions. If you’ve attended the conference before, you’re already aware. To those planning to catch this one, you’re in for a treat.
Keep an eye out over the next two weeks. We’ll be making additional announcements involving a few high profile talents we’ve lined up for the 2022 BSM Summit. A reminder, the event is just 104 days away, so if you haven’t purchased your ticket yet, please do so. Half of the room is already full and seating for the conference is limited. I realize some folks may prefer to wait until the last minute to make sure the world is safe. If you’re not comfortable flying to NY for the show, we do have an option in place to enjoy the conference virtually thanks to NuVoodoo Media. For more information on tickets, click here.
That said, the in-person environment is excellent. If you haven’t attended the Summit before I think you’ll find the two days in New York City to be time well spent. This conference is not open to the general public. You must either presently work in an area of the media industry or be pursuing a degree in the broadcasting field.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that we still have some sponsorship opportunities available for the show. We’re thrilled to have the support of great partners, ESPN Radio, Premiere Networks, FOX Sports Radio, Stone Voiceovers, Compass Media Networks, Point to Point Marketing, and Core Image Studio. If you’d like to be part of the event too, email JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com for additional details.
One final note, airfare is low right now. There are roundtrip flights to and from New York from many major cities for less than $200.00. We’ve also secured a low hotel rate of $109.00 per night at Hotel Edison in NYC to help companies and individuals keep costs down. The sports media industry has endured two years of difficulty due to the pandemic, preventing many from networking, learning, celebrating, and growing. The two days we spend together in the big apple won’t solve every issue facing our business, but I promise you’ll leave the show more informed, more connected, and better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.
Hope to see you in New York on March 2nd and 3rd.
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