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Coaching Makes a Difference But How Much Does Radio Value & Support It?

“Most radio stations don’t arm programmers with a hitting coach or offensive coordinator. They expect one person to do it all.”

Jason Barrett

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I spent a lot of time watching baseball and football games this weekend. As I enjoyed some of the tension filled moments in these contests I thought a lot about the importance in coaching. One right or wrong decision makes all the difference in the final result, and prior to making the call, the head coach or manager leans on a lot of different people for professional advice.

You probably know this already but in case you don’t, the existing major league baseball playoff teams each employ between 9-12 coaches for their 25 main roster. In the NFL, the amount of coaching support doubles for teams due to having to manage 53 players. An NBA team which has a smaller roster still has support provided by 6-8 coaches.

Sports organizations invest a lot in coaching because they understand that it’s key to strategic decision making and for getting maximum performance out of players. If bad decisions are made and players don’t perform, the team doesn’t win. If the results aren’t good, neither are ticket sales, ratings or sponsorship dollars.

Now let’s take a look at how most sports radio stations support their on-air performers. In most top 50 markets, a station has a program director and a few capable producers. Rarely do you find stations with a PD and APD who doesn’t work on a show. If you have that type of arrangement in your building thank your lucky stars because you’re the exception. Things are even more challenging in smaller markets where many stations don’t even have a program director. If they do, they’re likely doubling as a host, sales person or the owner.

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In a number of these cases, producers in the building double up as the board op. In some situations, they deliver on-air updates too. Producer jobs are often filled by younger people working their way up in the business, not making a ton of money. Since they haven’t had the experience of leading an organization, they’re expected to support the host, not necessarily coach them. Ironically, the major market brands who utilize veteran producers, tend to generate better results and earn more buy in from talent.

But most radio companies don’t like to spend a lot on the producer position. If you compared the situation to professional sports, it’d be equal to a professional franchise employing a Head Coach and a few assistants, except most assistant coaches have experience, and many have previously led franchises. The coaching staff’s experience, intelligence, and strategic abilities help them earn immediate respect and trust from the players. They can also see things that less experienced professionals can’t, helping their players get an edge, which can sometimes affect the outcome of a game.

Step back for a minute and think about your talent. They are the equivalent of the Quarterback, Running Back, 1st Baseman or star Pitcher. They have natural skill and are vital to your brand’s ability to drive ratings and revenue, but no matter how gifted they are, even they need instruction, direction, and ideas to get the most out of their abilities.

When they don’t get it, what happens? They look for other opportunities. They develop a negative mindset and tell anyone who will listen how bad their place of employment is. Sometimes they’ll even confront management and speak their mind, creating tension with superiors. But shouldn’t they expect to be supported and pushed to be their best? If they are the engine in the car, shouldn’t you do everything possible to make sure the engine lasts awhile?

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If you’re a radio traditionalist you’ll probably say ‘but isn’t that the PD’s job?’ The answer of course is yes, but that’s due to lack of knowledge, poor job design, and an unwillingness to invest in support staff. Allow me to expand on that.

There are many in higher positions who haven’t worked in a programming department, and don’t know all that’s involved with managing a sports station. Due to that limited knowledge, they aren’t able to evaluate all aspects of how the brand leader runs the programming department. That leads to focusing on simpler things like ‘how the day to day issues were handled, was help provided to all departments, were costs kept under budget, are the station’s ratings good, and is he/she a good person.’ If all of those boxes are checked, they consider the programmer effective at his or her job.

But how can you place your faith in someone to lead one of your company’s most important departments if you don’t know how it runs, what they’re strong at, or how they operated at their prior place of employment? Shouldn’t you know if the PD can help talent improve at delivering on-air monologues, powerful storytelling or guiding interviews? If they have creative ideas and can keep a staff focused on talking about the things the audience values most? If they’re personnel recruiters? Staff Motivators? Ratings analysts? Event creators and organizers? Sales and Marketing leaders? Strong imaging writers and producers? Digital and social experts? Intern and PT staff trainers? Contract negotiators? Website writers and/or editors? Podcasting strategists? Audience researchers? Clock designers and schedulers?

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That sounds like a lot right? Well, it is. And those are just a number of the things a programmer has to do. I didn’t mention listening to the actual content, meeting with the staff to help them grow, interacting with the audience, managing up to keep corporate bosses happy, and studying local competitors to make sure the brand doesn’t fall behind. They’re of course supposed to do all of this too while everyone in the building bursts thru their door or blows up their cell phone looking for instant answers to their daily issues.

If you look at everything I just laid out, it’s easy to see why PD’s can’t be effective at every area of their jobs. How could they be? They don’t have enough time or support to do it all. Some PD’s are even asked to run 2-3 stations at a time. I don’t care how good the programmer is, they’re going to miss things when put into these type of situations.

But the same thing could be said for the GM in each building. So many are tasked with overseeing 3-5 stations in a building, taking local business meetings, participating on corporate calls, meeting with employees, and growing revenue. How are they supposed to analyze the work being done by their programming leaders, and help them grow professionally when a mountain of tasks sit on their plate too?

Inside most radio stations PD’s are asked to handle a lot. If they need help, they’re supposed to rely on lesser experienced staff or find answers on a monthly programming call with others in the company who aren’t in tune with their daily challenges. If that doesn’t work, they tell you to call an industry friend for advice. But who’s helping the the PD improve? This is especially concerning for first time programmers who get handed the keys to an operation, and want to do the job well, but don’t know if what they’re doing is right or wrong.

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I wonder sometimes what would happen if radio groups ran professional sports teams. I can’t help but think that the first area they’d cut would be the coaching staff. Never mind that they’re responsible for the brand vision, in-game decision making, and leading the organization’s most important asset – the players. One person should be enough to handle everything right?

I read a lot in the trades and listen to industry leaders at conferences tout radio’s value versus television, print, and digital media, and how we should earn similar investments from advertisers, but when it comes to supporting our content people, we don’t offer the same help. Take a look at how many are involved in filming a movie. Or how many contribute to the New York Times’ newsroom. Or how many play a role in making SportsCenter a nightly success for ESPN. Do you think that success is created by a handful of people?

I talked last week to an industry friend who programs a sports station and was very frustrated. He felt his GM cared little about programming, only the sales department, and as a professional he felt stagnant. He wanted to attend the BSM Summit to gain a few things to take back to his building but thought his GM would reject it because it involved an expense. I told him if spending a few hundred dollars was going to cause internal strife then he shouldn’t ask. It’s not worth the headache. But if something that small was an issue, it’d make me wonder about the way they’d handle bigger issues.

Another industry programmer told me last month that he was thinking about leaving the business because the support he receives is nonexistent. His exact words were ‘my boss has no interest in my professional development’. That was followed up by watching another friend and smart industry programmer get left out of key decisions despite doing a great job leading a local brand to strong ratings and navigating some bumpy roads. As a result, his station made a few questionable moves which have raised further questions.

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I went thru two experiences like this myself as a programmer, and have seen and heard a lot more of it since moving into the consulting space. It’s what made me initially hesitant to get into this side of the business. If stations don’t care enough to support their programmers, and judge their value based on the station’s ratings or their salary number then that’s foolish in my opinion.

When employers take little interest in the personal and professional development of their employees, it’s what leads them to consider career changes or seek me out for insight on industry opportunities. Most talent and support staff want to feel valued and important, but the same is true with brand leaders. If you aren’t giving the PD the tools to work with to grow, and meeting with them and sharing specific examples of how they can get better, you’re risking complacency or worse, their future exit.

There are still some great company’s out there who support their sports radio people and take a long-term approach to business (Hubbard, Bonneville, SiriusXM, etc.) but we need more of them. Radio executives may be focused on the bigger picture and all the challenges that await, but taking care of their own and investing in their development is a step that can’t be missed. If you don’t spend a few hours and pennies now to help them, don’t be surprised when it costs you a lot more time and dollars later.

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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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California College Students Earn Chance to Win 10 Free Tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit Thanks to Steve Kamer Voiceovers

“In order to win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event.”

Jason Barrett

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With a new year comes renewed energy and optimism for the sports media business. Yours truly is looking forward to showcasing the best our business has to offer when we gather the industry in Los Angeles, CA at the 2023 BSM Summit at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California on March 21-22, 2023. Our conference is returning to the west coast for the first time since 2019. We’ve announced some super talented speakers. We’ve got additional things in the works and I plan to make additional announcements in the next few weeks.

People often ask me what the biggest challenge is putting this event together. My answer is always the same, it’s getting people to leave the comfort of their office and spend two days in a room together learning and discussing ways to grow the business. We have great sponsorship support and exceptional people on stage and are fortunate to have a lot of folks already set to attend. Our venue this year has extra space though, so I’m hoping a few more of you make time to join us. If you haven’t bought a ticket or reserved your hotel room, visit BSMSummit.com to make sure you’re all set.

If there’s one thing our industry could get better at it’s opening our minds to new ideas and information. There’s more than one path to success. Just because you’re in good shape today doesn’t mean you will be tomorrow. Building brands, growing audiences, increasing revenue, and examining new opportunities is an ongoing process. There are many shifts along the way. We may not solve every business challenge during our two-days together but you’ll leave the room more connected and informed than when you entered it.

Each year I’ll get two or three emails from folks sharing that they learned more about the industry in two-days at the Summit than they have in ___ years inside of their building. That’s truly gratifying and what I strive to achieve when I put this event together. I remember when conferences like this didn’t exist for format folks and I take the risk and invest the time and resources to create it because I love the sports media industry and believe I can help it thrive. I see great value in gathering professionals to share ideas, information, and meet others who can help them grow their business, and if we do our part, I’m confident some will want to work with us too. That’s how we benefit over the long haul.

But as much as I focus on serving the professional crowd, I also think we have a responsibility to educate young people who are interested, passionate, and taking steps to be a part of our business in the future. The BSM website is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each month and it’s become a valuable resource for folks who enjoy sports radio and television. I think it’s vital to use our platform, influence and two-day event to connect generations and I’m happy to announce that we will once again welcome college students at this year’s Summit.

Most of us who’ve been in this line of work for two or three decades learned the business without podcasts, YouTube, social media, the web or conferences delivering two full days of sessions that taught you more about the business than what’s available inside of a class room. We learned by doing, and hoping we were right. Then we copied others who had success. Some of that still exists, and that’s not a bad thing. But where our business goes in the future is going to be drastically different.

I’d like to see the difference makers in our format remembered for years to come, and practices that have stood the test of time remain valued down the line. Change is inevitable in every business and I’m excited about the road that lies ahead especially some of the technological advancements that are now available or will soon become a bigger part of our industry. I think we can embrace the future while enjoying the present and celebrating the past. The best way to do that is by bringing together everyone who is and is hoping to be a part of the sports media universe.

So here’s two things we’re doing to make sure future broadcasters have an opportunity to learn with us.

First, I want to send a HUGE thank you to Steve Kamer Voiceovers. Thanks to Steve’s generosity, TEN (10) college students will be given FREE tickets to attend the 2023 BSM Summit in March. Steve is a USC graduate (Class of 1985) and he bought the ten tickets to help young people learn about the industry, save money and make valuable connections. When I first received his order, I thought he hit the wrong button. I reached out to tell him a mistake was made and I needed to refund him. That’s when he told me what he wanted to do for students who were pursuing their broadcasting dreams just as we both did years ago. A very classy gesture on his part.

As it pertains to the contest, here’s how it’s going to work.

To win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event. Included in your email should be a list of steps that you’ve taken or are pursuing to explore opportunities in the media industry. If you want to pass along a resume and audio or video clips too to showcase your work and experience, that’s fine as well. BSM will accept submissions until February 17th. The winners will be announced on Friday February 24th.

Helping me select the winners will be an exceptional panel of media executives. Each of these folks below will choose one person to attend our L.A. event. The final two will be picked by Steve Kamer and myself.

  • Scott Shapiro – Senior Vice President, FOX Sports Radio
  • Justin Craig – Senior Program Director, ESPN Radio
  • Jeff Sottolano – Executive Vice President, Programming, Audacy
  • Bruce Gilbert – Senior Vice President of Sports, Cumulus Media & Westwood One
  • Amanda Gifford – Vice President, Content Strategy & Audio, ESPN
  • Jacob Ullman – Senior Vice President, Production and Talent Development, FOX Sports
  • Greg Strassell – Senior Vice President, Programming, Hubbard Radio
  • Scott Sutherland – Executive Vice President, Bonneville International

To qualify for the BSM Summit College Contest, students must be enrolled in college in the state of California, pursuing a degree that involves course work either in radio, television, print or the digital business. Those attending local trade schools with a focus on broadcasting are also welcome to participate. You must be able to take care of your own transportation and/or lodging.

This is a contest I enjoy running. We’ve had great participation during our prior two shows in New York City but haven’t done it before on the west coast. I’m hoping it’s helpful to California students and look forward to hearing from many of them during the next month.

For students who live out of state and wish to attend or those enrolled at local universities who enter the contest but aren’t lucky enough to win one of the ten free tickets from Steve Kamer Voiceovers, we are introducing a special two-day college ticket for just $124.99. You must provide proof that you’re currently in school to take advantage of the offer. This ticket gives you access to all of our sessions inside the Founders Club. College tickets will be limited to forty (40) seats so take advantage of the opportunity before it expires.

The 2023 BSM Summit will feature award ceremonies with Emmis Communication CEO Jeff Smulyan and legendary WFAN program director Mark Chernoff, sessions with influential on-air talent such as Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, Joy Taylor, and Mina Kimes, big picture business conversations with executives from groups such as Audacy, iHeart, Bonneville, Good Karma Brands, Barstool, The Volume, Omaha Productions and more. For details on tickets and hotel rooms visit BSMsummit.com.

I look forward to seeing you in March in Los Angeles!

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