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David Gow Is Taking SportsMap To The National Stage

“On July 27th, SB Nation Radio will officially become the SportsMap Radio Network.”

Jason Barrett

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There’s an old saying in radio, ‘always have a Plan B‘. That’s what this article is because Plan A was to release a great podcast conversation today with Gow Media Chairman and CEO David Gow. Thanks though to a corrupt audio file, that twenty five minute masterpiece (which was certain to be featured in the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame), will unfortunately never see the light of day.

But that’s OK. It’s the news that David passed along that matters most, and fortunately I take lots of notes when conducting conversations.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting or talking with David Gow, he’s a very likable guy. We’ve chatted numerous times during my time as a consultant, and one thing I appreciate is his positive energy. I’ve never heard him talk down about a competitor or the industry, yet consider the challenges he faces each day. Locally he competes against corporate giants iHeart, Entercom, and Cumulus. Nationally he’s up against large networks such as ESPN Radio, FOX Sports Radio, and CBS Sports Radio, not to mention the countless audio options sports fans have available at their fingertips.

It’d be understandable if every now and then David felt frustrated or like he’s pushing a boulder up Mount Everest, but that’s not how he presents himself. You have to appreciate an independent owner and operator who loves the business, and is simply just trying to carve out his own slice of the pie.

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When you analyze the Houston sports radio scene, ESPN 97.5 has been a strong local option for quite some time. The station matches up well against local competitors Sports Radio 610 and SportsTalk 790, thanks to the team of Lance Zierlein and John Granato from 7a-11a, Charlie Pallilo, Joel Blank and Nick Sharara from 11a-2p, Josh Innes from 2p-4p, and The Blitz with AJ Hoffman and Fred Faour from 4p-7p.

“We’re proud of the progress we’ve made with 97.5” said Gow. “It’s as good of a lineup as you’ll find in Houston, and we’re fortunate to have great listenership and loyal advertisers.”

The company has also placed a priority on strengthening its digital footprint. Gow Media purchased the website CultureMap in 2017, and quickly began building other sites off of the Map identity such as SportsMap, AutomotiveMap, and InnovationMap.

But in national sports radio circles, the challenges are tougher. ESPN Radio has been a steady force for decades thanks to relationships with hundreds of affiliates, and synergy with the most identified sports television brand on the planet. FOX Sports Radio has enjoyed the support of iHeart and FOX Sports television, and features a high profile lineup that is second to none. CBS Sports Radio has emerged as a solid third option, relying on the strength of Entercom’s local sports brands to highlight the network’s talent and content.

SB Nation Radio (@SBNationRadio) | Twitter

For SB Nation Radio, they’ve had to scratch and claw for everything they have. It’s required striking partnerships with other media outlets to use their brand names and talent, joining forces with stations not under control of the big three media companies, spending wisely on personalities to avoid financial difficulty, and offering clearance flexibility to affiliates to earn content exposure on their radio stations.

Gow entered the national sports radio space a little over 10 years ago. During that time, his radio network has evolved from Sporting News Radio to Yahoo Sports Radio to SB Nation Radio. While those brand names may be familiar to most sports fans, they’ve all lost key personnel, and when key talent depart popular brands, it can affect the perception of how that brand is seen, along with those who partner with it. The question for a radio network associated with the brand then becomes ‘why are we attaching ourselves to someone else’s identity instead of creating our own?’

If you’ve followed the news over the past few months, SB Nation’s parent company Vox Media has made a number of staff reductions. The online site which once featured a number of smart, witty, and creative writers is now much different than what it was previously. Yahoo and Sporting News went thru similar situations years ago. Rather than continue to put their eggs in the basket of media outlets which may or may not look and operate differently in 3-5 years, Gow has decided it’s time to give the network a name that aligns with his company’s focus.

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On July 27th, SB Nation Radio will officially become the SportsMap Radio Network. The name is an extension of Gow’s digital outlet Sports Map which has already gained traction in Houston. The company also features other platforms which play off of the Map name as well, including Culture Map, Automotive Map, and Innovation Map.

“We were fortunate to work with a number of great partners in SB Nation, Yahoo and Sporting News, but as we looked at the pros and cons of teaming up with another media outlet or doing our own thing, the time just felt right to make this move and focus on building our own identity,” explained Gow.

I asked if consideration was given to other familiar outlets such as Sports Illustrated, The Athletic, Bleacher Report, and The Ringer, and Gow admitted that conversations did occur with a few other sports digital brands, but he wouldn’t specify which ones were pursued heaviest. He did tell me that there will be additional news to share in the near future regarding a few partnerships his company is close to finalizing.

One of the challenges of aligning a network with a specific partner is it shuts down opportunity with others who offer similar content or services. For example, you rarely hear ESPN Radio and FOX Sports Radio talent appear on each other’s shows, and when you’re trying to expand a brand and put the most eyes and ears on a product, having a relationship with every potential media partner is important.

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“We have spent a lot of time looking at media partnerships that can supply great content and distribution, and sometimes brands are strong at one thing, but less effective in another area,” explained Gow. “We see that as an opportunity. I’m happy to create a content partnership with a brand that does content well, and a separate deal with another who’s better at distribution. By having our own identity, and not being tied to one particular brand, it opens the door for us to work with both.”

Being privy to a few of the items Gow is planning to announce in the near future, most industry folks will see the news as a positive for his business. The bigger question among affiliates and potential partner stations will be about the network’s talent and lineup. Though most radio traditionalists are going to examine the M-F 6a-7p lineup, and use it to judge whether a brand should earn clearance from affiliate stations, Gow raised a great point when talking about the path to earning clearance and revenue.

“I believe the most undervalued advertising in national radio is evening programming” shared Gow. “Advertisers have an opportunity to align themselves with a great talent like Tony Bruno during a time period that generates strong loyal listening but at a fraction of the cost. We gain a lot of clearance during the evenings because many stations like to feature local content during the day. This is not only a great opportunity for our network, but it’s an excellent one for our partners as well.”

If you think about that statement for a second, it makes a lot of sense. Is the SportsMap Radio Network in better shape for gaining clearance on a local station by featuring a personality like Bruno at night or in mornings or middays? Given the stacked lineups on other networks during the day, and the likelihood of local stations wanting to feature their own content to drive sales, you can make a case that they’re better served featuring a prime time player at night where he has a better chance to stand out. Wisely the network also cut a deal with SportsGrid to feature Scott Ferrall in PM drive, which gives them a chance to keep the door ajar with local stations looking for a quality network drive time show.

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The road ahead for all media operators remains difficult. Many are trying to recover from a 2020 that has taken a mental toll on their teams, and an economic toll on their bottom line. One path that appears promising is the growing importance of sports betting, an area that Gow prepared in advance for by striking a partnership with VSiN to create The BetR Network. With heavier competition around the corner, and large dollars at stake, the more partnerships a brand has in place to attract larger audiences, the better their chances of attracting substantial investments.

But the biggest challenge looming ahead isn’t tied to clearance, talent or partnerships, it’s connected to the word that matters most to all involved in our format – sports. How will the national sports radio scene fare if there isn’t a fall sports calendar? Will local stations explore format flips or further staff reductions? Given the financial difficulties in 2020, it’s hard to imagine the format heading into 2021 in strong shape if sports is silent during football season. But that isn’t going to temper Gow’s optimism.

“2020 has been hard on us, just as it has on many broadcasters” said Gow. “One decision we made as a company was to have everyone share in the pain, so we wouldn’t have to eliminate a number of jobs. By taking that approach we were able to keep our team in tact, and though we’ve all gone thru challenging times this year, if we can get thru this, then I’m sure we’ll come out on the other side in even better shape.”

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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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