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What a Spot On The BSM Top 20 Means To On-Air Talent

“It’s an honor, really, because I know some of the guys and I know how good they are.”

Tyler McComas

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Zach Bye went to dinner to celebrate. Sean Salisbury was almost moved to tears. Both felt incredible validation the first time they saw their name in the BSM Top 20. For Bye, the validation meant his peers were respecting the job he was doing at 104.3 The Fan in Denver. It meant 10 years of working odd jobs and inconvenient hours just to get his big chance in radio was worth it. For Salisbury, the validation meant a redemption from his rock bottom. A moment where it was clear he had defeated all his demons and was still one of the top radio hosts in the country.

BSM Top 20

That’s what being ranked in the BSM Top 20 can do for a host. When you’re recognized by the biggest decision makers in the industry it tends to give you a validation that few things can provide. Especially when it’s the first time. 

“I just remember how elated I was and it almost felt too good to be true,” said Bye. “It felt like an incredible piece of validation. You have to keep in mind that I worked for 10 years to get the job that I have right now. To get that job validated beyond good ratings and be nationally recognized by an outlet that I respect and one I’ve seen and followed for years, that’s crossing into a new threshold of validation.”

“I was ecstatic,” said Salisbury. “I don’t ever pander for that stuff and I didn’t even consider it. I’ve known Jason Barrett for a long time, but you always wonder who’s actually paying attention, are they paying attention and who hears all those things. So yes I consider it not only an honor but a tremendous honor. I’m not downplaying it, I was very, very excited.”

Bye’s debut on the BSM Top 20 came in the 2018 rankings. His celebration dinner that night was with his wife, who has been with him since college. Even during his struggles of trying to find a full-time gig in radio, she was always supportive and never asked when he was going to get a real job. All the dues were paid when Bye found his radio home in Denver, hosting alongside former NFL star Brandon Stokley. 

Bye claims it was a “big freaking deal” when his show was honored for the first time. In fact, the possibility wasn’t even on his radar. He felt his show in Denver was too new to receive any kind of honor, outside of good ratings. Sure, he believed in himself, but when proof came out that others did too, an incredible sense of pride overcame him. 

Granted, his partner, a two-time Super Bowl champ, is accustomed  to being honored and recognized, but for radio guys, that’s not always the case. Can a Super Bowl compare to a BSM Top 20 ranking? Well, probably not, but even the former champ is liking how the duo in Denver is climbing up the list.

“I think it was more of just starting to understand what it was,” said Bye. “Stokely had only been in radio for like a year before I got the job. I was following Jason Barrett before I got to Denver. I was aware of it because, guys like you and me, non-pro athletes, we love the business. I was way more sensitive to it at the time, but Stokely is a fierce competitor at whatever he does. Now that he’s in the radio game, he wants to be the best. To be nationally recognized, on that platform, after understanding more what it is, he was pumped. Then last year our ranking was higher than the year before and he got even more excited.”

The only thing that can compare to the feeling of being in the BSM Top 20 for the first time is being ranked No. 1 in your category. Dan Dakich of 107.5 The Fan in Indianapolis Has been a regular at the top of the BSM Top 20 rankings for mid market midday shows. It was a surprise to nobody he took home the No. 1 slot this year. But it seems no matter how many times you can be acknowledged for something, there’s still a significant pride that overcomes a host when recognized as one of the best in the industry.  

“It’s an honor, really, because I know some of the guys and I know how good they are,” said Dakich. “It’s something I’m proud of, frankly. I want to live up to it. I’ve been on Cole Cubelic’s show. I’ve been on with the guys in Nashville (formerly the Midday 180 on 104.5 the Zone) and a couple of others and I know how good they are. Anytime in a profession, it’s nice to be recognized as, I don’t know if I’m the best, but at least in that voting I was. It’s nice to be recognized that way.” 

Salisbury is having a nice run of being featured in the Top 20. Currently hosting a morning drive show at Sportstalk 790 in Houston. If there’s a guy to be happy for, Salisbury is it. Any honor or recognition that comes his way, also comes with a moment of gratitude and thanks to the people who helped make it possible.

“I went through a time where I didn’t know if I’d ever get back,” Salisbury said. “I had to rebuild myself with the help of a bunch of people.”

Comments from hosts like Salisbury, Bye and Dakich make you realize just how big of a deal the rankings actually are. If you need further proof, you can easily find opinions from upset people on social media that disagree with the order. If people are upset, that means it matters. 

But no matter how accomplished of a host you might be, getting told on a big platform you’re doing a great job is enough for even the most successful host to smile. 

“Any compliment,” said Salisbury. “Whether it’s from a fan in Jacksonville to an executive on how they view your show, to rebuild it and get back, it’s almost eye watering, because to be considered and held in that regard, there’s not a day I’ll take it for granted. Maybe at one point I did, but not anymore. I mean that with every ounce of fiber in my being.”

BSM Writers

5 Takeaways From The Big Ten’s New Media Deals

Each partner received an equitable fair share of content that will make the conference a cornerstone of each respective network for years to come.

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It’s been well known for weeks that the Big Ten was about to make television history but the official confirmation came on Thursday morning. FOX, FS1, BTN, CBS, NBC, and Peacock will now be your exclusive homes for everything Big Ten for the foreseeable future. Each partner received an equitable fair share of content that will make the conference a cornerstone of each respective network for years to come. Here are the five most interesting things I take away from the new agreement.

Amazon gets spurned again – Richard Deitsch of The Athletic reports Amazon was willing to pay more than CBS and NBC for a package of games in the 3:30 p.m. time slot or the primetime slot. As we now know, they were rejected. They didn’t even win the streaming package that was being offered, as I had previously predicted (Being on Peacock guarantees promotion across NBC platforms including “Today” or during NFL games). This shows that leagues, now more than ever, care the most about reach.

Michael Mulvihill of Fox Sports says if CBS, NBC, and Fox “promotes their next B1G game twice in their Sunday NFL games, that’s over 150 million promo impressions for the B1G every NFL Sunday.” Amazon has 172 million Prime subscribers in the U.S. according to a Consumer Intelligence Research Partners report from last January.  But it is much easier for the average viewer to find CBS, NBC, and Fox than it is to find Prime on their television sets. It’s a plain and simple fact that may not change for a long time.

We might have to wait for the next rights renewal process for Amazon’s reach, accessibility, and recognition to be anywhere near the same as the broadcast networks. Ad Age reports the internet behemoth is already lowering ratings expectations for the upcoming season of Thursday Night Football because of those same concerns. 

Seven years from now, things might be different, and having essential NFL games on Thursday nights may help viewer habits adjust no matter what age group they’re in. But for now, broadcast is still king. Local stations and broadcast networks have a decades-long affiliation with Americans that might be impossible to ever overcome and are the easiest channels in this country to access.

Peacock becomes even more of a must-have app for sports fans – As part of this comprehensive deal, Peacock will have the rights to eight exclusive Big Ten football games and as many as 47 exclusive men’s basketball games, and 30 women’s basketball games. As much as broadcast may be king, streaming is here to stay. Big Ten fans will now join hockey and soccer fans in having to watch a huge chunk of their school’s season on a streaming service. For fans, it will be an adjustment.

Depending on your internet signal, it might be difficult to screencast or connect an HDMI cable or access a smart TV app to watch your school’s games but eventually, it is a behavior we will all need to adjust to if we haven’t already. For NBC, it gives their app even more leverage to distinguish itself and prevent churn as much as possible. Hoops season will probably be the moment fans truly notice the change.

My viewing habit in the past to watch Big Ten basketball games was flipping the channel to ESPN or ESPN2 by happenstance. Unless my Terps are playing or there’s a game that’s being discussed heavily throughout the day on Twitter that’s a must-watch, the chances of me figuring out how to access it on Peacock are slim to none.

The Big Ten and Peacock’s hope is that during the duration of this deal, my habit changes to not only flip channels on my basic cable package but also flip through my streaming services and see there’s a Big Ten matchup happening and that I need to tune in. I wonder if Xfinity and other cable providers will consider a virtual channel placeholder that makes it easier to connect to a streaming service’s sports events in the future.

For example, if ESPN is channel 6 on my cable listings, ESPN2 is channel 7, my local RSN is channel 8, FS1 is channel 9, could a cable provider make channel 10 something like “Peacock Sports” with a listing of a Big Ten game that’s on that connects me right into the app and right into the stream without me having to search for the app, then look for the sports section, then scroll to see what’s live. Accessibility will make streaming sports so much easier. Watching television is a lazy man’s sport. The harder a viewer has to work, the less likely they’ll watch or discover your content. Peacock will also serve as a major home for Olympic sports.

It will be interesting to see if being on the same app as hit shows like Belair and Love Island helps with increasing the visibility of these sports. The Athletic also reports that there will be times Peacock will be airing a primetime Big Ten game while NBC airing a primetime Notre Dame game. Will they complement each other or take away viewers from each other? These are questions we will know the answer to soon enough but I salute the Big Ten and NBC for taking a measured but aggressive leap into the streaming world.

CBS bolsters television offerings despite streaming and SEC losses – When it was first revealed that CBS was signing with the Big Ten for more money than they would’ve used to keep the SEC’s top football game of the week, everyone cried wolf about how CBS took a major L. But when you look at this deal, it seems like more of a win for CBS’ overall sports portfolio.

The Tiffany Network will have access to two Big Ten Championship games in 2024 and 2028. NBC may have more streaming exclusives for their app but CBS will have an extra college football postseason game that NBC doesn’t have (NBC has one Big Ten Champ Game in 2026). They’ll carry 15 MBB games along with the Big Ten Tournament semis and final. They’ve also just added the Big Ten WBB Tournament Final. Women’s basketball ratings are continuing to soar whether it is the college game or the professional game.

A new set of advertisers are seeking to showcase their products during women’s sporting events as awareness and conversation have shifted to giving the women’s game just as much attention as the men. CBS has been a witness to the growth through its NWSL and WNBA broadcasts. CBS also gains a lucrative Black Friday afternoon football game that they’ll be able to sell for even more lucrative prices due to the time of year when millions more people than usual are glued to their television sets.

With their deal with the SEC, they only got SEC football. This is much more expansive for them. It also helps that the markets where Big Ten teams are located are much more aligned with their owned and operated stations than the SEC was which will help with local ad sales in those markets. In my hometown of Baltimore, CBS owns WJZ-TV. The University of Maryland’s biggest market with the most fans besides Washington, D.C. is Baltimore.

Is there still a chance for ESPN and the Big Ten to be business partners again? – As crazy as it sounds, there is a possibility that the Big Ten will expand AGAIN to include Pac-12 schools like California, Stanford, Oregon, and Washington, CBS Sports reports. With Fox, CBS and NBC already having their schedules set, ESPN could be the perfect rights holder to step in and pick up games.

As I noted last week, I don’t think the Big Ten will lose any relevance from a college football perspective by no longer airing on ESPN. Big Ten schools will still be eligible candidates for ESPN’s CFP property and the Big Ten’s football fanbase is too large to neglect on ESPN’s talk show circuit without monetary consequences on ESPN’s end. The basketball season might prove to have much different circumstances. Major basketball games will still air on fully distributed networks like FS1 and BTN.

But does the human psyche of not being on ESPN affect the way a basketball team is perceived during the selection process of the NCAA Tournament? If there is an actual connection, could we see the Big Ten sublicense some of BTN’s inventory to ESPN? Events like the Big Ten/ACC Challenge also hang in the balance. Could we see those types of tournaments sold separately to ESPN or another media outlet like Turner, Amazon, or Apple?

The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach reports the Big Ten could explore selling the rights to “specific one-off events.” Darren Rovell of The Action Network points out that live micropayment moments could be the future of watching live sports. “You’re going to be able to buy the last quarter for $2 or the last two minutes for 99 cents,” Rovell wrote. This type of technology already exists via the Buzzer app which has signed deals with the NBA and WNBA to send push notifications during key moments of games and encourage viewers to watch what happens next for 99 cents or $2.

ESPN has one of the most used sports apps in America. Could a deal ever come into place that gives ESPN the ability to sell these live micropayment moments of Big Ten games for similar prices, connect their user to the Fox Sports app or Paramount+ or Peacock depending on where the game is taking place, and split the profit between the rights holders, the conference and themselves? It’s a crazy concept of cooperation that may not be possible but we’ve seen crazier concepts happen in sports media before.

Commitment to academics – One of the coolest parts of this deal is NBC’s commitment to promoting the academic missions of Big Ten schools. Michael Smith of Sports Business Journal reports NBC will dedicate $100,000 of its advertising budget to this initiative.

NBC has tried its best to be mission-driven lately even with their HBCU football slate which will grant select students from HBCUs an opportunity to cover a game for NBC’s digital platforms and give other students the ability to network and improve their career prospects with other divisions of NBCUniversal.

College sports broadcasts are not only good recruiting tools for athletes. High school students deciding on where to go to school post-HS that will never play a sport are also watching these games. They can be influenced to attend these institutions which NBC has rights to because of the experiences NBC is providing at these universities or because of the awareness NBC is giving to what the university stands for. It helps drive a mission of purpose and business-wise, NBC is potentially building a young, new fanbase for the future.

A student who eventually builds allegiance to a certain university through NBC’s initiatives might be more inclined to consume content regarding that institution on NBC platforms in the future. It’s probably far-fetched, wishful thinking, and a bold hypothesis with no analysis but who knows? Haha.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: Stephen A. Smith and Nielsen Break New Ground

Demetri Ravanos

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This week’s episode of Media Noise is all about familiar names doing new things. Demetri Ravanos welcomes Garrett Searight and Jessie Karangu to the show to talk about the future of ESPN, Stephen A. Smith’s new book, Nielsen’s venture into streaming ratings and more.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO  

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90  

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp  

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx  

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX  

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BSM Writers

How to Sell Sports Radio During Layoffs

The employees laid off pay the ultimate price, but the salespeople who are charged with representing these companies have a tough job.

Jeff Caves

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Layoffs

How do you handle layoffs at your station with your clients, or worse, the rumor of layoffs? If you were the sales staff at 1250 The Fan in Milwaukee, I doubt you had much of a heads up before the cuts were made. I have worked through local programming cuts and two bankruptcies with a station group. Looking back on it, I should have been more plugged into the bigger picture of my company.

I could have considered moving to a company that was adding resources for local sales, not eliminating them. We all have the option, and I am sure there are salespeople now considering their futures. And that is a good thing. 

Local layoffs, though, are not a good thing. I have handled them myself. Usually poorly. The employees laid off pay the ultimate price, but the salespeople who are charged with representing these companies and their moves have a tough job. So, how do you push your station forward with clients when the company cuts it back? I bet the sales people at Audacy could tell us, having faced this situation two times in the last 28 months.

Former Audacy sales manager Dave Greene gave some advice to salespeople about working in big corporate radio when he departed about a year ago.

When dealing with layoffs, here is my advice. It has been my experience that my best clients were more interested in if I was staying, not in whoever was being let go on air. Keep that in mind. A proactive approach with clients who want to be in the know, agencies who hear all the gossip, or specific clients who like the laid off on air person should be taken. 

#1 Don’t tell who doesn’t care. Why be the bearer of bad news to clients who don’t listen or care? You know who they are. Be prepared for a response if they ask, but I don’t think running around to every client with a story will produce much more than a bunch of other rumors about you, your station, and your company.

#2 Bring out the Big Gun. Ask your GM or Regional manager to make calls with you with any high-maintenance client regarding a touchy layoff. Let them face the music and take full responsibility for their actions. The client will feel valued and impressed they had direct access to the decision maker for the explanation. 

#3 Use soft hands. If you have a client who is very sympathetic to the laid-off employees, tell them how the person was treated. Some clients care about how others are treated if they have listened to them on the air and feel like they know them well. Severance deals, other company employment offers, or maybe even re-employment at the same station could all be communicated.

#4 Give them the corporate scoop. Tell them why the layoffs happened. Was it to expand into podcasting more aggressively? Were they trying to manage costs JUST LIKE YOUR CLIENT? If we blame it on the economy, we miss a chance to relate to our clients differently. This approach works well with small business owners specifically. We want them to tell what just happened on a personal level. Ask them if they have had to do that in their career. The idea is to make them care MORE, not less. 

#5 Don’t be slow and generic. You owe yourself and your family to be intelligent, strategic, and swift. You owe it to the people who were cut to be specific, open, and sympathetic. 

If you find yourself in this situation, please be proactive and take control of the narrative with your clients. If you don’t, your competitors will. 

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