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ESPN Has Made It Clear, Radio Is Not a Priority

“What’s unfolding now at the worldwide leader is disheartening because it could have been avoided.”

Jason Barrett




This is not a column I wanted to write. For years, I’ve expressed how much better the industry is when ESPN Radio is healthy. I’ve maintained friendships at the network, the company has supported our BSM Summit, and I reflect fondly on the few years I spent working there earlier in my career. It was a special place to work and I learned a lot about becoming a pro in Bristol.

But this ESPN Radio is not the one that I and many others were fortunate to be a part of under Bruce Gilbert. It is not the one that Traug Keller, Scott Masteller, and other radio-first believers oversaw. This current version lacks radio instincts, focus, passion, and care. That may be an opinion that folks in Bristol, New York, and Los Angeles offices don’t want to hear but the decisions made in recent years make it difficult to see it any other way.

ESPN Radio used to obsess over serving the sports fan, its radio affiliates, and network advertising partners. But serving the company’s television and digital interests is what matters most now. Relationships with radio operators have changed, interest in operating local markets has decreased, and though I’m sure some will defend the network’s interest in satisfying advertising partners, it’s hard to do that a day after the entire national audio sales team was gutted. Thankfully Good Karma Brands is passionate about the audio business and helping their sales efforts. If they weren’t involved, who would be leading the charge in Bristol?

I didn’t start this week planning to drop a truth bomb but as I sat here on Tuesday and fielded text after text and call after call, I couldn’t help but be disappointed and upset. This network has been a staple of the industry for over thirty years. Yet in less than ten it feels they’re closer to turning off the lights than celebrating success. That should not happen when you have the partnerships, history, and talent that ESPN has.

What saddens me is that it didn’t have to reach this point. ESPN Radio had chances to sell in the past to outside parties. They declined. Folks inside of Disney felt the network was worth more. Well, how’s that looking now? If the company wasn’t going to commit to doing it the right way, and was just going to cut its way to the bottom, why stand in the way of others who’d pay to save it? It’s eerily similar to what just happened with Buzzfeed News. The company thought it was better than it was, and within a few years, the whole thing crumbled.

If this were the first time the network looked bad, I’d go easier on them. I understand the business, and sometimes brands or companies make mistakes or have to make difficult choices. It’s why I didn’t bury the network when Mike and Mike ended. Though I knew replacing their stability in mornings would be tough, I felt the network had earned enough clout over the prior years to be given the benefit of the doubt with a new show/lineup. I also applauded the company for replacing Zubin with Max, defended paying Stephen A. Smith top dollar, and supported GetUp! when it was popular to predict the show’s funeral.

But how can leadership in Bristol expect radio operators to trust their decision making at this point? I’ve talked to network executives privately and publicly about these issues for years, and have been told repeatedly that the radio business matters to them and becoming more consistent was a priority. At some point though the actions need to match the words. Unfortunately the only consistency taking place is change, and it often isn’t for the better.

I’ve lost count of the phone calls, texts, emails and direct messages I’ve fielded from PDs, executives, market managers, and ad agency professionals who’ve asked ‘should I be doing business with this network? Can you help me rebrand and redesign my radio station without ESPN Radio?‘ Yesterday alone I took five calls including from two who have expiring deals coming up. Think they’re in a rush to extend a partnership given what’s going on?

If you turn back the clock, some will say that things began to go in the wrong direction when Bruce Gilbert and Dan Patrick left. Though those were big losses, there was still a lot of confidence across the industry in ESPN Radio after they left. The early signs of issues at the network really started in 2014. That’s when Scott Masteller and Scott Shapiro departed. Masteller went on to program WBAL in Baltimore, and Shapiro teamed up with Don Martin to strengthen FOX Sports Radio.

Fast forward to 2020, and the heart and soul of the network, Traug Keller retired. Traug had more in the tank when he signed off, and when I talked to him prior to his exit, he denied being forced out or having concerns about the future direction of the network. Those who know Traug, know that’s he’s a class act and not one to air dirty laundry. But I also know he’s smart. As I look back now, I can’t help but wonder if he knew the ship was headed for an iceberg. I have no doubt that the network would be in better shape today if he were still there.

After Traug’s exit, a year later, Tim McCarthy was let go in New York. The network even cut ties with longtime voice talents Jim and Dawn Cutler, though they stayed on the company’s top stations in NY and LA.

Though I hated to see all of them go because they were good at their jobs and valuable to the network, the one that made a little more sense was Tim’s exit because that had more to do with Good Karma taking over in New York. Tim has since landed with the Broadcasters Foundation of America, and Vinny DiMarco is now leading 98.7 ESPN NY, and I’m a fan of both men.

But now here we are in 2023, and once again, the folks being shown the door are the people who dedicated their lives to radio. Among the casualties, Scott McCarthy, the network’s SVP of Audio, Pete Gianesini, Senior Director of Digital Audio, Louise Cornetta, Digital Audio Program Director, and two good local sports radio programmers, Ryan Hurley at 98.7 ESPN NY, and Amanda Brown at ESPN LA 710. All of them good, talented people with track records of success in the format. I struggle to explain how ESPN Radio is better today without them.

By the way, I haven’t even touched the talent department yet. But let’s go there next.

In less than eight years, ESPN Radio’s morning show has featured Mike & Mike, Golic & Wingo (Mike Golic Jr. and Jason Fitz were added as contributing voices), Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin, and Keyshawn, JWill and Max. Middays have included Colin Cowherd, Dan Le Batard and Stugotz, Scott Van Pelt, Ryen Russillo, Danny Kanell, Will Cain, Mike Greenberg, Jason Fitz, Stephen A. Smith, Bart & Hahn, and Fitz and Harry Douglas. Afternoons have been a combination of Le Batard and Stugotz, Bomani Jones, Jalen & Jacoby, Golic Jr. & Chiney, Canty & Golic Jr. & Canty and Carlin. I could run down the changes at night too, but you get the picture.

As a former programmer and current consultant, I know that radio is a relationship listen and investment. You can’t build an audience and attract sponsor support for talent and shows if the product constantly changes. Most PDs or executives who make this many changes during a short period of time, usually aren’t around very long. Yet ESPN has allowed this to continue, which leaves me to question how much they value their radio network.

Look, I’m sure this is a tough week for those in management at ESPN. Having to tell folks they’re not being retained and watch friends say goodbye is a crummy part of the job. I’m sure some have even fought to try and avoid this bloodbath. But when the news comes down from up above that 7,000 jobs are being eliminated, it’s not a question of whether or not people are talented and valuable, it’s simply about the bottom line. I feel for the folks at ESPN who have to deliver the bad news this week but also for those who are staying and now have limited support around them to make a difference.

By decimating the radio department there are now bigger questions to be answered by Jimmy, Burke, Dave, Norby and the rest of the management team. How much does ESPN value the radio business and the stations they’re in business with? If most of the people who’ve built relationships with local stations are gone, talented programmers are being ousted, talent changes happen far too frequently, and the company becomes less involved in local markets, why is anyone to believe this space matters to ESPN? What exactly are stations gaining from partnerships besides the use of four letters and the opportunity to air play by play events?

The network expects these stations to provide them with inventory, rights fees, branding, promotion, and clearance of certain programs so isn’t it fair of stations to have expectations of the network too? Don’t radio network partners deserve consistent quality programming, relationships with managers who prioritize audio, and less negative PR?

Most who I talk to about this situation believe the network’s glory days are gone. That’s fine. Just because this isn’t the ESPN Radio of 2005 doesn’t mean it can’t be great. The product exists now to primarily serve mid to small market operators who can’t afford local content, major market stations who don’t want to spend on evening and overnight shows, and company owned stations that can be utilized to promote the company’s digital and television content. ESPN does gain value for their radio shows on TV and podcast platforms, but those benefit the company much more than their radio partners.

The general feeling in industry circles is that FOX Sports Radio now delivers the best national radio product, CBS Sports Radio has better consistency but similar east coast content issues, and others don’t have strong enough brand recognition or content to justify a change. If sports betting continues to gain mainstream acceptance and bring cash into the marketplace, that could help outlets like VSiN, BetQL, and SportsGrid gain greater traction. If Outkick gets more aggressive with offering content to local markets, especially in the south and Midwest, that could be another interesting option.

The bigger question is whether there’s enough audience, revenue, and excitement for national content in today’s sports radio space. If most major markets are focused on local, is there enough out there in rural America to keep networks excited?

I do know that just ten years ago CBS Radio entered the space because they saw value in it. NBC Sports Radio leaped in too. FOX Sports Radio went all-in for Colin Cowherd, and ESPN Radio was healthy. Even SiriusXM continues to expand its national offerings, and three sports betting networks saw value in pursuing national distribution. It’s hard to convince me that there isn’t financial upside for national sports radio brands in today’s media environment. It may not be a big ratings play but from a business standpoint there is value.

What’s unfolding now at the worldwide leader is disheartening because it could have been avoided. Instead, brands have been damaged, relationships changed, jobs lost, and questions raised about future viability.

If the world’s leading sports operator values radio, they’ll prioritize restoring confidence across the industry. A good start would be putting people in place who champion radio’s future, and make decisions that best serve the radio brands carrying their product. If they can’t do that, then maybe it’s time to step aside, and let someone else try. I know a few groups who’d be happy to take a shot at restoring the network’s pride.

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Barrett Blogs

Radio Must Bring Back The Fun

“The promotions you’re creating are not producing massive recall across the format, national media attention or revenues that change the fate of your next quarter.”

Jason Barrett




Five and a half days in Las Vegas can feel like an eternity. Especially when you’re in town for business not pleasure. But though I’d rather sleep in my own bed, eat at home, and avoid walking from convention hall to convention hall, I’m glad I made the trip because the NAB Show delivered. 

Many media members have attended this event over the years, and it’s easy to come up with reasons not to attend. Budgets are tight, you can’t afford to be out of the office, or you think it isn’t beneficial. That’s where I’ll take exception. If you can’t find something of value at a five-day event that exists to serve broadcasters and brands, that’s on you, not the conference.  

Over the past few days, I did what many do and took necessary business meetings at Encore, but I also listened to speakers offer valuable insights on artificial intelligence, marketing, programming, technology, dashboard connectivity, the future of AM radio, and more. All of these are subjects that should matter to media professionals. Having Brett Goldstein (Ted Lasso star Roy Kent) on hand to talk about content creation was an added bonus. 

As I spent my final hour inside the North Hall on Wednesday, I couldn’t help but think about how large this event is, what goes into creating it, and how many different industries and brands are represented at it. What the NAB does to make this event possible for sixty-five thousand plus is amazing, and I commend all involved because it truly is informative, and it helps bring together business leaders and brands to help move our industry forward. 

There were many takeaways from the conference sessions, but one in particular stood out. I thought Mike McVay’s session with J.D. Crowley and Paul Suchman of Audacy was excellent. Crowley’s insights on listener choice, distribution, and personalization were spot on, and I was very impressed with Suchman’s feedback on some of the behavior testing Audacy has done to learn how consumers respond to different types of content and messaging.

Crowley’s final message about people in the audio industry needing to be proud of the business they’re in was easy for me to relate to because I feel similarly. This is a great business to be in. I get tired of hearing folks in and out of the industry tear it down. So much attention gets placed on who exceeded revenue goals, what a brand’s ratings were, and what a company’s stock price is, losing sight of the more important part, our brands, personalities, and content, and the way they’re received by those who consume it.

Additionally, I was honored to speak about the growth of BSM and BNM. Joe D’Angelo of Xperi and Pierre Bouvard of Cumulus Media treated folks to information on advertising and in-car data, and Erica Farber, Tim Bronsil, and Mary DelGrande did a nice job guiding multiple business conversations. I also enjoyed stopping by the Veritone booth and learning about their products and staff. My only regret, I missed Buzz Knight’s session with Nielsen’s new audio team due to a business meeting running long. Thankfully Inside Radio put together a detailed recap of what was discussed. 

But what I want to draw attention to most is something Dan Mason said on stage during his acceptance speech when receiving the Lowry Mays Award at the Broadcasters Foundation of America breakfast. It’s something I raised at last month’s BSM Summit. 

After sharing how local is a key differentiator in helping radio stand apart from other forms of media, and reminding everyone about the importance of longevity, Mason said that radio has to get back to having fun. He shared a story of a promotion he was part of in the 1970’s that wouldn’t fly today. It was a short people’s convention that included six-ounce drinks, pigs in a blanket, and strawberry shortcake. The event put his radio station on NBC Nightly News, and created a ton of buzz.  

Just because that type of event wouldn’t work in 2023, doesn’t mean others can’t. We have got to create special events that produce national attention, local market interest, and fear of missing out spending. This is what radio is supposed to be exceptional at yet it doesn’t happen enough.  

At our Summit in LA, I asked three PD’s to share with me the one promotion in sports radio today that they viewed as a killer event. It wasn’t an easy one to answer. In fact, two referenced WIP’s Wing Bowl, which ended in 2018. Had I asked five or six other PD’s, they’d have likely been in the same boat, struggling to name three or four killer events. 

I mentioned how the Mandy Awards at 710 ESPN in Los Angeles stood out, but this format should be able to deliver more than one standout promotion. I realize there are stations doing promotional events, and if they’re helping you produce revenue, great. I’m not telling you to abandon that strategy. But I will challenge you if you try to tell me sports radio’s report card on promotions in 2023 is superb. It is not.

One gentleman I listened to during the week who was attending a session shared one reason why this is the case. He was asked about creating ideas and said ‘we use a committee to brainstorm and find that sometimes the best ideas come from different departments, in fact, our last successful event was the idea of our engineer.’ 

I’m all for collaboration, and if you’re creating events that satisfy your goals, continue doing it. I’m not here to rain on your parade. But let me share an opinion some may view as unpopular. If the best ideas in your organization are coming from departments other than programming, you have a problem.

The program director and talent are supposed to be the people you turn to for leadership, ideas, passion, creativity, and execution. They’re supposed to be able to think of things that others can’t. Do you think Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino would turn over the direction of their next film to others inside their companies? Imagine the focus of Ted Lasso’s next episode being decided by someone other than Jason Sudeikis, Brett Goldstein, and the rest of their writing team. You’d be wasting the talent of your best storytellers.

Radio companies pay premium dollars for elite programmers and hosts because they’re supposed to be able to bring things to life that only exists inside their brains. If your HR or engineering department are creating the station’s best promotions, you don’t have enough creativity coming from your programming team. That could be due to having a PD who lacks ideas and vision or it could be the result of the way your creative process is structured.

One of the things I enjoyed most as a PD was coming up with ideas that created buzz, ratings, and revenue. My job was to think and execute BIG, and whether it was Lucky Break in San Francisco, Stand For Stan at 101 ESPN in St. Louis, the Golden Ticket at 590 The Fan in St. Louis, the 20 in 20 tour or Goodbye Roast at 95.7 The Game or the Gridiron Gala in both cities, we produced buzz, grew ratings, and made money. If we did something and it failed, that was ok. I’d rather swing and miss than be afraid to try. I took that responsibility seriously, and feel that when you’re making calls by committee, you’re not allowing your best people to do what they’re best suited to do. 

Case in point, I attended Boomer & Gio Live in Jersey City, NJ a few weeks ago. It was a fun event with a lot of different things going on. WFAN’s PD Spike Eskin worked the event on stage, and if you recall, the station made national news when Jets GM Joe Douglas said that Aaron Rodgers would end up in New York. There were multiple sales activations included throughout the show, and much of the fun content that took place on stage came from the creators. Because the FAN crew were allowed to do what they do best, the station produced a successful event. Had that been an ‘all departments contribute’ approach, it’d have not been the same show. 

What Dan Mason said in Las Vegas was accurate. Radio has to get back to having fun but it also has to be unafraid to take risks. I fear that we worry so much about the ‘what ifs’ and the potential noise on social media that we’re killing creativity, and the next big idea.

If I asked you to list five GREAT sports radio promotions today, could you? And I’m not talking about golf tournaments, charitable bowling events, host debates or bar remotes. If I ask this same question in five years and we’re in the same spot, that’s going to say a lot about where we are as an industry. We have to excite ourselves, our listeners, and our advertisers because when we showcase our creativity in a way that no other medium can, we make a statement, which results in increased attention, and financial investment.  

Some of that creative spirit is still alive. You see it in Boston with WEEI’s Jimmy Fund Telethon, and if you attended the Michael Kay Show 20-year anniversary special or Barstool’s Upfront, you saw what great planning, and execution looks like. But I also remember The Fanatic’s Celebrity Week, The Millen Man March in Detroit, Ticketfest in Dallas, Wing Bowl in Philadelphia, and 790 The Zone in Atlanta becoming a national sensation by creating multiple home run events.

I don’t believe enough brands today create events that deliver meaningful impact. Yet they’re needed. When done right, brands ascend to a different level. Sports radio has too many sharp, creative minds to not be creating the biggest and most successful promotions in all of media. If you work in programming and your station isn’t producing promotions that generate recall across the format, national media attention or revenues that change the fate of your next quarter, it’s time to step up your game. If you don’t, the interns, street team, and receptionist may soon be deciding the future direction of your brand’s promotional strategy.

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Barrett Blogs

Reflecting on the 2023 BSM Summit

“Barrett Media president Jason Barrett reflects on last week’s BSM Summit in Los Angeles.”

Jason Barrett




One of the best parts about the world of sports is that every season ends with one team being crowned champion. It doesn’t exactly work that way managing a media company, even though we invest the same amount of time leading up to the BSM Summit, our equivalent of the Super Bowl or WrestleMania.

Having had a few days to recover and reflect after last week’s Summit in Los Angeles, I know that what we did last week was special. I’m a perfectionist and have a hard time patting myself on the back because I know there’s plenty we can do better, but last week, we hit a homerun. The venues at USC were perfect, the signage was spectacular, the tech ran well, the speakers were awesome, the crowd was great, and the sponsorship support was outstanding. It’s the first time I’ve walked away from an event and felt we accomplished what we set out to do. If time allows, check out Garrett Searight’s piece on some of the key takeaways from the show.

In 2018, Mitch Rosen invited me to utilize his space at Audacy Chicago to take a shot at trying to execute an event for PDs. Now here we are five years later with a few hundred people joining us from all across the industry. It’s pretty incredible. We’re only successful because a lot of people have come together to make sure we are. Without the speakers, sponsors, and staff around me stepping up to get things done, I’d just be a guy with an idea incapable of executing it.

In the next week or so we’ll be sharing video clips from the show on the BSM social media pages. I’m also planning to make full sessions available via on-demand for free for those who attended the show in California. If you didn’t come to the event and want to watch it online, it will be available for a small fee. Stay tuned for further details.

What matters most to me with the Summit is that folks in the room get something out of it. I thought many of our speakers delivered a ton of value this year, and there were a few WOW moments along the way as well. Colin and Rome were outstanding as expected, and Jay Glazer and Al Michaels’ speeches had everyone hanging on their next words. I thought the Shawn Michaels and Jack Rose led sessions were outside the box and well received, and I was beyond impressed by Joy Taylor, Mina Kimes, and Amanda Brown. We used 14 hours in that room to explore issues dealing with management, research, technology, programming, talent and social media, so it gave everyone a little bit of everything, which was the goal.

We did have a little bit of friction on stage during the Aircheck on Campus session, which wasn’t a bad thing. Personalities and programmers have passionate conversations inside the office every day. Rob, Mark and Scott just happened to have one on stage. All three are smart, talented, and willing to be candid. I thought that was healthy for the room.

I know networking is important at these type of events and there was plenty of opportunity for folks to do that. I look at it like this, if you can get face time with others, meet your heroes or folks you admire and pick up some ideas and insight in the process to elevate your business, that should justify it being worthy of a few days out of the office.

As crazy as it may sound, I step away from each of these events asking my team ‘is that the last one?’ I know I can create and execute a great conference, and I enjoy doing it, but I also don’t want to invest eight months of time building a show that becomes predictable and stale. It’s why I change speakers and topics frequently. This year’s lineup was phenomenal, and I’m so pleased with who we featured on stage and had in the room, but the competitor in me will also look back and say ‘Bill Simmons, Ice Cube and Lincoln Riley Should’ve Been On Stage Too!


If we do host an event in 2024, it will take place in either Boston, Chicago, Dallas or New York. You can cast your vote on

I want to thank everyone who stopped me last week to share how much they enjoy this event. That support means a lot. I think Good Karma Brands broke a record with 20+ employees in attendance, and iHeart was also well represented, which was great to see. I was also excited to have 15-20 college students in the room. The more we can educate the next generation, the better it is for all of us. I also was thrilled to learn a few of our partners and attendees made time to arrange further business conversations. If two groups can help each other, that’s what it’s all about.

But as much as I love my radio brothers and sisters, I’ve noticed more folks showing up the past two years from areas outside of sports radio. That’s both exhilarating and concerning. This year we had folks in the room from WWE, Amazon, The Volume, Omaha Productions, Dirty Mo Media, Barstool Sports, Spotify, Blue Wire, Locked On, BetRivers, Bleav, etc.. I hope that trend continues because sports media is a lot larger of a business than sports radio. As I told the room, we’re not in the radio business, television business, audio or video business, we are in the content business. That covers a lot more ground for brands than focusing on one specific platform.

I’ve been on cloud nine for a few days because overall, this went as well as I could ask for. If there’s one thing I’d like to make better it’s that I hear from a lot of folks throughout the year who say they want to learn, meet new people and give themselves a competitive edge yet when an event exists that can help them do that, they’re not in the room. Some of my radio friends didn’t come because they weren’t asked to speak. Others said they couldn’t make it because their company wouldn’t cover the costs. A few said they thought the Summit was only for programming people not managers or sellers.

First, growing and selling an audience should matter to everyone not just programmers and hosts. GM’s and Sales Managers can gain a lot at this show. So can advertisers and agencies. I’m hoping to change that in the future. Second, I can’t tell you whether or not to prioritize attending but groups outside of radio are passionate about sports audio and video, and they’re finding ways to be in the room. At some point, you have to decide if investing in knowledge, ideas and relationships matters to you and your business. Your employer isn’t going to cover everything you want to do so especially when the economy isn’t strong. Sometimes you have to invest time and resources in yourself.

Many of you reading this website know my track record in the radio industry. I built my career in radio. My passion for the business remains strong. I consult brands all across the country, and root for the industry’s success. It’s why I sink my heart and soul into this event and share all that I do over two days because I want to help people grow their businesses.

But it is strange that over the course of four live events I’ve still not had one current radio CEO sit down for an in-depth sports media business conversation. It’d be one thing if they were pitched and I turned them down but that’s not the case. I’ve had great conversations and support outside of radio from Jimmy Pitaro, Eric Shanks, Erika Ayers, and John Skipper. Jeff Smulyan has been a huge supporter taking part in our awards ceremony, and we’ve had high ranking TV executives in the room watching the show. Maybe things will change in 2024 but whether they do or don’t, I’m going to focus on helping brands and individuals who gain value from this two day event, and continue challenging this industry to think and act differently.


Now that the 2023 BSM Summit is over, my focus shifts to supporting my clients and gearing up for a massive challenge, hosting our first BNM Summit for news media professionals. The conference will take place in Nashville, TV on September 13-14 at Vanderbilt University. I’ll be announcing the first group of speakers in April after the NAB. Tickets will go on sale at that time too.

I know it won’t be easy but I tend to do my best work when I’m out of my comfort zone. This is a space I have passion for and feel I can add something to so there’s only one thing left to do, get to work, and put together the news media equivalent of what we just created for sports media professionals last week in Los Angeles. That may be a tall order but if anyone is ready to meet the challenge head on, yours truly is certainly up to the task.

Thanks again for a spectacular time in Los Angeles. Onward and upward we go!

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Barrett Blogs

2023 BSM Summit – March 22, 2023 (Day 2)

We’re keeping you updated on news, key information, and interesting perspectives shared on stage by our speakers.

Jason Barrett




Day 2 of the 2023 BSM Summit is underway in Los Angeles at the Founders Club at USC. We’re keeping you updated on news, key information, and interesting perspectives shared on stage by our speakers. BSM editor Garrett Searight will be updating this column throughout the day as each session wraps up, so be sure to check back multiple times to avoid missing anything important.

Barrett welcomed attendees to the second day of the BSM Summit, and shared a clip of WWE wrestler Sami Zayn at a recent press conference saying that it is more difficult than ever to create “memorable” content due to so many different options. He asked attendees to remember the question “How do I take something good and turn that into something memorable?’

9:10-9:45 = The Programmer’s Panel presented by

  • Jimmy Powers, 97.1 The Ticket
  • John Mamola, WDAE, Tampa
  • Jeff Rickard, WFNZ, Charlotte
  • Raj Sharan, Denver Sports 104.3 The Fan

The discussion began with a focus on content management.

Jimmy Powers shared he meets with afternoon host Mike Valenti every day. “We give him a long leash, because I know he’s going to deliver. A guy like that is so good, we have to let him create”.

Raj Sharan said data has helped deliver buy-in from his talent. He added that some of the former athletes on his station — like Mark Schlereth and Derek Wolfe — have been coached their entire lives, so the ability to show data and explain why they’re doing what they’re doing has been easy.

John Mamola simply said he trusts his talent. “There’s a lot more focus on how do we get them to be better digitally,” Mamola shared. “Finding the content that they do that we can market better where people can find us more often.”

Jeff Rickard believes everyone is different. “We meet a couple times a week, mostly informally, but once a week formally, and I give them one thing. I ask questions to get them to start thinking about what they wanna do. Everybody’s got their own little thing. I try to meet them where they’re at.”

The panel was then asked how the measure success, and what their definition of success is.

Mamola reminisced about the first BSM Summit, where he asked Barrett what the definition of success would be in five years. He said he uses Nielsen as one data point, rather than the data point.

Sharan admitted that while there are several data points available, Nielsen is still the main measurement point they’re chasing. He believed if you’re doing well in Nielsen, social media and digital performance is likely to correlate.

Powers agreed that Nielsen is the most important measurement. Rickard concurred. “That’s the game we’re playing. That’s why we manipulate the clocks for the PPM. It’s the game that we play,” Rickard said.

Branding has also been an important step for the programmers on the panel. Sharan recently went through a brand refresh from 104.3 The Fan to Denver Sports 104.3 The Fan, bringing the station inline with branding used by other Bonneville sports stations.

He compared the branding to that of a company like Meta, which encompasses social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Ultimately, he believed the updated brand will help propel the station into a bigger digital future.

“It was a little challenging to explain to everyone,” Sharan shared. “How are you going to really be in the content business if your name has a radio frequency in it? That sort of stuff went into it.”

The conversation shifted to the length of shows, and what’s the perfect length.

Powers said their station is set up to have four-hour shows, and mentioned that at times his hosts will mention they are burnt out due to the length of their shows.

Rickard mentioned that the WFNZ morning show is four hours, but mentioned that as a talent he didn’t like four hour shows. “I just find that when I’ve done shorter shows, I’ve seen meters increase. I’ve seen energy increase,” Rickard shared.

At Denver Sports 104.3 The Fan, Sharan said if his hosts were robots, four hour shows would be fine, but said that younger audiences attention span’s are shorter, and joked that their talent is getting shorter and shorted.

Mamola said if budgets weren’t an issue, a similar setup how cable news channels format their prime time lineups with one hour hosts would be ideal. “There’s not necessarily a number you can put on it. It’s how the talent makes it feel. It’s more how the talent approaches it and how the execute it on the air.”

Length of spot blocks varies from station to station. Barrett shared there are stations he’s listened to that have had as little as 32 minutes of content in an hour due to spot load.

Powers said they have different clocks for different shows. “Clients love the show, and revenue is very important, so we don’t move it that much,” he said. “If you get too long, you can burn an entire quarter hour.”

Mamola said WDAE has different clocks every hour. “I want to keep our listeners guessing,” he shared, adding that he tried to manipulate the PPM quarter hour numbers.

Sharan admitted his station has 20 minutes of commercials an hour in morning and afternoon drive, but that number drops down to 12 minutes during middays.

“You gotta be careful, because if you don’t put your foot down, sales guys will take a mile,” Rickard added.

The final topic was about video content. Some companies have deals with Twitch, while others prefer to air their programs on YouTube.

“There’s never been a video component at WFNZ,” Rickard admitted. “It’s something I’m going to work on this summer. I think the key is my engineering staff figuring out the encoding with that. If someone has a meter and they’re gonna watch on YouTube, I need that counted.”

“Our YouTube strategy didn’t really start until eight or nine months ago,” Mamola said. “We talked about putting our content where everybody is. It’s all about building engagement and getting people to come to your brand.”

9:45-10:20 = 20 Deadly Sins of Sports Radio: Redefined presented by

  • Bruce Gilbert – Cumulus Media/Westwood One

In October 2005, Gilbert shared the 20 deadly sins of talk radio. He shared he was going through a tough time during the original deadly sins. He added that sins are negative, so he is changing them to 20 ass-kicking attributes.

Those attributes are:

  • Forward Momentum
  • Effective One Topic Teases
  • Ubiquity
  • Don’t Talk Too Much
  • Preparation
  • Accompanying Audio
  • Tease-Plot-Payoff
  • Clock Discipline
  • S.O.S. (Storytelling, Opinions, and Show Business)
  • Likeability
  • Authenticity Over Arrogance
  • Curiosity
  • Short Open-Ended Questions
  • Diversity
  • Excellence Over Success
  • Play The Hit
  • Reset
  • Don’t Forget to Have Fun
  • Urgency
  • Embrace The Migration

10:20-10:55 = Wheel of Content presented by

  • Amanda Brown – ESPN LA 710
  • Joy Taylor – FOX Sports
  • Mina Kimes – ESPN
  • Demetri Ravanos – Barrett Sports Media

A physical wheel was brought to the stage with nine topics. The first topic was about flexibility and how they manage it in contrast to media company exclusivity.

“I think it’s the future,” Joy Taylor said. “Because you have the ability to have your own platform, if you’re big enough, you can exist outside of a traditional media company. If (companies) wanna pay for exclusivity, you’ve gotta pay for exclusivity, and that drives the price higher.”

“There’s a balance,” Kimes said. “As someone who does football content for ESPN five days a week, it would be strange if I was doing football content somewhere else.” She mentioned that she was given the opportunity to do pop culture podcasts with a friend at The Ringer, and was grateful ESPN allowed it.

Brown looks at it from the management aspect, but said she’s supportive of those that want to branch out to other avenues. “Anywhere your talent can be and people can consume them, they will, and they’ll associate it with your brand,” she said.

The next topic was who the best interview has been.

Kimes said Deandre Hopkins has been her favorite interview. She said she pitched the interview for two years before it finally happened and he was very candid during it.

Taylor said it was difficult to decide the definition of “best” but landed on an interview with Allen Iverson “was pretty amazing”.

“As talent, someone that’s responsive and engaged is always the best. Pro wrestlers are always awesome. Someone like Magic Johnson is always going to give you a great interview.”

Brown said an interview with Kobe Bryant during her days producing Max & Marcellus where he continually dropped the phone call due to signal ended up becoming a hilarious discussion.

The wheel then landed on the “path to stardom”, with BSM’s Demetri Ravanos questioning how the panel balanced if they got to where they are due to success, luck, strategy, or something else.

“It’s not like being a lawyer, teacher, or doctor. There’s not a test where it’s outlined for you,” Taylor said. “You can get very lost in the business. You can take jobs that don’t align with what you wanna do long term. You’re probably not gonna be getting paid what you think you should be getting paid. It can be demoralizing.“

She then said knowing what you want to do is half the battle, and noted that maybe that position or role doesn’t exist yet. Taylor experienced that situation by knowing that she wanted to be a sports opinionist, but that avenue wasn’t widely available to women. She decided that was the path she was going to take.

“I wish I had your clarity and vision,” Kimes joked to Taylor. “I think I’ve done every job you can have at ESPN. I think the thing I could say is: every job I had I didn’t view as a stepping stone. Every show I treated like was the most important thing that I ever did and ever would do. I just wanted to do it the best. I treated it like this might be the thing I do for the next five years.”

Social media was the next topic, with Kimes joking “great”.

“It has diminishing returns if you let it take over your life. The bigger your profile grows, the bigger your audience grows, the less you have to look at it,” Kimes said. “If someone says you shouldn’t be on Twitter, that’s not true. It is part of your job. However, I also think that the bigger the firehouse of engagement gets, I have had to be much more deliberate of what I see, what I allow to penetrate my brain. It’s too much. It’s not all negative, but it’s all too much.”

“Social media is not real. I’m an algorithm nerd,” Taylor said, adding that she’s always looking for the best practices on the platforms. “It’s your public face. It’s what you’re presenting to the world. For me, social media has to be intentional. I’m not a psychologist. I don’t believe humans were meant to get this much feedback, but it is a very important part of our job. Sports and Twitter are synonymous. The only things we consume live are politics and sports. I think you should be very intentional on how you consume it and I think you should approach social media like the big beast. How are you going to deal with it?”

Brown said ESPN LA 710 has a different brand on social media than that of its radio station.

“We do stuff that’s social media specific, or shows that are only streaming on our social media. That’s what people wanna see. They don’t wanna see the clips from the show, they wanna see the talent doing dumb shit. They wanna see the talent’s lives.”

Ravanos concluded by asking about sports betting information and content into spaces it wasn’t traditionally welcomed.

“We’re not quite there yet,” Brown said, noting that legal sports betting isn’t yet legal in California. “If it does become legal, we wanna monetize it.”

“It does dovetail nicely with our ongoing discussions,” Kimes said.

“The goal is to keep eyeballs on the show,” Taylor added. “People are tuning in to hear what we think and get information on anything, but putting it in a way that is consumable and easy to digest is the best,” mentioning Colin Cowherd’s The Blazing 5 as a great method to present it to the audience.

“I actually prefer we have something to base our conversations on, rather than just the generic term ‘overrated’, or whatever, it really helps to have something to base it on and quantify it with,” Kimes added.

11:10-11:45 = Keynote Conversation presented by

  • Eric Shanks – FOX Sports

Shanks starts off discussing launching two new broadcasting booths for MLB and NFL and his crew’s performance during the Super Bowl. The conversation shifts to FOX Sports owning the USFL and if the appetite for football is strong enough to sustain other leagues.

“People always ask me what’s the next big thing in covering sports and I always say football,” Shanks said. “If we could increase NFL ratings by 1%, it would be incredible. We come at it from the FOX perspective that we come from the TV ratings standpoint. We kind of turned the model on its head. We have a sustainable business model that hasn’t happened with spring football in the last 30 or 40 years. There’s an insatiable appetite for football in this country. Is there room for multiple ones? I don’t know.”

Barrett asked about the network’s foray into the college football landscape, including the launch of Big Noon Kickoff to compete with College GameDay, including the decision on talent and utilizing newly retired players.

“There was a void at noon. We take our best pick and place it at noon. So we put together a group that we feel really good about. We decided to take the next leap of investment and take the show on the road. When you see that crowd, you want to keep on watching. We need to get better at it every week, but between Reggie (Bush), Urban (Meyer), and Matt (Leinart), it’s a really relevant group. And we have great storytelling with (Tom) Ronaldi.”

Shanks continued by talking about the network’s strategy in regards to having fun on the air, compared to the approach brought by other networks.

“You can’t take yourself too seriously,” Shanks said. “You want people on the air that when they speak, people listen. You wanna be the group that everyone wants to sit and have a beer with. That’s kind of our philosophy.”

When asked about biggest risks he’s taken that he’s gotten right and wrong, Shanks talked about the Harry Caray hologram before pointing out the network’s role in evolving the NFL content experience.

“At the time that we started Red Zone, nobody knew what NFL viewing would look like. Nobody had ever seen a commercial-free, all-action viewing experience. That was a pretty big risk that we couldn’t get wrong.”

“We tried bass fishing for awhile, and we had Joe Buck announcing it. It was right after we made the NHL puck glowing, so we put stuff on the fish that made them glow. The fishermen couldn’t see them but the folks at home are thinking ‘the fish is right there you idiot…so maybe bass fishing wouldn’t be what it is today without us,” Shanks joked.

The creation of FS1 in 2013 was a large undertaking, and Shanks admitted he knew it would take time to gain a foothold.

“The reason we started FS1 was we had these individual niche audiences (Fuel, Speed, and Fox Soccer). We saw a world where it would be harder and harder to get carriage and distribution for. So we merged those three channels into FS1. That was the reason we built FS1. Jamie (Horowitz) was here at the time, and was a big believer in building morning talk and was the big driver of landing Skip (Bayless), and I knew nothing of it at the time. It’s now about 25% of our audience viewing. It’s a brand that brings a lot of value and brings a lot of value to the pay TV bundle.”

Barrett asked Shanks about the streaming strategy for the network, mentioning that it has been one of the lone companies that hasn’t thrown bundles of cash at the platform.

“A couple of years ago, we were in wait and see mode. I think at this point, we’re kind of in that post-streaming wars era. We’re in the eighth or ninth inning. We’re not sitting on the sideline. We’re looking at everyone else thinking ‘What are they gonna do?’. On the entertainment side, you could say it’s added benefits to customers. But on the sports side? Anybody here can look at those standalone streaming services as a sports fan and think they’ve added inconvenience and expense. I can’t get anything from one single source anymore. They’re taking advantage of sports fans, to be quite honest. There’s some decision that are going to need to be made in the standalone streaming services that are relying upon pure streaming sports.”

Frustration with Nielsen has been an ongoing topic with both TV and radio groups, and Shanks said FOX Sports is no different, but did give the ratings measurement company some grace.

“I think it’s complicated. Nothing’s ever going to be perfect, but it’s the currency that we all live with. How else are you going to transact unless you agree that’s how we’re transacting? Technology is always advancing. Out-of-home is starting to get credit for viewing that was always there. I give credit to Nielsen that if they find errors, they’re not afraid to go back and correct it.”

“I can’t think of a product that we’re living and dying by the ratings with,” Shanks continued. “There’s not anything — at least in our portfolio — that a little bit of mis-measurement or data will make or break us.”

In the sports betting space, Shanks believed there’s plenty more legalization that will take place in the coming years.

“It’s still tough to tease out if legalized sports betting has had an affect on ratings,” before noting FOX Sports would look at being upstream in the sports betting space, rather than simply accepting ad dollars.

He added that he doesn’t currently view an all-gambling sports content network from the company in the short term.

“For us, that’s a ways off. I’d rather take the most interesting people, the most credible people, and the biggest events, and weave it in for the masses, rather than do niche programming.”

When asked about his goals for the future, Shanks said utilizing the company’s availability is what he strives for.

“Internally, it always starts with culture. Is it a fun place to work? From a business standpoint, we have a couple of renewals coming up. I think that for us it really does come back to some of these tangential investments, whether it’s in wagering or USFL, so if I could go forward five years and look back and question did we create new business. Whether it’s baseball, international soccer and the World Cup, are you situated out with the core business and take some of the buying power that FOX has to be transformative.”

He continued the conversation by saying he is open to working with talent from other networks and collaborating, mentioning Alex Rodriguez’s desire to be a game analyst. “We didn’t really have a spot for him, so we were fine” with the former All-Star joining ESPN in addition to keeping his role at FOX.

The Bally Sports-branded regional sports networks were previously owned by FOX Sports, and has experienced a collapse after the company sold them to Disney before divesting themselves to Diamond Sports Group. Shanks called the situation a perfect storm.

“When we had the RSNs, we had 44 of the 88 pro teams. We knew how much leverage we were using for distribution and rate, and brought the whole portfolio of FOX to make them successful. And they worked. The world has changed. We got everything out of the RSNs that we could get. Once they went and landed where that portfolio was in place that it couldn’t support, that was the secret sauce. The concentration of teams, the leverage we would bring to bear, and without that, you can see where they are today. There’s just as many fans that want the content, and when they’re in the bundle, it worked. But going outside the bundle and going direct? It didn’t work.”

11:45-12:15 = 2023 BSM Summit Awards Ceremony (Day 2) presented by

  • Jeff Smulyan – Emmis Communications
  • Julie Talbott – Premiere Networks
  • Al Michaels – Amazon Prime Video

Premiere Networks President Julie Talbott was honored with the 2023 Jeff Smulyan Award. The Emmis Communications founder welcomed Talbott to the stage.

“This is a lot of fun for me. Jason called me years ago, and said ‘We want to name this award in your honor’, and I said ‘Thank god it’s not in my memory’. I’m really proud to honor Julie,” said Smulyan. “Not only is she one of the great leaders in the industry, she’s one of the great people in our industry.”

Talbott shared her appreciation for being given an award named after a trusted friend.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be here. Imagine being honored for such an award, but to have a name with a really good friend, it’s amazing,” Talbott said.

“I sure wouldn’t be here without a great team. I thank you so much. It means the world to me to accept this award with the Jeff Smulyan name on it.”

Legendary broadcaster Al Michaels was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award, and shared his appreciation for being bestowed with the honor.

“It’s great to be with so many people who got into the business because we love sports,” Michaels said. “It’s also great to see so many people that are so radio centric. In my generation, the best broadcasters were from radio.”

Michaels shared that he’s been paired with more than 100 different partners during his tenure, and briefly reminisced about them.

“Looking at all of those partners — John Madden, Cris Collinsworth, the great Tim McCarver, the best to ever analyze baseball on television, Jim Palmer, Doc Rivers, Ken Dryden, Jackie Stewart. I worked with Howard Cossell, O.J. Simpson, and Bruce Jenner, I’ve been around the block,” Michaels joked.

Sports broadcasting has seen radical changes over his career, and talked about some of the more obscure sports he has announced.

“The business has changed so much. When I did Wide World of Sports at ABC, I did motorcycle racing on ice, target driving in West Germany, but in those years ABC did a ton of auto racing. So I’ve done 30 NASCAR racing, 6 or 7 Formula 1 racing, you had to be a jack of all trades. I’m doing all this auto racing on national television, and I didn’t know how to use self-serve (gasoline).”

Michaels was joined at the event by Prime Video colleagues Andrew Whitworth and Kaylee Hartung, as well as Amazon Vice President of Global Sports Video Marie Donoghue. He shared his excitement about the product the streaming platform put together in its debut season.

“These people were totally supportive and totally invested in making this look like a big time show. One of the big things they did was hire Fred Gaudelli, and he made this look like a big time television show. I’m so proud of where we’ve come.”

Michaels is the voice of the most famous call in sports broadcasting history with his “Do you believe in miracles?” as the United States defeated the Russian hockey team in the 1980 Olympics. He explained that it was complete happenstance that he received the assignment.

“I got hockey because I was the only guy on that staff who had done hockey. I had done one hockey game. It was serendipitous. I could also explain offside and icing.”

Michaels concluded that one of the fallacies that took some time to get over was the idea that a great game means it was a great broadcast.

“Some of the best games, the games I’m most proud of, were bad games. The broadcast can be great without a great game. A great game doesn’t equal a great broadcast. But those are the things I’m most proud of. Those bad games that turn into great broadcasts.”

1:30-2:10 = Creating a Superstar presented by

  • Shawn Michaels – WWE

The session began with Jason Barrett asking Michaels about the way the WWE scouts talent as the world has changed.

“We’re starting to cast a much wider net than we ever have before,” Michaels said. “Finding former athletes. Not everyone is gonna make it to the pros. Football, baseball, gymnastics. We’re reaching out to universities across the country and finding those athletes. You always keep a keen eye for someone that might have that electric personality, the it factor.”

The conversation shifted to how the WWE will brand an individual athlete as they’re gaining their footing with the organization.

“We have promo classes. They’re in front of green screens, they’re pitched ideas, situations, characters, learning to help teach them how to talk with entertainment but not lose your character. We ask them if they’ve ever thought about their name or character. You get a look inside their thought process. You’d be surprised how many have great ideas and there are others that we have to help out. We look for things that are organic or are already in them. We look for someone who is 100% a good actor.”

Barrett asked how WWE plans for its talent to hit the mainstream and what that buildup process looks like.

“It varies from talent to talent,” Michaels admitted. “We have a 7-to-10 week time period that we’ll use 30 to 45 second vignettes to build up the introduction to that character.”

When asked how to decide between creating characters or utilizing the natural personality of talent, Michaels said it’s all about feel.

“We feel like we have a really good pulse on our audience. From a wrestling standpoint, if you’re a bigger guy, it’s ok to laugh along with you, but we don’t want people laughing at you.”

Michaels shared he believes wrestling, like other content creators, is about storytelling.

“From the get go, we’re telling stories. It’s the story of the journey our characters are going through. We fight good and evil. Good guy versus bad guy. We just do it in a 20×20 ring. Our stories just end in a fight.”

Like sports radio stations, the WWE sometimes has to decide if something isn’t working.

“One of the greatest things about the WWE is our fan base. That sounds cliche at times. They’re brutally honest. When they don’t like something, they’ll let you know. Sometimes you have to push through that initial reaction,” Michaels said, pointing to the promotion’s star Roman Reigns long tenured unpopularity before ascending to be one of the company’s biggest draws.

Barrett asked how Michaels sees WWE defines success outside of strictly dollars and cents.

“I look at it in a number of different ways. I understand that if I don’t produce decent ratings, I don’t know how long I’ll be in the job. But at the same time, I have to produce talent. I may not have a number I can put on that, but I have to produce talent. 95% of our talent at WrestleMania will have grown through NXT. From that standpoint, NXT has been a big success. I can’t live and die by the weekly ratings. It’s about supplying the main roster with talent for the future.”

Michaels also shared that wrestling talent, like many in our industry, want to be told the facts from their managers.

“They almost always want to hear the truth, even when it’s tough,” Michaels said. “I deal with everybody the way Vince McMahon used to deal with me. He gave me a lot of free reign. He supported me and gave me space to take risks. He cut me loose, and said if it goes too far, I’ll reel you back in. I was uninhibited. It allowed me to be an artist.”

Barrett asked about the difference between allowing free reign versus what the company needs from a particular promo or story line.

“They have to earn your trust. From the beginning, you have to be able to get the points and follow the script. As you become a better steward of what you’re given, you’re entrusted with more. Not everybody just gets to go up there and wing it or feel it. You’ll have to follow a certain script. When you complete that, we give you a little freedom. It has to start regimented. There are I’s that have to be dotted and T’s that have to be crossed, and once they’ve been tasked with that and they complete it, we allow more creativity.”

2:10-2:45 = Aircheck on Campus presented by

  • Mark Chernoff – Formerly of WFAN
  • Scott Shapiro – FOX Sports Radio
  • Rob Parker – FOX Sports Radio
  • Michael Fiumefreddo – USC

The panel began by listening to a five minute clip of a recent show from WFAN’s Carton & Roberts, that encompassed St. Patrick’s Day, the injury off Edwin Diaz, a pizza being dismantled by a producer who dropped it in an elevator, and the belief that Aaron Rodgers would never play for the Jets.

BSM Director of Content Demetri Ravanos asked the panel if they heard five minutes of content that will keep PPM listeners.

“There was enough, but maybe a little too much all over the place, but it’s enough to keep me there,” former WFAN Brand Manager Mark Chernoff said. “I certainly heard enough that I would stick with the station because they talked about the two topics listeners want to hear about.”

“To get my five minutes, it did. It wasn’t perfect, but it did get my five minutes because there was passion there,” Scott Shapiro added. “At the very start of it, I did not understand some of the St. Patricks Day stuff, but it was 50 seconds in, and they brought up Edwin Diaz. I got the impression it was going to go on longer, and I wouldn’t have stayed longer if he went another minute, but to Carton’s credit, he brought it back.”

Ravanos asked how the programmers would balance formatic mistakes against content decisions.

“Howard Stern would go on for an hour and ten minutes, and do an 18 or 20 minutes commercial break, but he was getting 9, 10, 12 shares, and I said ‘You know what? They’re sticking with him, they don’t know when he’s coming back, and the content is so compelling that we can’t tell him to reign it in’. Content is king,” Chernoff said. “If the content is great, flush the format.”

“We want people to be human and take chances on the air, but there’s a road map, learn from them, and appeal to the broadest set of the audience,” Shapiro added.

FOX Sports Radio host Rob Parker then joined the panel to discuss a five minute clip from a recent episode of The Odd Couple with Chris Broussard, and a discussion ensued about how to aircheck with talent present.

“Scott is the dream programmer because he listens to the show,” Parker said of Shapiro. “One day, we were doing the show and Scott sent a text that said ‘Cut it out’. And I thought ‘What did we do?’ And Scott sent a follow up that said ‘I’m in my driveway and I’m laughing my head off’.”

“To me, I was gone from the show after the first minute. You can’t spend the first minute reading a commercial. Do it going into the break, if you have to,” Chernoff said. “If you wanted to talk about Aaron Rodgers, talk about Aaron Rodgers. It took four minutes to get there. You went on some tangents, for starting a show, it was all over the place. I had no idea where you were going. Those first few minutes, there was no substance, and you’ve got to have substance to start the show.”

“The read at the start is a 15-second read. It can sound like a 60-second read, but they pay a lot of money to be at the start of the show, so that’s not going anywhere,” Shapiro countered. “Rob Parker set the table off some nice momentum 1:45 in, with topics like Aaron Rodgers and Damian Lillard. We did not mention anything about Aaron Rodgers again until 3:45 in. That’s where my critique comes in. It can’t be two minutes. Let’s trim that down and get to the topics quicker.”

2:45-3:20 = The Era of Talent Led Audio Networks presented by

  • Logan Swaim – The Volume
  • Jack Rose – Silver Tribe Media
  • Mike Davis – Dirty Mo Media
  • Richelle Markazene – Omaha Productions

The panel led by Jack Rose began the discussion by asking Davis what has defined Dirty Mo Media.

“We’ve taken some pretty big swings,” Davis said. “We’re going after a strategic vision. We started some new shows, we’ve got gambling content, we started a new show with a guy that we identified — Denny Hamlin — so those are the swings we’ve taken.”

Swaim added that instant reaction content has been a growth driver for The Volume. “That is when we believe we are at our best because that is when sports fans want that content the most,” adding that they had traditionally operated under the usual podcast model. He said that company founder Colin Cowherd questioned why he couldn’t just turn something around after game ended, and it’s led to a new outlook.

Markazene said — similarly to The Volume — they look for new content centered around current athletes. “When we first launched, we thought it was really important to have an active player on our roster. We did that with Cam Hayward of the Pittsburgh Steelers. We didn’t anticipate the ups and downs of the Steelers season, so as he was navigating through that, he was also able to give his honest and timely reactions to the season on his podcast, which we found really resonated with fans.”

Rose mentioned that the digital media world is still largely in its infancy, but asked the panel what they’ve noticed isn’t working.

“Early on, we worked on getting new episodes out in a timely manner. I think a pivot we’re making now is our producers working on what is newsworthy and how we can get it out faster,” Markazene said. “I don’t think we did a good enough job of getting the newsworthy content in a timely manner.”

“The biggest missteps that I feel like I’ve made and we’ve made is we get so excited about an idea that we rush it to market,” Davis added. “And we don’t ask the basic questions before we take it to market. What’s the identity and why will people want to consume it? You can have answers to that and it can still succeed, but if you don’t have answers to that, you might not be ready to take it to market. If you don’t have those basic things answered, it probably won’t work.”

When asked what a point of emphasis is in the advertising space for The Volume, Swaim said it’s influence over inventory.

“With The Volume, we have a roster of not just podcast hosts but influencers. There are so many other ways to sell into an influencer rather than just a podcast itself. There’s all these other tentacles with that.”

Davis shared his process of going “hard to the hoop” to close deals.

“There were corporate, strong brands that were alongside Dale Earnhardt Jr. when we started this,” David said, before adding that they were slow to sponsor Dirty Mo Media content. “‘We recognize that you’re doing great, but you’re going to need to explain it to us’, is what we heard a lot. Not only is this something you want to be a part of, but it’s also something we can help them benefit from and something that is necessary for them.”

“As we started the network, we’ve had Caesar’s Sportsbook as a partner, and they’ve been tremendous on giving us feedback so we can align our content goals,” Markazene said. “I’m excited to see what we can all do together.”

Swaim added that gambling content is still “the Wild West”. He mentioned their partnership with FanDuel that helps drive different ways to customize gambling content inside different shows on the podcast network.

Rose asked how each of their companies use their biggest brands to create new content and advertising opportunities.

“My job is to create content for fans and content for Dale,” Davis joked. “I’m building a platform around a personality that is true to his authenticity, true to his ideals, but wasn’t his idea. When it’s not his idea, he’s not going to go push anything unless he’s all-in. He doesn’t play the game unless he’s interested. But that’s how I want him. My job is to keep him engaged and happy.”

“(Cowherd) calls me randomly. He’s usually mid-segment, and I engage with him,” Swaim said. “He uses sports analogies to grow the company. He likes to embrace the idea that he’s willing to move off of stuff that’s not working and double down on stuff that is. Colin has the ability to see talent in people many others don’t, and empowering them to do something many didn’t believe was out there.”

“Peyton (Manning) set’s the tone for Omaha in front of the camera and behind the scenes, too,” Markazene added. “Peyton is committed to every Omaha product and initiative. He was key in identifying talent and bringing them to our rosters. After launch, he’s made regular appearances on all of our shows.”

3:35-4:10 = Social Media Goes Hollywood presented by

  • Karlo Sy Su – ESPN LA 710
  • Matthew Demeke – AM 570 LA Sports

Barrett Media President Jason Barrett began the conversation by asking Karlo and Matthew how they decide on which platforms to prioritize and if there are certain days and times that they focus on making sure content is available.

Karlo shared the station has nearly 500,000 followers on Facebook, which allows opportunities to share more accessible content.

Demeke shared that “really good content is really good content”, adding that there isn’t a specific time that works best for the station’s best content.

“Anytime is a good time,” Su added.

The topic shifted to how each defines social media success.

“I like to see engagement,” said Su. “The fact that people will watch the content and then take the time to comment on it? That’s huge. I value the comment. People are taking the time to digest that content.”

“It’s a lot of things,” Demeke said.

“Engagement’s a big thing. Secondly, are people listening? We have to drive everyone back to listening. I need to get people back to our shows, whether that’s on the app or the radio. I saw a comment a couple of weeks ago on our post, that said ‘I found Roggin and Rodney through social’. That’s a big success. There’s so many ways to define it.”

After Barrett played a clip of Omar Raja talking with Gary Vaynerchuk about his approach to social media content creation, Su shared that the numbers his brand has delivered have been accomplished through organic reach, not with the help of paid media. “That is a display of pride in our work rather than cheating in a way. If we are looking to reach goals, that’s on us rather than putting some greenbacks to put us beyond our goal.”

“There’s zero dollars, zero cents on paid media,” agreed Demeke. “We get creative on how we do our marketing. We do paid media, but in a different way. This way brings engagement and brings people back to the radio station.”

Barrett asked about how the pair trust social media platforms, especially TikTok given that there’s been conversation around the platform being banned in the future.

“Nothing is gonna get reversed immediately,” said Su. “TikTok’s not gonna go down in the next day or two. Good content is good content. We feel like it’s good content because it gets the audience to watch and watch more, and then listen to the podcast or be a loyal listener to the station.”

“You have to adjust,” Demeke said. “I feel like since 2020, it’s been a series of adjustments. It doesn’t frustrate you, you just have to post throughout and get everything in priority. If people are using a platform, we need to be using it, too.”

“Everyone in this room, and society as a whole, has turned into a visual society,” added Su. “If we’ve got cameras in the studio, we should utilize them.”

“It’s tough because we have to make audio visual,” Demeke continued. “We’ve gotta bring that across all the platforms.”

4:10-4:45 = One For The Road presented by

  • Matt Fishman – ESPN Cleveland
  • Sean Thompson – Arizona Sports
  • Danny Zederman – ESPN Chicago

Barrett began the conversation about potential sellable features and promotions by asking Fishman about The Land on Demand, the station’s subscription service for on-demand podcasts and live video of shows.

“Primarily, fans go there for the shows. That’s what we’ve learned. They go there for the commercial free and exclusive shows, and our Browns coverage,” said Fishman. “The best way to describe our growth is a six-figure line of income every year.”

ESPN 1000 is preparing for a 25th anniversary celebration.

“The actual anniversary is in October, but we had to jump at the chance to utilize the House of Blues in Chicago,” Danny Zederman said. “This is a great opportunity to satisfy fans and partners. It’s a give back for our partners. 150 of them are involved in this. They’re gonna get to mingle with one another, exchange ideas, and our partners get to become partners with one another.”

Sean Thompson discussed an event at his former station — 92.9 The Game — called “The Game Bowl”, that featured a paper football tournament with station listeners.

“I’m so happy to be back in the live event game,” Thompson said. “It makes me excited because it means we’re back to where we were a few years ago.”

Thompson added it was usually promoted for several months.

“We always did it the week the Pro Bowl was, the week before the Super Bowl. For me, expectations were always keeping the crowd entertained and engaged. From a sales standpoint, finding and creating activations. Whether it was to hand out a branded beverage, or anything like that, we wanted to create those footprints. From a revenue standpoint, we could have done better, but we would always have a good amount of people there and a good crowd, but we weren’t ready for an arena.”

Barrett then asked Zederman how many events should a station focus on per year.

“That’s a tough thing to specify. The most important thing is to do it right,” Zedderman said. “I can’t give you a specific number, but I would say it’s an important thing for the fans to reach out and touch the talent. Maybe once a quarter.”

Fishman said that several big promotions are key for ESPN Cleveland. He shared that during the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic, the station gave away $30,000 of local advertising that saw 82 entries. It gave away one winner, but got the contact information of 82 local businesses to potential pitch advertising too. In 2021, they added a luncheon for business who entered, which allowed them to network with each other. In 2022, the event expanded to a seminar on networking to couple with the lunch and giveaway.

Barrett asked the panel how they can monetize items outside of just the traditional commercial load.

Zederman said it’s important to have the talent buy-in to the event or promotion.

“We could have tons of great ideas, but if the talent doesn’t buy into it, it’s not gonna soar.”

“Nothing is worse than watching the talent do something they’re not engaged in,” Thompson agreed.

Barrett closed the 2023 BSM Summit by reiterating that we’re in the content business, not simply the radio or television business. He asked attendees — due to the volatile economy — to step out of their comfort zone and explore new territories. He showcased how companies like Hubbard have created digital-only shows that have invested in talent outside of the radio that have driven large revenues for the company. He then closed by explaining how radio leaders don’t do enough to tell their brand success stories compared to others in similar businesses and reminded the room why it was important to do so given the challenging financial climate.

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