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BSM Programming Summit Day 1

We’re live in Chicago for the inaugural Barrett Sports Media programming summit hosted by Jason Barrett. This blog will be updated throughout the day so be sure to check back regularly for new information.

INTRODUCTION: Jason Barrett opens the Barrett Sports Media programming summit welcoming over 30 PD’s from markets throughout the country.  During the two-day event everyone involved has the opportunity to  share insights, strengthen relationships and inherit wisdom from many of our industry’s top sports radio minds.

SESSION 1 – Experience, Sound & Reinvention: 

  • Mitch Rosen – 670 The Score
  • Justin Craig – ESPN Radio
  • Mike Thomas – 98.5 The Sports Hub

Mitch Rosen – The Score brand is bigger than our personalities.  The radio station is 26 years old, and to stay relevant and fresh, you can’t be afraid to make change.  We could have kept things the same and done well, but we have to ask how can we reinvent ourselves?  Change was needed in acquiring new talent, but we still wanted to keep our heritage.

Staying topical is key.  How many people heard of Loyola Chicago before the tournament?  Being creative and having a great imaging director is one of the most important aspects for a sports station.  Our best primetime show is the Chicago Cubs.  They’re our marketing campaign and in all of our imaging, not just on The Score, but our entire cluster.

The best way to perform market research is talking with listeners.  They are our customers and they give honest feedback and I make the time to respond to all of them.

We need to own our local content because local content wins, and people want to talk about their teams.  This format is here to stay, because it’s live, local and all about strong opinions.

Justin Craig – Pushing the ESPN brand is more important than an individual station.  It doesn’t matter how a show is consumed, whether it’s on the radio, television or streamed.

As soon as a host’s show ends is when their job really begins.  That’s when the talent needs to stay connected, promote a show and build the brand.  Having a younger producer who knows how to properly use social media can be important to help the host continue to stay connected after the show.

The hardest thing to do on a national level is relating to the listeners.  Are we putting out a product that fans want?  The local station is part of their audience, they interact with them.

We aim to hit mass consumption with our shows.  It’s not just about one particular location.  It’s about radio, TV, the app, social media, anywhere fans are and interested in sports content, we want to be who they turn to for content.

Mike Thomas – The importance of imaging and making sure a station sounds fresh.  Each of us have had those moments where we heard a talent or imaging from a station that made us say, this is what we want to do.

The Sports Hub is a “sports station that rocks.”  We’re a former rock station and that can be heard in our imaging.  Boston was ready for a younger sports station and a lot of other markets are as well.

Even though we don’t carry the Red Sox, its important to still have Red Sox imaging.  We have a baseball reporters show to compete with WEEI’s Red Sox pregame and we promote that as well as when a reporter will be joining one our other shows.

Jason Barrett – Responded to a question about running a station that does not have broadcast rights to a popular local team.  At 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, they had rights to the Athletics’ games, but not the Giants.  It was still important to give the listener what they want, although the A’s wanted the station to talk less Giants during the day, its necessary to put the listener first even if that means focusing on your rival station’s team.

SESSION 2 – The Tangled Web of Social Media: 

  • Danny Parkins – 670 The Score
  • Barry Meister – Meister Sports Mgmt.
  • Scott Shapiro – Fox Sports Radio

Danny Parkins – It seems obvious to be active on social media to interact with the listeners.  I’ve told people I will be at a game and offer a meeting point to buy people beer.  I have 40,000 followers, I might only get a dozen people to show up, but 40,000 fans will see that I’m willing to do that.

You’re not being human if you’re not talking about what your audience is talking about including political topics.  Eventually fans will tune in to listen to a talent because they want to hear that person regardless of what they’re talking about.  There are ways to be profitable while being polarizing.

You don’t have to sell your soul to go viral or make a name for yourself, you just have to be creative.  If you’re going to be controversial, you have to be genuine and able to sleep at night.

From a compensation standpoint there are cost benefits to using social media.  It may not be easy to dissect but by being active on social media it caught the attention of Mitch Rosen and resulted in me now working for my hometown station in market #3 in afternoon drive.

Barry Meister – You can tweet something that 50% of the population finds funny and 50% finds offensive.  It never makes sense to alienate half of your audience.  A tweet that offends a large group of people is different than an opinion that people disagree with.

My job is to protect my client at all costs but I tell them “you want to be right, but you want to be employed.”

Whatever the platform is, you have to know who you’re talking to.  You also have to know who the individual is and educate them on the benefits and dangers of operating in the space.  Among my clients, Chris Sale has no use for Twitter.  It’s not who he is.  On the other hand, Sergio Romo is very active in the space and has generated a lot of additional revenue on it.

Scott Shapiro – Social media is an extraordinary brand connection.  There are so many people doing what we do, it’s a very competitive business, we want fans to be watching a game and thinking of our talent to see what they’re doing next.  Social media is free advertising.

For anyone in radio, to not use social media to promote your brand or station is a mistake.  That said, talent need to represent the values of the company when using Twitter.  The “f-word” is something that makes many people uncomfortable, if you use that on social media, you better not have our brand represented anywhere on the page.

Handling a talent crossing the line with an opinion depends on the employer and how much the company is willing to allow.

We use Facebook Live, it’s important, we try to make it look good and sound good, but any extension of our brand to a different platform is used as a way to try and convert that listener back to terrestrial radio.

SESSION 3 – Gaining Dollars and Attention From Sports Radio Advertisers: 

  • Dean Lamb – CDW
  • Laurel Cline – Wintrust Financial

Dean Lamb – From an advertising standpoint we look at ratings as one element, but there is so much other data we focus on as well.

How do we create a degree of relevance between what we’re doing and what you’re doing.  Talking to a program director to see what their audience listens to can help to create an ad.  I would prefer if someone told us to go back on the drawing board, rather than put something on-air that you don’t think works.

When working with talent, we look for an element of brand safety, but we also want someone interesting and relevant.

One difficulty with advertising during play-by-play is the spot can be played on terrestrial radio, but not heard on any streaming platform due to league rules, but streaming and smart speakers are obviously becoming more popular.

Sports radio stations who appeal to an older demo should absolutely push that story. It’s not just about Men 25-54. For example, when we do business with the PGA Tour we definitely look to reach the higher end of the demo.

Laurel Cline – There are so many things we look at, ratings are an aspect of it, but most importantly we want it to be something that fits our brand.  Sometimes there is too much data and it’s difficult to decipher what’s helpful and what isn’t.

We look for someone who is local, involved with the community and actually supports our product or brand. We try to stay away from anything too political or controversial, sometimes an ad might run during a show and we’ll get feedback from people upset.

Finding a way to integrate advertisers into podcasts will become more invaluable.  One challenge with podcasts is it fragments the audience, but if more people are listening to them, are less people listening to the radio? Knowing where the audience listens is important.

In our world, we know that the majority of our customers are older so we look to appeal to a younger audience.

It would be beneficial to us and all advertisers if we had a chance to meet, talk and get feedback from program directors. I have never met a programmer until today.

SESSION 4 – Tackling Diversity in Sports Radio: 

  • Sarah Spain – ESPN Radio
  • Jason Goff – Chicago Sports Radio Host
  • Dan Zampillo – ESPN Los Angeles

Jason Barrett introduced the topic by mentioning there are 425 Monday – Friday radio hosts in the country, 87% of them are white males. Although many deserve to be in their positions and are doing an excellent job it’s also disappointing to see the lack of progress offering diverse talent on the air.

The numbers over the past three years are unchanged. As a whole the format has to make major improvements. 38% of the population is non-white yet only a third of that population is represented on sports talk radio.

Dan Zampillo – The idea of hiring someone who isn’t like you is very important.  Someone with differing opinions might make me feel uncomfortable, but to overcome something you have to leave your comfort zone.

It’s not about my world and thinking what I think is funny or not, you need to know your audience and seek out opinions from different people.

Jason Goff – I grew up listening to sports talk radio.  I feel we sometimes insult our listeners because we think they can’t handle certain topics.  Sports can be a vehicle to talk about something else, people say stick to sports, but sometimes there’s something deeper than sports and people like learning more than they don’t like learning.

Sometimes for a minority or female host in an industry dominated by white males, there are some things you may have to subconsciously deal with that you say “that didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.” But if anyone else heard it they might be like “you’re going to put up with that” and I say “yeah, because it’s my dream.”

How many people have zero connection with a minority during their day? Radio stations can provide people with that connection.

The challenge we have is getting more diverse people behind these microphones and behind the scenes and understanding that there’s a blending that’s taking place but the loud minority is shouting down that blending.

I never understood why a sports station isn’t rated number one because everyone can relate to sports and has a reaction to it. I’m not here to make you feel the best or worst, but I’m here to make you feel, and it’s great to think differently because the audience isn’t just the 25-54 year old white male.

Sarah Spain – Nobody ever really only followed the stick to sports model.  The current climate just makes people more aware of someone not talking about sports.  Sticking to sports can be small-minded.  Why not appeal to a broader audience?

By the way, when people clamor for things to return to how they used to be, the way that it was though didn’t actually stick to sports.  A lot of women and minorities were alienated.  Gay people were offended.  The main people listening and in charge didn’t notice though because the commentary reflected their own opinions.

When I say something that goes off sports or is specific to me it becomes noteworthy, but when a straight white male goes on a rant about going to a strip club or women shouldn’t go to Vegas, they ruin everything, it just feels like the regular conversation because that’s what you’re used to.

We talk often about how to fix major league baseball because those who like the game are all old white men. When I talk to people in power positions in radio instead of saying “all of our listeners are white men who are aging” they say “we don’t want to alienate our listeners who we do have.”

What business runs like that?  What business says “no, we prefer to still not to attract 50% of the population of women and another 30+% that are minorities because we’re worried that the white audience that we have might go away if we force them to listen to someone who is mildly different from them.”

Why wouldn’t you want to appeal to as many people as possible who are interested in sports radio?  If you’re wondering why your audience is a certain way, maybe look at the people you have hosting and the things that they’re saying and realize that they’ve been turning away a really big chunk of people for a very long time.

You need to find people that don’t know what they want yet.  I never wanted to get into sports radio because I thought someone would ask me who hit the most home runs in 1985 and I wouldn’t know the answer, because my parents didn’t watch sports and I wasn’t watching sports in 1985.  To find different types of talent you have to be willing to put yourself into positions where you’re going to do things differently.  Whatever your daily routine is, wherever you usually go, go somewhere different.

Pipelines exist in every business for white males, but we need to create pipelines for everyone else.  If you’re hiring me because you need to hire a woman then great. I will be that woman and I will kick ass and inspire other women to create that pipeline for others to get these kind of opportunities.  If you’re a token hire, that’s fine, as long as you’re not disrespected.  Once you get the job is yours though you need to be yourself and take advantage of it and make people ask themselves why they didn’t try it sooner.

SESSION 5 – The Infinite Dial 2018: 

  • Larry Rosin – Edison Research

Podcasting is an important tool for radio stations.  Many people want to turn on a station and listen to whatever is on right now, but others want to catch up and listen to a specific show on their own time, and podcasts provide that opportunity.  If you’re not providing the listener with unique podcasts, they’ll find them elsewhere.

86% of Americans older than the age of 13 listen to music.

41% of Americans listen to speech based content.

The average American listens to three hours and 49 minutes of audio per day, 57 minutes of that is speech based.

Of the 41% that listen to speech content regularly, they listen to four hours and 54 minutes of content daily, of which two hours and 19 minutes is speech based.

Average listening platforms for Americans over the age of 13:

AM/FM Radio 53%
Streaming 15%
Owned Music 14%
SiriusXM 7%
TV Music Channels 5%
Podcasts 3%
Other 3%

Terrestrial radio is still by far the most consumed form of audio content, but with each new study, its percentage decreases a little bit.

Once a listener begins listening to podcasts, they quickly listen to more podcasts.  Of those who regularly consume podcasts, 59% of their daily listening is to podcasts, while AM/FM Radio drops to just 24% of their listening.

Once you enter the digital world, more people consume podcasts when listening on a phone or computer than they listen to AM/FM radio.

50% of people 18-34 said they do not own a radio in their home, ten years ago that number was just 6%.

SESSION 6 – The Trump Effect (moderated by Tim Spence 630 KHOW Orange and Blue 760 Denver): 

  • Todd Manley – WGN Radio
  • Brian Long – KOGO/Xtra 1360
  • Chris Kinard – 106.7 The Fan

Chris Kinard – When we started, we brought in hosts that could talk about social issues.  Over the course of the last two years its become too divisive and less fun, so we have cut back on that and the ratings have responded positively.

Continuing down a political path is something a host doesn’t always want to do because they don’t want to brand themselves in that way.  Politics might not be the majority of what a sports station or host does, but it’s going to be the loudest thing they do.

We’re done talking about politics.  Our listeners know when they turn on The FAN, they’re going to be entertained, and not moved to turn the radio off because they’re hearing the same political topics they heard at work all day.

Brian Long – Sports radio hosts aren’t always well-versed in what’s going on politically, but they still have opinions that could become divisive.  From a sports standpoint, we decided to get out of talking politics rather quickly.  Still, there are times that a sports conversation will have to crossover to being a political conversation.

We preach playing the hits, but you need to know why the audience is tuning into your station.  You can give a hot take on sports each day, but when talking about a social issue, a host may upset the audience if it’s not a topic the audience wants to hear about.

Todd Manley – I’ve noticed music stations coming out of nowhere in the market, because people are looking to get away from political conversations.  Looking at the balance of what to talk about is important, you need to have fun.  We have shows that are targeted towards sports and others that are not.

Our afternoon show is topicality driven, there are so many topics to choose from right now, and choosing what news story to talk about is a conversation we have everyday, along with how can we shift gears to making the topic fun.

SESSION 7 – Sports Radio Reimagined: 

  • Jason Barrett

Should the male 25-54 demo change?

People are living longer.  Older listeners have the most money.  The debate should be about which demo best represents the true impact made by sports talk radio stations.  18-54? 25-54? 25-59? 25-64? 35-64?

Niche content is gaining steam.  Trying something different such as a daily sports betting or eSports show can’t be dismissed, especially when you look at how much money is projected to be invested in those spaces in the future.  Just type in sports or sports radio on iTunes and look at what comes up.  Wrestling for example, dominates the charts.  It’s why Podcast One and Westwood One have launched wrestling programs.  There’s big money and interest in many of these forms of content.

Sports program directors are comfortable spending money on weekly NFL, NBA, MLB contributors, but have you ever considered a weekly political guest? Betting experts? A popular wrestling personality or eSports enthusiast?

How are you looking to groom young talent, or employ women and minority talent? Barstool Radio has more women in their weekday lineup than any station. They also feature shorter shows. Why not experiment with a 30-60 minute show? If the average commute is under 30-minutes and your average metered listener spends less than one hour listening to your station each day, can you say with certainty that shorter programs wouldn’t be seen as a benefit to your audience? With digital platforms available, stations should be using them as a way to experiment and develop new talent.

How much money are you generating from your digital content?  How much are you earning from podcasts, and people using your app or streaming? How many hours are invested in making your digital platform look and sound right?  Station’s need to find ways to make the digital part of their business profitable and charging for it can’t be dismissed.

If radio revenues are flat to down and you look at what’s going on in the subscription world in the sports media business, it’s fair to ask if 100,000 listeners paying zero on a platform that you monetize poorly and spend ample resources in is more important to your business than 10,000 paying $8.00 per month.  If the content and talent are special and offering quality on a consistent basis people may not be as opposed to paying for it as you might think.

Brands should be analyzing how their meters use their stations and adapt their clock structure to the way people use the radio station’s programs, not just installing the same clock design across all 13 hours just because it’s simpler.  As long as the inventory gets in during each four to five hour daypart, it’s the programmer’s job to review when people are listening most/least and capitalize on opportunities.

PD’s should be asking themselves, “can my brand survive and thrive without me?”  You have to think about the job description going forward differently.  There’s going to be much more to the position than analyzing ratings, coaching talent, meeting with sales and promotions, etc.  Are you involved in digital content creation, social strategy, merchandising, graphic design, etc.?  Don’t dismiss learning about those things because they may be part of your job in the next few years.  Otherwise a company may one day decide to install a virtual PD.

SESSION 8 – The Next Big Category: 

  • Chad Millman – Action Network
  • Bill Adee – VSiN

Chad Millman – It’s harder to do a national campaign if sports gambling is regulated in each state differently.  League’s would prefer if the future of sports betting was federally legislated the same everywhere.  From a content standpoint, it doesn’t matter, we’re still going to provide information to help people learn to bet smarter on sports.

There are still glitches, the betting technology has to catch up for the market to grow where I expect it to grow

We want to be conversational and connect with an audience that might not bet daily, but it still remains a part of their lives.  The generation that is 15-35 has grown up with moneyball, fantasy sports and video games.  They view sports as an opportunity.

The NFL is so backwards regarding their stance on sports betting.  They think differently than other leagues.  Knowing legal sports gambling is coming, the NFL’s thinking should be more about how to monetize it.

Bill Adee – Nobody really thought about why sports gambling was legal or illegal because the law was that way for so long.  The attitude toward sports betting has changed.  It’s a states right’s issue, Nevada was grandfathered in, why shouldn’t New Jersey be allowed to legalize sports betting?

At VSiN, we like to inform and entertain, but most of all we like to educate.  There is a big audience for sports betting and we need to explain it in a way that doesn’t insult the audience’s intelligence, because a lot of them think they know what they’re doing in-terms of betting, but they really don’t.

You want to put information on-air that makes sense and draws the listener in, focus on lines and how they move, knowing that a lot of the betting conversation needs to be explained properly to the audience.  We try to demystify sports gambling.

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

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