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Welcome To The 2016 Sports Radio Draft

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Welcome to the second annual sports radio draft. I created this project last year to introduce sports radio fans, and industry people to some of the sports format’s top program directors, and offer a small snapshot of the way they view the nation’s top personalities and talk shows.

If you love sports the way many of us in the sports talk format do, then you recognize that an event like the NFL draft is a crapshoot. Proclaiming victory or defeat after selecting a player without seeing them suit up and make plays on the field is pretty silly. But, most of us can’t resist the temptation to do it anyway.

What fun would the draft be if we couldn’t second guess the general manager, head coach, and owner of every single NFL franchise for the moves they make?

Well, in sports radio it’s not much different. Any time a personnel decision is made, there’s instant reaction from the audience. New shows are written off before they hit the air. The program director is met with a barrage of insults, and threats through email and social media, and the thought of waiting twelve to eighteen months to evaluate a program is considered absurd. It’s even worse if a radio station brings in a host or show from another city.

Although it may not be sexy or what people want to hear sometimes, it takes time to gauge whether or not a show is going to work. It’s no different than a football team using a high draft pick on a prospect, and giving them multiple opportunities to prove that they can be a difference maker on the professional level.

If a franchise is going to invest a high draft pick, and big dollars on someone who they believe can make their team better, they’re not going to bail on that individual after their first or second game or play. Fans may not like it, but teams need to employ a long-term strategy rather than overreact to short-term problems. In radio, the same holds true.

Are there exceptions? Yes of course. A great programmer can tell when they have a bad combination on their airwaves, or a person’s work ethic or attitude isn’t where it needs to be for the station to experience success. Those are tough calls that have to be made on occasion. Once a decision is made to pull the plug and move on, it isn’t usually until all options have been exhausted. There are only so many times when a programmer can call the head of the company and say “I screwed up”.

As I watched the NFL Draft unfold last night, I was reminded of how inexact the entire process is. It’s important to study your information, exhaust your resources, and listen to your inner circle, but when the time comes to make a choice, the best thing you can do is trust your gut.

We applaud some organizations for being ballsy, and criticize others for being timid, when in reality we have less information, and skill to make the selection than the individuals who are paid to run each war room. Do terrible general managers, and organizations exist? Yes. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not more advanced in their scouting of talent than we are. I stress this point because the same situation presents itself often in radio.

The audience likes who they like, and want what they want, and anything less is considered awful – until they get used to it. Most people are creatures of habit, and resist anything new. Once it becomes comfortable, they adapt.

Many listeners aren’t privy to the information that the programmer has at their disposal. They just want to hear the hosts in a setting that they prefer. But more goes into it decision making than that.

There are economics, relationships, schedules, creative styles, ratings track records, and a myriad of other factors to consider when putting a show on the air. Even smaller things such as “is the show better suited for morning or afternoon”, “should we feature a solo program or team show”, “do the hosts sound too much alike”, “are they too far apart as people to develop a consistent flow”, “are they coachable”, all come into play when deciding if a show fits what the programmer wants on their radio station.

I decided to put thirty two of the nation’s best sports radio minds on the clock, and give them an opportunity to select one show each. Unlike last year where we focused on individuals, the goal this year was to select full shows. That meant they could draft a solo hosted program, or a show with two, three or four personalities.

To create the draft order I stuck with what worked last year – pulling thirty two names out of hat (if it ain’t broke don’t fix it). However, I did make two key changes.

First, I changed up some of the programmers to give other station leaders an opportunity to participate who weren’t involved last year. There are some familiar names and faces still in the mix, but altogether I included sixteen new people.

Secondly, I prohibited each programmer from picking one of their own local talk shows. It’s natural to want to appease our own people, but if everyone had a blank canvas tomorrow, and could hire one dynamic show to grow their station’s ratings, and revenue, we may or may not stick with what we have. This put the entire crew in a position to be a little more neutral.

I want to thank each of these programmers for not only taking part in the exercise, but also putting their names behind each selection. I also want to congratulate the shows that made the list of 32. Keep in mind that each programmer has a different perspective on what makes a great sports radio show, and the results are often determined by where an individual picks. Just because someone chooses a particular show, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t take a different one if they had a higher draft choice.

The sports radio industry has hundreds of people hosting programs all across the country each day, and many are doing it well. But talent isn’t the only thing that matters. It’s often about fit, style, sound, work ethic, attitude, connection, and ratings and revenue potential. Certain shows may deliver big numbers for one programmer, but fire blanks for another. They may dominate in one market yet crash and burn in another.

As you watch the NFL Draft, I hope you’ll take some of these things into account. One team’s trash can be another one’s treasure, and sure-thing prospects, and no-chance free agents, often succeed or fail depending on who they play for, and which system they perform in. The radio business is eerily similar. Which is why hiring people and/or shows can be challenging, rewarding, and occasionally catastrophic.

Now without further delay, it’s time to unveil the 32 sports radio talk show selections in the 2016 Sports Radio Draft! Let the debates begin!

Order Programmer/Station Show/Station
1. Matt Nahigian, 97.5 The Fanatic-Philadelphia Dan Lebatard w/ Stugotz-ESPN Radio
2. Mike Thomas, 98.5 The Sports Hub-Boston Valenti & Foster-97.1 The Ticket
3. Chad Abbott, KFAN-Minneapolis Dave “Softy” Mahler-950 KJR
4. Justin Craig, 98.7 ESPN-New York City Stephen A. Smith-Mad Dog Sports Radio
5. Ryan Maguire, 560 WQAM-Miami Josh Innes-Sports Radio WIP
6. Brad Willis, 104.5 The Zone-Nashville The Dan Patrick Show-Fox Sports Radio
7. Gavin Spittle, 105.3 The Fan-Dallas Mike Meltser & Seth Payne-Sports Radio 610
8. Adam Delevitt, ESPN 1000-Chicago Mike and Mike-ESPN Radio
9. Armen Williams, 104.3 The Fan-Denver Boomer and Carton-WFAN
10. Bruce Gilbert, Cumulus Media-Dallas Colin Cowherd-Fox Sports Radio
11. Steve Torre, Mad Dog Sports Radio-New York City NBA Today w/ Justin Termine & Eddie Johnson-SiriusXM
12. John Hanson, 610 Sports-Kansas City Dan Barreiro-KFAN
13. Kevin Graham, WEEI-Boston Mad Dog Unleashed w/ Chris Russo-SiriusXM
14. D.J Stout, 610 The Fan WFNZ-Charlotte Mike Francesa-WFAN
15. Lee Hammer, KNBR-San Francisco The Musers-Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket
16. Scott Masteller, WBAL-Baltimore  Jorge & Izzy-ESPN Radio
17. Ray Necci, ESPN Radio-Bristol Tony Kornheiser-ESPN 980
18. Jay Taylor, 97.1 The Fan-Columbus Petros & Money-AM 570 KLAC
19. Ryan McCredden, 610 KILT-Houston Gio and Jones-CBS Sports Radio
20. Scott Shapiro, Fox Sports Radio-Los Angeles Paul Allen-KFAN
21. Tim Spence, 97.9 ESPN-Hartford Big Al & D’Mac-104.3 The Fan
22. Ryan Hatch, Arizona Sports 98.7FM-Phoenix The Hardline-Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket
23. Chris Kinard, 106.7 The Fan-Washington DC Toucher & Rich-98.5 The Sports Hub
24. Dennis Glasgow, 99.9 The Fan-Raleigh The Drive w/ Cooley & Czabe-ESPN 980
25. Gregg Henson, 970 ESPN-Pittsburgh Mark Madden-105.9 The X
26. Tom Parker, 105.7 The Fan-Milwaukee Amy Lawrence-CBS Sports Radio
27. Dave Tepper, 1620 The Zone-Omaha The Blitz w/ Fred and AJ-ESPN 97.5
28. Allan Davis, WGR 550-Buffalo Damon Amendolara-CBS Sports Radio
29. John Mamola, WDAE-Tampa Waddle & Silvy-ESPN 1000
30. Rich Moore, 950 KJR-Seattle Mike Missanelli-97.5 The Fanatic
31. Jeff Austin, 1080 The Fan-Portland Brock and Salk-710 ESPN
32. Brian Long, XTRA Sports 1360-San Diego Mason and Ireland-ESPN LA 710

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John Skipper To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit

“In January 2021, Skipper’s plate became even more full when he reunited with Dan Le Batard to create Meadowlark Media. Since joining forces, the group has raised millions of dollars in funding, lured key talent to join the brand, and in April, Meadowlark closed a deal with DraftKings for a reported fifty million dollars over three years. Not too shabby for year #1.

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Putting on a two-day industry conference comes with a fair share of challenges. Months are spent building sessions, selling sponsorships, and talking to so many people that by the time the event rolls around, all I can think about is reaching the finish line and avoiding major issues.

But then the event happens, and there are moments where I’m able to block out the noise for 30-40 minutes and just be present in conversation. It’s what I enjoy most. Being able to sit across from an industry leader who’s been successful in business, and pick their brain on the past, present and future of our industry is both personally and professionally fulfilling. Not only does it provide me with an education, but it helps everyone in attendance too. That’s my motivation for running this conference.

When we return to New York City on March 2-3, 2022, I’m thrilled to share that I’ll have a chance to do that once again with someone I’ve professionally respected and admired for a long time. It is an honor to announce that Meadowlark Media CEO John Skipper will join us for a special on stage conversation at the 2022 BSM Summit.

If you’ve worked in this industry or aspire to, then you’re likely aware of what John has accomplished. He’s seen the business from many different points of view and remains very much involved in helping shape its future. But before we discuss his present involvement, let’s revisit the past.

During his tenure with ESPN, John spent five years serving as company president where he secured a series of long-term, multiplatform agreements with key rightsholders such as the NBA, NFL, MLB, Major College Conferences, US Open Tennis, FIFA, the Masters Tournament and British Open, the College Football Playoff, and the Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowls. He also oversaw the evolution of several brands including The Undefeated, Grantland, five thirty eight, and espnW among others.

Prior to becoming company president, John held the position as EVP of Content, which he earned after helping create and introduce one of the most successful magazine launches of the 1990’s with ESPN The Magazine. His understanding and belief in digital helped ESPN move ESPN. com forward in 2000, adding a paid section, ESPN Insider, and delivering a revamped site approach to generate more advertising. His foresight also spurred the launch of ESPN3, a television network producing more than 4,000 live events on the web and through mobile devices. If that wasn’t enough, John also supported the creation of the Watch ESPN app, played a key role in elevating the careers of many of the industry’s top sports media stars today, and oversaw the growth of ESPN Films, ESPN Radio, and many of ESPN’s key television programs.

After exiting the worldwide leader, John signed on as the Executive Chairman of DAZN. In January 2021, Skipper’s plate became even more full when he reunited with Dan Le Batard to create Meadowlark Media. Since joining forces, the group has raised millions of dollars in funding, lured a number of key talent to become part of the brand, and established a strong presence in podcasting and on YouTube. In April, Meadowlark closed a deal with DraftKings for a reported fifty million dollars over three years. Not too shabby for year #1.

What I’ve appreciated about John is that he’s never been afraid to roll the dice and take risks. Some of his moves have worked out, others haven’t. The wins have been recognized across the industry, but so too have the losses. He’s had to lead a company thru high profile talent controversies, cord cutting challenges, understand the world of video, audio, print, digital, advertising, subscriptions, talent, and rights deals both domestic and internationally, all while keeping his finger on the pulse of the present state of the media business while turning an eye towards the future and knowing which areas the company should make significant investments in.

John has been thru all of it as a media executive, and he’s still doing it while building the Meadowlark brand. A recent story in Bloomberg captured some of his views on growing the Le Batard empire and navigating various parts of the industry. I highly recommend taking time to read it. You can do that by clicking here.

We have five and a half months until we’re inside the Anne Bernstein Theater in New York City, so who knows where the industry will shift during that time. One thing is for certain, John Skipper will be ready for whatever lands on his doorstep. I’m eager to spend time with him in New York treating industry professionals to his insights, opinions and leadership lessons. I’m confident those in attendance will gain value from hearing his perspectives on the industry.

I invite you to join us either in person or virtually for the 2022 BSM Summit. Tickets to the event can be purchased by clicking here. For information on sponsorship opportunities, email JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

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2022 BSM Summit Adds Pablo Torre, Joe Fortenbaugh, Kazeem Famuyide & John Jastremski

“By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day Summit.”

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The announcements continue for the 2022 BSM Summit. After recently sharing the news that former ESPN Radio executive Traug Keller would join us in the big apple to accept the Jeff Smulyan Award, and previously revealing the first fourteen participants scheduled to appear, it’s time to inform you of a few key talent who will participate in sessions at March’s show.

I’m thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Pablo Torre to the 2022 BSM Summit. Pablo’s been with the worldwide leader since 2012. During that time he’s served as a senior writer for ESPN.com, the host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and has appeared on shows such as Around The Horn, Highly Questionable, and The Dan Le Batard Show. He also previously co-hosted High Noon with Bomani Jones. Prior to joining ESPN he spent five years writing for Sports Illustrated. Having worked with a mixture of talent from various backgrounds, I’m looking forward to having him share his insight and opinions on the value of it at the show.

Pablo isn’t the only ESPN personality joining us in New York for the conference. I’m excited to welcome back a great friend and one of the smartest sports betting analysts on television, Joe Fortenbaugh. Joe is regularly featured on ESPN’s sports betting program Daily Wager. He also appears on other ESPN programs and segments on television, radio and digital platforms. Prior to joining the network he hosted 95.7 The Game’s morning show in San Francisco, and hosted “The Sharp 600″ sports betting podcast. He’ll moderate a conversation with sports betting executives at the show.

Given that this two-day sports media conference is taking place in the heart of New York City, it’d be silly to not include someone who’s passion, energy, sound, and content embody what New York is all about. The Ringer’s John Jastremski will make his BSM Summit debut in 2022. The ‘New York, New York’ host is known to many for his years of contributions on WFAN. It’ll be fun picking JJ’s brain on the differences between performing on a traditional platform and the digital stage.

Jastremski isn’t the only one with a connection to The Ringer who will participate at our 2022 event. My next guest is someone who I’ve followed on YouTube and Twitter for years, has infectious energy and likeability, and has taken his life experiences and sports passions and turned them into opportunities with MSG Network, SNY, The Ringer, Bleacher Report, WWE, The Source and various other outlets. Kazeem Famuyide will join us to shed light on his journey and offer his perspective on the value of traditional vs. non-traditional paths.

By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day event. I’ll be announcing the addition of a very special executive in mid-October, as well as a few high profile speakers and awards recipients in the weeks and months ahead. I’m appreciative of so many expressing interest in speaking at the conference, and as much as I’d like to include everyone on stage, I can’t. Keeping the Summit informative, fresh and focused on the right issues is important, and to do that, I’ve got to introduce different people, perspectives and subjects so our attendees gain value to further improve the industry.

A reminder, the 2022 BSM Summit is strictly for members of the sports media industry and college students aspiring to work in the business. It brings together people from more than thirty different media companies and focuses on issues of relevance and importance to media industry professionals. The show takes place March 2-3, 2022 in New York at the Anne Bernstein Theater on West 50th Street. Tickets and hotel rooms can be secured by visiting BSMSummit.com. For those unable to attend in person, the Summit will also be available to view online. Virtual tickets can be purchased by clicking here. Hope you’ll join us!

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Traug Keller Named 2022 Recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award

“Former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award.”

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Photo Credit: ESPN Images

Sometimes decisions are difficult. Other times they’re not. This was one of the easiest ones I’ve made since launching the BSM Summit in 2018.

If you haven’t attended the Summit before, one of the cool parts of the conference each year is that we take time to honor people who have left a permanent mark on the industry we love. Awards ceremonies are held both days to recognize difference makers who have made positive contributions to the sports radio business. At our 2022 BSM Summit, I am pleased to share that a great man will be celebrated for his life’s work.

It is my honor to announce that former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award. Keller becomes the third industry executive to earn the honor. Kraig Kitchin and Dan Mason were the first two to be recognized at the 2019 and 2020 BSM Summit’s.

Upon learning that Traug had been selected as the next Jeff Smulyan Award winner, Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan said, “Traug Keller has left an indelible imprint on not only sports radio, but on all of broadcasting through his remarkable career. I’m proud to call him my friend, but I’m just one of the legions of people who have loved every minute of their time with him. He’s a broadcaster’s broadcaster, but more than that he’s one of the best people I’ve ever known.”

“I am humbled for sure but thrilled to be receiving an award with the name of my good friend on it, Jeff Smulyan,” added Traug Keller, now the EVP and COO of American Media. “Jeff did what all too few leaders in business do, he took risk and action against all kinds of headwinds and the rest of us in the great business of Sports Audio were the beneficiaries of it. Thanks to BSM for this great honor and I look forward to seeing a bunch of old friends in March!”

Anyone who has crossed paths with Traug over the past three decades knows how important he was to the success of ESPN Radio. He’s been a friend to many, a great partner to hundreds of radio affiliates, and a champion for talent. His support for BSM has also meant a lot.

Perhaps even more impressive was Traug’s ability to connect with his affiliates, clients and colleagues, offering steady leadership and on-air stability for ESPN Radio. No executive leaves with a perfect record, but Keller had a knack for landing on the right side of many decisions. None as impressive though as retiring from sports radio in February 2020, one month before the sports world came to a screeching halt and a global pandemic rocked the entire advertising industry. Talk about timing Traug, haha.

In all seriousness, having Traug and Jeff together on the same stage in front of the industry to give folks an opportunity to show their appreciation for their accomplishments is a real treat. So many enjoy professional success today due to bold and smart decisions made by each of these men, and I couldn’t be happier to spend time with both in New York City this March.

For tickets, hotel and additional details regarding the 2022 BSM Summit visit BSMSummit.com.

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