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Radio Industry Reaction To Mike and Mike Splitting Up

Jason Barrett

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The media world has been buzzing since Richard Deitsch broke the news that Mike Greenberg would be leaving his radio program on ESPN Radio in the foreseeable future. Although a date and replacement show haven’t been announced, industry sources say they expect the situation to be resolved sooner rather than later.

There are changes that will take place on the television side due to Greenberg gaining a new show and prominent role, but for the sake of this conversation I want to keep the focus on the radio side of things.

Mike and Mike have been the face of ESPN Radio in morning drive for a little more than 18 years. Losing a program that possesses ability, consistency, credibility, and longevity is difficult for any radio operator. Especially when it could lead to a loss of revenue, ratings and affiliates. Couple that with ESPN losing a few high profile personalities in recent years, and it magnifies the situation even more.

You learn early on in the radio industry that change is constant. When it occurs, others will smell blood in the water and look to seize the moment. That’s just the simple nature of operating in a competitive industry.

I don’t need to be a fly on the wall inside of the offices of FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio, Westwood One/NBC Sports Radio, and SB Nation Radio to know that they’re strategizing how to approach ESPN affiliates to try and crack open the door to gain clearance for their programming. Whether they can get inside the room though and stay awhile will be based on the way ESPN handles their relationships with their radio partners, and what quality programming they make available in place of Mike and Mike.

Other excellent personalities still exist on the ESPN radio network, but the brand will take an instant hit by losing Greenberg. Keeping Golic may help ease the pain in the short-term but regardless of his involvement in the next program, he will always be identified as one half of Mike and Mike. His daily presence will serve as a reminder of what once was, just as ACDC and Van Halen discovered how different they were received after Brian Johnson and David Lee Roth were no longer singing their songs.

That’s not to say that ESPN radio won’t thrive in the next year or two without Mike and Mike, but retaining partnerships and convincing listeners that the network is heading in a better direction is difficult when you break up a show with 18+ years of staying power.

What will be interesting to keep an eye on in the future is how ESPN radio adjusts its focus towards radio. Is the network better served being a content provider for markets outside of the top 20 which operate with smaller budgets? Is it going to continue to insist on clearance of its top shows in major markets? Will they allow their own local stations to pass on network programming in favor of local shows which have a stronger ability to generate higher ratings and revenue? Does it evolve into a brand with a heavier focus in the digital space? And how do those changes appeal to national radio talent and affect future negotiations?

One huge positive going forward for the network is that they’ll soon have the influence and guidance of Justin Craig who has done a fabulous job running the company’s brands in Chicago and New York. Craig, cut his teeth at the network and gained respect for the way he produced Mike and Mike, and has spent the past decade programming ESPN 1000 and 98.7 ESPN NY, and helping each brand enjoy success. The decision to have him return to Bristol to oversee the network’s radio operations is a smart one. Dave Roberts will remain involved as well, but his responsibilities with First Take and other TV programs take precedence.

I was curious how the news of Mike and Mike’s eventual farewell was being received by programmers and market managers, so I decided to involve 6 individuals who have a history of working with ESPN radio on a local level. Their identities have been protected in order to gain the most candid insight available. Here are their responses.

What was your immediate reaction to the news of Mike and Mike coming to an end?

Executive 1: It confirmed that TV is the primary focus at ESPN.

Executive 2: I was extremely surprised. In an age where sports syndication is a fight to gain affiliates, this show has had amazing tenure in multiple markets.

Executive 3: It was a hell of run. Not many shows these days can last a year let alone 19 so they definitely deserve a ton of credit. But like a long marriage can sometimes get stale, this happened with this show. No matter what guests or third host’s were added, the program never seemed to evolve. It played well for medium sized markets. Not so much for most large markets. So I’m not shocked that it’s run is over.

Executive 4: I’m shocked and seriously disappointed. An iconic show with two strong personalities, wrapped around by the biggest and best stars in both sports and entertainment.

Executive 5: I’m not surprised. I’ve felt like the show had become stale in recent years. The guys were so comfortable with one another that I think their evolution was stunted a bit by both their success over many years, and the possibility that there was/is a lack of someone at the mothership who’d challenge them in ways they might not particularly like.

Executive 6: I was not surprised. I had heard the rumors. After the “we’re moving the show to New York” blew up and Greeny dropped his agent over it, ESPN was going to appease Greenie. I feel with Golic staying that keeps substance and relatability to the show.

How does the loss of the Mike and Mike brand affect your perception of ESPN Radio?

Executive 1: This show has been the foundation of the network for a long time. I am curious to see what they do now. How do they reinvent the morning show and make sure it plays to the largest audience possible?

Executive 2: I don’t think it does. It’s been a great brand and a tremendous marriage.

Executive 3: Mike and Mike were ESPN Radio. Really the only ESPN program left that had some familiarity and traction nationally. In the last couple years the programming has gone significantly backwards which I think has taken a toll on its perception and this will initially only make it worse.

Executive 4: It takes a hit. Mike & Mike set the day and tone for the rest of ESPN Radio.

Executive 5: It depends on how they replace Greeny. It’s a given that theirs is the signature show on the network, but I think they need to be very careful about who they put in that lead chair and what they want it to say about the direction moving forward.

Executive 6: Of course it affects it. Any change and especially one in AM drive will have a huge impact. Now, how does ESPN handle it is the question. The audience will decide, but there is a comfortability to having Golic stay. He provides the personality and tone of the show. The driver is important, but in my opinion, it would be a bigger deal if Golic was leaving and Greeny was staying.

If you are/were running a station with Mike and Mike in the morning, how would you proceed going forward? (EX: clear the next ESPN Radio show in mornings, switch radio affiliations, move a local daypart on your station into morning drive and clear a different ESPN Radio program, etc.)

Executive 1: The key is to wait and see what their plans are for the future. ESPN is the #1 brand in sports. Everywhere you go today there are challenges in terms of branding and perception because there are more and more options available for consumers. While waiting to see what happens, I would at the same time be exploring all possible options. What gives my station the best opportunity to drive quarter-hours and revenue is what it is all about.

Executive 2: I would wait to see how the new show does since one of the hosts are remaining. Many forget that while it wasn’t as successful, there were hosts before Mike Greenberg. Greenberg and Golic are a terrific pair who have taken the show to amazing levels. Let’s see if a new host can maintain it.

Executive 3: Be open to what they propose as the replacement but definitely look at other options immediately. What one does next entirely depends on the market/budget etc. If you have strong local talent available to you that is always the best approach to succeed in this format.

Executive 4: I would go local and not look back. ESPN Radio might as well scrap the whole “Mike” thing because even a different variation, with one “Mike” or some other form will always look like a weak imitation.

Executive 5: I think it’s going to depend on what the next show is. I certainly have to think about possibly doing my own morning program and then clearing LeBatard live, instead of what we do now (run M&M in morning drive and then go local until 7p).

Executive 6: We’ve talked about it and can’t afford to “wait and see”. This is the most important ESPN radio show. It’s what starts the day and sets the tone. If they don’t get it right, it could alter ESPN radio’s dominance. I do feel confident they’ll get it right but you can’t experiment.

If you were to drop ESPN Radio from your station, which other sports radio network do you believe provides the best lineup, product and value?

Executive 1: I am not sure if just one network can truly get the job done. Every market is different, and thus the programming strategy needs to be different. It also depends on how much local programming my budget can afford, and what other network shows would be available. Maybe I go live in one day part and syndicated in another with a show that is different from what I’ve carried in the past. Each operator has to do what will be best for their individual station.

Executive 2: CBS Sports Radio. It’s the most consistent lineup with brand names.

Executive 3: If you can’t go local I would consider Fox Sports Radio’s Outkick the Coverage show with Clay Travis. At least he’s willing to provide strong opinions, doesn’t take himself too seriously, and understands how to play the digital game.

Executive 4: I’d stay with ESPN Radio. The rest of the lineup is still better and their play-by-play assets are second to none. Go local though, in morning drive.

Executive 5: FOX Sports Radio, but ONLY because of Dan Patrick.

Executive 6: We won’t drop them. We’re connected at the hip in branding and have enough live/local programming that I’m not too concerned if Trey Wingo is the guy. However, they are going to be impacted audience wise, and so will others. The balance of your station’s brand will make the difference, along with the performance of the new show. It’s the best network show in the AM when compared to other network choices and local options cost a lot more. If you can afford that though, that’s certainly an option to consider.

If you were in charge of operating ESPN Radio and putting in a replacement for Mike and Mike, and millions of dollars were at stake, what would you do? (EX: accept whatever show the network provides next, pair two or three other ESPN personalities together, bring in someone from the outside, shift another show from the network into mornings, etc.)

Executive 1: The show that has been the staple of the network will never be the same again. Still having Golic on the show is good as he is a link to the past success of the show. Lots of deep discussion needs to take place both internally and externally. I would certainly want to get a sense from key affiliates what they are thinking and what they feel can move the needle in the future.

Executive 2: Put one host with Golic. Trey Wingo is an excellent choice if that’s the case. Golic is a major radio personality so you should continue to build around him.

Executive 3: I expect ESPN Radio to go the safe route to attempt to preserve as much of the revenue as possible. That means staying in-house and building around Golic. If they truly wanted to produce the best “sports radio” morning product possible they would go outside and bring in an entertaining opinionated “radio” lead host or complete new team. That was done in the past but with a different management team.  The end result of that move resulted in…Colin Cowherd.

Executive 4: Do something different in morning drive on ESPN Radio. There’s a reason why they’re breaking up the Mike’s. If the reason is so strong to put at risk millions of dollars, some other off shoot currently being suggested isn’t the answer. It might be a stop gap, a band-aid of sorts, but even that will eventually fail. It will look like a weak imitation, which is exactly what it will be.

Executive 5: I’ve always felt the show lacked both a certain amount of spontaneity and edge. Trey certainly helps in those areas. But I think a big female personality could help (Beadle?), though it would depend on chemistry and fit. Booger McFarland is also a star in the making. The show needs some diversity!

Executive 6: I’d keep Golic, and if Wingo isn’t an option, then Ian Fitzsimmons would make the most sense. I’ve always love Stink too!

Barrett Blogs

BSM’s Black Friday SALE on BSM Summit Tickets is Underway!

Jason Barrett

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Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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Barrett Blogs

Mina Kimes, Bruce Gilbert, Mitch Rosen, and Stacey Kauffman Join the 2023 BSM Summit

“By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference.”

Jason Barrett

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The 2023 BSM Summit is returning to Los Angeles on March 21-22, 2023, live from the Founders Club at the Galen Center at the campus of the University of Southern California. Information on tickets and hotel rooms can be found at BSMSummit.com.

We’ve previously announced sixteen participants for our upcoming show, and I’m excited today to confirm the additions of four more more smart, successful professionals to be part of the event. Before I do that, I’d like to thank The Volume for signing on as our Badge sponsor, the Motor Racing Network for securing the gift bag sponsorship, and Bonneville International for coming on board as a Session sponsor. We do have some opportunities available but things are moving fast this year, so if you’re interested in being involved, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

Now let’s talk about a few of the speaker additions for the show.

First, I am thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Mina Kimes to the Summit for her first appearance. Mina and I had the pleasure recently of connecting on a podcast (go listen to it) and I’ve been a fan of her work for years. Her intellect, wit, football acumen, and likeability have served her well on television, podcasts, and in print. She’s excelled as an analyst on NFL Live and Rams preseason football games, as a former host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and her appearances on Around The Horn and previously on Highly Questionable and the Dan Le Batard Show were always entertaining. I’m looking forward to having Mina join FS1’s Joy Taylor and ESPN LA 710 PD Amanda Brown for an insightful conversation about the industry.

Next is another newcomer. I’m looking forward to having Audacy San Francisco and Sacramento Regional Vice President Stacey Kauffman in the building for our 2023 show. In addition to overseeing a number of music brands, Stacey also oversees a dominant news/talk outlet, and two sports radio brands. Among them are my former station 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, and ESPN 1320 in Sacramento. I’m looking forward to having her participate in our GM panel with Good Karma’s Sam Pines, iHeart’s Don Martin, and led by Bonneville’s Executive Vice President Scott Sutherland.

From there, it’s time to welcome back two of the sharpest sports radio minds in the business. Bruce Gilbert is the SVP of Sports for Westwood One and Cumulus Media. He’s seen and done it all on the local and national level and anytime he’s in the room to share his programming knowledge with attendees, everyone leaves the room smarter. I’m anticipating another great conversation on the state of sports radio, which FOX Sports Radio VP of programming Scott Shapiro will be a part of.

Another student of the game and one of the top programmers in the format today is 670 The Score in Chicago PD, Mitch Rosen. The former Mark Chernoff Award recipient and recently appointed VP of the BetQL Network juggles managing a top 3 market sports brand while being charged with moving an emerging sports betting network forward. Count on Mr. Rosen to offer his insights and opinions during another of our branding and programming discussions.

By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference. My focus now is on finalizing our business and digital sessions, research, tech and sports betting panels, securing our locations and sponsorships for the After Party and Kickoff Party, plus working out the details for a few high-profile executive appearances and a couple of surprises.

For those looking to attend and save a few dollars on tickets, we’ll be holding a special Black Friday Sale this Friday November 25th. Just log on to BSMSummit.com that day to save $50 on individual tickets. In addition, thanks to the generosity of voice talent extraordinaire Steve Kamer, we’ll be giving away 10 tickets leading up to the conference. Stay tuned for details on the giveaway in the months ahead.

Still to come is an announcement about our special ticket rate for college students looking to attend the show and learn. We also do an annual contest for college kids to attend the event for free which I’m hoping to have ready in the next few weeks. It’s also likely we’ll give away a few tickets to industry professionals leading up to Christmas, so keep an eye out.

If you work in the sports media industry and value making connections, celebrating those who create an impact, and learning about the business from folks who have experienced success, failure, and everything in between, the Summit is worth your time. I’m excited to have Mina, Bruce, Mitch and Stacey join us for the show, and look forward to spending a few days with the industry’s best and brightest this March! Hope to see you there.

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Barrett Blogs

Barrett Media is Making Changes To Better Serve Our Sports and News Media Readers

“We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future.”

Jason Barrett

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When I launched this website all I wanted to do was share news, insight and stories about broadcasters and brands. My love, passion and respect for this business is strong, and I know many of you reading this feel similar. I spent two great decades in radio watching how little attention was paid to those who played a big part in their audiences lives. The occasional clickbait story and contract drama would find their way into the newspapers but rarely did you learn about the twists and turns of a broadcaster’s career, their approach to content or the tactics and strategies needed to succeed in the industry. When personal reasons led me home to NY in 2015, I decided I was going to try my best to change that.

Since launching this brand, we’ve done a good job informing and entertaining media industry professionals, while also helping consulting clients and advertising partners improve their businesses. We’ve earned respect from the industry’s top stars, programming minds and mainstream media outlets, growing traffic from 50K per month to 500K and monthly social impressions from a few thousand to a few million. Along the way we’ve added conferences, rankings, podcasts, a member directory, and as I’ve said before, this is the best and most important work I’ve ever done, and I’m not interested in doing anything else.

If I’ve learned anything over seven years of operating a digital content company it’s that you need skill, strategy, passion, differentiating content, and good people to create impact. You also need luck, support, curiosity and an understanding of when to double down, cut bait or pivot. It’s why I added Stephanie Eads as our Director of Sales and hired additional editors, columnists and features reporters earlier this year. To run a brand like ours properly, time and investment are needed. We’ve consistently grown and continue to invest in our future, and it’s my hope that more groups will recognize the value we provide, and give greater consideration to marketing with us in the future.

But with growth comes challenges. Sometimes you can have the right idea but bad timing. I learned that when we launched Barrett News Media.

We introduced BNM in September 2020, two months before the election when emotions were high and COVID was a daily discussion. I wasn’t comfortable then of blending BNM and BSM content because I knew we’d built a trusted sports media resource, and I didn’t want to shrink one audience while trying to grow another. Given how personal the election and COVID became for folks, I knew the content mix would look and feel awkward on our site.

So we made the decision to start BNM with its own website. We ran the two brands independently and had the right plan of attack, but discovered that our timing wasn’t great.

The first nine months readership was light, which I expected since we were new and trying to build an audience from scratch. I believed in the long-term mission, which was why I stuck with it through all of the growing pains, but I also felt a responsibility to make sure our BNM writing team and the advertising partners we forged relationships with were being seen by as many people as possible. We continued with the original plan until May 2021 when after a number of back and forth debates, I finally agreed to merge the two sites. I figured if WFAN could thrive with Imus in the Morning and Mike and the Mad Dog in the afternoon, and the NY Times, LA Times, KOA, KMOX and numerous other newspaper and radio brands could find a way to blend sports and news/talk, then so could we.

And it worked.

We dove in and started to showcase both formats, building social channels and groups for each, growing newsletter databases, and with the addition of a few top notch writers, BNM began making bigger strides. Now featured under the BSM roof, the site looked bigger, the supply of daily content became massive, and our people were enjoying the increased attention.

Except now we had other issues. Too many stories meant many weren’t being read and more mistakes were slipping through the cracks. None of our crew strive to misspell a word or write a sloppy headline but when the staff and workload doubles and you’re trying to focus on two different formats, things can get missed. Hey, we’re all human.

Then a few other things happened that forced a larger discussion with my editors.

First, I thought about how much original material we were creating for BSM from our podcast network, Summit, Countdown to Coverage series, Meet the Market Managers, BSM Top 20, and began to ask myself ‘if we’re doing all of this for sports readers, what does that tell folks who read us for news?’ We then ran a survey to learn what people valued about our brand and though most of the feedback was excellent, I saw how strong the response was to our sports content, and how news had grown but felt second fiddle to those offering feedback.

Then, Andy Bloom wrote an interesting column explaining why radio hosts would be wise to stop talking about Donald Trump. It was the type of piece that should’ve been front and center on a news site all day but with 3 featured slots on the site and 7 original columns coming in that day, they couldn’t all be highlighted the way they sometimes should be. We’re actually going through that again today. That said, Andy’s column cut through. A few sports media folks didn’t like seeing it on the site, which wasn’t a surprise since Trump is a polarizing personality, but the content resonated well with the news/talk crowd.

National talk radio host Mike Gallagher was among the folks to see Andy’s piece, and he spent time on his show talking about the column. Mike’s segment was excellent, and when he referenced the article, he did the professional thing and credited our website – Barrett SPORTS Media. I was appreciative of Mike spending time on his program discussing our content but it was a reminder that we had news living under a sports roof and it deserved better than that.

I then read some of Pete Mundo, Doug Pucci and Rick Schultz’s columns and Jim Cryns’ features on Chris Ruddy, Phil Boyce, and David Santrella, and knew we were doing a lot of quality work but each time we produced stories, folks were reminded that it lived on a SPORTS site. I met a few folks who valued the site, recognized the increased focus we put on our news/talk coverage, and hoped we had plans to do more. Jim also received feedback along the lines of “good to see you guys finally in the news space, hope there’s more to come.”

Wanting to better understand our opportunities and challenges, I reviewed our workflow, looked at which content was hitting and missing the mark, thought about the increased relationships we’d worked hard to develop, and the short-term and long-term goals for BNM. I knew it was time to choose a path. Did I want to think short-term and keep everything under one roof to protect our current traffic and avoid disrupting people or was it smarter to look at the big picture and create a destination where news/talk media content could be prioritized rather than treated as BSM’s step-child?

Though I spent most of my career in sports media and established BSM first, it’s important to me to serve the news/talk media industry our very best. I want every news/talk executive, host, programmer, market manager, agent, producer, seller and advertiser to know this format matters to us. Hopefully you’ve seen that in the content we’ve created over the past two years. My goal is to deliver for news media professionals what we have for sports media folks and though that may be a tall order, we’re going to bust our asses to make it happen. To prove that this isn’t just lip service, here’s what we’re going to do.

Starting next Monday November 28th, we are relaunching BarrettNewsMedia.com. ALL new content produced by the BNM writing team will be available daily under that URL. For the first 70-days we will display news media columns from our BNM writers on both sites and support them with promotion across both of our brands social channels. The goal is to have the two sites running independent of each other by February 6, 2023.

Also starting on Monday November 28th, we will begin distributing the BNM Rundown newsletter 5 days per week. We’ve been sending out the Rundown every M-W-F since October 2021, but the time has come for us to send it out daily. With increased distribution comes two small adjustments. We will reduce our daily story count from 10 to 8 and make it a goal to deliver it to your inbox each day by 3pm ET. If you haven’t signed up to receive the Rundown, please do. You can click here to register. Be sure to scroll down past the 8@8 area.

Additionally, Barrett News Media is going to release its first edition of the BNM Top 20 of 2022. This will come out December 12-16 and 19-20. The category winners will be decided by more than 50 news/talk radio program directors and executives. Among the categories to be featured will be best Major/Mid Market Local morning, midday, and afternoon show, best Local News/Talk PD, best Local News/Talk Station, best National Talk Radio Show, and best Original Digital Show. The voting process with format decision makers begins today and will continue for two weeks. I’ve already got a number of people involved but if you work in an executive or programming role in the news/talk format and wish to be part of it, send an email to me at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

We have one other big thing coming to Barrett News Media in 2023, which I will announce right after the BNM Top 20 on Wednesday December 21st. I’m sure news/talk professionals will like what we have planned but for now, it’ll have to be a month long tease. I promise though to pay it off.

Additionally, I’m always looking for industry folks who know and love the business and enjoy writing about it. If you’ve programmed, hosted, sold or reported in the news/talk world and have something to offer, email me. Also, if you’re a host, producer, programmer, executive, promotions or PR person and think something from your brand warrants coverage on our site, send it along. Most of what we write comes from listening to stations and digging across the web and social media. Receiving your press releases and getting a heads up on things you’re doing always helps.

If you’re a fan of BSM, this won’t affect you much. The only difference you’ll notice in the coming months is a gradual reduction of news media content on the BSM website and our social accounts sharing a little about both formats over the next two months until we’re officially split in February. We are also going to dabble a little more in marketing, research and tech content that serves both formats. If you’re a reader who enjoys both forms of our content, you’ll soon have BarrettSportsMedia.com for sports, and BarrettNewsMedia.com for news.

Our first two years in the news/talk space have been very productive but we’ve only scratched the surface. Starting November 28th, news takes center stage on BarrettNewsMedia.com and sports gets less crowded on BarrettSportsMedia.com. We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future. If we can count on you to remember two URL’s (add them to your bookmarks) and sign up for our newsletters, then you can count on us to continue delivering exceptional coverage of the industry you love. As always, thanks for the continued support. It makes everything we do worthwhile.

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