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The Greatest Threat To a Brand’s Success Is Itself

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Mark Cuban once said “work like there is someone working twenty four hours a day to take it all away from you.” In the media industry, nothing could be more true.

When a brand and its personalities enjoy success, they seek to hold on to it for as long as humanly possible. As soon as a competitor rears its ugly head and announces their intentions of disrupting one’s place atop the mountain, people say and do desperate things to protect their positions.

But while competition is supposed to bring out the best in us, it can also bring out the worst. Just ask the executive team and employees of FOX News.

When a brand has a strong leader at the helm, and the most powerful on-air lineup in its format, the rest of the field recognizes they’re playing for second place. I’m sure the Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz and Memphis Grizzlies entered the 2016-2017 NBA season talking publicly about chasing a championship, but behind closed doors they knew the Golden State Warriors were in a much different class.

During the span of the past two decades, FOX News has controlled the narrative on news television. They’ve been the king of the castle, and no matter how many times competitors have tried, their attempts to replace them atop the ratings have gone unsuccessful.

But as exhilarating as the ride to the top can be, the fall to the bottom can be ten times more painful.

During the past eighteen months, the undisputed leader in news/talk television programming has lost tons of revenue and key people, while earning a permanent black eye on its image. The brand’s insides have been ripped out due to poor leadership, a vile culture and an abuse of professional power, which has resulted in numerous lawsuits against the company.

Gone are FOX News’ top boss Roger Ailes, the network’s biggest two stars Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly, and other valuable on-air talent such as Greta Van Susteren, Gretchen Carlson and Andrea Tantaros. These were some of the most recognized and successful people in news television, and their departures have made FOX News vulnerable for the first time in decades.

To draw a comparison to the world of sports, O’Reilly, Kelly and Ailes’ exits from FOX, would be equal to the New England Patriots losing Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Rob Gronkowski. If you add Carlson, Van Susteren and Tantaros to the conversation, that’d be like the Patriots also losing Malcolm Butler, Stephen Gostkowski, and Dont’a Hightower.

We may consider the Patriots the most successful NFL franchise of the past two decades, and have faith in Robert Kraft’s abilities as an owner to right the ship, but when an organization loses that many difference makers on the field and at the top of the organization, in a short period of time, a crash is inevitable.

Just ask the San Francisco 49ers how quickly the tide can turn. During the span of their 2015 off-season, the team lost Jim Harbaugh, Greg Roman, Vic Fangio, Patrick Willis, Frank Gore, Chris Borland, Michael Crabtree, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati, Justin Smith and Chris Culliver. They’d spend the next two seasons going 7-25, replacing their General Manager, and they’re now onto their fourth head coach in four years.

I raise this point because in the media business, we often think that those at the top can’t be toppled. If a brand and its talent are superior for a long stretch of time, we assume that their next decade of success is guaranteed too.

Well, it isn’t.

Just because Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott and Steve Young wore 49ers uniforms and made the franchise the model of success throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s didn’t mean a similar novel would be written in the 2000’s and 2010’s. The Bulls, Yankees, Lakers and Cowboys can attest to this as well.

The number one disruptor to a brand’s success is itself. When great talent leaves, valuable assets such as play by play rights fall into a competitor’s hands, and poor leadership, culture and complacency harm a brand’s performance and profile, momentum shifts quickly. You can tout your track record all you want, but the audience lives in a Janet Jackson world of “what have you done for me lately.”

Most fans who consume sports media form a deep relationship with their local teams and the professional sports leagues in which they play. They become immersed in a brand’s programming due to the conversations that are built around those specific subjects. If the station delivers a local team’s games, and features on-air hosts who are funny, smart, opinionated and relatable, they’ll attract an audience. It isn’t exactly rocket science.

But just like a relationship, connections fade if you don’t continue making an effort and adapting to unforeseen changes.

It’s very hard to disrupt the pattern of most sports media consumers. In most cases it takes a long time. But it can be done.

When Howard Stern left terrestrial radio, millions followed him to SiriusXM, which helped grow the satellite radio company’s profile and business. Morning radio on the FM dial hasn’t been the same since. While Sirius was wise to pursue the opportunity to land Stern, if CBS/Infinity hadn’t left the door open, the story for both companies would be entirely different.

In New York, WFAN will face a similar challenge when Mike Francesa departs his afternoon show later this year. The radio station responded superbly to the loss of Imus in the Morning by inserting Boomer and Carton into morning drive, but the brand’s success can evaporate if the station misfires on Francesa’s replacement. Although WFAN’s history in the format and role in the lives of New York sports fans is respected and appreciated, that won’t mean much to local listeners in 2018 or 2019 if the station doesn’t feature the same exceptional talent that it’s provided during the past three decades.

For each person who tells me that the best can’t be unseated, I remind them of how sports radio has changed in multiple major markets. There are many examples of heritage sports brand’s being pushed off their pedestal’s due to their own undoing.

For instance, in Philadelphia, Mike Missanelli and Anthony Gargano got away from WIP and joined 97.5 The Fanatic. They were two of the top personalities in the market. Since their arrival, The Fanatic has enjoyed a lot of success including plucking away the radio rights to the Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers. Had each of those talents remained at WIP, maybe the ratings don’t soar, and those teams don’t eventually switch sides.

It’s a similar strategy which Jamie Horowitz has implemented at FOX Sports 1. He’s targeted high profile talent who are well known by ESPN’s fan base, and introduced a style of programming which has been successful on the four letter network. The one difference is that FS1 has aggressively called out the worldwide leader in sports, including plastering billboards of Skip Bayless’ arrival in the company’s backyard of Bristol, CT.

That approach has drawn the ire of ESPN, leading network executives to bite back whenever Horowitz has taken verbal shots at their programming. That’s a diversion from the company’s previous way of responding to attacks from competitors.

In year’s past ESPN spent little time worrying about threats to its empire. But it’s clear they recognize FS1 as a formidable foe. They’ve since moved First Take from ESPN 2 to ESPN, adjusted the style and presentation of SportsCenter, and invested significant resources in retaining important stars like Stephen A. Smith, Michael Smith, Jemele Hill and Mike Greenberg.

One thing FS1 lacks that ESPN has is an established brand identity. Fortunately for them, people don’t tune in to watch a company’s logo. They turn on their television to watch quality programming presented by top notch talent.

Which is why Horowitz and his team haven’t stopped adding top talent to the roster. Their belief is that it’s a very long race, and although they may be far off in the distance right now, their speed, stamina and persistence will serve them well in passing ESPN to the finish line.

As sports fans, we may support a team and wear their jersey, but the amount of tickets we buy and games we watch on television are determined by who’s on the field and the results they deliver. Our loyalty may be sound, but if inferior talent (see the New York Knicks) are featured, and failure begins to seep in, eventually our passion and commitment to that team decreases.

When that occurs, the organization’s undoing is due to their own inabilities to perform, no one else’s. The same holds true with media brands. If the radio station or television channel you enjoy fails to retain its best talent and assets, then its their own mistakes which have opened the door for a competitor to rise to prominence.

In the case of FOX News, they’ve added another layer to the conversation. Enabling powerful people to operate above the law, while ignoring the signs of a morally inept culture.

They may continue to outperform CNN and MSNBC in the ratings, because although their home is in flames, they still employ a lot of great talent and present a unique point of view. Their competitor’s have also failed to introduce new talent or programs which would cause FOX’s audience to adjust their routine.

But when moral decency is void inside the work place, it never ends well for a brand and its top people. Money and fame are great, but they’re not worth the cost of self-respect. It becomes only a matter of time until the whistle gets blown, heads start to roll, and a brand’s reputation and position atop the ratings ladder come under attack.

Proving once again, that the journey from the penthouse to the outhouse starts on the inside. When wounds are opened and salt is poured onto them, there’s no way to prevent the stinging.

Barrett Blogs

Black Friday Sale Planned For 2022 BSM Summit Tickets

“BSM’s Black Friday sale on Summit tickets will begin at 12:01am ET on Friday November 26th and expire at 11:59pm later that same night.”

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As of today, there are just 97 days remaining until the 2022 BSM Summit takes place in New York City. We’ve announced 31 participants for the show so far, and have more to reveal in the weeks and months ahead. I think you’re going to like what’s still to come.

Putting this conference together isn’t easy. It requires months of meetings, brainstorming, promotion, selling sponsorships, pursuing speakers, and creating everything that attendees see on stage over a two day period. I’m thankful to have help from some amazing partners, but as I’ve mentioned previously, this isn’t a big moneymaker for us. Nor is it an event that ends with 5-10 new clients signing up to work with BSM. The goal on my end is simple, make sure the conference is valuable for those who attend, and don’t run BSM out of business by doing it. As long as those two things remain solid, it’s worth doing.

Some might wonder, why go thru months of headaches if you’re not going to break the bank or immediately add clients. That’s fair to ask. If you look at it from a pure business standpoint, one could easily make a case that pouring this type of energy into something else could be more lucrative. But money was never my motivation for doing this. I felt the sports media industry lacked a signature event where smart, successful media professionals (who don’t often cross paths) could gather at one location to laugh and learn together, and I wanted to change that. If over a two day period we could gain insight, information, ideas, and introductions, it’d put all of us in a stronger position to remain successful.

I’ve unapologetically loved the sports media business since I started listening to Mike & the Mad Dog on WFAN and watching SportsCenter on ESPN. I was fortunate to live and work in a number of cities over the past two decades, learning how different companies and people operate, and I remain involved today thru my work with BSM. I mention this because I also know that many of you tend to wait until the last minute to book hotel rooms, airfare, and purchase tickets, even if you can save money by acting sooner. I know, I used to do it too. I can’t control when you book your room or plane ticket, but I do want to give you an added incentive to buy your ticket to this year’s show. Seating is limited, and once the last seat is filled, that’s it.

With that in mind, most of you will either be taking this Friday off or working inside a much quieter building. If you’ve thought about coming to the show, take 5-10 minutes to log on to BSMSummit.com to take advantage of our special Black Friday sale. We’re reducing tickets for the day, so whether you’re planning to attend in NYC or watch the conference online, there’s a discount offered to help you out.

BSM’s Black Friday sale on Summit tickets will begin at 12:01am ET on Friday November 26th and expire at 11:59pm later that same night. In the meantime, Hotel Edison in NYC is offering rooms for just $109 + taxes to Summit attendees. Click here to take advantage of the special room rate. Those of you planning to fly to NYC for the event, there have been a ton of great deals offered lately by JetBlue, Southwest, Frontier, United, and American. It might be worth checking into and snagging a good deal before prices rise again.

If you’re interested in learning more about the industry, staying a step ahead, forming new relationships, strengthening existing ones, exploring potential business deals, and celebrating the business you’re in, I hope you’ll join us either online or in New York City for the 2022 BSM Summit. I’m making it easier on you, by offering a lower ticket price on Black Friday (November 26). The rest is up to you!

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Barrett Blogs

Craig Carton, Fred Toucher, Mike Felger To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit

“Few understand what it takes to deliver success in this format consistently like Craig, Fred and Mike, and I’m glad they’re making the time to share their knowledge with us.”

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When you talk to industry people about successful brands in sports talk radio, most conversations include WFAN and 98.5 The Sports Hub. The New York and Boston sports radio brands are consistently recognized for their ability to deliver large audiences and revenues.

Helping to create that success is a mixture of strong play by play partnerships, skilled programmers and even more importantly, some of the most dynamic on-air personalities in the format. Fortunately for us, a few of those gamechangers will be present to share their opinions and insights on content matters in New York City at the 2022 BSM Summit.

Starting in New York, it’s an honor to welcome WFAN afternoon drive host Craig Carton to the 2022 BSM Summit. Heard daily on ‘Carton and Roberts‘ alongside Evan Roberts, which is also featured on TV on SNY, Carton has made his presence felt ever since returning to the airwaves in November 2020. Prior to taking on the challenge in afternoons, Craig spent a decade partnering with Boomer Esiason on ‘Boomer and Carton‘, forming one of the most successful sports radio morning shows in the country. In addition to enjoying success in New York, Craig has also experienced the ups and downs that come with performing in different markets. His radio travels have taken him to Philadelphia, Denver, Buffalo and Trenton, NJ. The Syracuse graduate and outspoken host is expected to join BSM President Jason Barrett for a one on one conversation at this year’s Summit.

Shipping up to Boston, it’s a pleasure to welcome two of the format’s highest rated performers to New York City. They’re heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub in morning and afternoon drive, and at the Summit, they’ll interact together during an in-depth content conversation with BSM President Jason Barrett.

Fred Toucher is one half of the Sports Hub’s popular morning show ‘Toucher & Rich‘, which recently added syndication. The Detroit native started his career in Georgia before moving to Boston in 2005. Toucher & Rich, which includes Rich Shertenlieb, officially moved into the sports talk format in 2009. Since making the format switch, the duo have consistently produced some of the best ratings in the entire format in mornings during the past fifteen years. Toucher & Rich have also been recognized by industry executives as one of the top two morning shows in the format each of the past three years in the BSM Top 20, including taking top honors in 2018.

Mike Felger on the other hand is heard on the ride home alongside Tony Massarotti on The Sports Hub. The Marconi Award-winning afternoon radio show has been a fixture in Boston since the station’s inception in 2009. During the past twelve years, Felger & Mazz have been a steady force atop the Men 25-54 ratings including recently delivering an impressive 18.9 share in the summer book to finish 1st. The Milwaukee native also hosts a show for NBC Boston, and has previously served as a columnist for the Boston Globe. Similar to Toucher & Rich, Felger & Mazz have earned high praise from format execs in the BSM Top 20. They’ve been voted one of the top 2 afternoon shows each of the past 2 years including grabbing the top spot in 2019.

We’re excited to add all three of these men to the lineup for the 2022 BSM Summit. As vital as it may be to spend time on business issues in order to stay ahead of a rapidly changing media climate, without great talent and content, the rest is irrelevant. Few understand what it takes to deliver success in this format consistently like Craig, Fred and Mike, and I’m glad they’re making the time to share their knowledge with us.

To reserve your hotel room, purchase tickets or learn more about the speakers we’ve lined up for the 2022 show, visit BSMSummit.com. We hope to see you online or in New York City this March.

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Barrett Blogs

BSM Summit Adds Borrell, Crain, Cutler, Goldstein, Scott, Shapiro & Thomas

“The Summit is just 104 days away, so if you haven’t purchased your ticket yet, please do so. Half of the room is already full and seating for the conference is limited.”

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The 2022 BSM Summit continues to add firepower to the sports media industry’s premier conference. After previously announcing the first twenty one participants to take part in March’s event in New York City, another seven talented media professionals have been added to the speaker schedule.

Making his BSM Summit debut in 2022 will be the media industry’s leading business analyst Gordon Borrell. The well respected and accomplished CEO of Borrell Associates is featured frequently in the trades and mainstream publications for his insights on advertising trends and forecasts in local media. Borrell will join Amplifi Media CEO Steven Goldstein on stage at the Summit for an in-depth discussion on the advertising climate in 2022. The two men will offer insights and opinions on what advertisers value most, where they’re expected to invest future dollars, which categories will continue to rise and decline, and what brands can do to position themselves better to increase revenue. Additionally, Borrell will be hosting his local advertising conference in Miami a few days after the Summit. Those interested in heading to South Beach and learning more about the marketing world can learn more by clicking here.

Switching to the content end, the Summit is thrilled to welcome The Volume’s Jake Crain to New York City. The host of The JBoy Show will also be making his debut at the conference. Crain will be part of a talent panel along with John Jastremski and Kazeem Famuyide.

Also making his debut at the Summit will be Carl Scott. Meadowlark Media’s Executive Director of Audio will join our podcasting panel featuring Blue Wire CEO Kevin Jones and The Volume’s Head of Content Logan Swaim. Hubbard Radio’s Digital Content Director Phil Mackey will guide the conversation.

Not everyone participating at the Summit will be new to the audience though. Returning to the stage as part of our GM’s discussion will be newly appointed Audacy Boston Market Manager Mike Thomas. Thomas recently led ESPN 1000 in Chicago as the station’s GM after working with Mark Hannon to turn 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston into one of sports radio’s top performing stations. It should be noted that each time Thomas appears at the Summit it follows a recent promotion. We figure by 2023 or 2024 he’ll be running the entire industry.

A Summit isn’t complete without attention given to programming matters. To help us address some of those key issues, we’re excited to welcome back the Vice President of FOX Sports Radio & Podcasts Scott Shapiro. The passionate network executive who oversees many of the nation’s top national programs is always a great listen for folks interested in learning how programmer’s view and tackle the industry’s most important affairs.

Last but certainly not least, voice talent extraordinaire Jim Cutler will return to the stage to lead a session on storytelling. One of the industry’s prominent station voices and creative minds has a penchant for putting on entertaining and informative sessions. If you’ve attended the conference before, you’re already aware. To those planning to catch this one, you’re in for a treat.

Keep an eye out over the next two weeks. We’ll be making additional announcements involving a few high profile talents we’ve lined up for the 2022 BSM Summit. A reminder, the event is just 104 days away, so if you haven’t purchased your ticket yet, please do so. Half of the room is already full and seating for the conference is limited. I realize some folks may prefer to wait until the last minute to make sure the world is safe. If you’re not comfortable flying to NY for the show, we do have an option in place to enjoy the conference virtually thanks to NuVoodoo Media. For more information on tickets, click here.

That said, the in-person environment is excellent. If you haven’t attended the Summit before I think you’ll find the two days in New York City to be time well spent. This conference is not open to the general public. You must either presently work in an area of the media industry or be pursuing a degree in the broadcasting field.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that we still have some sponsorship opportunities available for the show. We’re thrilled to have the support of great partners, ESPN Radio, Premiere Networks, FOX Sports Radio, Stone Voiceovers, Compass Media Networks, Point to Point Marketing, and Core Image Studio. If you’d like to be part of the event too, email JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com for additional details.

One final note, airfare is low right now. There are roundtrip flights to and from New York from many major cities for less than $200.00. We’ve also secured a low hotel rate of $109.00 per night at Hotel Edison in NYC to help companies and individuals keep costs down. The sports media industry has endured two years of difficulty due to the pandemic, preventing many from networking, learning, celebrating, and growing. The two days we spend together in the big apple won’t solve every issue facing our business, but I promise you’ll leave the show more informed, more connected, and better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.

Hope to see you in New York on March 2nd and 3rd.

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