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A Conversation About Leadership

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I recently had the good fortune of having dinner with one of the top executives in broadcasting when the topic of leadership came up as it related to driving change and real growth in our industry. This wasn’t a conversation about whether or not we could beat what the industry or market is doing or if we could increase our sales 5-6% over previous year.

This was a conversation about pushing ourselves to the max and really making our sales teams better and getting more out of them. This was a conversation about real leadership. The executive wanted to know if each of us was willing to be the “a**hole” that you sometimes need to be to make real change happen, or if we were just looking to be “Mr. Nice Guyl” and make friends.

The dinner was almost a month ago and I can’t stop thinking about his premise. Am I “Mr. Nice Guy?” Can I be an a**hole? And most importantly, do you really need to be an a**hole in order to drive change and be a great leader.

Often, as I’m sure most of you do, I turn to sports to look for my answers. Vince Lombardi. Bob Knight. Bill Belichick. Nick Saban. Bill Parcells. Bear Bryant. Scotty Bowman. Gregg Popovich. Mike Ditka. Tony LaRussa. Geno Auriemma.

I started to notice a trend. All of these names have, at one time or another, shown up on a list of some of the best coaches of all time. And, by all accounts, those that played for them would definitely NOT say they were “Mr. Nice Guy.”

As fans, we don’t often get to see the personal side of the players and coaches we love to watch, although being in the sports industry we’re much more likely than the average person to have spent at least some time around powerful sports figures away from the game. Often times, we see a very different side and walk away wondering how they can be such an a**hole on the sidelines or in an interview, and be so charming at other times.

I think with most of the people I named above, the reason is the same: the obsession with winning, and what makes them great leaders is often times the ability to think of nothing else and constantly be focused on only those things that will make their team better and be able to win more. And, while I can think of some names that would also be on that list of great coaches that, by all accounts, were more “Mr. Nice Guy,” (John Wooden, Dean Smith, Don Shula, Mike Krzyzewski to name a few), it seems they all had something in common as well in that they are all regarded as incredibly intelligent people.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t fall in to the “incredibly intelligent” category by anyone’s account (other than my maternal grandmother who thought I could do no wrong), so if I am truly good at what I do, I must have some a**hole in me.

Later on, my attention turned to this thought:  if you do have to be an a**hole, how big of an a**hole do you need to be or how often do you have to be an a**hole to get what you want done? To me, this is the larger question. Nobody wants to work for a tyrant or someone regarded as an a**hole all the time. But, at the same time, I can’t think of a “Mr. Nice Guy” who really drove me to be better or who was willing to have difficult conversations in order to help me see where I could improve.

Like with most everything else we do as managers, it’s about balance. In this case, knowing when being the nice guy will get you where you want to be and knowing when it takes a much tougher approach. Many years ago, I was given the advice that you cannot manage everyone the same. A large part of a manager’s job is to identify how best to lead an individual. We want to get the best out of each member of our teams, and to do that, sometimes you have to pull it out of them with force, and with some, you need to cheer by their side as you casually push them in the right direction.

It’s not so much about how nice or how mean you can be, to me, it’s more about picking the right times. There’s a time and place for “Mr. Nice Guy” to come out, and there’s a time and place for “Mr. A**hole” to take over.

BSM Writers

Keeping Premier League Games Shouldn’t Be A Hard Call For NBC

“Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans.”

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NBC Sports is facing some tough, costly decisions that will define its sports brand for the rest of this decade.  A chance to connect with viewers in a changing climate and grow Peacock’s audience as well.  However, making the right choice is paramount to not losing to apps like Paramount+ (pun intended).

NBC is currently in the business of negotiating to continue airing the Premier League as their current deal ends after this 2021-2022 season.  NASCAR is contracted to NBC (and FOX) through the 2024 season.

NBC’s tentpole sports are the NFL and the Olympics.  

Negotiations for the EPL are expected to go down to the wire. Rather than re-up with NBC, the league is meeting with other networks to drive up the price. NBC has to then make a decision if the rights go north of $2 billion.

Should NBC spend that much on a sport that is not played in the United States? It’s not my money, but that sport continues to grow in the US.

If NBC re-ups with the Premier League, will that leave any coins in the cupboard to re-up with NASCAR? Comcast CEO Brian Roberts hinted that there might be some penny pinching as the prices continue to soar. This may have been one of the reasons that NBC did not fight to keep the National Hockey League, whose rights will be with Disney and WarnerMedia through ESPN and TNT, respectively.

“These are really hard calls,” Roberts said. “You don’t always want to prevail, and sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong, but I think the sustainability of sports is a critical part of what our company does well.”

Roberts was speaking virtually at the recent Goldman Sachs 30th Annual Communacopia Conference. He told the audience that between NBC and European network Sky, that Comcast has allocated approximately $20 billion towards these sports properties.

Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh spoke virtually at the Bank of America Securities 2021 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference and echoed that the company is in a good position to make some strong choices in the sports realm. 

“The bar is really high for us to pursue outright acquisitions of any material size,” Cavanagh added. “We got a great hand to play with what we have.”

While the European investments involve a partnership with American rival Viacom, the US market seems to have apparent limits.

Last Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway was seen by around 2.19 million people. It was the most-watched motorsports event of the weekend. That same week eight different Premier League matches saw over 1 million viewers. More than half of those matches were on subscription-based Peacock. 

Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans. A game of typical soccer fan is used to a sport that is less than two hours long. The investment in a team is one or two games a week. 

My connection to the Premier League began before the pandemic.  When I cut the cord in late 2017, I purchase Apple TV.  Setting it up, it asks you to name your favorite teams.  After clicking on the Syracuse Orange and the New Jersey Devils, I recalled that my wife has family based in London, England.  They are season ticket holders for Arsenal, and that family redefined the word “die-hard” fans.

I’ve long been a believer that sports allegiances are best when handed down by family. I love hearing stories of people loving the New York Giants because their parents liked them, and they pass it down to their children.

I’ve successfully given my allegiance to the Devils to my young daughters. 

By telling Apple TV that I liked Arsenal, I get alerts from three different apps when the “Gunners” are playing. The $4.99 is totally worth it to see Arsenal.

Whenever I told this story, I was amazed to see how many other American sports fans had a Premier League team. Students of mine at Seton Hall University rooted for Tottenham Hotspurs, while an old colleague cheers on Chelsea.

Global Is Cool': The Growing Appeal of Premier League Soccer in America
Courtesy: Morning Consult

This is not meant to say that NBC should sign the EPL on my account. The key for any US-based soccer fan is that between Bundesliga, Serie A, and other leagues, there will be no shortage of soccer available on both linear television and streaming services.

Besides, Dani Rojas did say that “Football is life.”  NBC, originator of the Ted Lasso character, should make keeping its Premier League US connection a priority.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 45

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Today, Demetri is joined by Tyler McComas and Russ Heltman. Tyler pops on to talk about the big start to the college football season on TV. Russ talks about Barstool’s upfront presentation and how the business community may not see any problems in working with the brand. Plus, Demetri is optimistic about FOX Sports Radio’s new morning show.

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BSM Writers

6 Ad Categories Hotter Than Gambling For Sports Radio

“Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life.”

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For years sports radio stations pushed sports gambling advertisers to early Saturday and Sunday morning. The 1-800 ads, shouting, and false claims were seedy, and some stations wouldn’t even accept the business at 5 am on Sunday.

Now, with all but ten states ready to go all in on sports gambling, sports radio stations can’t get enough of that green. Demetri Ravanos wrote about the money cannon that sports gambling has become for stations. Well, what if you are in one of those ten states where it isn’t likely to ever be legal like California or Texas? Where is your pot of gold?

A Pot of Gold Articles - Analyzing Metals
Courtesy: iStockphoto

Or, let’s face it, the more gambling ads you run, the more risk you take on that the ads will not all work as you cannibalize the audience and chase other listeners away who ARE NOT online gambling service users and never will be. So, what about you? Where is your pot of gold?

Well, let’s go Digging for Gold. 

The RAB produces the MRI-Simmons Gold Digger PROSPECTING REPORT for several radio formats. In it, they index sports radio listeners’ habits against an average of 18+ Adult. The Gold Digger report looks at areas where the index is higher than the norm – meaning the sports radio audience is more likely to use the product or service than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. The report, generated in 2020, indicates that sports radio listeners are 106% more likely to have used an online gambling site in the last thirty days. That’s impressive because the report only lists 32 activities or purchases a sports radio listener indexes higher than an average adult. I looked at those 32 higher indexes, and I think we can start looking for some gold.

Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life. The gambling companies who commit significant money to get results will continue advertising and chase the others away. So, the future of sports radio needs to include other cash cows.

If it is evident to online sports gambling services that sports radio stations are a must-buy, who else should feel that way?  I looked at the Top 32 and eliminated the media companies. ESPN, MLB/NHL/NFL networks, and others aren’t spending cash on sports radio stations they don’t own in general. But Joseph A Bank clothing, Fidelity, and Hotwire should! Here’s your PICK-6 list I pulled together that’s hotter than sports gambling:

  • Sportscard collectors, Dapper Labs, Open Sea- read about Sports NFT $.
  • Online brokerage firms-Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Robinhood, Webull, TD Ameritrade
  • Golf courses, resorts, equipment, etc.- we play golf at home and vacation
  • Hotwire.com, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Carnival Corporation, and Priceline.com- we’ve used Hotwire in the last year.
  • FedEx, UPS, U.S. Postal Service, Venmo, PayPal, Zelle-we wired or overnighted $ 
  • Jos. A. Bank, shein.com, macys.com, nordstroms.com- we went to Jos. A. Bank in last three months

The sports card/NFT market is 32% hotter than the sports betting market for sports radio listeners. Everything on the PICK-6 is at least 100% more likely to purchase than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. All listed are at or above indexing strength compared to sports betting. The individual companies I added are industry leaders. Bet on it! Email me for details. 

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