A great program director can adapt to any format. They study the needs of the audience, adjust to the content, and take the experiences they’ve gained coaching talent, analyzing ratings, developing a social strategy, reacting to breaking news, writing imaging, and creating unique promotions and programming to energize the radio station’s they’re tasked with managing.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
If you look at the News/Talk format today, you’ll find a number of talented brand managers are now guiding powerful brands after previously making an impact in sports radio. John Hanson, Kevin Graham, Scott Masteller, and Brian Long are just a few who have made that jump, and been thrust into the fire whether ready for it or not. To their credit, they’ve each made smooth transitions and have led their brands thru a few challenging situations, proving one doesn’t need to spend a lifetime in a particular format to be an effective leader in it.
Though sports and news may differ in content, the fundamentals to executing successful talk radio apply to both formats. I was curious to learn what differences and similarities they’ve noticed between the two formats, how they’ve altered their imaging approach to connect with a different demographic, what their daily content process includes when deciding which issues to focus on, and whether or not the controversies surrounding President Trump are good or bad for their hosts and their radio station’s ratings. Below is my conversation with Brian, John, Scott, and Kevin. Enjoy!
Jason Barrett: What are the biggest similarities and differences in programming a News/Talk station vs. a Sports talk brand?
Brian Long, PD at KOGO: Sports stations by nature have seasonal themes. The content is normally following the local teams ups and downs, trades etc.. This is similar to how N/T has election cycles, kids back to school, tax day, etc.. The biggest difference I see is that N/T frequently is forced to shift on a dime. You might have a great show planned with some high profile guests that must be scrapped due to an unplanned news event like an out of control wild fire. N/T forces you to operate with much more urgency with decisions on programming to effectively cover breaking news as it happens. Unfortunately, this typically seems to happen at off hours of the day and night. That’s not to say big breaking stories don’t happen in sports talk that require a pivot, it’s just less frequent.
John Hanson, PD at WCCO: Fundamentally, I consider them to be just about the same on the talk side, but with different starting points. So often now a sports story will bleed into the news cycle, and a news story will become part of sports. The ideas of being interesting, having a point, having a takeaway, and having pacing and good teases are all the same though. And personalities win. What’s different is often what the audience expects. A sports audience primarily expects to be entertained. A news talk audience wants more information and more to think about, albeit, often times, as long as the line of thinking aligns with their own.
Kevin Graham, PD at WBAP/KLIF: The only difference in my opinion is the content. Otherwise, it’s similar from the standpoint of servicing your local community/listeners (in sports talk your local sports listeners) in providing information, opinions, analysis and entertainment. You still have to manage your talent to best maximize PPM principals as well as provide content that interests your target listener. From a news staff standpoint, it’s providing fair and balanced coverage of the big stories that have the greatest impact with your audience. In the end the best personalities and content usually win.
Scott Masteller, PD at WBAL: Regardless of the format it’s all about the topics that you present on the air, and playing to the broadest set of the audience. Whether it’s a local station or national network, it’s important to have a perspective on what the audience wants to hear about when they decide to listen to your product. We know attention spans are so limited and if you waste time you lose quarter-hours. Understanding the interests of the audience you are playing to has never been more critical as the consumer has so many choices as to where they can go for content.
The other big difference I see is the volume of breaking news. News is the foundation of our radio station and in one day we can have multiple press events that we carry live from either Washington or in our own region. We have to be prepared for news elements at a moments notice, and then when it makes sense be able to pivot and offer the audience reaction and analysis.
Barrett: How does your approach change when it comes to the way you image and position a News/Talk brand?
Long: My team tends to look to find ways to make the station continue to sound credible and local. You want to create the sound that reflects the breath of the city & region in which you are operating. The main goal for us is to always evolve our listening environment and strengthen our position as the go to place when news events happen.
Hanson: A sports radio station has that sports bar approach to branding. It needs be fun to hang around with. A news talk station has to be trustworthy. There CAN and should be a fun approach to branding with news talk, in relationship to the talk part of the brand, but it needs to be done appropriately.
Graham: I’ve used the experience and knowledge I’ve gained over the years of managing sports radio imaging and have applied it to the News/Talk format. Being topical and in the moment as much as possible is key. In this world that’s a huge challenge with the constant churn of the news cycle. Otherwise it’s the same from the standpoint of keeping your branding simple, to the point and targeted to your core listenership. And when it comes to big events for instance like the upcoming election, it’s just like covering a Super Bowl. Tell the story to the listeners of what you’re doing and when. Planning and producing pre-election, during the election and post election imaging pieces etc..
Masteller: I actually took much of what has been part of sports and shifted it over to news when I made the transition. The words “urgency and anticipation” have always been part of the vocabulary for me when it comes to production and imaging. News changes so frequently and with that so does production. Many times we will put an element on the air and it may only run for six hours. We write new production every day as the news cycle is moving faster than ever before. There’s nothing worse to me then hearing outdated production on the air. Having a voice talent that understands the news cycle is critical to the overall sound of the station.
Barrett: In sports radio, the hits are easy to identify because they’re most often of local relevance. In News, it can be harder because global, national, and local issues all have significant value to local listeners. How do your talk shows decide which content warrants a deep dive, and which material only deserves a few minutes or a quick mention?
Long: Many stations have built their lineup with a mix of national and local talent. When this happens you can tend to lean deeper into the local/regional topics on your local shows given the national perspective is covered at other times. On a station like KOGO, we attempt to always cover what people are discussing. If a national story is making headlines, we won’t shelve it in favor of a local story that is of less interest. Like sports radio, we always try to play the hits.
Hanson: There is a lot of information out there. But only a percentage truly affects the day to day lives of our listeners. The successful shows are the ones that will talk about local issues and take information on a large scale, and explain how it matters to their audience.
Graham: I keep it simple with my staff. We have a targeted listener and I remind them constantly to ask themselves of what he wants to hear, and what interests and impacts him the most. That’s what we should be talking about. On any given day that can range from something that is directly affecting the local community, to something that is happening statewide or nationally that has an impact, directly or indirectly, on our Dallas-Fort Worth listenership. The upside of this format is there is never a crazy slow day because in the end there is always something happening that resonates with our audience.
Masteller: It is a balancing act, yet it depends on the mission of the station you are programming. WBAL NewsRadio is live and local 18 hours a day. What is happening in Baltimore and the region drives a lot of what we present. Our hosts must be knowledgeable on both local and national issues. We are in an Election year and the push to November will dominate much of the conversation. The key for us is to be able to localize the content whenever possible but always remember to play the hits. One day the biggest story may be in Baltimore and the next day it may be somewhere in the country. It’s also very important for talent to understand how consumers listen. When you have a big story the talent must understand you are presenting to different people every quarter-hour.
Barrett: President Trump is notorious for offering strong opinions on sensitive issues. Those remarks often fuel his fan base while igniting his critics. Are Trump’s controversies good or bad for News/Talk radio and ratings?
Long: It really depends on the type of station you have and how you’re positioned. When he was on the campaign trail prior to becoming president, the headlines he generated were unlike anything the media has ever seen. However, it seems people are now somewhat predisposed to the fact the he is likely to send out a tweet or make a comment on a given story so I feel like the initial shock value that was generated has worn off a bit.
Hanson: Some may disagree, but I’ve had many conversations with those I respect in the business and my own experience that both tell me, the more you stay away from getting into the daily tweets of President Trump, the better off you’ll be. When listeners complain about something that was either said for, or against him, I think it’s the first time I’ve ever believed a listener when they’ve said, they’ll change the station.
Graham: I think this varies from market to market and what your brand is. In our case with our two News/Talk brands reflecting the conservative community that is the Dallas-Fort Worth metro it definitely doesn’t hurt. Love or hate him, the President always has something to say that drives conversation. It’s much like having an outspoken star or coach in a particular sports market. It drives controversial content which in turn usually drives ratings.
Masteller: What the President says always draws reaction and what is most important is how talent react. To me one of the aspects I always talk to hosts about is ‘tone”. It’s’ not always what you say, it’s how you say it. I’ve always felt it is important to never be mean spirited in how you discuss any issue or any person. It’s more than ok to disagree, but you should do so from a foundation of fact. Everyone has an opinion about the President and what he says and that hopefully leads to more quarter-hours.
Barrett: Talk radio shows often feature a mix of strong opinions, storytelling, breaking news, features, calls/texts, guests, bits, etc.. What do News/Talk listeners value most and least from that menu of options?
Long: This is a mixed bag. It really depends on the show and the hosts. I find N/T listeners still want the engagement of calls, texts, guests etc.. By contrast, I don’t find them being all that interested in produced bits or comedy. However, it all depends on the show and the time it’s on. In the end, the audience is looking for a host to have unique opinions and perspectives.
Hanson: I’m a fan of relying on what you can control every day. So strong opinions, storytelling, features, bits…these are all elements that can be controlled daily by the professionals that were hired to do the job. Calls, texts and guests, those are putting your show in the hands of the unknowns, so I see them as valued, but less important. Or more appropriately, less reliable. The audience tunes in every day KNOWING one thing they’ll be hearing, which is the host or hosts. Breaking news is interesting, because radio isn’t great at the actual breaking of news, but we can still reap the benefits because it’s often the first place people hear the news, and/or the first place they turn to for more information or reaction to the news. So that too is important
Graham: It’s a combination of all the above. Ultimately, like the sports radio format, our ratings are driven more on time spent listening than cume. So that means it’s incumbent on the entire team–hosts, producers, news etc. to be on the same page driving the content that our target listeners crave. If it’s a slower news day, the hosts/producers have to be more creative in coming up with content that their passionate about that connects/illicits an emotion from the listeners. If it’s breaking news or huge events/stories that are happening then everyone has to pivot to report, give opinions, get listeners to respond, and own that story which includes up to the minute imaging to capitalize on it as well.
Masteller: There is no answer that fits all as there are some talk stations that have a large commitment to news as well as talk content. Other stations are more talk-focused. You may also have more than one news-talk station in a market. Having a strong commitment to the audience you serve is what makes the difference. WBAL is based on a foundation of news with an intersection of personality driven content hosted by talent that have a pulse for the local community that they serve. The biggest thing for listeners is to not waste their time. The best talent are the ones that deliver payoffs to the consumer for every quarter-hour so they feel like their investment of time in listening is a good one. Personalities that develop a relationship with the audience and are not necessarily depending upon external events are very valuable because they become the main reason to listen on a consistent basis.
Barrett: If there’s one thing that concerns you about the future of the N/T format and keeps you up at night, what would it be?
Long: The format lacks enough gender and race diversity. In terms of conservative radio, the big change on the horizon is what happens when Rush Limbaugh decides he’s no longer going to do his show. This pending retirement is going to take out a huge tent pole that has been a mainstay for years on many stations. In addition, I don’t think the format is doing enough to focus on attracting a younger audience.
Hanson: The format needing to be more inclusive of all perspectives.
Graham: As a programmer of two news/talkers that are on the AM dial obviously the continued aging of the format is an ongoing issue. We’ve put a lot of emphasis and time in our building into our digital brands and distribution points for content and streaming whether that’s our app, smart speakers or something else. Unfortunately we haven’t seen the benefits from Nielsen just our own data, which is actual accurate listenership, and has shown that we have continued to build and post all time levels of consumption. Which then leads me to the other thing keeping me up at night…Nielsen but then again that applies to all PD’s regardless of format!
Masteller: Finding new and different voices that are the talk-stars of the future. Giving them the teaching, coaching and feedback that will help them grow to the next level and be able to succeed as an on-air host.
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.”
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.
Where Are The Sports Radio Programmers of Tomorrow?
“As someone who’s helped many aspiring programmers over the years, I’ve seen less new people seeking out advice the past few years than they did from 2011-2019.”
I don’t get the opportunity to write as often as I’d like to. Consulting projects make that harder these days but I do miss it. Fortunately I’ve been able to assemble a quality team to deliver news and industry opinions to your inbox and social media platforms each day. If you receive our emails, then you should notice one of those improvements today with our BSM 8@8 Newsletter. If you aren’t receiving our emails and would like to, click here to sign up.
The reason I chose to write today is because there’s one specific area of our industry that I’m concerned about and need to draw attention to. That’s the emergence of tomorrow’s sports radio program directors.
If you work in or follow this business, can you recall a year during the past decade where we saw more programming changes in sports radio than this one? I can’t. WFAN in New York, WEEI in Boston, KNBR in San Francisco, WIP in Philadelphia, Arizona Sports 98.7 in Phoenix, ESPN 97.5 in Houston, 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, 750 The Game in Portland, ESPN 94.5 in Milwaukee, The Fan in Indianapolis, 107.5 The Game in Columbia, ESPN Las Vegas, 1620 The Zone in Omaha, and 98.1 The Sports Animal in Oklahoma City have or are soon to undergo PD changes. This follows a year where 101 ESPN in St. Louis, 104.5 The Zone in Nashville, WFNZ in Charlotte, and 680 The Fan and 92.9 The Game in Atlanta changed programming leaders. 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, ESPN 1000 in Chicago, 710 ESPN in Seattle, and ESPN LA 710 went thru changes too in the fall of 2019.
Twenty three brands undergoing change at the top of a station’s programming department in that short period of a time is an eye opener. But what really stands out are the lack of new faces to arrive on the PD scene let alone even come up during the interviewing process.
For every Rick Radzik, Amanda Brown, Kyle Brown and Qiant Myers who were elevated to PD positions over the past two years, there are proven leaders like Kevin Graham, Jeff Rickard, Tommy Mattern, and Terry Foxx who’ve landed in new situations. Those folks absolutely deserve those positions, so let me be clear, proven PD’s should always be valued. As I’ve told many decision makers before, a great PD is a difference maker. The film industry pays big money for Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorcese and Quintin Tarrantino because their track record highlights their abilities to deliver box office hits. Proven PD’s who can do the same for a radio station deserve similar respect.
But if you’re a younger person looking to advance your career into a programming role today, how do you take that next step let alone earn the nod when more experienced people want the same gig? Who’s advocating on your behalf? How would a corporate executive or market manager know that a producer, board op, promotions director or part-time host is capable of becoming the next great programmer?
Better yet, how does any corporate executive or market manager running a local brand know anything about your management style, vision, multi-platform skills, ability to lead people and work with multiple departments, and create exciting content, events and promotions if you’re working for another company in a different city? Here’s the answer, most times, they don’t. You apply for the job, your resume and email arrives in their inbox, which leads to them asking others about you. If someone you’ve crossed paths with says something good about you, you might get a call. If not, your materials go on file should the station have future needs.
Having led PD searches for a number of brands the past few years, I think the first step is finding out who’s interested in growing. Does anyone know of your desire to one day lead a brand besides the host you work with and the programmer you work for? Who have you sought out to gain knowledge and mentorship from outside of your building? Are you counting on an internal promotion to become a leader or assuming your PD will hype you up to potential employers? What are you doing to make sure the right people know you’re hungry to take the next step and you’re ready to go wherever an opportunity exists?
As someone who’s helped many aspiring programmers over the years, I’ve seen less new people seeking out advice the past few years than they did from 2011-2019. Maybe folks don’t think to come my way as much. Maybe they assume the company they’re working for will take care of them when the time comes. Maybe they don’t have the motivation to relocate or upset their current situation. Maybe the pandemic forced folks to press pause on pursuing advancement. Or maybe the role of a program director isn’t as appealing as it was to leaders from my era.
Some assume that because they’ve been successful at producing, and have done it for a long enough time, it means they’re ready for the next step. But programming is much more than managing a show. Not everyone is built to handle a verbal lashing from a market manager, balance a budget, negotiate deals, coach high profile talent, understand and examine PPM ratings, and unify departments. Let’s not forget interactions with corporate, being multi-platform skilled, knowing how to study and attack the competition, dealing with negative PR, and being the brand leader who keeps play by play partnerships in a healthy state.
If you’re behind the scenes in the sports radio industry, your path will most likely lead to becoming either a host, PD, moving into sales/marketing/imaging/digital/corporate or leaving the business. Top 10 markets and national networks are an exception as there are some very talented producers who’ve continued to work with top shows/stations for a long time. Both invest more in off-air positions. In many other cases, the financial upside for behind the scenes help is limited so eventually you reach a fork in the road when you have to decide the best path forward to make a decent living.
But those looking to take the next step don’t often think about positioning themselves to land the next big opportunity. They don’t take time to build relationships with key executives who they’ll one day interview with for a top job. Instead they think about that day’s show and the immediate tasks at hand. You can be the most creative, multiplatform savvy, best guest booker and strongest talent coach in America as a producer but if nobody else knows it outside your building, it’s going to be hard to take the next step. Which is why you have to make time to help yourself. You can start by emailing me. That can’t hurt.
Program directors have a responsibility here too. They should be making time to teach and push their behind the scenes people to want to advance their careers. They should also be telling anyone who will listen why one of their own is ready for the next step. Not enough do that. I can count on one hand the number of PD’s who’ve come to me championing one of their own for a top programming job over the past six years since I began helping stations find PD’s. Just going thru the interview process can be huge for an off-air professional who dreams one day of leading a brand. It helps them learn what to expect, how to present themselves, which areas they need to improve on in order to make the jump and most importantly, it shows them you care about them and their professional development.
I know that the job is busier today than ever for a PD and finding time is a pain in the ass. But coaching people is one of your biggest strengths. It’s why why you’ve been trusted to lead your brand. When twenty three positions open up and more than half require hiring elsewhere in the country and turning to folks inside different companies, that should raise eyebrows. Have you told others to consider someone on your staff? Did you push for them to be interviewed, even if they weren’t the right fit because you knew it’d serve them well later? Did you invest time in them to to make sure they were ready for the next step? And that doesn’t mean just giving them the crap you hate like filling out affidavits, building clocks, and corresponding with the traffic department.
Have you conducted 1 on 1’s with all of your off-air crew and learned who aspires to one day do what you do? Have you taught them how to analyze ratings and content? Sit in on show meetings? Critique talent? Recruit future staff? Participate in creative brainstorms or sales meetings? Have you told your GM or other high ranking executives or PD’s in your company about their passion to lead?
It should go without saying that if you’re in a position to lead and develop people, that it applies to more than just on-air talent. It should include grooming future programmers too. Any executive with oversight of your brand should be asking “who on your staff is ready to take a step?” If the answer is no one, they should be asking what your plan is to change that so the answer is different the next time they ask. If you’re skilled enough to lead a brand for years or even decades, those above you should want to protect the future by having you develop the next crop of programmers too. Your report card as a PD isn’t complete if all you can point to are good quarterly ratings. There are plenty of brands who’ve won in spite of their PD and others who have lost despite having an elite program director.
By the way, shouldn’t a PD want to see people inside their operations get called upon to take the next step? As hard as I pushed my crew to perform in St. Louis and San Francisco, when one got an opportunity to become a PD, APD or EP I was proud as hell. There’s nothing more fulfilling than seeing someone you have mentored, challenged and cared about take their career to a higher level. If you spend years in the position and have producers and assistant programmers not landing opportunities, let alone receiving calls to be interviewed for openings, you should be asking yourself ‘what haven’t I done to get them to that next level’ and ‘do I have the right people here who want to grow?’.
Lastly, I recognize everyone is under pressure to add good help. A station operating without a leader in the programming department creates a lot of problems, especially when it lingers for months. But you also need to find the right people or you end up with bigger problems later, most notably, others questioning your ability to hire the right people. If there’s one thing I’ve learned going thru these processes with different companies is that often times, decision makers want to move fast and find people who are referred by others they know and respect. If they hear a few good things said in conversation by a candidate that match what they value, they’re ready to move forward. Some get caught up in resumes or similar experiences/interests but not all ask the right questions and research people well. It’s amazing what you’ll learn if you investigate properly and ask questions that make folks uncomfortable. If you’re going to trust someone to lead your brand and staff, and set the tone for your operation, spending the extra time to be sure about those you hire is absolutely necessary.
Taking a chance on the APD or smaller market PD isn’t as safe as hiring a veteran leader. If you have a proven winner interested in your opening and feel confident that they fit your needs, I’m all for them being hired. But don’t make the mistake of assuming someone with less experience can’t make a greater difference. Imagine if we were back in 2004 and you passed on Jack Dorsey or Mark Zuckerberg in favor of a proven Newspaper editor to lead your brand’s digital strategy. How would you look today? That could be your radio station in five years if you overlook those with an ability to see the future better than the present when future openings arise.
To grow this format we need a mixture of new blood, new ideas, people who view the audio business differently from those in the present or past, and proven performers who’ve helped turn this format into a very successful one. We have to ask the right questions, fully research candidates, challenge our executives and programmers to take a greater interest in developing the next crop of sports radio executives, and consider new roads rather than the ones we’re most familiar with. We also need to hear from people who haven’t told us of their interest in taking the next step. We need to encourage them to want to grow and show them the path to do so. If we each do those things better, our format is going to spend a lot more time thriving and less time surviving in the years ahead.
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.
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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