If you work in sports media, you get asked all the time about how to catch a break. When I was fresh out of college, Seymour Siwoff, the legendary late longtime owner of Elias Sports Bureau, advised me to go into accounting instead of this business, but if I insisted on it to have an “angle”. What this meant was to find a niche covering something where either the public has more interest in the topic than is served, or jump in early on a growing space as Elias was decades ahead of the curve in pioneering statistical compilation and analysis. Clearly, gambling is one of those growing spaces, and I discussed last month how the proliferation of the industry has given top talents unprecedented leverage. Furthermore, the next decade will assuredly bring considerable opportunities for aspiring broadcasters and journalists to become stars in coverage of women’s sports.
Women’s sports are in a fascinating position where they’ve already experienced exponential growth for the past generation, but might still be in the first few innings — there remains ample runway. As female athletes become bigger and bigger stars, media jobs will pop up in their orbits.
Allison Galer, founder of the agency Disrupt the Game, which represents Lisa Leslie, Chiney Ogwumike, Crystal Dunn, Liz Cambage, Chelsea Gray and other women involved in sports, has advice for media job seekers: “Just figuring out how to differentiate yourself and create value, just leaning into what makes you different from everyone else that’s trying to get into sports. Obviously, if someone has an interest in women’s sports they should dive right into it because the opportunities are going to continue to grow.”
Sharon Chang, a partner and broadcasting agent at WME whose clients include Taylor Rooks, Cari Champion, Stephanie Ready, and Michele Tafoya, says she is “very bullish” about the future of women’s sports.
“It will only continue to grow because female athletes are extremely compelling to watch. They’re fierce. They’re now freely speaking their truth. They’re able to use social media to amplify their voices. They’re not afraid to go against the grain and the system.
“As long as female athletes who are vocal continue to authentically share their stories and excite fans with their physical prowess, mental toughness and grace during game play, then networks, streamers and other media and digital platforms would want to continue to cover them. The popularity of the women playing these sports will help drive it—and the upcoming Olympics in Japan should help as well. I’m very bullish about the future of women’s sports.”
You can see this growth happening all over the place. Without making a value judgment for or against her stance with the media at the French Open, the fact that the Naomi Osaka story is massive news in and out of the sports bubble is a sign of how enormous an international star she is. The College Softball World Series aired on ABC for the first time ever this past weekend. The LA Sparks inked the WNBA’s first ever beer sponsorship, with Molson Coors, in March. Endorsement deals for individual women athletes are all over the place, including many spots airing during NBA playoff games. Barstool Sports recently navigated the NCAA compliance maze and hosted a women’s golf tournament (whether you love or loathe Barstool, you can’t deny that from a business perspective they skate to where the puck is going). Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair main evented a night of WrestleMania. The NWSL is expanding to add a 12th team, in Sacramento.
“WNBA games actually aired on Lifetime as well as Oxygen in the early 2000’s. Now the league is partnered with ESPN and CBS Sports Network, along with some games airing on broadcast TV nets like ABC and CBS,” the WME agent Sharon Chang noted in discussing how far the league has come in its 25 years.
Certainly, many media members cover women’s sports very well on TV and in print, and it bears mentioning that the site “Just Women’s Sports” raised $3.5 million in funding from investors like DraftKings and Kevin Durant’s Thirty Five Ventures a couple months ago.
Nevertheless, it feels like there is a massive brass ring to be snatched by someone who wants to be the Woj, Shams, Schefter, Rapoport, or Passan — cover the WNBA, NWSL, and other women’s sports. If you’re in college right now, I’m certainly not gonna tell you that you couldn’t become the next Woj, but I’d reckon it’d probably take you at least a couple decades to accomplish (Shams’ success in his 20s is a huge outlier unlikely to be replicated anytime soon). Contrastly, an aspiring newsbreaker with talent, 24/7 hustle, and also some luck could be a marquee source for WNBA or NWSL scoops by the next presidential election.
“It’s a relationship business, and really an in-person business,” says Disrupt the Game founder Allison Galer. “Even throughout the pandemic you could get on a Zoom or hop on FaceTime. The agents, executives, players, etc. are only going to give information out when it serves a purpose, and to people they trust. And now they have the choice between sharing information with media members or choosing to put out information on athletes’, executives’ or agents’ own social platforms, in their own words. With Woj and Shams what’s been awesome for me to see and learn is that they’re everywhere. They’re constantly talking to people. They make the effort and they hustle. It’s not like they’re sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring — they are out there trying to make it happen.”
“The WNBA and the NWSL both have some amazing media that are working super hard every day to cover these leagues and athletes,” Galer continues. “As the WNBA and NWSL both continue to grow, I have no doubt there is room for each league to have their own unique versions of media personalities to mirror in a sense what Woj and Shams have been able to do in the NBA, and that ultimately they will work to grow the WNBA and the NWSL with great, honest media coverage.”
I would bet on the WNBA in particular to have an economic boom in the next decade for a number of reasons. There are currently only 12 teams. Big markets like Houston, Miami, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, Detroit, and Denver don’t have a franchise, nor do states like Wisconsin and Tennessee, which support collegiate women’s sports. The other key is that the increased investment and exposure of the sport has ensured that there is more than enough talent coming up through the youth and college ranks to sustain expansion without going too far in diluting the quality of play.
Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai reportedly bought the New York Liberty for under $15 million in 2019. Even if the league is not currently profitable, I predict that their TV deals will grow a lot in the coming years. Furthermore, with the way that assets have boomed in the past couple years, there will be a lot of business people for whom the intangible value of owning a WNBA team is far greater than what Tsai paid for the Liberty. I could easily see 12 teams becoming 20, and $15 million franchise valuation becoming $50-100 million, between now and 2035.
But back to the main topic at hand: More women’s sports getting broadcasted across linear and streaming networks, with bigger stars, and increasing athletic talent will create jobs for play-by-play announcers, color commentators, directors, producers, and journalists who are looking to make it in the sports media industry.
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.