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Wouldn’t It Be Wild If…

“We have a truly talented team here at Barrett Sports Media and they all let their imaginations run wild.”

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The end of 2021 is here. With so many sites and shows looking back, we thought it might be fun to look forward.

I gathered all of the columnists at BSM and asked them to turn 2022 on it’s head. The assignment was simple. Finish this sentence: “Wouldn’t it be wild if ____”.

We have a truly talented team here at Barrett Sports Media, and they all let their imaginations run wild. So sit back and enjoy our predictions, projections, and speculations of what a crazy 2022 and beyond could be for the sports media industry.

– Demetri Ravanos


“Wouldn’t it be wild if you could watch, say the Super Bowl on multiple networks in some form or fashion? If Fox had the game, it would be a straight forward broadcast for the traditionalists. Maybe CBS goes the ‘Nickelodeon’ route and gears it toward kids? NBC might feature the AFC team’s radio call and ABC can feature the NFC radio? ESPN could get into the act with a ‘ManningCast’ or something similar geared toward viewers that have no rooting interest. Of course, some network would have to feature the gambling aspect of the game as well. Would be a lot to choose from, wouldn’t it?” – Andy Masur

“Wouldn’t it be wild if the Super Bowl did indeed become a PPV exclusive? Ads are getting so ridiculously expensive and companies are becoming more and more comfortable spending their ad dollars on social promotions. I wonder if the NFL and their network partners would be better served to charge everyone $60 to watch the game. An ESPN+ exclusive, Amazon gets into the bidding war, the landscape could change quickly and you know what, we’d all pay for it.” – Brandon Kravitz

“Wouldn’t it be wild if Covid jacked up another year of events? I know. I know. ‘Boo, Noe, I don’t even want to think about it.’ I don’t either, but it’s a possibility. Heck, it’s already happening with the NHL’s mini shutdown from Dec. 22-26. Each time I look up it seems like a new fill-in player is being signed to an NBA hardship contract. Nearly 10 percent of NFL players are on the COVID list. The surge could intensify causing more games to be missed. Trust me; I don’t want people clamoring for The Last Dance 2.0 starring Aaron Rodgers or the next version of Tiger King. But another significant pause in the sports world could happen due to stupid COVID.” – Brian Noe

“Wouldn’t it be wild if New York City got a third sports talk station? The metro area has the population to sustain it. New York is too important to sportsbooks for them not to spend marketing money. That is why they were fighting for the privilege to pay a 51% tax on their business a few weeks back. With all of that money being thrown around, surely some company will see an opportunity to turn on a third sports talk station in the Big Apple. From the outside, it would be a lot of fun to see how ESPN New York and WFAN respond and just what sort of talent wars could result.” – Demetri Ravanos

“Wouldn’t it be wild if sports media entered the metaverse? With spiking case numbers amid a surge of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in the United States, it may be prudent for sports media outlets to test their capabilities in operating within the metaverse. As virtual reality becomes more popular, sports media outlets can capitalize on expanded audio and visual capabilities to modernize their platforms to stay ahead of the curve in 2022, and lead the media industry into the future. Direct-to-consumer consumption habits are becoming a new standard for broadcast consumption in an age of streaming and podcasts, but as virtual interaction and engagement proliferate, consumers will need more ways to access the content they desire from wherever they are. The metaverse, as it seems, is the future of the internet and could drive media outlets to adjust sooner rather than later; the real question is whether media wants to stay ahead or play catch-up later.” – Derek Futterman

“Wouldn’t it be wild if DraftKings purchased ESPN? The storyline most would immediately focus on would be Dan Le Batard’s possible return to the network since DK has a partnership in place with Meadowlark Media. If the stars aligned and Le Batard and crew wound up at their former place of employment, it would also suggest a possible reunion with Meadowlark CEO John Skipper, who once ran the worldwide leader. Making the scenario even more complex would be the way it’d alter relationships with all sports leagues. With each having exclusive sports betting partnerships, it’s fair to assume those sports betting partners wouldn’t be thrilled investing major dollars in partnerships with leagues which air their games on a network with a heavier interest in its own growth in the sports betting space. Additionally, that could have a massive trickle-down effect on sports rights deals, which could then create another seismic shift for sports television and sports streaming. It’s unlikely this situation ever occurs, but if it did, buy some stock, and a whole lot of popcorn, and sit back and enjoy the madness.” – Jason Barrett

“Wouldn’t it be wild if the Manningcast gets an NBA sibling? Peyton Manning has called an audible. Many reports have Manning leaving his ManningCast duties for partial ownership in the Denver Broncos. Instead, Manning and his brother Eli are signing an extension with ESPN through 2026 and expanding. In a big way. Not only will Omaha Productions continue co-producing Monday Night Football on ESPN, but they will do the same for a weekly NBA game-but with fresh talent. Charles Barkley, who has said he wants to retire from TNT, is leaving Turner and will start a weekly ChuckCast of NBA games on ESPN. Barkley said the guestlist for the ChuckCast will be as impressive as the NBA All-Star Game weekend and his first guest list is Denzel Washington, Jack Nicholson, and Barack Obama.” – Jeff Caves

“Wouldn’t it be wild if Amazon purchases more sports rights on an exclusive basis, while Netflix premieres its first sports broadcast like an F1 race or season? Apple also purchases some limited sports broadcast content to stream.” – Jeremy Evans

“Wouldn’t it be wild if the NFL put one of their marquee games exclusively on a subscription based streaming platform? Not only is this not that wild, but I feel this is a certainty. The NFL has already dabbled with putting games up on Amazon Prime, Yahoo, YouTube, etc. But what if they aired Sunday Night, Monday Night or Thursday Night football ONLY on an online subscription based platform? Companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google have deeper pockets than many of the terrestrial broadcast networks and they are starved for premium content. One of them will overpay to get it.” – Ryan Maguire

“Wouldn’t it be wild if ESPN and FOX Sports go all in on NIL deals with college athletes? You’re already seeing some of this with The Volume hiring Heisman winner Bryce Young to do a podcast. What if ESPN and FOX get even more aggressive and pay money to athletes to get exclusive interviews and content? The possibilities are endless and could potentially mean players are on the air during pregnancy and postgame shows, as well as game broadcasts during bowl season. One thing we’ve learned with NIL is anything is possible. If ESPN and FOX find an avenue to bring this type of content, it could change the way college sports is covered. Especially since college programs are becoming less and less accessible to the local media.” – Tyler McComas

BSM Writers

Grant Cohn’s Trolling of Players is Unacceptable

After an altercation between Javon Kinlaw of the San Francisco 49ers and Grant Cohn, it became clear that Kinlaw was being trolled by a member of the media.

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grant cohn

Grant Cohn is a media member who writes for the FanNation 49ers blog on SI.com. He also talks about the team on his YouTube channel, which has over 48,000 subscribers as of noon Thursday. His father, Lowell, was a longtime columnist in the Bay Area.

Javon Kinlaw is a defensive lineman, whom the San Francisco 49ers drafted in the first round despite concerns about the durability of his knee. He played four games last season, his second in the league.

The two were involved in two confrontations this week. The first one occurred off to the side of the 49ers’ practice field. Kinlaw apparently cursed at Cohn and knocked his hat from atop his head. Later in the day, Kinlaw again swore at Cohn, this time after joining a live stream on Cohn’s YouTube channel. (Side note: I have never felt so freaking old as I did while typing that previous sentence.)

OK. That’s my attempt at an absolutely straightforward and objective summary of a situation that scares the hell out of me. Not because a player was mad at a member of the media. I’ve had it happen to me and I’ve seen it happen to others. It’s my opinion that this has been happening for as long as human beings have scrutinized the athletic efforts of other human beings.

What scared me was that I was seeing some version of the future of sports media. A future in which media members behaved like YouTube trolls, acting purposely ridiculous or antagonistic to initiate conflicts that could be turned into more conflicts that would could be gleefully recounted as content for the audience. I thought that because that’s pretty much what Cohn did:https://youtu.be/4Hf9sjBttFY

Cohn essentially bragged about the number of different things he said that may have prompted Kinlaw’s reaction, and you know what? It worked. Kinlaw got mad. He confronted Cohn. Twice. TMZ published a story about it. So did SFGate.com.

This is troll behavior. You know, the online pests who say or do something intended to provoke a reaction, and once they get that reaction, they recount and scrutinize that reaction with an eye toward triggering another reaction. Lather, rinse repeat. Increasingly, entire online media ecosystems consist of nothing more than people who don’t like each other talking about how much they don’t like one another.

I’m not going to pretend this is entirely new in sports media. Sports columnists have been known to make reputations with their willingness to be critical of the home team. A huge part of Skip Bayless’ brand is his unwavering insistence on highlighting Lebron James’ perceived flaws. Stephen A. Smith has engaged in public feuds with players, namely Kevin Durant.

I do see a difference between this and what Cohn did, though. The reaction Bayless and Smith are primarily concerned with is from their audience, not their subjects. The subjects may get mad, but that’s not the primary goal. At least I hope it’s not.

What happens if that is the primary goal? What if someone is offering opinions not because it’s what they really think, but because they want to provoke a response from the subject? Media careers have been built on less.

I don’t know if that’s the case with Cohn. I’ve never talked to him in my life, and even if I had, it’s impossible to know someone’s true intent. But in listening to everything he said AFTER the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, I’m not willing to assume that Cohn was operating in good faith. Here’s how Cohn described the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, which occurred as practice was beginning.

“In the training room, I saw Javon Kinlaw, who is the king of the training room,” Cohn said. “He’s usually in the training room.”

Cohn said the two locked eyes, but were separated by about 70 yards at the time. Kinlaw then walked across the field to where the reporters were gathered. He stood directly behind Cohn.

“So I turn, and I say, ‘Wassup, Mook Dawg?’ “ Cohn said, referencing the nickname on Kinlaw’s Instagram account. “And he doesn’t say anything. And I say, ‘Why are you looking at me like that, Javon?’ “

“And then he said, ‘What are you going to do about it you bitch-ass,’ and then he said one more word that I can’t say,” Cohn said. “And then I turned to face him, and I said, ‘Oh, it’s like that?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it’s like that.’ And then he knocked the hat off my head.”

OK. Pause. In my experience, when your job is to publicly describe and critique the performance and attitudes of professional athletes, there will be times in which the athletes do not care for your description or your critique. Some of those who are displeased will make their objections known to you.

However, there are two things that are unusual here: First, the fact Kinlaw knocked the hat off Cohn’s head, which is unacceptable. Second, Cohn then posted a video on  YouTube to not only talk about what had happened, but state he had been so critical of Kinlaw for so long he wasn’t sure what specifically sparked Kinlaw’s anger.

“Javon, what are you upset about?” Cohn asked toward the end of  his video. “Is it the fact that I said you have an 80-year-old knee? Is it the fact that I said that you’re a terrible pass rusher and you’re just a two-down player? Is it the fact that I said the Niners shouldn’t have drafted you and should have taken Tristan Wirfs instead. Is it the fact that I said that you’re unprofessional and immature.

“It escapes me, which of the hundred negative things I’ve said about Javon Kinlaw the last couple of years, moved him to approach me in such a way, but you know what, I applaud Javon Kinlaw for coming to speak to me directly, and I ask you, what do you think Javon Kinlaw is mad about.”

Cohn was trolling Kinlaw. No other word for it.

That night, Cohn was conducting a live stream on YouTube, which Kinlaw joined, while apparently eating dinner, to make declarative statements about the size of Cohn’s genitalia — among other things.

Neither one looked particularly impressive. Not Kinlaw, who was profane and combative with a member of the media, at one point making a not-so-subtle threat. Not Cohn, who asked Kinlaw, “Do you think I’m scared of you, Javon?” He also said, “I don’t even know why you’re mad, Javon.”

I think Kinlaw would have been better off ignoring Cohn. If I was Kinlaw’s employer, I would probably prefer he not log into video livestreams to make testicular comparisons. But honestly, I don’t care about what Kinlaw did. At all. He’s not on a team I root for. He didn’t physically harm anyone. He used some bad words in public.

I am bothered not just by Cohn’s actions, but by some of the reactions to them because of what I think this type of behavior will do to an industry I have worked in for 25 years. Credentialed media members who behave like Cohn did this week make it harder for other media members who are acting in good faith. Preserving access for people like him diminishes what that access will provide for those who aren’t trying to use criticism to create conflict that will become content.

I think Cohn knew what he was doing. In his livestream, before Kinlaw joined, Cohn stated he was not scared because he knew — by virtue of his father’s history in the business — that if Kinlaw had touched him he would potentially be entitled monetary compensation.

By now, it should be pretty apparent how problematic this whole thing is and yet on Thursday, a number of 49ers fans online were sticking up for Cohn as just doing his job. Dieter Kurtenbach, a Bay Area columnist, Tweeted: “Javon Kinlaw does not know that @GrantCohn was built for this.” Built for what? Winning Internet fights? Kurtenbach also deleted a Tweet in which he called Kinlaw “soft.”

Cohn’s father, Lowell, is a former columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle and Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. He promoted the first video his son made on Tuesday:

Sorry, I don’t find it funny because it’s another step down a path in which media members seek reactions at the expense of information. Where they look to make fun of players instead of learning about them. They’ll stop acting like journalists and start acting like the trolls who make their money by instigating a conflict, which they then film: “Jake Paul, reporting live from 49ers practice …”

If that’s the case, thank God I’m about to age out of this business, entirely. I’m 47 years old and I can’t believe there’s anyone in our industry who thinks what Cohn did this week is acceptable.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 75

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A new episode of Media Noise is all about reaction. Demetri reacts to the ManningCast’s big win at the Sports Emmys. Danny O’Neil reacts to people reacting to Colin Kaepernick’s workout in Las Vegas and Andy Masur reacts to John Skipper’s comments about Charles Barkley.

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BSM Writers

Bron Heussenstamm Blends Bleav Podcasts Advertising with SiriusXM

Bron Heussenstamm, the CEO of the Bleav Podcast Network says blending podcasting advertising with satellite radio’s reach is a victory for both sides.

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Last week, the Bleav (pronounced believe) Podcast Network announced a deal with SiriusXM to make all 32 NFL team-specific Bleav pods available on the SXM app. SXM can also air Bleav content on any of its sports channels. Each NFL Bleav show pairs a former player with a host to discuss team issues. Eric Davis, Lorenzo Neal, and Pac-Man Jones are amongst the former players Bleav has signed as talent.

I have hosted a Bleav podcast about Boise State football -the Kingdom of POD. I am usually provided 1-3 advertisers per episode by the network and get paid by the download. My subject matter is regional, so my take-home pay is usually under four figures. I have enjoyed the technical assistance and cross-promotion I receive and I enjoyed meeting Bleav CEO Bron Heussenstamm. Bron is Los Angeles-based, a USC graduate, and founded Bleav in 2018. We discussed the SXM deal, podcast advertising, and the future. 

Will the podcast advertisers be carried on the SXM distribution platform?

Yes, Bleav baked-in advertisements and hosts read ads are distributed across all platforms. This enables the host to do their show once through, making it as easy as possible for the hosts and consistent for the advertisers.

Bron Heussenstamm, CEO Bleav Podcast Network

How is advertising on Bleav different? 

We want to be more than a ‘host read ad’ or a ‘digital insert’ with our advertising partners. When companies work with Bleav shows and talent, those companies can receive our omnichannel of distribution points—podcast platforms, YouTube, socials, streamers, TV, radio, and more. This allows for consistent branding across all platforms: great talent presenting great companies to fans and consumers no matter where they consume content. 

What is the growth pattern for podcasts that you see? 

The industry trades have presented 400%-800% percent growth over the next ten years. Once the COVID fog lifted, we really saw these gains. Sports are always going to be at the forefront of culture. The increases in all sports sectors have certainly carried into the digital space. 

SXM has started with NFL shows but can also air more Bleav content – what does that look like? 

We’ve started with our NFL network of 32 team shows hosted by a former player. We’ve kept the door open for our NCAAB, NCAAF, MLB, NHL, Basketball, and Soccer networks. We’re happy for our hosts to be part of such a tremendous company and platform. SiriusXM can continue to amplify its voice and give fans the access and insight only a player can provide. 

The Interactive Advertising Bureau-IAB- says podcast revenue grew 72% last year to $1.4B and is expected to grow to $2B this year and double to $4B by 2024. Have you seen similar growth? What is driving the industry now, and what will be the primary cause of growth by 2024?  

There is a myriad of reasons for the growth. I‘ll lean into a couple. 

At Bleav, we launch and maximize the digital arm of industry leaders. The technology upgrades to allow hosts to have a world-class show — simulcast in both audio and video – from their home has led to an explosion of content. With this, the level of content creators has risen. Having a YouTube, RSS feed, podcast, and more is now part of the brand, right alongside Twitter and Instagram. 

If a company wants to advertise on Bleav in Chargers, we know exactly how many people heard Lorenzo Neal endorse their product. We can also safely assume they like the Chargers. The tracking of demo specifics for companies is huge. It’s a fantastic medium to present products to the right fans and consumers.

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