Ben Maller Enjoys The Parallel Universe
“There are a lot of people listening overnight. I’m obviously biased but it’s a special crowd.”
Ben Maller has mastered two very important things as a sports radio host. He has established ways of making his audience feel like they are truly a part of his show, and he has found the tricky middle ground of working hard without taking himself too seriously.
The Nocturnal Colonel doesn’t just show up at the FOX Sports Radio studios and goof around from 11pm to 3am PT. Ben puts a lot of hard work into his prep without losing sight that sports radio is supposed to be fun.
There is something disarming about a host that can make you laugh. Ben certainly has the ability to amuse listeners with his unique blend of sarcasm, wit, hyperbole, and rambunctious views. He can rile you up one minute and then make you laugh out loud the next. The Beethoven of BS has fiery debates at times, but makes you envision a mischievious smile on his face throughout. Ben makes you feel like he’d happily buy you a drink at any point. It isn’t personal. It’s a radio show.
Ben is passionate about the industry and considers radio to be an art form. He just launched a new weekly podcast with iHeart called The Fifth Hour with Ben Maller.
Ben hits on many interesting points in this piece. We’ve got the origin of his most popular caller Jeannie in Medford, the old man feeding ducks at the park, and one of Ben’s favorite nights in radio. We’ll combine all of these things and make one delicious lemon meringue cheesecake. Enjoy.
Brian Noe: Where did your sports radio career begin?
Ben Maller: I started in college radio at Saddleback College. Then I got an internship in the early ‘90s at XTRA Sports 690, which was this huge radio station in San Diego that had 77,000 watts of power. I was an intern for Lee Hacksaw Hamilton, this big star, afternoon drive guy. I started there and then I got a job as a board op at the station. Then they hired me as a reporter. I did that for several years. After that the company purchased a radio station in Los Angeles. They were launching a station in L.A. so they hired me. I was one of the first people they hired at that new station. It took off from there. I’ve been at FOX for almost 20 years so it’s been good.
Noe: When you started out, sports radio wasn’t nearly as big as it is now. Did you intend to be a sports radio host or was it something you fell into?
Ben: When I was growing up I loved sports. I come from a family that doesn’t really love sports, but I’ve always been a big sports fan. My original goal, I was going to replace Vin Scully as the voice of the Dodgers. Then I realized Vin was never going to retire. Then I had this idea; well, maybe I’ll go work for another team. I looked around and at that time in the early ‘90s — even before that — these baseball play-by-play guys it’s like a Supreme Court justice type of job. The jobs didn’t turn over.
I did the math on that and I’m like ‘I don’t think I’m ever going to have an opportunity if I go down that path to end up doing play-by-play at the major league level.’ I know it’s changed a lot since then. There are teams that have changed broadcasters a lot, but at that time if you got a play-by-play job you were in it forever. That was my original goal.
I just kind of fell into the sports radio thing. It was not my intention when I first started. I always loved sports radio. I listened to it when I was younger, but I didn’t know that I would be good at it. I’m pretty much an introvert. It’s odd when an introvert does this. I guess being in the business now there are a lot of introverts in radio.
Noe: If you’re an introvert, how challenging were your early days of being on the air?
Ben: I remember the first show I did in L.A., the first talk show, it was a Saturday. I spent all week preparing. I was so paranoid. I was like I’ve got to be perfect. This is going to be very important. I’ll never forget; I did my opening monologue at the start of the show. It was like a Saturday morning at like 10 in the morning or something like that. I nailed it, right? And the program director, Beau Bennett, came in and he said great job by you.
I hadn’t planned it out, so I didn’t have any material the rest of the show. Everything was in the monologue. I had this flop sweat going. It was a nightmare, man. It’s tough for people starting out. You’ve got to really get your reps in and go through those growing pains. It obviously worked out in the end, but those first couple of times that I was on the air by myself I was panicked. You think, oh man no one’s listening. No one’s going to call and help you out and bail you out. It’s nerve-racking.
Noe: You’re so great at interacting with your callers. Did that take you a while to get that good and that comfortable with it?
Ben: Doing overnights, as you know, Brian — because you’ve worked some shifts at FOX doing the overnight show over the years — it’s a different animal overnight than it is during the day. During the day it’s more interview based. They don’t take a lot of calls. But overnight, it’s like a parallel universe where you take calls.
As far as my relationship with the callers, it just kind of happened organically. I was a fan of Howard Stern back in his prime. I liked what he did with the callers and it just kind of fell into that. I’ve got several guys that I consider them professional radio callers because these are guys I heard before I was in the business. I heard these guys calling the radio shows like Dick in Dayton and Cowboy in Windsor. These guys became part of the show. They became characters on the show. The odd thing is that some of these people I actually know about their lives and correspond and we have emails. It’s an odd relationship but it’s been fun.
Noe: Would you miss that whole dynamic if you ever moved to a different daypart?
Ben: Yeah, it’s a give and take. I think I can do pretty well. Radio is very important 6am to 6pm and I think I could hold ratings and bring an audience there. I think a lot of these guys that are my big fans, the Maller Militia guys, who will come with me wherever I go, that’s encouraging.
I really love doing the overnights. It’s been great for me. I used to listen to Art Bell back in the day on Coast to Coast. My parents would listen to him. Now George Noory does a great job on that show.
There are a lot of people listening overnight. I’m obviously biased but it’s a special crowd. You’ve got a group of people, a hodgepodge of people, an insomnia of people that work third shift. People that are doing different odd jobs — truck drivers, security guards, all those kind of people — so it’s good. They really appreciate it because I don’t know that you get the same feedback during the day. I think it’s more of the less personal relationship with the audience during the day than it is at night.
Noe: The Maller Militia is the perfect name because your fan base, they are diehards. What do you think it is that you’ve been able to do to make that connection with your audience?
Ben: I don’t know exactly what is resonating. As far as my philosophy on doing the show, I just try to keep it real. I don’t take myself too seriously. Even though I’m very critical — obviously I poked fun at athletes all the time. That goes with the job. It’s part of the territory to be a critic, but I have fun. I don’t look down upon these guys that call the show. To me they’re not equals as far as I’m on the microphone, they’re not on the microphone, but we’re just having a conversation. They seem to really enjoy that part of it. They’re part of the show.
I think that’s the biggest thing about this, Brian, is the fact that we’re so interactive as far as reading comments from people on Twitter, and taking phone calls, and all the other social media stuff, that people really feel that they’ve got an ownership in the show. Literally I have a plan coming in every night of what I think I’m going to talk about and a lot of it takes twists and turns based on the feedback I get in real time from the audience.
It’s really the great thing about live radio; I really appreciate the feedback in real time. I know right away what’s working and what people cannot stand. The people that follow me are not afraid to tell me I suck and that was terrible radio. I like that. I want to know what people like. I want to give people what they like. That’s kind of how that goes.
Noe: When a great caller, Jeannie in Medford, passed away, were you surprised how huge the response was from listeners that had a connection with her through your show?
Ben: Yeah, Jeannie is one of the great characters in sports radio. I miss her. She was my most popular caller. It’s just a crazy story that you only get in overnight radio. The legend of Jeannie in Medford was born by her calling 911. She just wanted somebody to talk to. She was lonely. She got arrested for it because you’re not supposed to call 911 when you’re lonely. You’re supposed to call 911 when you have an emergency. So the police called her and said ‘listen, turn on the radio and call a radio show. Don’t call the police.’
Somehow she found my show late at night and she would call every night. We didn’t put her on the air every night, but it was great. She was quite the character. She had great stories. She had an interesting life. I don’t know how much of it was true and how much if it was embellished, but it made for good talk radio.
You’re absolutely right; I remember talking to Justin Cooper the producer and we knew she had been sick. I wasn’t blindsided. She had been in poor health unfortunately. She had a hard life with drugs and booze and that kind of stuff. I was talking to Coop and we started a GoFundMe page because she had no family when she passed away.
One of our other listeners had kept in contact with her. So we tried to raise some money. We raised way more, I forget exactly the dollar amount, but it was like thousands of dollars more than we anticipated to cover the funeral cost for Jeannie. It was people that never call the show, never text the show, none of that stuff. These are just people that aren’t ever interactive that reached out and donated money on this GoFundMe thing. It was amazing.
It’s one of these things when you die you don’t really know. I wish we could get that message to Jeannie how much she was loved because I don’t think any of us imagined that kind of reaction would happen to just a person calling a radio show at 1 in the morning.
Noe: When you think back on your career, what’s something that stands out as one of your favorite bits or moments in radio?
Ben: This is going to sound odd but one of my favorite nights in radio was right after the Malice at the Palace. We did four hours when Ron Artest and Jermaine O’Neal and those guys went in the crowd and started fighting with the Pistons fans. It was crazy. The show was carried by the Pistons flagship station and the Pacers radio station at the time. It was wild. It was one of the funnest nights we had for anything to talk about because it had just happened right before we got on the air. It was a crazy, wild night.
As far as some of the bits that we’ve done; we do these radio roasts every once in a while where listeners send jokes in and everyone thinks they’re funny. Those have been pretty good. We did one about Tim Tebow back when Tebowmania was a big thing. I think it’s one of the funniest things that has ever been broadcast on FOX. I know I’m biased on that one as well, but that was really fun. We were all dying at these jokes. It was a lot of fun.
Noe: What’s something that a lot of your listeners wouldn’t know about you?
Ben: When I’m at home I don’t talk about sports with my wife. She’s not a big sports fan. It’s not like when I come home the job is always with me. I’m watching games every night before I do the overnight show, but as far as my time with my wife and my family, we talk about other day-to-day stuff going on, but not hardo sports conversation at the house.
Noe: What’s a favorite hobby of yours that has nothing to do with sports radio?
Ben: I’m pretty much dedicated to the job. It’s funny that you bring that up because I remember one of my bosses back in the day, Bruce Gilbert, told me you gotta have balance. You’ve got to have balance in your life. You can’t be all about the radio. It was really good advice. I don’t know that I do anything in particular as far as a hobby. I do like to sometimes kind of Zen out. There’s a park with a lake right near my house. I’ll go out there sometimes and just kind of sit out in nature. I’m like an old man feeding ducks at the park.
It does kind of clear my mind a little bit. I feel refreshed and then I can move on and do some other stuff. It’s not really a hobby but it’s something I do from time to time just to kind of reset.
Noe: How many Ben Maller nicknames are there now?
Ben: (Laughs.) I think the last count we were at 44 nicknames. These are all sent in by listeners. That’s pretty funny. I do the nickname rundown every so often. People seem to enjoy that. They’re pretty funny and ridiculous and absurd nicknames.
Noe: Do you have a favorite nickname?
Ben: There are a couple of them that stand out that I think are pretty good. I think the thing that sums up the show; they call me the Nocturnal Colonel of the Maller Militia. The Beethoven of BS is also pretty amusing to me. I think that sums up a lot of what all of us do in sports radio. I think that’s pretty good.
Noe: In terms of sports radio in general, where do you think the business is right now? Do you like where it is overall, or do you think things could be noticeably better in ways?
Ben: I love working in the business. I feel like it’s really in a good place right now as far as what’s going to happen in the next five to 10 years. It is going to be a gold rush for sports talk radio and I’m so happy I’m still in the business. I hope to stay in the business for a long time. The gambling thing is going to be so big now that it’s getting legal state to state. It’s going to bring in so much money to local sports radio stations. It’s going to be great.
I remember when I first started, Brian, and I don’t even know if this is true, but I was told this by an old guy in the radio business. I’ve always kept this close to my vest. When sports radio started, the first 24/7 sports radio station in New York, WFAN, a big part of their plan was to just give scores out because at that time there was no internet. You couldn’t click on to your favorite sports site and get the scores. People were calling like sports phones. There were guys gambling on games illegally and they needed to get the score of the Dodgers game or the Mariners game and they’re sitting in New Jersey or New York, so WFAN catered to that audience of gamblers.
This is what I was told and it seems to make sense. That leads into what we’re going through right now. I think the next couple of years are going to be amazing financially for the sales people. Hopefully it trickles down to the people on the air as well, and the programmers, and everyone can benefit from what I think is going to be perfect for our format. If you are running a sports gambling outfit and you want to bring people in, there’s no better place to advertise than sports talk radio.
Noe: Overnight radio is such an anything-goes type deal. Have you ever done a segment that you thought sucked but then it gets a great reaction?
Ben: Oh I’ve done plenty of bad radio. I should have been fired probably for some of the segments of radio I’ve done over the years, but you live and learn. You’re right; the thing about this — I get a kick out of it — I’ll do a monologue and I’ll think I’m the god of sports and all this stuff. I have this big head when I do these monologues. I have all the answers when I do a 10-minute monologue on the radio.
Then I’ll spend like a minute talking to Eddie Garcia, and Roberto my engineer, and Coop, and we’ll just talk about something that happened during the day — whether I had an odd experience at Costco. I look at the reaction and no one cares about my monologue. They all want to talk about what happened in my personal life. It’s like well why did I just spend 10 minutes talking about that when all you care about is me going to Costco and taking as many samples as I could possibly take?
Noe: Ahh, man. It’s so true. Do you keep a similar sleep schedule over the weekend when you’re not doing the show?
Ben: The way I’ll answer that is that it really depends on my wife’s schedule. My wife works for a police department so she switches her shift. Most of the year she works during the day and then sometimes she’ll actually work third shift — the same hours that I have. She works a little longer than I do as a 911 operator.
It depends on her schedule. Typically if we want to do anything on the weekends you’ve got to flip your schedule around. You want to see family and all that stuff. Just to go shopping you’ve got to change your schedule around. I do change it. I have a schedule; the show is Sunday night for us until Thursday. Then Friday night and Saturday night I have more of a normal schedule.
Noe: Some of my friends are in news radio. It gets contentious and some of the listeners are nuts. What have been your experiences with crazy sports talk listeners lashing out or doing wild things?
Ben: Well, I’ve had some listeners threaten to kill me. That’s been interesting. I don’t think they were kidding. That’s odd, but I have some real cartoon characters. Working the overnights you get some people that have just amazing personalities that want to be on the radio. I did an appearance — I was working at WEEI for a couple of years and they brought me back there — and I did an appearance at a bar across from Fenway Park. It was crazy. It was wild.
We had a bunch of the East Coast listeners, the Northeast listeners that showed up. One guy who I will never forget — down the line if I write a book – one of my callers, this guy David, drove all the way from Winter Park, Florida just to hang out for like two hours at a bar, the Cask ‘n Flagon, in Boston. It was crazy.
The funny thing about it is he had called the show and he said he had a parrot named Roscoe. Roscoe the Parrot, right? So I’m like okay. I said to him where is Roscoe the Parrot? And David leaves the bar. He goes out to his car. He comes back. Now I didn’t know where he went because I was doing some other stuff with some of the other guys that were there. He comes back and he’s holding this stuffed animal parrot. And then he started talking — he pretended like the parrot could talk. It was unbelievable. I’m like what am I doing here? It was crazy. It was pretty amusing. He’s quite the character and that really stands out right off the top of my head.
Noe: (Laughs.) What would you say is the proudest achievement of your broadcasting career?
Ben: I think that it’s still yet to happen. I’m very happy that I got the overnight show at FOX. I’m very proud of that. It’s something I wanted when I started at FOX Sports Radio. That was something I had my eye on for a while. I was hoping I could get, not just that shift, any shift at FOX Sports Radio. I’m very proud of that.
I don’t really spend a lot of time looking back at stuff that I’ve done per se. I think you do that once you’re retired from the business and all that. I just march along every day and then eventually look back and reminisce about the good ol’ days.
Noe: A lot of the business nowadays is they want names. Programmers want someone with a big name. Was it hard for you to get to where you are without being a former big name athlete or having a big name in another capacity beforehand?
Ben: Yeah, Brian, that’s a great point. You’ve had the same battles I’ve had. I went to a community college. I didn’t play sports. I started in the business as an intern. I completely understand why program directors want to hire people who are ex-athletes, or comedians, or actors and people like that because you can sell it to advertisers. But I think we’re missing out on some really good radio people.
To me radio is an art form. Those that can do it well, it’s really wonderful — it’s audio art to listen to. Unfortunately it’s disposable. It doesn’t last. I guess with podcasts now it lasts, but I do think program directors are missing out. You can get great radio people. The people listening — I believe this to be true — the bulk of the people that listen they might start to listen because of a big name, but if that person doesn’t know the formatics of radio and doesn’t do an entertaining show, they’re not going to listen. The audience isn’t going to be there whereas if you hire somebody that maybe doesn’t have the name and ends up working his craft or her craft and becomes really good at it, then I’d rather have that person. Obviously I come from a position where if I was an athlete or an entertainer I would feel the other way. But I do think the people that run radio stations should look more at these people because they’re also cheaper. I’m pretty affordable compared to some of these big name guys.
Noe: (Laughs.) Absolutely. What’s something that you would like to accomplish or experience in your broadcasting career before it’s over?
Ben: I did television for about a year and I would like to try that again. I was not good at it per se. I was on a show that got cancelled on the NBC Sports Network. But I want to give it another go.
I’m a little older now. I’m probably less camera friendly than I was back then, not that I’ve ever been camera friendly and all that. I’d like to give that a shot and mix that in a little bit. I’ve also kicked around the idea eventually of getting back on the website. I think if I get out of the radio side of things, which I don’t intend on doing, I could bring back a website that I had about 10-15 years ago. I’m pretty happy with what I’m doing right now. I would like to give TV, as I said, a shot again.
Brian Noe is a columnist for BSM and an on-air host heard nationwide on FOX Sports Radio’s Countdown To Kickoff. Previous roles include stops in Portland, OR, Albany, NY and Fresno, CA. You can follow him on Twitter @TheNoeShow or email him at email@example.com.
Amanda Brown Has Embraced The Bright Lights of Hollywood
“My whole goal was that I didn’t need people to like me; I needed people to respect me.”
The tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and eight others aboard a helicopter, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, sent shockwaves around the world of sports, entertainment, and culture. People traveled to Los Angeles following the devastating news and left flowers outside the then-named STAPLES Center, the arena which Bryant called home for much of his career, demonstrating the magnitude of the loss. Just across the street from the arena, Amanda Brown and the staff at ESPN Los Angeles 710 had embarked in ongoing breaking news coverage, lamentation, and reflection.
It included coverage of a sellout celebration of life for Kobe and his daughter and teams around the NBA opting to take 8-second and 24-second violations to honor Bryant, who wore both numbers throughout his 20-year NBA career. They currently hang in the rafters at Crypto.com Arena, making Bryant the only player in franchise history to have two numbers retired.
During this tumultuous time, Bryant’s philosophy served as a viable guiding force, something that Brown quickly ascertained in her first month as the station’s new program director.
“I had people that were in Northern California hopping on planes to get here,” Brown said. “You didn’t even have to ask people [to] go to the station; people were like, ‘I’m on my way.’ It was the way that everybody really came together to do really great radio, and we did it that day and we did it the next day and we did it for several days.”
The 2023 BSM Summit is quickly approaching, and Brown will be attending the event for the first time since 2020. During her first experience at the BSM Summit in New York, Brown had just become a program director and was trying to assimilate into her role. Because of this, she prioritized networking, building contacts, and expressing her ideas to others in the space. This year, she looks forward to connecting with other program directors and media professionals around the country while also seeking to learn more about the nuances of the industry.
“The Summit is kind of like a meeting of the minds,” Brown said. “It’s people throughout the country and the business…. More than anything, [the first time] wasn’t so much about the panels as it was about the people.”
Growing up in Orange County, Brown had an interest in the Los Angeles Lakers from a young age, being drawn to play-by-play broadcaster Chick Hearn. Brown refers to Hearn as inspiration to explore a career in broadcasting. After studying communications at California State University in Fullerton, she was afforded an opportunity to work as a producer at ESPN Radio Dallas 103.3 FM by program director Scott Masteller, who she still speaks to on a regular basis. It was through Masteller’s confidence in her, in addition to support from operations manager Dave Schorr, that helped make Brown feel more comfortable working in sports media.
“I never felt like I was a woman in a male-dominated industry,” Brown said. “I always just felt like I was a part of the industry. For me, I’ve kind of always made it my goal to be like, ‘I deserve to be here; I deserve a seat at the table.’”
Brown quickly rose up the ranks when she began working on ESPN Radio in Bristol, Conn., working as a producer for a national radio show hosted by Mike Tirico and Scott Van Pelt, along with The Sports Bash with Erik Kuselias. Following five-and-a-half years in Bristol, Brown requested a move back to California and has worked at ESPN Los Angeles 710 ever since. She began her tenure at the station serving as a producer for shows such as Max and Marcellus and Mason and Ireland.
Through her persistence, work ethic and congeniality, Brown was promoted to assistant program director in July 2016. In this role, she helped oversee the station’s content while helping the entity maintain live game broadcast rights and explore new opportunities to augment its foothold, including becoming the flagship radio home of the Los Angeles Rams.
“Don’t sit back and wait for your managers or your bosses to come to you and ask what you want to do,” Brown advised. “Go after what you want, and that’s what I’ve always done. I always went to my managers and was like, ‘Hey, I want to do this. Give me a chance; let me do that.’ For the most part, my managers have been receptive and given me those opportunities.”
When executive producer Dan Zampillo left the station to join Spotify to work as a sports producer, Brown was subsequently promoted to program director where she has helped shape the future direction of the entity. From helping lead the brand amid its sale to Good Karma Brands in the first quarter of 2022; to revamping the daily lineup with compelling local programs, Brown has gained invaluable experience and remains keenly aware of the challenges the industry faces down the road. For sports media outlets in Los Angeles, some of the challenge is merely by virtue of its geography.
“We’re in sunny Southern California where there’s a lot of things happening,” Brown said. “We’re in the middle of Hollywood. People have a lot of opportunities – you can go to the mountains; you can go to the beach. I think [our market] is more about entertainment than it is about actual hard-core sports. Yes, obviously you have hard-core Lakers fans; you have hard-core Dodgers fans, but a majority of the fans are pretty average sports fans.”
Because of favorable weather conditions and an endless supply of distractions, Brown knows that the way to attract people to sports talk radio is through its entertainment value. With this principle in mind, she has advised her hosts not to worry so much about the specific topics they are discussing, but rather to ensure they are entertaining listeners throughout the process.
“People know the four letters E-S-P-N mean sports, but really our focus is more on entertainment more than anything,” Brown said. “I think the [talent] that stick out the most are the ones that are the most entertaining.”
Entertaining listeners, however, comes through determining what they are discussing and thinking about and providing relevant coverage about those topics. Even though it has not yet been legalized in the state of California, sports gambling content has been steadily on the rise since the Supreme Court made a decision that overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act established in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (2018). Nonetheless, Brown and ESPN Los Angeles 710 have remained proactive, launching a sports gambling show on Thursday nights to try to adjust to the growing niche of the industry.
Even though she has worked in producing and programming for most of her career, Brown is eager to learn about the effect sports gambling has on audio sales departments. At the same time, she hopes to be able to more clearly determine how the station can effectuate its coverage if and when it becomes legal in their locale.
“I know that a lot of other markets have that,” Brown said regarding the legalization of sports gambling. “For me, I’m interested to hear from people who have that in their markets and how they’ve monetized that and the opportunity.”
No matter the content, though, dedicated sports radio listeners are genuinely consuming shows largely to hear certain talent. Brown recalls receiving a compliment on Twitter earlier this quarter where a listener commented that he listens to ESPN Los Angeles 710 specifically for Sedano and Kap. Evidently, it acted as a tangible sign that her philosophy centered around keeping people engrossed in the content is working, and that providing the audience what it wants to hear is conducive to success.
At this year’s BSM Summit, Brown will be participating on The Wheel of Content panel, presented by Core Image Studio, featuring ESPN analyst Mina Kimes and FOX Sports host Joy Taylor. Through their discussion, she intends to showcase a different perspective of what goes into content creation and the interaction that takes place between involved parties.
“A lot of times in the past, all the talent were on one panel; all the programmers were on one panel,” Brown said. “To put talent and a programmer together, I think it’s an opportunity for people to hear both sides on certain issues.”
According to the most recent Nielsen Total Audience Report, AM/FM (terrestrial) radio among persons 18-34 has a greater average audience than television. The statistical anomaly, which was forecast several years earlier, came to fruition most likely due to emerging technologies and concomitant shifts in usage patterns.
Simultaneously, good content is required to captivate consumers, and radio, through quantifiable and qualifiable metrics, has been able to tailor its content to the listening audience and integrate it across multiple platforms of dissemination. The panel will give Brown a chance to speak in front of her peers and other industry professionals about changes in audio consumption, effectuated by emerging technologies and concomitant shifts in usage patterns.
Yet when it comes to radio as a whole, the patterns clearly point towards the proliferation of digital content – whether those be traditional radio programs or modernized podcasts. Moreover, utilizing various elements of presentation provides consumers a greater opportunity of finding and potentially engaging with the content.
“We do YouTube streaming; obviously, we stream on our app,” Brown said. “We’ve even created, at times, stream-only shows whether it’s stream-only video or stream-only on our app. We all know that people want content on-demand when they want it. I think it’s about giving them what they want.”
As a woman in sports media, Brown is cognizant about having to combat misogyny from those inside and outside of the industry, and is grateful to have had the support of many colleagues. In holding a management position in the second-largest media market in the United States, she strives to set a positive example to aspiring broadcasters. Additionally, she aims to be a trusted and accessible voice to help empower and give other women chances to work in the industry – even if she is not universally lauded.
“I’ve kind of always made it my goal to be like, ‘I’m no different than anyone else – yes, I’m a female – but I’m no different than anyone else,’” Brown expressed. “My whole goal was that I didn’t need people to like me; I needed people to respect me.”
Through attending events such as the BSM Summit and remaining immersed in sports media and the conversation at large about the future of sports media, Brown can roughly delineate how she can perform her job at a high level.
Although the genuine future of this business is always subject to change, she and her team at ESPN Los Angeles 710 are trying to come up with new ideas to keep the content timely, accurate, informative, and entertaining. She is content in her role as program director with no aspirations to become a general manager; however, remaining in her current role requires consistent effort and a penchant for learning.
“Relationships are very important overall in this business whether you’re a programmer or not,” Brown said. “Relationships with your talent; relationships with your staff. If you invest in your people, then they’re going to be willing to work hard for you and do what you ask them to do.”
The 2023 BSM Summit is mere days away, and those from Los Angeles and numerous other marketplaces will make the trip to The Founder’s Club at the Galen Center at the University of Southern California (USC).
Aside from Brown, Kimes and Taylor, there will be other voices from across the industry sharing their thoughts on aspects of the industry and how to best shape it going forward, including Colin Cowherd, Rachel Nichols, Al Michaels and Eric Shanks. More details about the industry’s premiere media conference can be found at bsmsummit.com.
“I’m excited to be a female program director amongst male program directors for the first time and get a seat at the table and represent that there can be diversity in this position,” Brown said. “We don’t see a lot of it, but… there is an opportunity, and I hope I can be an example for other people out there [to show] that it’s possible.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, he interns in video production with the New York Islanders and formerly worked as production manager for the team’s radio broadcasts. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks, wrote for the Long Island Herald and served as lead sports producer at NY2C. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
Pat McAfee Has Thrown Our Business Into a Tailspin
Yet even with all the accomplishments he’s been able to achieve, McAfee is still anxious and unsatisfied with the state of his show and his career.
When you have one of the hottest talk shows in America, you’re always up to something. That’s the case for the most popular sports talk show host in America – Pat McAfee.
The former Pro Bowl punter was on top of the world on Wednesday. With over 496,000 concurrent viewers watching at one point, McAfee was able to garner an exclusive interview with frequent guest Aaron Rodgers who announced his intention to play for the Jets.
Yet even with all the accomplishments he’s been able to achieve — a new studio, consistent high viewership, a syndication deal with SportsGrid TV, a four-year, $120 million deal with FanDuel — McAfee is still anxious and unsatisfied with the state of his show and his career.
At the end of the day, he is human and he’s admitted that balancing his show, his ESPN gig with “College Gameday,” and his WWE obligations has taken a toll on him.
McAfee and his wife are expecting their first child soon and he recently told The New York Post he might step away from his deal with FanDuel. Operating his own company has come with the responsibility of making sure his studio is up and running, finding people to operate the technology that puts his show on the air, negotiating with huge behemoths like the NFL for game footage rights, booking guests, booking hotels, implementing marketing plans and other tasks that most on-air personalities rarely have to worry about.
McAfee says he’s looking for a network that would be able to take control of those duties while getting more rest and space to spend time with family while focusing strictly on hosting duties. FanDuel has its own network and has the money to fund such endeavors but is just getting started in the content game. McAfee needs a well-known entity to work with who can take his show to the next level while also honoring his wishes of keeping the show free on YouTube.
The question of how he’s going to be able to do it is something everyone in sports media will be watching. As The Post pointed out in their story, McAfee hasn’t frequently stayed with networks he’s been associated with in the past for too long. He’s worked with Westwood One, DAZN, and Barstool but hasn’t stayed for more than a year or two.
There’s an argument to be made that the latter two companies weren’t as experienced as a network when McAfee signed on with them compared to where they are today which could’ve pushed the host to leave. But at the end of the day, networks want to put money into long-term investments and it’s easy to see a network passing on working with McAfee for fear that he’ll leave them astray when he’s bored.
It’ll also be difficult for McAfee to find a network that doesn’t put him behind a paywall. Amazon and Google are rumored to be potential new homes. But both are trying to increase subscribers for their respective streaming services.
It will be difficult to sell Amazon on investing money to build a channel on YouTube – a rival platform. For Google, they may have the tech infrastructure to create television-like programming but they aren’t an experienced producer, they’ve never produced its own live, daily talk show, and investing in McAfee’s show doesn’t necessarily help increase the number of subscribers watching YouTube TV.
Networks like ESPN, CBS, NBC, and Fox might make sense to partner with. But McAfee faces the possibility of being censored due to corporate interests. Each of these networks also operates its networks or streaming channels that air talk programming of their own. Investing in McAfee could cannibalize the programming they already own.
And if McAfee works with a traditional network that isn’t ESPN, it could jeopardize his ability to host game casts for Omaha or analyze games on Gameday. It’s not impossible but would definitely be awkward on days that McAfee does his show remotely from locations of ESPN games with ESPN banners and signage that is visible in the background.
If SportsGrid has the money to invest in McAfee, they might be his best bet. They have all the attributes McAfee needs and they already have a relationship with him. It is probably unlikely that he’ll be censored and he would even be able to maintain a relationship with FanDuel – a company SportsGrid also works alongside.
Roku is another option — they already work with Rich Eisen — but they would move his show away from YouTube, something McAfee should resist since the majority of smart TV users use YT more than any other app.
If the NFL gave McAfee editorial independence, they would make the perfect partner but the likelihood of that happening is slim to none. NFL Media has independence but it was clear during the night of the Damar Hamlin incident that they will do whatever is necessary to stay away from serious topics that make the league look bad until it’s totally unavoidable.
It’s hard to think of a partner that matches up perfectly with McAfee’s aspirations. But once again, at the moment, he’s on top of the world so anything is possible. The talk show host’s next move will be even more interesting to watch than the other fascinating moves he’s already made that have put the sports media industry in a swivel.
Jessie Karangu is a columnist for BSM and graduate of the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland but comes from Kenyan roots. Jessie has had a passion for sports media and the world of television since he was a child. His career has included stints with USA Today, Tegna, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Sightline Media. He can be found on Twitter @JMKTVShow.
5 Tips For Networking At the BSM Summit
“Have a plan and don’t leave home without it.”
Bring your game plan if you attend the BSM Summit in LA next Tuesday and Wednesday. No matter your purpose for attending: to learn, get a job, speak, or sell an idea, you must be able to read the room. To do that, it helps to know who will be there and how you can cure their pain.
Have a plan and don’t leave home without it. If you have time, buy How to Work a Room by Susan Roane. If you don’t, just follow these five tips:
- INTRODUCE YOURSELF: Before you arrive at The Summit, figure out what you want, who you want to meet, and what you will say. Once you get there, scout out the room and see if anyone of those people are available. Talk to speakers after they have spoken- don’t worry if you miss what the next speaker says. You are there to meet new people! Most speakers do not stick around for the entire schedule, and you don’t know if they will attend any after-parties, so don’t risk it. Refine your elevator pitch and break the ice with something you have in common. Make sure you introduce yourself to Stephanie, Demetri and Jason from BSM. They know everybody and will help you if they can.
- GET A NAME TAG: Don’t assume that name tags will be provided. Bring your own if you and make your name clear to read. If you are looking to move to LA or want to sell a system to book better guests, put it briefly under your name. Study this to get better at remembering names.
- LOSE THE NOTEBOOK: When you meet folks, ensure your hands are free. Have a business card handy and ask for one of theirs. Remember to look people in the eye and notice what they are doing. If they are scanning the room, pause until they realize they are blowing you off. Do whatever it takes to sound upbeat and open. Don’t let their clothes, hair, or piercings distract from your message. You don’t need to wear a suit and tie but do bring your best business casual wear. A blazer isn’t a bad idea either.
- SHUT UP FIRST! The art of knowing when to end the convo is something you will have to practice. You can tell when the other person’s eye starts darting or they are not using body language that tells you the convo will continue. You end it by telling them you appreciate meeting them and want to connect via email. Ask for a business card. Email is more challenging to ignore than a LinkedIn request, and you can be more detailed in what you want via email.
- WORK THE SCHEDULE: Know who speaks when. That is when you will find the speakers hanging around. Plan your lunch outing to include a few fellow attendees. Be open and conversational with those around you. I am a huge USC fan, so I would walk to McKays– a good spot with plenty of USC football memorabilia on the walls. Sometimes you can find the next day’s speakers at the Day 1 after party. Need a bar? Hit the 901 Club for cheap beer, drinks, and food.
Jeff Caves is a sales columnist for BSM working in radio, digital, hyper-local magazine, and sports sponsorship sales in DFW. He is credited with helping launch, build, and develop SPORTS RADIO The Ticket in Boise, Idaho, into the market’s top sports radio station. During his 26 year stay at KTIK, Caves hosted drive time, programmed the station, and excelled as a top seller. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter @jeffcaves.
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