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It’s A New Industry And Joe Fortenbaugh’s Right In The Middle Of It

“The sky’s the limit. We’re in 18 states right now and by the next election we could have as many as 24 or 25. And, the projections by 2025 have it at maybe 40 States so it’s similar to what happened with marijuana.”

Vik Chokshi




Joe Fortenbaugh grew up obsessed with sports. The Allentown, PA native’s favorite athletes included Allen Iverson and Donovan McNabb. In the fifth grade, Fortenbaugh’s class project was to give a speech about one of his role-models. While his other classmates talked about parents and family members, Joe expressed his appreciation of Barry Sanders. 


In 2003, Fortenbaugh graduated from Penn State and was on his way to Thomas Jefferson’s School of Law in San Diego. His reasoning behind getting a law degree was simple: learn contract law and become a sports agent. 

Since his mindset coming out of High School was to work in sports, he knew he needed one more thing along with a law degree to really make it, real-world experience. During his 1L year at Thomas Jefferson, Joe wanted to get an internship, so he searched for NFL agents that were based out of the San Diego area. This is how he came across the name Jack Bechta, San Francisco 49er George Kittle’s agent.

Joe put together his resume and a cover letter and mailed it to Bechta. To stick out from the norm, his plan was to send his resume and a different cover letter to Jack every single day for a month. If he didn’t hear from the agent after a month, his plan was to then start calling the agency every single day for another month. And, if he still had not heard back from them after two months, Joe was going to just show up at their door every single day for that third month.

After 23 days and 23 letters, Fortenbaugh received a phone call from Joe Palumbo (an agent that worked for Jack), who said, “enough of the letters, just come in and meet us”. 

The meeting went well and Bechta ended up giving him an unpaid internship that lasted his whole tenure at Law School. Post graduation, Joe had a job opportunity with the agency, but he wanted to  make money right away so he decided to go another route. 

Joe bounced around a little bit, which included stints of playing online poker and working in Minor League Baseball. While in the Minors, Joe received a call from Becha who was launching a website called National Football Post. Bechta wanted to bring Joe on as a jack of all trades to manage the website. Joe jumped at the opportunity, as he was making only $500 bucks a month working in the Minors despite working crazy hours. 

The website launched in August of 2008, and things were going great. He was writing, traveling, the whole nine yards. Then in August of 2011, while still working NFP, Joe decided he wanted to get into the gambling space. He foresaw it being the next big thing, so his plan was to move out to Las Vegas for one football season to get to know all the oddsmakers and learn about the industry. His thought process was that if sports betting was ever legalized, he might be of value to one of these bigger networks. From then on, Joe started doing more and more gambling related posts and even a video series with various gambling industry professionals.

Fortenbaugh would put together a solid resume, which included of course the, hosting “The Sharp 600″ sports betting podcast for, being a San Francisco morning show host for 95.7 The Game, appearing as a sports betting analyst on dozens of radio shows around the country and doing freelance columns for USA Today and, among others.

Fast forward to 2018 and Fortenbaugh’s gamble paid off in a big way when the Supreme Court deemed the Professional and Amatuer Sports Protection Act of 1992 unconstitutional, thus allowing legal sports betting  to spread. While ESPN had showcased sports betting segments like Chris Berman’s “Swami Sez” and Scott Van Pelt’s “Bad Beats” for years on “SportsCenter”, gambling went to a completely different level after the ruling. 

PASPA Repeal Odds in NJ's Favor Following Supreme Court Hearing

As a result of the Court’s decision, Gambling spread into 22 total jurisdictions (if you count the four states that have passed legislation but haven’t launched wagering yet). Because of the big boom, ESPN dipped more than just their toes into sports gambling. By building a new Las Vegas studio to expand their focus on games and odds, I’d say they’ve gone all-in. 

That is where Fortenbaugh comes in. He has relocated to Las Vegas to do TV, radio and digital for ESPN, headlined by working alongside co-host Doug Kezerian on ESPN’s Daily Wager. He will also co-host both a new digital sports betting program (not named yet) and has joined the cast of GameDay, an ESPN Radio show every Saturday with Matt Jones and Myron Medcalf. ESPN began using Fortenbaugh as a guest in March of last year when the network launched The Daily Wager

But, it wasn’t all roses for Fortenbaugh, who faced many hurdles along the way. So many, that his dad had the “talk” with him about having a backup plan and he himself even looked into potentially going to school to become a blackjack dealer. 

“Before I broke in it felt like at every point before the next step happened I was almost at a breaking point where nothing was going to work out … A lot of heartbreak and coming up just short on jobs I wanted … A lot of 15-hour plus workdays.”

I asked him about his thoughts on the future of the gambling industry. Joe, like many others, is optimistic about the boom.

“The sky’s the limit. We’re in 18 states right now and by the next election we could have as many as 24 or 25. And, the projections by 2025 have it at maybe 40 States so it’s similar to what happened with marijuana … On the job front, this is going to open up a lot of opportunities for people. You’re going to need production people, camera people, sound people, makeup people, writers, audio, etc. and you’re going to see opportunity for everyone from a corporate standpoint as well.”

The only word of caution Joe gives is to make sure you vet out who you follow and listen to in the industry.

“It’s a new industry and everyone’s talking about spreads now. There are going to be people that understand the information, and there are going to be people who don’t. Some guys might not and you have to do what you do with a lot of your information. You are going to have to be diligent and sort through it just like news and politics.”

During our conversation, another hot topic, social media, also came up. I asked him about his advice on dealing with internet trolls. While he loves using Twitter as a creative resource, he doesn’t like the negativity and vitriol. In the end, he understands that comes along with the job. 

Fortenbaugh recited a family trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming that changed his perspective on things. Seeing his kids running free outside and the beauty of the outdoors made him realize that there was more to life than being connected to his phone and social media in general. But, he gets it.

REVEALED: The Best of Jackson Hole Guidebook Cover Photo - Buckrail - Jackson  Hole, news

“I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t pay attention to it. If you are going to use social media, it’s going to be very difficult to avoid the negativity. Trust the process and on the flipside, the trolls will keep you focused and hungry.”

As for advice to anyone trying to make it in the industry itself?

“Just start doing it. Just grind. Just start getting your reps. Do a podcast, do a livestream, do whatever you can. Right now is a wonderful time for young people who are trying to get into the industry because you don’t need to actually be hired to do it. You don’t need to wait for a newspaper to give you a job, you can start a blog, you can just start tweeting, you can do a livestream where you don’t need a great technical production because the best thing that’s going to happen is you’re going to get your reps in.

“I was awful on the radio, tv and in writing when I first started. By no means am I great now, but I’m a lot better than when I first started because I got the reps in and the experience. And, I study people in the industry who are very good.

“Let me tell you something if you’re single and you don’t have children, you have no excuse. Once you have kids, you’re going to want to be a Dad or Mom and you’re going to have to find that balance and the time is not going to be there like it used to be where you could put in 16 hours a day 7 days a week, so get it done now.”

Before we parted ways, I asked Joe a personal question. Being a gambler myself, I had to ask him about his favorite NFL bets for Week 1. 

“If the number gets to +3 (currently +2.5), I like the Los Angeles Rams in that Sunday night game against the Dallas Cowboys. I’ll also take the Minnesota Vikings -2.5 at home against the Green Bay Packers. I am not a fan of Green Bay this year. Look at their record in one score games, look at their turnover differential. They are kind of a house of cards. Rogers’ numbers are way down, second worst completion percentage of the last 12 years and his second worst quarterback rating of the last 11 years. They drafted Jordan Love so there’s going to be that pressure on him. And, I love Minnesota’s acquisition of Ngakoue, so they are going to be bolstered on defense.”

In 2003 Fortenbaugh had aspirations of becoming an agent. Fast forward 17 years later and his life has turned out very different than he imagined at that time. 

Cole on Twitter: "Joe Fortenbaugh from Daily Wager gave out Florida-7 this  morning on Sportscenter… "

“My ultimate goal was happiness. I wanted to grow up and do something that I loved.”

After speaking with him and from the looks of things, it worked out just fine. I’d even say, it all came up aces.

BSM Writers

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.”

Derek Futterman




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 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

“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.”

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BSM Writers

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.

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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.

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BSM Writers

5 Tips For Networking At the BSM Summit

“Have a plan and don’t leave home without it.”

Jeff Caves




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:

  1. 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.  
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. 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. 
  5. 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. 

You’re welcome. 

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Barrett Media Writers

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