Fred Toucher Is Making His Own Path
“I didn’t go to Syracuse and work at the school newspaper in the sports department. There’s different paths to get into the industry. You don’t have to follow the same path as everyone else.”
Not all paths are the same. And not many paths resemble Fred Toucher’s journey in radio. The Detroit native openly roots for the New York Jets, bashes New England Patriots crybaby fans, and hosts a successful morning show in Boston. How in the holy hell does that add up?
Unconventional works if you’re authentic, which certainly sums up Toucher. Along with his radio partner, Rich Shertenlieb, Toucher & Rich has been a fixture on 98.5 The Sports Hub since 2009.
Toucher was a rock radio host for over a decade. He teamed up with Rich in 2006 at rock station WBCN in Boston. They eventually migrated to sports radio a few years later where they still thrive today. As Tom Brady tweeted when Ben Roethlisberger retired — there’s more than one way to bake a cake — the same is true in radio. Toucher is proof of it.
We chat about his uncommon path, admitting you’re an outsider, his hatred for the Patriots, and Toucher’s actual last name. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: How did you end up in Boston when you’re originally from Detroit?
Fred Toettcher: I was in Atlanta for eight years. I was at 99X in Atlanta when Cumulus bought 99X. I didn’t like the Dickey brothers and they were local, which was going to be a big pain in the ass. I asked if I could get out of my contract and they didn’t put up much of a fight.
I had known Rich from working at 99X when he worked there. A consultant, Randy Lane, helped us get together and we auditioned for CBS in Phoenix. Then CBS put us in Boston doing afternoons at BCN. That’s it. Eight years in Atlanta, then started here in 2006.
BN: What led you to going from Detroit to Atlanta initially?
FT: I went to college in Florida. I got out of college and I was interning for The Mitch Albom Show in Detroit. My best friend moved to Atlanta, so I just moved to Atlanta and worked there. It was CBS’s decision to move us to Boston. It wasn’t my intent to live in Boston, it was CBS’s thought. I guess my personality is suited for the Northeast is what everyone said. Sort of more caustic, probably better than the South.
BN: What did you think at the time when it was down to Phoenix versus Boston and how it shook out?
FT: Oh, I was glad that we ended up in Boston. I’m not a big fan of Phoenix. It was weird because this actually happened; they were like all right, we really liked your audition, but we’re not going to put you in Phoenix. They were like, we’re not going to tell you where we want you; we’re going to tell you where we want you on this date.
This guy, who did the show with us when we first started, and I went to this bar in Atlanta and waited around. It was like the draft. We waited around for a phone call from my agent to tell us where we would be moving to. That was pretty strange how they did it. Then we had five days to find a place to live and everything. It probably could’ve been handled better.
BN: [Laughs] That’s a wild story. In what ways has the show changed from initially being on a rock station to now being on a sports station?
FT: Things were still pretty wild in rock radio when we got to Boston. There were so many things that we couldn’t do now and probably wouldn’t want to do now. The sports format gave us much more structure. Knowing that you had to devote a lot of time to sports on the show definitely helped in terms of focus and everything. I’m glad that we were on rock radio when we were on it, but we probably wouldn’t have lasted in one market if we were in rock radio.
I think it also gave older people permission to listen to our show. A lot of people would be like, I don’t listen to BCN anymore, I’m too old. People in their 30s were like, I’m too old for BCN. So when we went to the sports format, it’s like people felt, well, this is a format that I can listen to. Our older audience got much bigger almost immediately.
Those are the two big things is that it gave people permission and also forced us to structure the show. It wasn’t easy. We had to meet with the programmer, Mike Thomas, every day for a year after the show to hash out how the show was going to be. I’m sure that wasn’t his idea of fun. That was a pain in the ass, but it ended up obviously working out.
BN: Were those times hard or undesirable?
FT: Yeah, there was also the belief — I knew it wasn’t true — but the belief that they were just keeping us around until our contracts were up. People were like, well, they’re just going to get fired. They’re not going to be here when their contract is up. The audience was like, who the fuck are you guys? You guys don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. You’re not sports guys.
Yeah, it was very difficult for the first year. It was no fun. Rich didn’t want to do sports. He tried really hard, but he didn’t really want to be doing it so that was difficult as well. The first six months were miserable.
Then the station started succeeding and every show succeeded on the same path. That’s all you’re doing at that point; you don’t want the other shows to outperform you if you’re us. We were performing as well as the other shows. Everyone started performing well about six months after we started. We weren’t number one or anything, but we were getting pretty good ratings. The pressure was starting to dwindle a little bit after six months, but the first year was not fun.
BN: If I would’ve told you back in ’09 that you’d be sitting here in 2022 enjoying the success that you have, would you have believed it?
FT: No, no, no. No one would’ve. No one would’ve thought the station would be this successful. Certainly no one would’ve thought our show would’ve been successful. I didn’t think that our show was successful. I didn’t know why they kept us. It was a big gamble for them to keep us from BCN. No one else thought they should have. No, there was no way I thought I’d still be in Boston.
I thought when BCN ended I had a pretty good inclination like a year before, I thought we were going to get fired. Then they told us they were keeping us six months before BCN went off the air. I thought I was going to get fired then and I certainly thought I was going to get fired after our first contract was up. No, I didn’t think there was any chance this was going to happen.
BN: What does it take for an outsider to be accepted as a host in Boston?
FT: To admit you’re an outsider. To not try to front like you’re not. Everything around here is impossible. The town names are impossible to pronounce. Everything is pronounced wrong. Everything is weird. If you come in and have flashcards trying to learn everything about the town, it’s going to come off very phony. My advice would be, just admit that you’re not from here. Admit if you weren’t on a sports station. Admit that you’re not a sports reporter. Just lay it out and if people accept you, they accept you. If they don’t, they don’t. But they will. I think the region values honesty.
BN: What’s your role during the BSM Summit?
FT: I don’t know. [Laughs]
BN: You just said yeah, I’ll be a part of it.
FT: Yeah, 11:30 in the morning I think I’m supposed to do something. I’m on with Felger and Carton. I’m not sure, though. [Laughs] I’m not positive. I know I’m not giving a speech. I know that. I think it’s probably a group of us. I’m hoping. I’ve prepared nothing, so I don’t know. [Laughs]
BN: Are you looking forward to it?
FT: Yeah, I haven’t been at an industry thing in a really long time. Like decades. I’ve only met my agent once, so she’ll be there. I’m sure I’ll see people I haven’t seen in a really long time. I like that stuff. I never have the opportunity to go do that kind of stuff. I’m never invited to anything.
BN: [Laughs] What are you hoping to gain by being there, or to provide by being there?
FT: Really, I’m going for fun and maybe to connect with some people that I haven’t seen. We’re syndicated now and always looking to pick up affiliates. If I’m out there and there’s someone from a small enough market that would take our show, I’d welcome that. Like everyone else, to go out and meet the people.
I hope that I have some insight. I don’t know if people go to these things to learn something. If there are people coming that want to get into sports radio, hopefully I can deliver some insight. I think my story is very odd and if I can do it, that should lead people to be inspired that they can do it.
I didn’t go to Syracuse and work at the school newspaper in the sports department. There’s different paths to get into the industry. You don’t have to follow the same path as everyone else. I think that’s probably a good message. I probably have one of the odder origin stories of anyone there. That I can offer.
BN: Is there anything from rock radio that you miss?
FT: Yeah, some days I don’t want to talk about sports at all. It’s like anything else; if you do it for a living, you get sick of it. We don’t talk about sports every break, but we have to talk about sports. There are days that I just don’t want to. Rock radio, you can do whatever you want. You don’t talk about rock music all the time.
In the long run, it’s not as good because you don’t have anything to fall back on. But there are days where I’m like, aww, I really don’t want to fuckin’ talk about sports. I don’t care. Especially if something contrived is happening that I find annoying. Like a lot of Patriots shit, I know what it’s going to be like going in the next day. I really don’t want to talk about this and hear the same thing. You’ll see stuff on Twitter and everyone’s saying the same thing and you’re like, ugh, I have to get in tomorrow and hear all of this again.
BN: What are some of the things you do today that you wouldn’t typically hear on a sports radio show?
FT: We do a lot of stuff. When I first moved to Boston, there’s this town called Brookline that’s like this really academic, annoying town. It was hell living there. Everyone’s yelling at you. There was one guy that had a megaphone on his front porch and if you stepped on his lawn he would be able to yell at you from his couch. We take the real 911 calls from Brookline and play them and make fun of them. So we do everybody’s angry in Brookline.
We do recaps where we have a kid on our show go out and talk to people, like weirdos after games. It started off being a drunken recap, but that got old. We met so many strange characters with him just being on the streets of Boston at night, just a bunch of weirdos and stuff. So we do that. We don’t have a lot of regular bits. We don’t have anything that we do on Wednesday at 8 o’clock or anything.
BN: I noticed on your email that your last name is spelled differently [Toettcher]. You don’t have a stage name, but is it a stage spelling of your last name?
FT: Yes, my regular spelling, no one would know my name is Toucher. It’s T-O-E-T-T; it’s very full-on German. No one would know what the hell it was. When I was at 99X, Sean Demery was like you have a cool last name, you should go by Toucher. It wasn’t even Fred Toucher, he was like you should go by Toucher. I’m like okay, so I did nights as Toucher. But I thought in print, no one’s going to know what the fuck this name is. So yeah, it’s phonetically spelled. Much to the delight of everyone at the doctor’s office when they ask for your email.
BN: [Laughs] What ideally would you want your future to be in radio or beyond?
FT: I would like it if the syndication grew. You always want a new challenge. I’m always interested in opportunities outside of radio. Not to exchange my career, but in addition to doing the radio show. Right now, in terms of radio, just to keep growing.
We’re syndicated in four other markets now, so it’s not really a big deal. But it’s all set up now. I can tell you it’s very lucrative. [Laughs] No money is exchanged, but we’ve paid for everything. It’s all set up. To continue to do that and to continue to grow that would be exciting. Obviously keep doing well in Boston, but to try to grow the brand just for the challenge would be a lot of fun.
BN: What’s the most fun that you’ve had during your career?
FT: I know for sure what it is. We got to be on the duck boat when the Bruins won the 2011 Stanley Cup. That was really, really, really cool. That was by far the best moment, the moment that I’ll always remember. It’s my I’ve-been-on-the-moon story. It’s my trump-card story. I have it in my phone, all the videos of it. There were a million and a half people in the city.
When a team here wins, they’re called duck boats. There are these things that tourists take. They are cars and they also can float. We got to be on one of them. It was us and the Bruins. There weren’t many other people that weren’t on the Bruins. That was awesome. We had only been on The Sports Hub for like two years. That was fun. That was the best.
BN: How did that come about?
FT: I don’t know. The station picked us, I think, because we’re not reporters. Probably the other shows thought it would look bad because they’re supposed to be above that. Also I was a big proponent of hockey, which helped us a lot very early. The Bruins really helped us. I developed a relationship with them at BCN. I’m a big hockey fan. No one was talking about the Bruins, so I develop this relationship with them. It was great, great timing; when they started The Sports Hub, the Bruins started to get really, really good.
I think the combination of my relationship and my pom-pom waving for them, which has stopped now, but my pom-pom waving for them and the idea that we’re not journalists I think was why the station let us go. The station could’ve put themselves on it, my management could’ve put themselves on it, but they picked us, which was very nice of them.
BN: Is there anything that you hate talking about in that area?
FT: I hate the Patriots. I don’t mind talking about them, especially now. But Deflategate was the worst. Deflategate was the worst. I hated it. We actually stopped talking about it during the height of it because I couldn’t take it anymore. Listeners going over legal documents and science data and stuff. It was so boring. The victim mentality of the Patriots fans is so annoying. I hated Deflategate. Rich would tell you the same thing. I really didn’t like it.
You have to understand people talked about it all day, every day here. All day, every day. The Patriots fans are so whiny and entitled because for 20 years, they’ve been so good. If you’re in your 30s, you don’t know anything other than the Patriots winning, which is funny because they think this is just going to continue now. They don’t know what it’s like to root for anyone else.
Any other team, there’s peaks and valleys. I’m a Jets fan, so I’ve hated the Patriots my whole life. [Laughs] And now I really hate the Patriots. But they’ve helped make me a comfortable living, so I’ve got that going for me.
BN: I’ll tell you, man, you have an amazing story. Being from Detroit, Jets fan, doing a morning show on a sports station in Boston, dude. That’s crazy.
FT: Yeah, I admit that I’m a Jets fan too, which everyone uses against me. Oh, he’s just making excuses; he’s a Jets fan. But I was very honest about that. I guarantee you a consultant wouldn’t tell you to come on Boston sports talk and say you’re a Jets fan. I can assure you. Or call their fans crybabies and losers. But it’s worked out. A consultant would tell you not to do that, so don’t always listen to consultants. They just give you the easiest road.
BN: I’d imagine that you’re selling a different product than pretty much anybody else in that market. When you come out and say I’m a Jets fan, I don’t know how to pronounce these town names, do you think there’s something about being different and authentic that helps you be successful?
FT: I think it was necessary for us. We would never have succeeded if we hadn’t done it. I mean if you think about it, I’ve always thought about it like this: If you were out to dinner with five people and you didn’t know three of them, say you’re a big Yankee fan and you were at a table and someone says, oh hey, did you see the Yankee game? And you’re like no, I’m a Red Sox fan. They’re not going to get up from the table and leave. It’s not something that you’re going to judge a person’s character by.
I think in our case, I talk a lot about my personal life. I don’t know why. It just happens for better or for worse, sometimes worse. I think just being authentic because we didn’t have the sports credibility. So yeah, you’re kind of selling yourself to people and you’re just going, this is the authentic person that I am within reason.
You probably wouldn’t talk for four hours if given your druthers, but here’s the authentic person I am talking into a microphone, so you can judge me. We’re not like Felger & Mazz who immediately had this sports credibility. They only talk about sports. They have the cred to do that. I think we were forced to kind of sell ourselves. I think just being authentic was necessary for us.
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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