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Jeff Cavanaugh Is Winning His Own Way

“I record whenever I want and sometimes I do one thing a day, sometimes two or three a day, sometimes nothing. I have no structure to it and I like that.”

Tyler McComas




Show prep looks a lot different for Jeff Cavanaugh than it did six months ago. Last year, while hosting at 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, he spent more time dreading preparing and filling his five-hour show than he spent enjoying it. It wasn’t a fun realization, but Cavanaugh knew feeling that way about his job was a huge problem. So instead of just pressing along and being unhappy, he did something about it. 

On February 16th, Cavanaugh sent out a tweet that shocked many of his listeners. He announced he was leaving GBag Nation on The Fan in Dallas after 11 years. He explained his decision by admitting he didn’t have the same love for doing the show each day. It was a statement that revealed just how much he was struggling with the day-to-day grind of doing a five-hour radio show. 

The official announcement came in mid-February, but the decision had been brewing for several months. Cavanaugh left without having another radio station or gig to fall back on. 

“I would say it had been building for at least a year,” said Cavanaugh. “It’s a combination of things, the way that I left, I was friends with everybody. I don’t know how common it is to put in a two weeks notice and work the two weeks. I feel like normally in radio they just kick you off. But I knew it had just ground me down.

“Five hours a day and we were allowed to go off the sports page, but like anybody else, it needs to be mostly about sports. I just got to the point where I was trying to fill segments. Instead of doing something good, energizing, interesting, it just felt like work. And we’re lucky enough in our line of business that it doesn’t feel like work. For a long time, it didn’t. But it became a thing where I didn’t look forward to work and I knew I had built enough to do it another way if I wanted to.

“Like anybody I think there was an element of, when you get an offer from your company for your next contract, and you see what it’s going to look like, I did not think it reflected the value that I had and I let that be known. But I didn’t make that an issue on the way out, because money wasn’t going to fix it. Was there an element of disagreement on value? Yeah. I felt I was more valuable than they were showing me. That was probably the final little tipping point, where it was like, ‘ok, I’ll prove it. I’ll do it myself. I’ll build it.”

So Cavanaugh set out to bet on himself. He still writes about the Dallas Cowboys for The Athletic, and D Magazine, but now he’s talking about sports on YouTube.

Looking back now it’s almost fate he decided to take his career in the direction he did. That’s because his introduction to talking about sports in the digital space happened by accident. 

“It was accidental,” Cavanaugh said. “Like a lot of companies in radio, they came to the realization how important digital was and they wanted their on-air hosts to contribute with video. And it was like, ok, the file that I’m going to send is too big to email, so how am I going to do this? The answer for me was, I’ll upload it to a YouTube page and then send it. So they would post it on their own and get views for the website and all of a sudden I keep seeing subscriber numbers go up, and it said, ‘hey, do you want to turn on monetization? You’ve reached the level for that. It ended up being something that was good for them and for me.”

It’s easier said than done to leave a radio station, bet on yourself and become your own boss. Amongst many other things, you have to build an audience and know how to monetize your content. But if you can do those things, this may be the best time ever to try. Cavanaugh is a great example of that. 

“I won’t close the door on radio if somebody agrees with what I think that job looks like for me,” Cavanaugh said. “I wouldn’t close the door on that, but I think the digital world, there’s so many ways to monetize it. You have to build a following first, but once you do, you can do that. You can do this without going into work. You can do this without a boss, between YouTube and Twitch and then you upload the audio to podcast formats and then you sell sponsorships. There’s a lot out there that can be done without working for somebody else.”

Cavanaugh’s new journey is only a few months old, but has he found the happiness he was looking for? He thinks he’s getting there.

Prep work isn’t dreaded anymore. In fact, prep work sometimes means asking his followers on Twitter what they care to hear about. He’ll comb through his responses and decide what would suit the audience best. It’s a brilliant way to go about selecting content. 

“I don’t spend more than 20-30 minutes prepping anymore. It’s just the way my brain works too, because that’s the way I believe in doing it. I don’t script anything. I never have. Even with bits or a Jerry Jones impersonation. I don’t edit the stuff I do on YouTube either. I am very much a, what’s going on in your brain right now? Just say it. Just do it. It doesn’t have to be that I’m trying to prove something to you about this topic or that I have a strong opinion on this topic. It’s almost a podcast form. That’s more for me.”

There was a realization that struck Cavanaugh shortly after he left the station. Initially, he thought he’d be live on YouTube from 7-8 pm every night. Why? That’s when his old competitor, The Ticket in Dallas, was off the air. That way, he could more easily get guests from the station without competing with their local programming. 

But then it hit him. His initial plan ran counter to why he left The Fan. He was leaving one structured format and creating his own. 

“Within a week I said, no, that’s not what I quit for,” Cavanaugh said. “So no schedule, I record whenever I want and sometimes I do one thing a day, sometimes two or three a day, sometimes nothing. I have no structure to it and I like that.”

To be able to say what you want, when you want, however many times a day you want, is a dream scenario for any broadcaster. Also, it allows him to do a show with whoever he wants. Before, that wasn’t possible. Now, Cavanaugh dictates everything. 

“Bob Sturm is a guy who, for my money, is one of the three best Cowboys resources on the planet,” Cavanaugh said. “I include myself in that category and I include my former co-worker Bryan Broaddus. But I want to be able to broadcast with them. I think that’s cool for the listeners. You can’t do that when you work in the same town for other stations. It’s not allowed. I want to do a show with my buddy Dane Brugler at The Athletic, because I think he’s the best NFL Draft resource on the planet. The Athletic and our former parent company Audacy don’t have an agreement and therefore we can’t have The Athletic people on. I want to be able to talk to who I want, when I want.”

I logged on to one of Cavanaugh’s YouTube shows earlier this week. Before he could even recount what Jerry Jones said earlier in the day, comments were pouring in on the live chat. I was incredibly impressed and took notice of how he interacted with all the comments. Instantly I thought, yeah, this is what he’s made for. And judging by the number of subscribers, I’m not the only one. As of last check, Cavanaugh has built a following to the tune of 29,700.

But what has Cavanaugh learned about developing a personal relationship with his viewers? 

“It’s less about the sports content than it is about real life,” Cavanaugh said. “I forgot what the story was in sports, but it was something I decided to talk about on the air. It became emotional and it was where I almost involuntarily became a spokesman for all mental health topics, which is kind of weird but I’m totally down for it, because being an open book is way easier than playing a character. That’s where I learned the connection. People connected to me the last few years way more than the guy who started in radio eleven and a half years ago and hadn’t really figured himself out yet. It happened by accident and being a real person. Not by sports.”

So what’s Cavanaugh going to do today? Well, whatever he feels like. Same thing for tomorrow and the day after that. He left a world with complete structure and now has none. And that’s how he likes it. 

But there’s no hard feelings towards The Fan. In fact, he says he’s close friends with a lot of the people in the building. But it is important to note that he was a talent doing five hours of radio a day and left because he lost the energy and passion. What can the industry do to make sure more instances of this don’t continue to happen? 

“Ultimately, it’s nearly impossible,” Cavanaugh said. “Gavin (Spittle, the station’s program director) is a friend of mine and I left with no hard feelings toward him, the station or the team. It’s hard because it’s a company. It’s not like Gavin can unilaterally say, ‘You know what? You’re right. Here’s what you deserve and here’s what we’re going to do.’

“For instance, our parent company was in Philadelphia and they don’t know how I am.  So I can say I’m worth this and my boss can agree with me, but if you want to really make something happen, you would be willing to have to go to war with someone that doesn’t even know who you are. It’s a hard part of the industry. Honestly, they might have viewed it as a positive when I left, because whoever replaces me, will do it for less.

“The goal is to win, not to save money. If I were a PD, my thing would be to hire creative, talented people and do the best you can to ensure they enjoy the structure they’re working in. And then get out of the way. That’s how you win.”

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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