Jeff Catlin: No Matter Who Is In Town, The Ticket is the Bar
No matter who’s in town or not in town, or who our competitors are or aren’t, we’ve always felt like our bar is ourselves.
Believe it or not, there is a lot of common ground between coaching an NFL team and coaching a radio station. Take this quote for instance; is it from a coach or a programmer? “We have to focus on ourselves and we have to focus on our process and our vision. That’s just to continue to grow, continue to get better every week.” It’s from Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott before he faced the New England Patriots for the first time back in 2017. It sounds an awful lot like Jeff Catlin too.
Catlin is the Program Director at 96.7 The Ticket in Dallas. Like McDermott and many other NFL coaches and teams, Catlin focuses on his building and staff, not the competition. Sure, he politely answers a question about Mike Rhyner, the Godfather of The Ticket, coming out of retirement to join a new crosstown rival, The Freak. But Catlin isn’t distracted by what other stations in town are doing. He makes it clear that his focal point is The Ticket.
Catlin also talks about the most important lesson for a PD to learn, why talking about non-sports topics works for some stations but not others, and The Ticket being nominated for what would be its fifth Marconi for Sports Station of the Year. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: Where are you originally from?
Jeff Catlin: I’m from Arlington, Texas, USA.
BN: Okay, wow, so you haven’t strayed too far from your backyard?
JC: Yeah, I was the PD of KCMO AM in Kansas City from 2000 to 2003. But otherwise, yeah, I’ve spent the entirety of my career in Dallas Fort Worth, except for those two and a half years.
BN: What were those two and a half years like for you in Kansas City being away from home?
JC: It was great. I love Kansas City. I think Kansas City is a great town, it’s a great place to live. It was a great learning experience. That was my first PD job. I was able to really learn a lot there. It was with the same company I had been working for, so in terms of a move it wasn’t that difficult. It’s not too far away from where I was from. We had family and friends visit a lot and we came back to Texas a lot. It all worked out great.
The main difference business-wise in a town like Kansas City versus a market like Dallas, is there was really just three radio companies working in Kansas City at the time. In a market like Dallas, you have all three of the major companies, and then you have another three or four smaller broadcasters, and then a bunch of mom and pops. There’s a lot more competition here. There’s also a lot more companies doing business, where in Kansas City, it was much smaller.
BN: What led to you becoming a PD in the first place?
JC: When I was here at The Ticket in Dallas, Susquehanna was the company at the time. I was the assistant PD and I was the producer of the afternoon drive show. I knew that I wanted to be a PD. The PD here at the time wasn’t really going anywhere; he was kind of entrenched. I had had this goal professionally that I wanted to try to be a PD before I was 30 years old. When this opening came up in Kansas City, as I mentioned, it was with the same company for KCMO. So I went to my bosses in Dallas and said, ‘Hey, this is something that I want to apply for; it’s something that I really want to do.’
It was a different format. It was a news talk format versus a sports format. I thought that was great. It was still spoken word, but it would just give me another opportunity to try something similar, yet different format-wise. They encouraged me and the fact that it was with the same company kind of gave me a safety net because if I got the job, which I did, I would still be working with all the same corporate folks and it would kind of help me along. I thought that was really great and it turned out to be a great.
We had some success when I was there. The station was kind of starting over and it did allow me to learn a lot of different things. I learned some lessons as being a program director there that I still carry with me to this day. Overall, it was just a great experience. When I got there, I never thought I would move back to Dallas again, or come back to The Ticket. That wasn’t my intention.
My intention was to take that job in Kansas City at KCMO and be there and see where it led from there. That was how I approached it. I think that’s the way that you have to approach things, you can’t really approach a job like you’re only going to be there for a year or two because otherwise you’re always looking down the road and you’re not giving that particular station at that particular time your full attention and focus.
BN: What were a couple of the most important things that you needed to learn back then that you still apply today?
JC: The number one thing for any young programmer is just remember that it’s always about the people. When I was younger and when I got that job I just had a bunch of ideas for the format clocks and service elements and the promos and the rejoin beds and what I want the content to be focused on and all those kind of things. And that’s great. So you write all these notes down on your legal pad. But at some point, you have to be in a conference room, or a studio, or an office with the people that are on the air and running the board and producing those shows and doing the news updates. You’ve got to communicate your vision to them and they have to execute it.
You can have the best sounding radio station playing in your head 24/7, but at some point it’s about the people. It’s about communicating to your team what you want, and what your expectations are, coaching them on the way things are being done that are right, and those that need to be improved, and then getting all those ideas out onto the air. It ultimately comes down to somebody else. I think that’s hugely important to remember as a PD because you have to empower folks to do those things, and you have to communicate at every level in every way to people, what that vision is, how to execute it, and then how to follow up and critique and all those kinds of things.
Everybody’s different. You hear this all the time about people: ‘Well, everybody’s personality is different.’ And that’s so true. Some people want to be told. Some people want to be shown. Some people want to see a memo. Some people need all three. I think that was a big thing that I learned initially was just because you’re the PD and you have an idea and you say something, it doesn’t mean it’s going to make it on the air immediately.
BN: The Ticket strays outside of just hardcore sports. And it’s worked for you guys tremendously. Why does that formula work so well for your station?
JC: I think it’s kind of a misconception among sports radio listeners and programmers and talent is that this is the formula that works, X, Y, or Z. First of all, every city and every market is different. What works on the East Coast is not going to work in Dallas, Texas, and what’s working in Dallas may not work in California, or Seattle, Washington. Every market is different.
Going way back to the early days of The Ticket, and I was part of that, we went several years where all we did was talk about sports. I use this joke all the time; for the first two or three years we were on the air, all we talked about was does Pete Rose belong in the Hall of Fame and who’s better, Emmitt Smith or Barry Sanders.
But over time, as you start to develop the radio station and develop a relationship with your audience — and this is super important — without a very strong relationship with your audience based on sports or whatever, they’re not going to really allow you as a talk show host or producer or station to kind of stray from what you’re known for. It’s like listening to a country station and they drop in an oldies record. Well, they’re not going to really be down for that.
You have to understand what you’re trying to accomplish first, build the relationship with your audience second, and you will know at that time based on those factors when it’s okay to stray from sports. The reason we kind of knew it was working for us back then, is that when we would stray off into something more pop culture or more timely or newsworthy, we would hear from our listeners that they liked it and it was memorable for them. It was something they could relate to.
As the years have gone on, we kind of developed — again, in this market with our audience with this radio station — what worked, and what balance was right for us between sports and non-sports segments. Now, I think a lot of sports stations do it and they say they’re copying The Ticket or whatever, but it’s different for everyone.
The other thing here at the radio station is our main talk show talent has been with the radio station, some of them for as long as 28 years, and the newcomers have been here for 15 or 20 years. It’s not like we’re hiring people new coming into town and they’re immediately not talking about sports. That relationship with the audience happens along with a radio station organically and it grows over years. Then you have talent and shows that are working together for years and growing up on the air together and with their audience.
When you’ve been on the air for decades, just think about what happens not just in sports, but in life over the last 20 years. A pandemic, 9/11, different wars, protests, Michael Jackson died, it doesn’t just have to be news things, it can be pop culture things. But as those things happen, that’s what people talk about regardless of sports. Yeah, sure, they’re talking about Aaron Judge too, or they’re talking about the Cowboys winning the Super Bowl or not winning the Super Bowl, but they’re also going home and talking to their family about things that matter to them.
To be a radio station over the long haul in a market going on 28 years like The Ticket, you have to recognize that and really ultimately, that’s what we’re doing. We’re talking about what our listeners are talking about. And 85, 90, 95% of the time on a station like The Ticket, they care about sports. But there’s other times where things are more important in the world than sports.
You have to have that broad understanding of your audience and your station and the growth that you’ve had together and the responsibility and the relationship. That’s what allows you to understand and have the ability and the responsibility to talk about other things outside of sports. It’s not something that happens overnight, or because someone in a programming office says this is the way that we’re going to do it. It just doesn’t work that way I don’t think.
BN: Do you ever hear stations in Dallas or around the country that try to talk about things beyond sports and it just doesn’t go over well?
JC: Every single day.
JC: [Laughs] End of answer. Every single day.
BN: What do you attribute that to where it either fits and it works, or it’s forced and it’s just lame?
JC: I think it really goes back to the previous answer, which was a long answer but it’s really true. It’s just understanding what your station is about, how it’s being consumed by listeners, what relationship you have with your audience, and what they really will allow you to do based on those factors. I think sometimes it falls flat for any of those reasons, or it falls flat because the topic selection isn’t correct.
In other words, what you’re going off the sports page for isn’t the right topic, or it’s not something that resonates with the audience, or it’s not handled in a way that’s entertaining or informative. Some of those things are kind of like non-negotiables, right? Great storytelling is great storytelling. Having an opinion that resonates with your audience regardless of what the topic is, is universal. I think those are some of the reasons why it falls flat or it doesn’t work.
BN: You mentioned a lot of competition in Dallas. What’s your reaction to Mike Rhyner coming out of retirement after starting The Ticket to join The Freak?
JC: Well, when I first heard the rumors I was so surprised I didn’t believe it. And now I’m just sad about it. I just wish it wasn’t happening. But we’ve faced a lot of competition over the years and we take every competitor in this market, regardless of who’s there and what format they are, very seriously. And that’s what we’ll do in this case too.
BN: Why do you feel sadness about Mike?
JC: Because I think Mike has a home at The Ticket for life. And I thought that if he was itching to get back into radio, this is where he would have come and since he didn’t that makes me sad.
BN: Yeah, totally fair. Whether it’s that station or any other station popping up, does the competition have any impact on the way you approach things at The Ticket?
JC: Regardless of what new stations pop up, or have popped up over the last three years, we’re constantly evaluating the way we do things and changing them. Always. For example, I would say that for the most part, no media outlet, no radio station, no male-targeted radio station does the same content now that we did prior to 2017 and the Me Too movement for just one example. There are certain things that you could get away with saying 15 years ago, or 10 years ago, or five years ago, that you can’t say now. And that’s fine. That’s what we all do.
As a society, we’re all constantly evolving, we’re educating ourselves, we’re learning, and we change with it. I think that goes for The Ticket too. No matter who’s in town or not in town, or who our competitors are or aren’t, we’ve always felt like our bar is ourselves. We’re constantly evaluating what we’re doing. We want to constantly evolve and make it exciting and new for listeners, whether they’ve just moved into town or they’ve been with us for 10 years or since day one. If you don’t do that, I don’t think you make it as long and have as much success as The Ticket would have had if we just stayed the same.
BN: The Ticket is nominated for Marconi Sports Station of the Year again. The station won last year and four times altogether. When The Ticket is honored like that, what does it mean to you and the entire staff?
JC: I mean, I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty fun. It’s great. And I love it for the guys. Last year, we won Sports Station of the Year and my morning show won their first Marconi for Major Market Personalities of the Year after having been nominated like eight times. Like, seriously, you don’t have a radio station winning Marconis like The Ticket, and you don’t have a radio station with the ratings success over the years with The Ticket without a fantastic morning show. I think The Musers are the best morning show in the country, regardless of format. That was a completely deserved and well-earned Marconi last year, and I am just so happy for them.
But last year to win both, for the station and for those guys to win, it was a huge day around here for everybody. It matters to everybody, that every person that worked here last year, or have worked here before, has a piece of those things. It goes to everybody. Not just me, it’s not about me, it’s about them. I just get super excited and super thrilled for them because in radio that’s like our Super Bowl. To have four of them sitting in there feels pretty good. It’s fun.
BN: It makes all the sense in the world to get fired up when winning those big awards. Who wouldn’t be excited for that? On a day-to-day basis though, what excites you? You just said that’s like your Super Bowl, what’s like a solid Week 7 win?
JC: Well, first of all, being in the media business, we all understand what our report cards are when they come in every month. That is prime goal number one. That’s what we’re doing this for, so that gets me fired up every day. But what is a random win on a day is I just want us to, number one, have fun, and to be executing to the best of our ability on that day, whatever it is. I want the guys to be in the studio having a great time. I want them to be talking about stuff our listeners care about. I want them to be passionate. I want to laugh. I want to have a good time. I want to have something thought-provoking happening.
It’s all those little things that happen throughout the day that make me excited to come to work. It’s the personal relationships I have with everybody up here and that we’re all on the same team and we’re all a part of this thing and everybody is still so into it and excited about it. That’s what is fun for me. That’s what gets me fired up to come in here every day. That’s how I measure our success on the day-to-day. And then those monthly report cards that I talked about sure are nice too.
BN: If you could write the script, what do you think would make you happiest over the next five years for you and the station?
JC: I think to just continue to have the great success that all these guys have had and we enjoy it together. I think that’s the most important thing that you realize as you do this for a long time with largely the same core group of guys, is we want to be together, and we want to continue to do what we’re doing, and we want to continue to do it at the highest possible level we can for as long as we can. I don’t mean that to be generic. I think that’s as true as it possibly can be.
I want this radio station to continue on long after I’m not working here anymore. If that’s not anytime soon, I just want to keep doing what we’ve been doing with the same group of people that we’ve had. Just enjoy ourselves and to continue to change what we’ve been doing and to be leaders here in town.
I think that’s something that we think about and probably take more seriously than we did 15 years ago because it didn’t matter. Our position in the market now and the way that we can serve the community is just as important as making the community laugh or goofing around or whatever. And that stuff’s fun too, but we just have a responsibility to serve the community. I think that’s important to continue to do that in the best way that we can.
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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