Q&A with Adam Gold
Adam Gold didn’t invent sports talk in Raleigh, North Carolina, but you could be forgiven for thinking he is the format’s patron saint in town. He has been on hosting sports talk shows in the area for nearly as long as there have been sports talk shows in the area.
You can hear Adam & his partner Joe Ovies each afternoon on 99.9 the Fan. They host one of the most irreverent and welcoming local sports talk shows you will ever hear. Want to know why Coach K can’t get consistent play from a roster full of five star talent? They’ll tell you, but first they’re going to spend ten minutes talking about tacos.
I worked with Adam briefly and spent the first few weeks in the building intimidated by him. He isn’t physically imposing at all. He is supremely confident and always up for a friendly debate.
Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill (or “The Triangle” to those of us that live here) is bitterly divided in its college basketball loyalties, but somehow only in those particular loyalties. Adam explained to me how a sports culture like that has allowed him to create consistently fun content. We also talked about pants and internet videos.
DEMETRI: How did you get to Raleigh?
ADAM: Well, my wife at the time – my practice wife as I call her – had been hired to run the training department at Central Carolina Bank, which was in Durham. We were living in Baltimore, and we decided if I could find a job making $18,000 it was worth it. Between the cheaper cost of living and her salary, all I really had to do was make minimum wage, which I could do delivering pizza if I had to.
I was a producer in Baltimore on the morning show, and there was really nowhere for me to go unless I got a chance to host. So we are in North Carolina, and I am looking through the classified ads at the radio jobs section and I see an opening at WRBZ, which at the time was 850 the Buzz, so I called the PD, a guy named Craig Schwalb.
At the time the station was news, talk and sports. He liked my tape and said that they may have something coming up that I’d be right for. About a week later I got a call saying that they were thinking about going all sports, and I thought “gee, wouldn’t that be perfect?”. They brought me on as a part time employee to do updates. Three an hour for like five hours a day. Then that turned into co-hosting my own show and then my co-host quit on the air. I’m sure you’ve heard that story.
ADAM: Pat Mellon was his name. He was the afternoon host before it was all sports and they kept him on as the Buzz started to tilt towards sports. He was a sports fan, but not a sports host.
They paired us together in March, and then like six weeks into it, at the end of the show on a Tuesday in May, he just says “Well, I didn’t want to make a big deal out of this, but this is my last day. I’m quitting after the show.”
I really thought he was joking. We had a tendency to be a little silly at the end of the show and find something light to go out on. I told him “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.” We close the show and as we’re walking out he says “By the way, I wasn’t kidding.”
It was too bad too, because through the first weeks everyone was happy. The word was good on the street. It was good with advertisers. People liked the vibe. I thought we were happy, but he wasn’t happy. It had always been his show. He quit. That was that.
Management told me they were going to do a search. That went on for two ratings books. The ratings went up in each book. So the general manager, who is still my general manager today, Brian Maloney said “The ratings are good. It’s your show. Go get ‘em.”
I know I’m very lucky. I always tell people half the battle in radio is right place and right time. The other half is what you do with it, so I am not overlooking the second half, but you couldn’t have gotten luckier. New town. No prospects. No contacts. And then all the sudden I have my first on air job hosting my own show.
DEMETRI: So, being here as long as you have, how have you watched the Triangle change as a sports market? How have you seen the appetite for sports radio grow?
ADAM: Raleigh was behind the times for sports radio, but I guess kind of everywhere was, because for so long there was just WFAN. Then things slowly started to trickle out mainly in pro towns.
We still argued sports here, but what we had on air was more folksy, positive, “everyone is a fan” deals. I was never afraid to give an opinion. I would never call myself a shock jock, but the market just wasn’t used to hearing someone say “You’re wrong! This is not good.”
This is not to poke fun at a guy like Tony Rigsby, who was in the market for a long time. He just did a different type of show and what I was doing fit with the time. It was the late 90’s. Sports radio was starting to mirror talk radio where it wasn’t positive all the time.
DEMETRI: It was starting to sound like an actual conversation. Things were more genuine.
ADAM: Let’s use the current language. It was becoming more real. So, what I was doing resonated because I was just giving my opinion and trying to have some fun. Even when we were ripping on stuff, we always tried to find the fun angle.
We would pick games with dominant mascot theory, which mascot would win in a fight. It was silly. It was fun. We did it for a year and it ran its course and we moved on to something else, but even something like that is genuine, because you’re poking fun at the people that claim to be experts.
DEMETRI: That is an interesting bit of history, especially when you combine it with just how divided this market is with Duke, Carolina and NC State. People can be so tribal, so I wonder, did you ever question yourself or your style or did you always think “the market needs to catch up to me”?
ADAM: Well, people will tell you that I have never thought I was wrong.
DEMETRI: (LAUGHING) Right, Joe (Ovies, Adam’s co-host) just wanted to make sure I got that on the record.
ADAM: (LAUGHING) It should be on the record.
Seriously though, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t wrong. I just thought it was important that the first goal be to make people laugh, because we aren’t talking about splitting the atom. We aren’t talking about nuclear codes. What we are talking about is purely entertainment. It’s not that it doesn’t matter, but this is purely entertainment, so let’s make people laugh.
I wanted to challenge people’s conventional thinking. I thought that was important on certain elements, and I’ll get into specifics in a moment. But I never faked an opinion to be a contrarian. If I had that opinion, I had it and was willing to stand by it. That way I never had to think back about “well, what did I say about this topic last time?”.
Now, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t change my opinion if presented with new facts. When it came to issues though, I think people respected that I could give an opinion and that I had done the work and research to back it up.
I’ll give you an example. After Latrell Sprewell choked PJ Carlissimo, Spree did a commercial for Converse maybe. I don’t remember the brand, but in the ad he says he was the American dream. And I saw that and thought, “He’s right,” and I knew that was going to make people upset, but we’re living in America. We love second chances and reclamation projects, and the whole point of the ad is “I screwed up.” In that way, Latrell Sprewell was absolutely living the American dream.
I pointed that out on air, and of course you know how that went. So, that was a very explosive type of show. I wanted to make people face why they were so anti-Latrell Sprewell getting a second chance when maybe they would have been a little more sympathetic to another athlete that looked a little more like them.
When Earnhardt died, and people get uncomfortable when I talk NASCAR, because I’m not a fan, I asked openly why not retire the number 3? Now, I’m not crass, I didn’t do this the next day, but people started talking about who would be the next to drive the 3, because it wasn’t Earnhardt’s number. Richard Childress owns the car, so it’s his number. But look, certain numbers don’t belong on the track anymore. NASCAR purists, and there are a lot in North Carolina, couldn’t tell me why the sport doesn’t retire numbers beyond “We’ll run out of numbers.” Give me a break!
DEMETRI: You’ve been here long enough to see the market change from only caring about NASCAR or the ACC to becoming this major transplant destination. We have people that moved here from all over the country. Does that change what is “in bounds” for daily topics?
ADAM: It’s an interesting market. When we talk college basketball, it is a local market. It’s a very small market type of conversation we have.
DEMETRI: How about with hockey?
ADAM: We don’t talk a lot of hockey. If the Canes are a playoff team, we’ll talk about it then. When they are really bad, Alec (Campbell, Adam’s producer and The Fan’s pre-and-postgame host for Carolina Hurricanes broadcasts) and I will do a little crosstalk, but that is it. Day of a game we’ll have the TV play-by-play guy John Forslund on to preview the game, but we don’t set up to talk a lot of hockey.
But with college basketball, that is a local conversation. I never have to talk about any other team in the country or even the conference. It’s Duke, Carolina and NC State. I assume East Carolina has a basketball team. We don’t really care.
Frankly, as a listener, it bugs me when hosts talk about this stuff and waste my time. I really don’t care what (Miami basketball coach) Jim Laranega has to say about his team. He is a perfectly nice gentleman, but I really don’t care. We have other shows on this station that give us that and it is a complete waste of time. It’s not Duke, Carolina or State, so it is a waste of time.
Now, this market is so transient, that we can talk about anything else. If we talk about the NFL, sure it has a Panthers or Washington slant, but for the most part Joe and I are just talking NFL football. We can talk about coaches, quarterbacks, or any of the big personalities. Same with college football. We’ll always start with State, Carolina and Duke, but college football is a national sport, so we will talk about Nick Saban or other national topics.
We’re local mainly just when we talk college basketball, but there are so many people here that didn’t grow up here. We’re a national show when we talk about literally everything else, which is good. I think if we only talked local sports, we would bore each other.
I look at other local hosts, or even Paul Finebaum. I see on Twitter that he is going to talk about Ole Miss recruiting in the middle of March and I think “I would poke my eyes out if that was my show.” I just can’t do that. We mock recruiting here. That’s the only way we talk about it.
DEMETRI: This ties in nicely to something that has become a signature of the show, because a few years ago you and Joe made the decision not to take listener calls on an average day. It has worked out well for you guys and really fits the show. It has worked on the national level for a while, but it’s not a decision a lot of local shows would make. How did you guys come to that decision to break with what sports radio “should be”?
ADAM: Well, there was never a conversation where we decided “Hey, let’s stop taking calls.” We were just having our own conversations, and they were good conversations. We didn’t give the phone number out and we were entertaining ourselves.
Joe and I have been really fortunate to have some really talented and creative producers. And to me it’s even insulting to say Shannon Penn was our producer. Alec Campbell is not just our producer. These guys are just another part of the show. They just happen to have different responsibilities than we do.
So we just started getting creative and we were mixing it up with more benchmark elements. We found things that were entertaining and irreverent. Then we would get back into these conversations with ourselves. We just didn’t need the phone calls. They were honestly the worst part of the show.
If you’re a talented host, I want to hear your opinion and I want you to have as much fun with it as you can. This is going to sound crass, and I don’t mean to sound dismissive of callers, but as a host you use callers. You use callers to create more callers. If 1% of your audience is going to call in, then why would you cater to them?
The majority of listeners are annoyed by callers. Why would you try to annoy your listeners?
I don’t want to sit here and laud the ratings, because I know how volatile they can be and I know how they work. The ratings though have gone up and the show has been better and more successful as we have eliminated callers. And again, it’s not something we set out to do. It just kind of happened.
DEMETRI: So what would get you to take calls? Because it does happen occasionally.
ADAM: Well, we do a segment at the end of each show called Ask Away where we open the phones and the listeners are allowed to ask us anything and we will answer, as long as it isn’t an HR violation or something we can claim attorney/client privilege on. People that get the show know we don’t want to talk sports at the end of the show. We have been talking sports for 4 hours at that point. I mean, unless we’re off on a tangent about pants or something. And that happens a lot.
DEMETRI: Yeah, I think when I filled in for you Joe, Alec and I talked about workout routines for a good 15 minutes.
ADAM: Oh, that will happen a lot. It’s a big part of the show. When Roy Williams wore that multi-colored, striped sweater at his press conference a few weeks ago we talked about the sweater for…I mean for a long time. That’s kinda where we’re at our best.
DEMETRI: So, you are in a market with three sports stations. All three are owned by the same company and the programming on each one is meant to serve the others. So what do you look at as your day to day competition?
ADAM: Our competition is anything that occupies men 25 to 54. In terms of radio that’s country radio, urban radio and NPR. That is our competition in the time slot. But I don’t really think about competition. Man, that sounds really arrogant.
DEMETRI: No, I think that is the right answer, but everyone has an idea of who they expect to see occupying the first and third slots or the second and third slots when the ratings come out.
ADAM: Yeah, it’s a usual cast of characters, right? Lately we’ve been number one in our time slot. Sometimes number two, but it is great. I think that is because we are always changing what we do. It’s rare that things stay the same for a given year.
Frankly, we’re trying to entertain each other. The best compliment you can pay the show is “I’m not a real big sports fan, but I love the way you guys talk about sports.”
We’re always going to talk about issues before we talk about games. I am not going to preview a damn thing. We make jokes about breaking stuff down. Thursdays during the football season we’ll predict the stupidest storylines for the next day. That’s why women and guys who aren’t even sports fans like the show.
I love that. My wife is a hairdresser. I would estimate 30% of her female clients listen to the show. I love that if you take a broad cross-section of our listeners, a big chunk of it would be made up of people that aren’t hardcore sports fans. Those are the people we are probably pulling away from NPR or country radio.
DEMETRI: The company that owns 99.9 the Fan is Capitol Broadcasting, which not only owns the market’s NBC and Fox affiliates, but they also were very quick to adopt the idea of making content exclusively for their digital platforms. How do you think that has grown the show and changed who you’re exposed to?
ADAM: Digital has made some of what I do easier. I cover the Hurricanes for the station. Writing a story after each game would kill me, so instead I’ll prop my phone up and do a four minute video with my thoughts about what the outcome means. It sits right on top of the game story. That makes my life easier.
There have been more podcast opportunities for me. They aren’t lucrative, but that’s not why I do it. I have a weekly Canes podcast. I do a golf podcast every couple of weeks. There was a time when I did a college baseball podcast with John Manuel from Baseball America. I didn’t do it because I was a huge college baseball fan. I did it because I like hanging out with John.
It’s good. We do goofier videos. You gotta be multimedia now and make yourself valuable, otherwise they’ll find someone that can be more valuable.
DEMETRI: If I gave you a magic wand to wave over all of sports radio, what kind of thinking would you want to change in the format?
ADAM: Sports radio and talk radio mirror each other really well. That’s good and bad. Talk radio is, in general, pretty angry. It’s getting angrier too. I sense that happening with sports radio now. People are getting angrier. I hope the way Joe and I do it heads that off.
I will say this. There’s still way too much subtle racism in sports talk. I want that to go away. I don’t want to hear you say Jameis Winston is a running quarterback when he’s not. But he’s black, so he must be a runner, right?
Subtle racism and sexism. I’d love for people to not patronize someone like Lauren Brownlow (99.9 the Fan’s ACC reporter and regular contributor to Adam’s show) when she’s talking about college basketball because she absolutely knows what she is talking about more than I do. I look forward to the day when we don’t have to overcome those barriers, but I think that probably comes along with people being more angry. They don’t want their territory infringed upon. I’m all about new points of view and different points of view and I am intolerant of your intolerance.
DEMETRI: Is that what is going to go at the bottom of the campaign poster?
ADAM: It’s very meta, isn’t it?
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.
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.
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.