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Shaky Start For ESPN’s New Monday Night Football Crew

Jason Barrett




It’s only week one, but if you were less than impressed by ESPN’s new Monday Night Football broadcast crew, you’re not alone. Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten, and Anthony “Booger” McFarland made their regular season debut during Monday night’s Oakland Raiders-Los Angeles Rams game, and the results were less than spectacular. Granted, it’s a long season, and developing a rhythm and chemistry between three new teammates takes time. However, when you’re on a national broadcast as big as this one, patience is thin.

What surprised me the most was the trio’s lack of flow, fun, and passion. I read an article on Yahoo on Monday afternoon where Tessitore was quoted saying “people want access, they want unfiltered, they want non-corporate, they want raw” and I was encouraged. I agree with his assessment. But if you watched the game, where was the unfiltered? The non-corporate? Better yet, where was the fun and the raw powerful connection to what was transpiring on the field?

From a technical standpoint, Tessitore was fine. It wasn’t like he didn’t see or understand the game. But his calls of big game moments lacked punch, and the inconsistent flow between the broadcast’s three key voices often gets placed on the conductor’s shoulders. Joe certainly has a great voice, and has done excellent play by play work for a long time. I root for people who work their way up the ladder from Schenectady, NY to the NFL’s main stage. But whether I want them to do well or not, I still have to call it like I see it.


Prior to his NFL arrival, Joe was a college football voice who you could count on to consistently deliver a quality broadcast. He didn’t earn the MNF opportunity by accident. But those college broadcasts don’t receive the same scrutiny that a Monday Night Football broadcast does. If you’re going to serve as the play by play announcer for ESPN’s flagship NFL property, then you have to be exceptional. Unfortunately on Monday Night, Joe was solid, not spectacular.

For example, when Marshawn Lynch powered past the Rams defense from the four yard line to the end zone, backed by an incredible effort from the Raiders O-Line, Tessitore said “Lynch, testing the middle, and getting a push, right thru. Effort play. Raiders score it.” If you watched that play as a fan you were likely much more moved by what you saw than what you heard. The play by play description didn’t match the passion felt by the viewer.

I heard the same thing when Cooper Kupp scored in the 3rd quarter to give the Rams the lead. But perhaps the most glaring omission was in the 4th quarter with the game winding down when Marcus Peters intercepted Derek Carr, and proceeded to grab his crotch while jumping into the end zone to mimic Marshawn Lynch as he scored. Tessitore failed to call that out, and point out the connection to Lynch. Instead the call was “Picked off. Marcus Peters. Strutting his stuff, and back splashing in. Pick six, Rams.”

Can you imagine Al Michaels, Jim Nantz or Joe Buck skimming past that? I can’t. The Rams twitter account was even on top of it. Before you counter with “but that’s unfair to compare him to those guys” let me remind you that this is Monday Night Football. This is ESPN’s most important NFL relationship. The announce team themselves acknowledged how different this night is from the others. If you’re going to call the elite game on the elite sports network, then you’ve got to deliver an elite performance.

Although I think Tessitore has to provide more flavor, take more control, and capture better what the audience is seeing and feeling, he wasn’t bad. In fact, I enjoyed him more than I had Sean McDonough who just didn’t mesh with Jon Gruden. I think Joe is going to be just fine. I’m not sure I can say the same for Jason Witten who simply wasn’t ready for this stage last night.


There were times during Monday Night’s game when Witten was vacant from conversation for minutes at a time. His analysis for the most part was generic, his humor was absent, and as a viewer you were confused whether he was the #2 or #3. Fans grew frustrated on social media as the game continued and Booger McFarland’s activity increased, but ask yourself this “if Booger didn’t jump in, what exactly were you going to get out of Witten?” He was a deer in headlights far too often.

Where I was most disappointed with Witten is that he seemed to lack personality and passion. Maybe he was holding back. Maybe Tessitore didn’t set him up right. Maybe Booger’s involvement threw him off. Or maybe he just froze.

Even when Witten took a chance to say something strong (EX: Jon Gruden hasn’t had a franchise QB with the Raiders – except Witten ignored that Rich Gannon went to the Pro-Bowl during each of Gruden’s final 3 seasons in Oakland, threw for 11,000+ yards and 75 TD’s 34 INT’s during that 3-year stretch and won the MVP award after Gruden departed for Tampa), he missed the mark.

Nobody can force Jason to be someone he’s not, but he has to let the nation know who he is. Whether you’re known for being colorful, critical, the smart guy, the loud guy, the jokester or something else, personality is a vital part of an NFL broadcast. For all of the criticisms directed at Jon Gruden as an analyst for loving every player, we knew that trait about him. Grudenisms were understood because his personality allowed us to get a feel for who he was. There was none of that with Witten.

It’s no secret that the Dallas Cowboys have a stellar track record of former players ascending to broadcast roles. Many felt Witten would make a smooth transition because of Tony Romo’s instant success as an NFL analyst on CBS. Couple that with Witten and Romo’s friendship, and the two men reportedly having superior knowledge and exceptional work habits, and you can see why so many were high on him becoming a great analyst.

But what isn’t known is how someone will perform when the lights are brightest. Witten may still turn out to be great, but his Game 1 performance left many questions. It’s up to ESPN now to find those answers.


For Booger McFarland, I thought his energy and passion were stronger than Witten’s. His perspective on the sidelines was solid, and he wasn’t afraid to offer an opinion especially on the Khalil Mack trade which was a storyline surrounding the first Raiders game. He became too involved at times, but was that due to the crew sensing Witten wasn’t adding much? The viewing audience seemed to come away with the opinion that they heard too much from Booger and not enough from Witten. I don’t disagree.

I think Booger can do a better job of shortening his commentaries, because at times they went long. There were times where he also came across too serious. Some on social media even described him as angry. I’ve heard Booger’s personality before on radio, and seen it on TV, so as the season plays out I think he’ll find more ways to lighten up. The man doesn’t lack personality.

One part of the broadcast which stood out in positive fashion, and further highlighted the difference in skill was the halftime performance. When Louis Riddick and Steve Young talk football, it’s so damn good. Young previously declined pursuing the MNF analyst job, but Riddick openly acknowledged having interest in it. If he was bypassed because of concerns of being hired in the future as an NFL GM, I get it. If it’s for any other reason, I’d love to hear it. Few at ESPN ooze the passion, insight, and knowledge for the game of football that he does. As I listened to him on the pre, post, and halftime shows, I kept asking myself “how is this guy not in the booth?”

When it comes to the NFL we all tend to overreact. It’s common to put a team in the Super Bowl and another at the top of the draft after Week 1, so in a way I feel like I’m doing that with a new broadcast team which is trying to find itself. If the worst thing we have to say at the end of the season about this crew is that their 1st week performance was subpar, that would indicate they made progress. That’s what I’m hoping for. But the way they settle into their roles, connect to the audience, and respond to a rough start will determine how supportive ESPN remains in the future.

Barrett Blogs

Barrett Media is Making Changes To Better Serve Our Sports and News Media Readers

“We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future.”

Jason Barrett




When I launched this website all I wanted to do was share news, insight and stories about broadcasters and brands. My love, passion and respect for this business is strong, and I know many of you reading this feel similar. I spent two great decades in radio watching how little attention was paid to those who played a big part in their audiences lives. The occasional clickbait story and contract drama would find their way into the newspapers but rarely did you learn about the twists and turns of a broadcaster’s career, their approach to content or the tactics and strategies needed to succeed in the industry. When personal reasons led me home to NY in 2015, I decided I was going to try my best to change that.

Since launching this brand, we’ve done a good job informing and entertaining media industry professionals, while also helping consulting clients and advertising partners improve their businesses. We’ve earned respect from the industry’s top stars, programming minds and mainstream media outlets, growing traffic from 50K per month to 500K and monthly social impressions from a few thousand to a few million. Along the way we’ve added conferences, rankings, podcasts, a member directory, and as I’ve said before, this is the best and most important work I’ve ever done, and I’m not interested in doing anything else.

If I’ve learned anything over seven years of operating a digital content company it’s that you need skill, strategy, passion, differentiating content, and good people to create impact. You also need luck, support, curiosity and an understanding of when to double down, cut bait or pivot. It’s why I added Stephanie Eads as our Director of Sales and hired additional editors, columnists and features reporters earlier this year. To run a brand like ours properly, time and investment are needed. We’ve consistently grown and continue to invest in our future, and it’s my hope that more groups will recognize the value we provide, and give greater consideration to marketing with us in the future.

But with growth comes challenges. Sometimes you can have the right idea but bad timing. I learned that when we launched Barrett News Media.

We introduced BNM in September 2020, two months before the election when emotions were high and COVID was a daily discussion. I wasn’t comfortable then of blending BNM and BSM content because I knew we’d built a trusted sports media resource, and I didn’t want to shrink one audience while trying to grow another. Given how personal the election and COVID became for folks, I knew the content mix would look and feel awkward on our site.

So we made the decision to start BNM with its own website. We ran the two brands independently and had the right plan of attack, but discovered that our timing wasn’t great.

The first nine months readership was light, which I expected since we were new and trying to build an audience from scratch. I believed in the long-term mission, which was why I stuck with it through all of the growing pains, but I also felt a responsibility to make sure our BNM writing team and the advertising partners we forged relationships with were being seen by as many people as possible. We continued with the original plan until May 2021 when after a number of back and forth debates, I finally agreed to merge the two sites. I figured if WFAN could thrive with Imus in the Morning and Mike and the Mad Dog in the afternoon, and the NY Times, LA Times, KOA, KMOX and numerous other newspaper and radio brands could find a way to blend sports and news/talk, then so could we.

And it worked.

We dove in and started to showcase both formats, building social channels and groups for each, growing newsletter databases, and with the addition of a few top notch writers, BNM began making bigger strides. Now featured under the BSM roof, the site looked bigger, the supply of daily content became massive, and our people were enjoying the increased attention.

Except now we had other issues. Too many stories meant many weren’t being read and more mistakes were slipping through the cracks. None of our crew strive to misspell a word or write a sloppy headline but when the staff and workload doubles and you’re trying to focus on two different formats, things can get missed. Hey, we’re all human.

Then a few other things happened that forced a larger discussion with my editors.

First, I thought about how much original material we were creating for BSM from our podcast network, Summit, Countdown to Coverage series, Meet the Market Managers, BSM Top 20, and began to ask myself ‘if we’re doing all of this for sports readers, what does that tell folks who read us for news?’ We then ran a survey to learn what people valued about our brand and though most of the feedback was excellent, I saw how strong the response was to our sports content, and how news had grown but felt second fiddle to those offering feedback.

Then, Andy Bloom wrote an interesting column explaining why radio hosts would be wise to stop talking about Donald Trump. It was the type of piece that should’ve been front and center on a news site all day but with 3 featured slots on the site and 7 original columns coming in that day, they couldn’t all be highlighted the way they sometimes should be. We’re actually going through that again today. That said, Andy’s column cut through. A few sports media folks didn’t like seeing it on the site, which wasn’t a surprise since Trump is a polarizing personality, but the content resonated well with the news/talk crowd.

National talk radio host Mike Gallagher was among the folks to see Andy’s piece, and he spent time on his show talking about the column. Mike’s segment was excellent, and when he referenced the article, he did the professional thing and credited our website – Barrett SPORTS Media. I was appreciative of Mike spending time on his program discussing our content but it was a reminder that we had news living under a sports roof and it deserved better than that.

I then read some of Pete Mundo, Doug Pucci and Rick Schultz’s columns and Jim Cryns’ features on Chris Ruddy, Phil Boyce, and David Santrella, and knew we were doing a lot of quality work but each time we produced stories, folks were reminded that it lived on a SPORTS site. I met a few folks who valued the site, recognized the increased focus we put on our news/talk coverage, and hoped we had plans to do more. Jim also received feedback along the lines of “good to see you guys finally in the news space, hope there’s more to come.”

Wanting to better understand our opportunities and challenges, I reviewed our workflow, looked at which content was hitting and missing the mark, thought about the increased relationships we’d worked hard to develop, and the short-term and long-term goals for BNM. I knew it was time to choose a path. Did I want to think short-term and keep everything under one roof to protect our current traffic and avoid disrupting people or was it smarter to look at the big picture and create a destination where news/talk media content could be prioritized rather than treated as BSM’s step-child?

Though I spent most of my career in sports media and established BSM first, it’s important to me to serve the news/talk media industry our very best. I want every news/talk executive, host, programmer, market manager, agent, producer, seller and advertiser to know this format matters to us. Hopefully you’ve seen that in the content we’ve created over the past two years. My goal is to deliver for news media professionals what we have for sports media folks and though that may be a tall order, we’re going to bust our asses to make it happen. To prove that this isn’t just lip service, here’s what we’re going to do.

Starting next Monday November 28th, we are relaunching ALL new content produced by the BNM writing team will be available daily under that URL. For the first 70-days we will display news media columns from our BNM writers on both sites and support them with promotion across both of our brands social channels. The goal is to have the two sites running independent of each other by February 6, 2023.

Also starting on Monday November 28th, we will begin distributing the BNM Rundown newsletter 5 days per week. We’ve been sending out the Rundown every M-W-F since October 2021, but the time has come for us to send it out daily. With increased distribution comes two small adjustments. We will reduce our daily story count from 10 to 8 and make it a goal to deliver it to your inbox each day by 3pm ET. If you haven’t signed up to receive the Rundown, please do. You can click here to register. Be sure to scroll down past the 8@8 area.

Additionally, Barrett News Media is going to release its first edition of the BNM Top 20 of 2022. This will come out December 12-16 and 19-20. The category winners will be decided by more than 50 news/talk radio program directors and executives. Among the categories to be featured will be best Major/Mid Market Local morning, midday, and afternoon show, best Local News/Talk PD, best Local News/Talk Station, best National Talk Radio Show, and best Original Digital Show. The voting process with format decision makers begins today and will continue for two weeks. I’ve already got a number of people involved but if you work in an executive or programming role in the news/talk format and wish to be part of it, send an email to me at

We have one other big thing coming to Barrett News Media in 2023, which I will announce right after the BNM Top 20 on Wednesday December 21st. I’m sure news/talk professionals will like what we have planned but for now, it’ll have to be a month long tease. I promise though to pay it off.

Additionally, I’m always looking for industry folks who know and love the business and enjoy writing about it. If you’ve programmed, hosted, sold or reported in the news/talk world and have something to offer, email me. Also, if you’re a host, producer, programmer, executive, promotions or PR person and think something from your brand warrants coverage on our site, send it along. Most of what we write comes from listening to stations and digging across the web and social media. Receiving your press releases and getting a heads up on things you’re doing always helps.

If you’re a fan of BSM, this won’t affect you much. The only difference you’ll notice in the coming months is a gradual reduction of news media content on the BSM website and our social accounts sharing a little about both formats over the next two months until we’re officially split in February. We are also going to dabble a little more in marketing, research and tech content that serves both formats. If you’re a reader who enjoys both forms of our content, you’ll soon have for sports, and for news.

Our first two years in the news/talk space have been very productive but we’ve only scratched the surface. Starting November 28th, news takes center stage on and sports gets less crowded on We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future. If we can count on you to remember two URL’s (add them to your bookmarks) and sign up for our newsletters, then you can count on us to continue delivering exceptional coverage of the industry you love. As always, thanks for the continued support. It makes everything we do worthwhile.

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Julie Talbott to Receive The Jeff Smulyan Award at the 2023 BSM Summit

“The best leaders are the ones who empower their people, work with their talent, and study situations to determine where room for growth exists.”

Jason Barrett




Each year at the BSM Summit, we take time to recognize some of the true difference makers in the sports media industry. It’s become a special part of the event, and it reminds everyone in the room of what’s possible if you do your job well and create impact.

Four awards in total are presented over the two-day event thanks to our friends at Premiere Networks. Each award has a different focus.

The Jeff Smulyan Award is presented to a radio industry executive who has led by example, taken risks, produced results, and made a significant difference for the sports radio business. The Mark Chernoff Award is given to sports radio’s top programmer. The Mike and the Mad Dog Award is presented to the top local sports radio show in America. And The Champions Award along with a financial contribution from BSM is given to an industry member who has used their platform to make a difference for others.

Since we began taking the Summit live in 2019, Mitch Rosen and Rick Radzik have been recognized as winners of the Mark Chernoff Award. Adam Schefter and the team of Keith Murphy and Andy Fales have been recipients of the Champions Award. And the top rated combination of Mike Felger and Tony Massarotti received the first ever Mike and the Mad Dog Award at the 2022 BSM Summit in NYC.

Which brings us to the Jeff Smulyan Award.

A number of top notch executives have joined us to accept this honor over the years. It started in Los Angeles with Kraig Kitchin, continued in New York City with Dan Mason, and then Traug Keller took home the honor during our last show, which also took place in the big apple.

As we looked to 2023, the goal was to identify someone who’s been active in growing their company’s footprint across the sports radio industry. Equally important was someone who has the full confidence and trust of their people, a track record of delivering results, and has uncovered new business opportunities to lead their company forward.

After a brief conversation, Jeff and I knew exactly who the right person was.

It is my honor to announce and congratulate Julie Talbott, President of Premiere Networks on being named our recipient of the 2023 Jeff Smulyan Award. Julie will be present in Los Angeles at the Founders Club at the Galen Center at USC to accept the honor at the 2023 BSM Summit on March 21-22, 2023.

“I’m humbled and honored to receive this award – especially with Jeff Smulyan’s name associated with it. I’ve been a fan of his throughout the years” shared Julie Talbott. “Premiere Networks and FOX Sports Radio are dedicated to delivering the best multiplatform sports audio content the industry has to offer, and this award truly recognizes the amazing efforts of our entire team, who I couldn’t be more proud of.  Thanks to Jason Barrett and BSM for this incredible honor.” 

“I have known Julie for many, many years and our industry doesn’t have a better ambassador than her” added Jeff Smulyan. “She has worked tirelessly to build Premiere into a remarkable enterprise and she has made legions of friends and admirers along the way. She is so deserving of this award and I couldn’t be happier that my friend, Julie Talbott is the winner of the 2023 Jeff Smulyan Award. Nothing makes me happier than to present it to her this March at USC!” 

“FOX Sports Radio’s growth under Julie’s watchful eye has been impressive, but when combined with Premiere’s performance and reach, and seizing opportunities in the digital space by launching strong brands such as The Volume, in partnership with Colin Cowherd, you start to see how she’s put her magical touch on the industry,” explained BSM President Jason Barrett. “The best leaders are the ones who empower their people, work with their talent, and study situations to determine where room for growth exists, and few have the respect, trust, and confidence of their people better than Julie Talbott.”

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Omaha Productions, The Volume, Dirty Mo Media and Silver Tribe Media to Appear at the 2023 BSM Summit

Jason Barrett




The 2023 BSM Summit is five months away but the process to build sports media’s annual industry event continues. We’ve already announced 11 participants for our next show including Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome and Joy Taylor, but by the time this show takes place, attendees can expect to hear from 50-60 people as the agenda becomes action packed.

I do want to share one thing for those inquiring about speaking. Though I appreciate the interest, I’m selective in who we feature on stage because it’s important to keep the show fresh and full of actionable content. There are tons of smart people in this industry but I can’t accommodate everyone. I try to create sessions that benefit radio, digital and television executives, programmers, general managers, talent, agents, salespeople, production staff, etc. and to do that, we’ve got to cover a lot of different subjects over a two-day span. My goal is to send folks home with ideas and information to improve their brands, while providing a space for groups and individuals to meet since it opens the door to additional business. We’ve been fortunate to have good support and participation over our past four events, and I’m expecting this one to be even bigger and better.

Before I announce the latest additions to our speaker lineup, I want to thank Premiere Networks for their continued support of the Summit. They’ve been wonderful partners for years, and I appreciate them joining us to create the annual Awards ceremony. It is always a hit with attendees. More to come soon on this year’s honorees.

I’d also like to thank Harker Research for returning as a partner of the event, and MRN Radio for signing on as a new partner. Harker has sponsored all of our live events, and MRN has been in attendance for those shows. Having their support makes a difference. They join Premiere Networks, Stone Voiceovers and Core Image Studio as Summit partners. If you haven’t secured a sponsorship but would like to be, email Stephanie Eads at She can update you on what we still have available.

As far as the content is concerned, I’m excited to announce a very cool session we’re adding which will include involvement from Omaha Productions, The Volume, Dirty Mo Media, and Silver Tribe Media.

Everywhere you look these days, athletes are taking more control of their own messaging. They’re also more interested in content creation and are investing in people to help build today and tomorrow’s sports media empires. Whether it’s been Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dale Earnhardt Jr. or broadcasters such as Colin Cowherd, Bill Simmons, Dave Portnoy and Pat McAfee, the era of personality-led audio networks has arrived. This session will examine where we are, where we’re going, what’s been learned, and how it will affect change across traditional media moving forward.

Jack Rose of Silver Tribe Media will moderate the session. Joining him on stage will be Logan Swaim, Head of Content at The Volume. Richelle Markazene, Head of Audio for Omaha Productions, and Mike Davis, President and Executive Producer of Dirty Mo Media. Each of these folks have great insight and experience with leading personality-built brands, and Jack’s understanding of the media landscape through his work with Michael Klein’s company make him an ideal fit to guide the conversation. This is a session that traditional media folks are going to want to be present for.

If you haven’t purchased a ticket or booked your hotel room, don’t wait until the last minute. Everything you need to be in attendance for the Summit is available at We are excited to host the show at The Founders Club at the Galen Center on the campus of the University of Southern California. This is a great location and the biggest room we’ve run our conference in yet. I’m hoping to see you there.

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