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How I Find The Perfect Talent

Ryan Maguire explains what he has learned the traits of his ideal talent are after 30 years of trying to assemble station lineups

Ryan Maguire




30 years.

9 different markets.

12 different stations.

7 different companies.

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Sports media is what I’ve spent the bulk of my life doing, and it’s been a passion project.  I’ve had a plethora of bucket list experiences.  However, the best part of my journey has been the opportunity to discover and mentor so many different talents.  I’ve been fortunate to work with many unique individuals who are, to this day, enjoying success on national or major market stages.  

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to speak at many conferences with both aspiring professionals, and seasoned veterans, of our industry.  Once we’re done comparing thoughts on our fantasy football rosters or talking about how our favorite teams are doing…the discussion inevitably shifts to one question:


Having spent almost my entire career as a Program Director/Content Manager, I’ve developed a set of criteria for the kind of individuals I’d want to hire.  As the sports media landscape (and media landscape in general) has changed, my take on this question has morphed along with it.

So, for my first Barrett Sports Media piece, I thought I’d give everyone a snapshot of what my ideal talent would be like.  

If I could create a sports-talk talent for 2021 that we could win with, they would have the following traits.  Who knows, maybe this can be Elon Musk’s next pet project…right after he builds that Starbucks on Mars and pushes Dogecoin to $1.


Go channel surfing on any given day and you’re likely to hear many of the same things being said over and over and over.

It’s nauseating.

Woman in toilet | The Pulse

The world is SATURDATED with sports media.  Now more than ever, standing out is at a premium.

I want to hire a person that tells me something I don’t know or haven’t heard someplace else.  

Working in Chicago (as I do) the hot button topic this week was the Bears drafting of Ohio State QB Justin Fields.  Everyone had a take on it.  The people that stood out the most were the ones that gave me a reason for it being either good or bad that I hadn’t heard.  Maybe it was a story from his playing days or a stat that I wasn’t aware of.  Finding unique perspectives on the stories of the day are rare and difficult to come by.  


If your life’s work is your only hobby, you probably aren’t going to be ideal for me.

If you want to make it in this business, you must be an interesting person.  People who have had many different life experiences (regardless of age) tend to be people that I look for.  I want someone who is perpetually curious and has used that curiosity to explore what the world has to offer. These are the kind of people that draw an audience.  You feel compelled to listen to them. 

One of the first things I do when I interview a talent candidate is to find out just how interesting they are.  It can be a complicated process.

The one thing you NEVER want to do, is put people on the spot by asking things like:

“So, tell me a bit about yourself.”

“What’s the best concert you ever went to?”

“Tell me about the most amazing experience you had in the business.”

Those types of things are rarely top-of-mind and candidates often struggle to give you answers.

I’ve learned to get people to open up to me by opening up to them first.   For example, I started one job interview by casually telling the candidate about a new bourbon that I had sampled at a dinner the previous night.  The candidate then went into how they had toured the Jack Daniel’s distillery once and how amazing the experience was.  I then segued into telling them about my last trip to Lexington and we started comparing cities we had visited and our perspectives on each locale.  In about fifteen minutes of casual conversation, I found out exactly what I wanted to know.  


This criterion is one of the newest additions for me.  

As we slog towards the inevitability of sports gambling being legal in all fifty states, the prerequisite for a successful sports-talk show host needs to include knowing the ins and outs of handicapping…at least at the basic level.

Yes, gambling is a vice, but it’s one that the ideal sports-talk talent should partake in responsibly.  Why?  Well, because every other sports fan is, and you must know your audience.

Over $21 billion was wagered in sports handicapping in the US in 2020.  Yes, the same 2020 that saw the nation’s economy ravaged by the COVID induced recession.  The advent of app-based gaming in states where it’s legal has made throwing pocket change on parlays as easy as tapping 1-2-3.  

Leaning Online Sports Betting: How to Bet On a Football Game

The new revenue stream of sports gambling is a lifeline to sports media outlets who saw advertising vanish into thin air over the last 2 years.  Any talent I would hire would have to embrace it and help me make money.


Let’s face it. The media, as an industry, gave safe harbor to a lot of scumbags over the years.

Second, third, fourth, and FIFTH chances were given to people simply because they were good at their jobs.  

No matter what corner of the building you worked in, if your ratings were good and/or you were bringing in money, you could essentially do whatever you wanted.

I remember one co-worker, who knew I was gay, once called me a ‘c***sucker’ in full earshot of other colleagues.  As offended as I was, I knew that talking to my boss or HR about it would be a road to nowhere because of how much money this person was bringing into the building.  So, I just laughed it off and walked away.

Those days, thankfully, are coming to an end.  It’s just a shame that so many people had to endure what they did over the years.

I’ve always maintained that being great at what you do, in ANY walk of life, doesn’t give you license to be an asshole.  Our industry is no exception.  Anyone can have a bad day.  Ask anyone that’s worked with me and they’ve probably seen a few of mine.  That behavior can’t be the norm and the stress of being an on-air performer can no longer be used as an excuse.

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No one wants to work with someone who lacks basic social skills.  If you’re generally aloof or unpleasant to be around…there isn’t a place for you on my team, no matter how good you are.

BSM Writers

Disney Has One Logical Choice For The Future – Jimmy Pitaro

“If Bob Iger wants his next successor to come from the sports world, that is his guy. Hell, forget sports. Pitaro may be the best person available no matter how far and wide the search goes.”

Demetri Ravanos




Bob Iger’s latest tenure atop the Walt Disney Company fascinates me. The company begged him to come back to clean up the mess made by his handpicked successor, but it was made clear from the get-go that he has a very limited window to get this right and then go home. That is why, less than six months after Iger returned to Burbank, we are already hearing about who will be the next CEO of Disney.

There is reportedly a shortlist of candidates for the job and it is sports-heavy. Two of the four spots are occupied by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro. I see the value both men could bring to the job, but I think there is a clear frontrunner and obvious choice.

Jimmy Pitaro is already inside the Disney walls. He has already learned to operate within the Disney hierarchy. He has had to answer investors’ tough questions about budget and direction. If Bob Iger wants his next successor to come from the sports world, that is his guy. Hell, forget sports. Pitaro may be the best person available no matter how far and wide the search goes.

Adam Silver’s tenure as NBA Commissioner is the target of all sorts of criticism, mostly from people that don’t watch the NBA anyway. For all of the pissing and moaning about load management and player empowerment, people are still watching and the league is still as profitable as ever. By the metrics that matter to the people that matter (team owners), he is doing an excellent job. 

On a recent episode of Meadowlark Media’s Sports Business, John Skipper made it clear that he loves Silver and thinks he would make an excellent CEO for the Walt Disney Company, but that is a totally different world from the one Silver is currently thriving in.

“My advice would be to stay at the NBA,” the Meadowlark Media boss said. “It’s not a public company. You don’t have to face shareholders. You do have to face 30 NBA owners, but you don’t have activist shareholders. And I think Adam is a committed NBA commissioner. He’s been for a long time.”

The public posturing of Ron DeSantis will always get attention, but it doesn’t always have to be taken seriously. The moment he threatened to dissolve the special district in Central Florida that Walt Disney World operates out of, legal scholars were quick to point out that the proposal would create a major burden on the state and its citizens that no politician wants to be responsible for.

DeSantis wanted his culture war. Disney wanted the problem to go away. The two sides quietly found a compromise that made it look like the governor didn’t lose while Disney got to go on basically with business as usual. That is the kind of corporate policy war whoever takes over for Bob Iger will have to be ready to wage. 

Disney needs a salvager in that chair, someone who knows how to diagnose the problems of business relationships and find fixes that hurt each side just enough that both can say the other really took it on the chin. Pitaro is that guy. 

Look at ESPN’s relationship with the NFL when he arrived versus where it is now. The company needs someone that makes stars and creators feel like this company is one that it can trust and one that they want to be in business with. Look at what Pitaro has done to bring the Manning Brothers, Pat McAfee, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman under the Disney umbrella while simultaneously finding ways to keep stars like Stephen A. Smith and Bomani Jones happy with non-exclusive deals that allow them to grow their profile with new opportunities outside of the company walls.

Most importantly, no segment of the Walt Disney Company and arguably, no network on basic cable, has had to answer as many questions about the future of distribution as often as ESPN. Jimmy Pitaro has been asked about a future where entertainment is driven solely by the needs of the audience so many times that he has undoubtedly thought about the ups and downs of the streaming landscape more than just about anyone else on Earth.

Bob Iger will be atop Disney through the end of the year and into 2024. This isn’t a decision that is being made tomorrow. Even when it is made, Iger doesn’t just get to write a name down on a piece of paper, slam down an “APPROVED” stamp and go home. 

Everyone on that reported shortlist will be vetted by Iger, his confidants, members of the Disney board, and shareholders. Some may wince at the fact they have no idea how Jimmy Pitaro envisions running theme parks and a cruise line, but the reality is that no one checks all the boxes for any job as big as this one until they have been in it for a while.

When you know the perfect fit for a job doesn’t exist, you go looking for the person that is the best fit. I think Bob Iger and Disney have already found him in Bristol, CT.

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BSM Writers

Michael Kay Couldn’t Leave 98.7 ESPN New York Just Yet

“I wouldn’t want to leave it the way it is right now.”

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When a New York Post report back in January suggested that Michael Kay was “seriously contemplating retiring from his 98.7 ESPN New York show”, maybe he was in a dark room in his home thinking about his future.

In his mind, his days of hosting sports talk shows were pretty much over.

“When that story came out, I thought I was definitely not going to come back,” said Kay during a phone interview with Barrett Sports Media. “I almost appreciated it a little bit when Aaron Rodgers said when he went on the dark retreat that he was 90% retired. Well, I’d say I was even more than that. I was probably 95% certain that I was going to walk away in September when my contract was up.”

But between then and now, Kay had a chance of heart and he announced this past Thursday on his show that he had signed a new contract with 98.7 ESPN New York and that his show would continue for “a good long while”.

The decision to stay was not an easy one and, as it turned out, it was his family that played a big role in staying at 98.7 ESPN New York. 

“It was really difficult,” said Kay who is also the television play-play-play voice of the New York Yankees on YES Network. 

“The most difficult part of it is that my kids are 8 and 10 so you want to see important things in their life. Even during the winter when I’m off from the Yankees, I’m out of connection from 3:00 to 7:00, so I had to reconcile with that. I talked with my wife and I actually talked with my kids about it, too, and they like me doing it so I decided to keep doing it.”

After initially feeling like it was time to step away after hosting The Michael Kay Show for 21 years, Kay began to reconsider but he also knew that he had to decide with his current contract expiring this September. The sales staff at the radio station needed to know because they had to inform potential advertisers who was going to host the show. Kay also owed it to his co-hosts Don La Greca and Peter Rosenberg to let them know what his plans were.

Everyone at 98.7 ESPN New York needed a decision.

“The radio station has to make contingency plans,” said Kay. “What’s going to happen if I, in fact, do leave? All of those people are impacted.”

Speaking of La Greca and Rosenberg, Kay’s sidekicks played a huge part in his decision to continue doing the show. There’s a tremendous amount of chemistry on the program and Kay wasn’t about to walk away from his radio family. 

“Don and I have been together 21 years,” said Kay. “That’s a longer relationship than my wife and I have. We’re really special friends. Peter is for about 8 years and I feel the same way about him.”

Kay also acknowledged the people behind the scenes like Program Director Ryan Hurley, as well as executives from both ESPN and Good Karma Brands.

“They certainly tried to appeal to me to stay and after a while, it got to me,” said Kay. “I said you know what I’m not done yet so I decided to re-up. The pull to stay was stronger than the pull to just kick back and relax.”

These are certainly interesting times to talk about sports in New York.

Baseball season is about to get underway and both the Yankees and Mets are expected to be playoff contenders.

Future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers could be on his way to the Jets while the Giants are coming off of a trip to the playoffs last season.

The Knicks and Nets are heading toward the NBA Playoffs while the Rangers, Devils, and Islanders could all be going to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But all of the local teams’ success wasn’t a factor in Kay deciding to continue talking sports.

“To be honest, it didn’t play any role because sometimes when teams are bad it makes for better talk radio,” said Kay. “The fact that they’re good and they could be playing in postseason, all of them, is intriguing but that didn’t play a role.” 

And now that Kay has signed his new contract, he can continue his quest to regain the top spot in the afternoon drive war with WFAN. The show has been losing the ratings battle with Carton & Roberts and it would have been difficult to retire with his show in second place.

It’s not the reason why Kay decided to sign a new deal, but he does now have some more time to become number one again.

“Obviously, I wouldn’t want to leave it the way it is right now,” said Kay. “We had beaten everybody that they put in front of us. We beat Mike (Francesa), and we beat Joe and Evan. People conveniently forget that we also beat Carton & Roberts. Carlin, Maggie, and Bart…we beat them all. Our ratings, for some reason, have not been comparable to what they were before the pandemic hit.”

The ratings aside, Kay is happy with the content he, La Greca, and Rosenberg provide their listeners daily. While they have some catching up to do in the battle with WFAN, Kay is pleased with the product and that his show is good clean sports talk.

In Kay’s mind, business is business but he has his way of doing a show.

“Ratings tell you one thing and that’s how we keep score, but if you listen to what comes out of the speakers, in my opinion, our show is the best sports show in all the country. We not only talk about sports but we treat people with respect. We don’t have to go low-brow. Ratings didn’t have anything to do with (his decision) but it does give you a little more runway now to make up some ground. We have already proven that we can beat them.” 

Michael Kay has been a part of 98.7 ESPN New York going back to the launch of the radio station in September of 2001. Just like Aaron Rodgers, he was pretty close to calling it a career…but Kay didn’t want his radio career to fade to black just yet. 

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BSM Writers

Xperi & Joe D’Angelo Are Ready For Radio’s Future

“I want this audience to see how they can leverage the technology that is nine times out of ten already going to be at their radio station.”

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In October 2022, Xperi Senior Vice President of Global Radio and Digital Audio Joe D’Angelo hosted the single most impressive radio presentation I’ve ever seen at the NAB Show in New York.

I wrote about my takeaways from the presentation after returning from New York, which essentially boiled down to: Xperi is looking out for the future of radio like no one else is. I don’t think that’s hyperbole. The company is making sure FM radio is in the best place to succeed as the audio space continues to evolve and see more and more emphasis placed on on-demand digital offerings.

D’Angelo will continue the conversation in a panel at the 2023 BSM Summit titled “How Radio Can Compete and Win in the Connected Car” on Tuesday, which will focus on the company’s DTS AutoStage platform. The offering from Xperi will revolutionize broadcast radio as automobiles become more and more technologically advanced.

“So many other platforms are much more crowded — mobile phones, smart TVs, smart speakers — there’s very low barriers of entry to building a brand, and getting content on those platforms,” D’Angelo said. “But broadcast radio has the unique advantage in the car and it’s incumbent on the publishers — the producers of content — to look for every opportunity to sustain and exploit that branding and that relationship with the car driver.

“We also allow and deliver internet-only radio — so streaming services for broadcasters — as well as catch-up content. So if you wanna make yesterday’s morning show available today, we create all the linkages there, as well as podcasts. If you’re creating podcasts, we create those linkages that aid in the discovery of that content and serve it up on your behalf on the dash of the car.”

DTS AutoStage will allow drivers to continue listening to radio stations even after leaving the broadcast range of a station, utilizing the station’s stream to continue a seamless audio delivery. Additionally, it will provide real-time analytics weekly to stations about the time spent listening, and a “heat map” of where your listeners live, work, and travel.

D’Angelo noted that the sports radio space is ripe with opportunity to promote and utilize the technology Xperi has worked on, adding that music has been co-opted by brands like Apple and Amazon to sell you more products, while sports radio is simply looking to share opinions and content with passionate audiences.

“The real opportunities now are accruing to the talk formats and sports is such a ripe opportunity with a passionate audience, and I’ll tell you from personal experience, finding sports programming on a platform like TuneIn is nearly impossible,” D’Angelo continued. “If you’ve ever used it and tried to search for a live event, you’re going to get a catalog of a hundred different things that might related to the team but have nothing to do with the live event.

“I’m coming here because we’re at a unique opportunity where I want to explain to this audience how what they do can benefit from the technology we’ve deployed…clearly, sports programming — live sports, sports talk, sports betting, local sports — is a really unique category for local radio and I want this audience to see how they can leverage the technology that is nine times out of ten already going to be at their radio station.”

At the BSM Summit, D’Angelo will showcase the real-time analytics available to stations who opt to share data with the platform, and will give attendees a look at a sample of what information is supplied to stations and companies by using data gathered by listeners of Washington D.C.’s 106.7 The Fan. BSM Summit attendees will get a first look at the information, before it’s released worldwide at Radiodays Europe on March 28th.

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