Howard Eskin Still Has Plenty To Say
“He (Cataldi) says if he’s going to take calls from the Secret Service, then he should take calls from you. He gave out my cell number on the air. I mean come on, man. What are you doing?”
Sports radio is sometimes too polite. “Well, in my humble opinion,” and that sort of thing. Every once in a while it’s nice to hear a host say, “Eat it if you don’t like it.” Enter Howard Eskin. The radio and TV personality has showcased a no-holds-barred style that has gained notoriety on the Philadelphia airwaves since 1976. There are times when the truth is ugly and grimy. Eskin hasn’t been afraid to get his hands dirty along the way in pursuit of honesty.
As you will be able to tell from our chat below, Eskin doesn’t offer wishy-washy stances. His opinions are strong and his responses are direct. That doesn’t mean Eskin hasn’t had fun along the way as well. He once did an interview with the San Diego Chicken on a news telecast. Eskin offers an unfiltered response to a recent criticism from fellow WIP host Angelo Cataldi. Eskin also destroys a myth about older hosts and offers thoughts about the success of his son, Spike Eskin, who’s now the program director at WFAN. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: Where have you worked outside of Philadelphia during your lifetime?
Howard Eskin: I worked in New York earlier in my career. I worked in the Maryland, Washington D.C. area at the beginning of my career. I was a disc jockey. I was a production engineer for a classical station. I had done a lot of things and then I spun records for guys here in Philadelphia. George Michael, who I worked with in Philadelphia who had the Sports Machine, I did segments on the Sports Machine for 11 years. He was a disc jockey up in New York before he went into television.
But that was it, New York and Washington. Then since the mid-to-early ’70s, I’ve been in Philadelphia. I’ve been on the air since ‘76 in Philadelphia, which is a long time. I’ve been on TV and radio since ‘82. Philadelphia is my home and this is what I like. I’m just happy that I can work in the town that I grew up in, which doesn’t always happen. It’s not necessary, but I don’t know if my career would have been the same if I hadn’t been here in Philadelphia. That’s what it comes down to; this is where I was meant to be.
BN: What would you say is the most fun you’ve had during your broadcasting career?
HE: I have fun doing what I do on the air. I don’t want to say I have fun arguing with players and coaches but we kind of get to know each other. Dick Vermeil invited me to his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction. At the beginning, Dick Vermeil didn’t like me a little, tiny bit because I was critical of how hard he worked players. At UCLA where he came from, he never got criticized. It was different for him, L.A. to Philadelphia now, people are going to say things.
He told his players not to listen to me. Herm Edwards came out to practice one time, and said ’hey man, what did you do to coach’? I go ‘what are you talking about’? He says, ‘he told us you’re talking out your ass’. And then my first day in television I was at the head table, September 20, 1982 and Dick Vermeil was one of the speakers. He buried me at the Maxwell Club. It was a luncheon back then. Buried me. I said that’s okay, Dick. Now we’re really good friends. I’ve been over to his house. We’ve been out to dinner. He’ll text me when I’m on the air if he thinks he can help me with some kind of info.
It’s kind of interesting, but there’s been players that want to kick my ass. Mitch Williams wanted to punch me in the mouth. You go right down the list and now Mitch Williams and I are friends. They understand after they’re done playing that that’s really my job. But I’d go into the locker room, I’d yell at Larry Bowa and Darren Dalton. I would yell at Lenny Dykstra who was crazy. And then 30 seconds later we’re laughing because we get over it and we move on. I don’t know that it’s always that way now.
I’ll give you a couple of cool moments; I’m on the sidelines for an Eagles’ game and Bradley Cooper walks up to me and says ‘hey Howard, Bradley Cooper’. I said, ‘come on, man, I know who you are. How do you know me’? He said, ‘I grew up in the area. I listened to you and watched you for all of those years’. Will Smith did the same thing. Those are just really cool moments. Then whenever they see me they’re always very nice. You never know who’s out there.
Allen Iverson, he was interesting. We got along great his first few years. Then the guys he hung with told him not to listen to me because I was trying to tell him to do the right things especially with Larry Brown. He wasn’t all about listening to the coach, so then after a few years it was a little adversarial.
So he’s walking in the hallways at a Sixers game and he sees LeSean McCoy. Obviously I knew LeSean playing here, and LeSean says what do you think of this guy? He says that MF — I use MF because regardless of where this goes, I still don’t think it’s proper to put it in print and these people on satellite can use the four letter word — that MF he was always killin’ me. Killin’ me. And then Allen says to LeSean McCoy, but I love him. I love him.
Now every time he sees me he gives me a hug and says you’ve got to let the past be the past. I think he understood because he always tried to keep it real and I always tried to keep it real. So in the end, after it’s all over, I think he respects me for that.
BN: Angelo just did an interview with The Ringer…
HE: Angelo who?
BN: [Laughs] That’s right.
HE: Obviously, I’m kidding.
BN: Oh yeah, I know. Angelo said that he has a classic love/hate relationship with you. On the bright side he gave you compliments and said that he loves your work ethic and especially what you mean to Philly sports. But he also said that he didn’t think you were a great team player. What’s your reaction to that?
HE: You know what, I have no idea where that comes from. I work my ass off. I don’t know if he was kidding because sometimes when you see it written — I didn’t hear it. If they ask me to do something whether it’s help with a client or help in other ways, my biggest problem is I don’t say no. I don’t say no to charities. I don’t say no to the people I work for. I don’t say no. There have been management people I haven’t agreed with. I may not agree, but I’ll sit down and talk to them about it. I really have no clue what he was talking about. It’s the pot calling the kettle black.
I do whatever they ask me to do and what I think I have to do. I go to games and talk to players and connect with people. It gives me information. I consider what I do on the air, I inform and I entertain. You can do both with the correct information. I don’t have to do all those things. I don’t have to share it with WIP, and I do share a lot of things with them. I really have no clue what he was talking about. Absolutely no clue because I don’t want to say I’m the best team player, but I’m somewhere at the top of the list. Whatever they ask me to do, and those people will tell you that too, the management people, the people I’ve worked with over the years, they’ll all tell you that.
I don’t know if Angelo is somewhat jealous on the way out that I lasted longer than he did. It’s hard to get up in the morning. Doing those morning shows I’m sure is no piece of cake. He was compensated well for it so that’s the benefit of that. But I can’t answer that question because it surprised me not a little bit, it surprised me a lot with all I do.
I don’t want to go down that road and be critical of things that he’s done, although I will tell you one thing he did when he was a complete jerk. He wanted to get Bill Clinton on the air and I had a connection with Bill Clinton through the Secret Service. One night a bunch of Secret Service guys were coming to town and one guy called me, my phone rang. I didn’t have it on vibrate at the time while I was doing a show. I went to a break. I went back on the air and said that was somebody from the Secret Service that wanted to get in touch with me from the White House.
He got so angry because at that time the governor of the state told him he was going to get Bill Clinton on the air. It was Ed Rendell. That wasn’t going to happen. So anyway, he says if he’s going to take calls from the Secret Service, then he should take calls from you. He gave out my cell number on the air. I mean come on, man. What are you doing? Why would you do that? There was obviously a jealousy there, which I had a connection. That was wrong but I didn’t dwell on it afterwards and I’m not going to dwell on the things that he says now. [Laughs]
BN: [Laughs] As far as uncovering news, you’re known for going to great lengths to break stories. Why do you find it important to do so?
HE: When there’s something there that’s interesting to sports fans, I’m lucky enough, in my phone I have 5600 contacts. If I ever lost that — you can go right down the list, there’s always somebody that you can call and try to get some info on a situation when you hear about it. A lot of times there are stories I have and I try to pass them along but I always try to check. Luckily enough, I have a lot of people to check.
I’ll tell you a story outside of sports to show you maybe my reach. There was a friend of mine who had brain cancer. Very, very, very devout Catholic. I knew someone at the Vatican. Like, how do I know anyone at the Vatican? I mean you’ve got to be kidding me. And I asked to get a letter from the pope to this guy. He passed away like five months later after he got the letter. I didn’t get the letter, but I got the pope to send a letter to this guy. [Laughs] It’s like are you kidding me?
You get to know people, and it doesn’t always have to be sports, but people are people. It’s not like you ever count favors, you just do for people because they do for you. That’s why, I’m not a team player? I don’t know what the hell that’s all about. And I’m not going to worry about it. If you hadn’t brought it up, I wouldn’t have brought it up either.
BN: Is the Pope one of the 5600 contacts? [Laughs] Do you have the area code and everything?
HE: [Laughs] I don’t, but I have a bishop in the Vatican’s number. So that’s one of the 5600. Can you imagine? I’m a Jewish guy and I’ve got someone’s number in the Vatican.
BN: [Laughs] That’s great. Did you know that Spike’s (Eskin) career would unfold the way that it has?
HE: He did it by himself. I’ve got to give him credit. There’s only two things I helped him with. I helped him get an internship in the company at that time. And then when he was thinking about coming back to Philadelphia from Chicago — he was a disc jockey and then a music director and all of that — the general manager at the time didn’t want to pay him more money. He wasn’t going to come back.
I said hey listen, you’re letting this guy go in the morning; you’re going to save hundreds of thousands of dollars. You can’t give him, I don’t know if it was $25,000 or $30,000 more a year to convince him to come back to Philadelphia? I just was trying to help him. That’s the only involvement I ever had. I didn’t tell him what I think he should do. There may have been one time or another where I had an opinion, but I wouldn’t really say that to him because he could do it on his own especially when he became the program director.
I knew he was a bright guy, bright kid at the time. He’s not a millennial although he wants to be a millennial. He’s out of that range now. But yeah, he was creative. I’ve got to say that all my kids are creative and he’s one of them. He works hard. He’s firm. If he would tell me something that I needed to do, he didn’t tell me much because I kind of knew what had to be done, I never really debated him on it. I just did it. If I didn’t agree with it, I kind of would go halfway, but I knew he was pretty sharp.
He was very good at what he does and I know he’s doing a great job up there. I’ve known his boss, Chris Oliviero, for 25 years and he’s a great guy and a very, very creative guy. But those two together I know they’re doing a great job and WFAN is doing terrific. I’m glad to see that he works well with Craig Carton. I like Craig a lot. I know he had problems, but I think Craig is a brilliant, creative air talent. Brilliant and creative. He really is good. I wished in some way, shape or form he could have come back to Philadelphia and work, but he’s doing what’s good for him. His wife’s from Philadelphia so he still has connections here.
BN: Who would be on your Mount Rushmore of Philly sports radio hosts?
HE: Wow, putting me on the spot here. I don’t want to say I’m egotistical, but being I started this whole thing I would have to be up there somewhere. Rather than leave Angelo off there so he has something to whine about, he’d have to be on it because he worked a long time and the morning show was very successful. I don’t agree with everything he does, but he doesn’t agree with everything I do, so he’d have to be up there.
Craig Carton was here. Craig is funny, he’s bright and even though he wasn’t here that long I’m telling you I’m a big, big fan of Craig Carton. I’d have to put him on there. So now we’ve got three and maybe I’ll leave the fourth spot open for somebody that takes over the morning show. We’ll kind of leave that there.
There have been guys that have come through here, but if they didn’t stay here that long they can’t be on the Mount Rushmore. How about if I leave that fourth spot open on that Mount Rushmore. People will criticize me, what are you doing on it? Put yourself on that? No, I don’t put myself on Mount Rushmore, others put me on Mount Rushmore. So, eat it. Eat it if you don’t like it.
BN: [Laughs] What do you think about the word retirement?
HE: People say are you going to retire? Or when are you going to retire? I says if you can spell that word for me because I can’t spell it, maybe I’ll think about it. But I can’t spell that word. When people say retire, no. What, do you think I should retire? No, no, no. I’ll tell you the joy that I have, there is a belief in radio that older people don’t get younger people who listen to them. That’s such BS because when people come up to me, because I’m at a lot of games, I’m in the public a lot, people come up hey man, I listen to you. If you’re good, or what you do is interesting and they think it’s good, then that’s all that matters to me.
BN: If you could pick one thing on your list that you want to accomplish going forward, what would you say it is?
HE: That is a really difficult question. I’ve been successful in the Philadelphia market, which is obviously not the easiest market to work in. It’s my home. I’ve known a lot of people here. I’ve met a lot of people. I just want to continue to do what I do and have the passion. If there’s anything I want to accomplish, I just want to have the passion and the love to do what I do. Whether it’s radio or TV.
Unfortunately, it’s kind of sad. Television sports is really — what a waste. I’ve told people this, it’s like it’s an afterthought on television. You know what, if there’s anything I want to do, I want to get TV to realize that sports on television is ridiculous. It’s not anything anybody tunes in to watch because on our phones you have the highlights before you get to the news. We have the news before we get to the news. You’ve got six different segments of weather, but I get them on my phone updated every 10 minutes, so I don’t need that.
Publishers have asked me to write a book. I have notes that I put down, different things that have happened to me in my career that I think would be interesting to people. I got my leg broken at a game on Christmas night in 2017, the year the Eagles went to the Super Bowl. I worked five games with a broken leg, but I didn’t tell anybody and I didn’t put a cast on it. It was a non-weight-bearing bone; I wouldn’t have been able to be on the sidelines if I had a cast on. I tell Nick Sirianni now for all your players that are soft, I worked five games with a broken leg. Stop already with all of these guys. [Laughs]
So someday, because you have to sit down, you really have to put some time into it and I wouldn’t write it myself, I would get a writer to help me write it. There’s some really interesting experiences. Again, stories I can, and stories I can’t tell. The can’t-tell stories are good, but the can-tell stories are still good too.
BN: Would there be anything about Angelo in there?
HE: You know, the one thing I didn’t do but I’ll wait till he retires, is rip Angelo a new ass. [Laughs]
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com or find him on Twitter @jeffcaves.
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