Stormy Buonantony Is Focused On The Now with VSiN
“I analyze a lot of numbers and I make my own bets and if you want to bet with me, let’s do it, we’re in this together… but I like to bring people on the show who are dialed into their specific sports, who are dialed into the betting aspect behind the counter as handicappers and analysts”
There is a saying in sports that you never want to be the guy who follows the guy. I’ve always thought that’s garbage. Although it might not be ideal to take the place of a legend on the way out, I don’t want to be the guy that’s never given a big opportunity. That would be much worse.
A host that has the opposite of a defeatist attitude while taking over for legendary broadcaster Brent Musburger, is VSiN’s Stormy Buonantony. She has embraced the challenge with a positive attitude as if to say, “No one said anything about the girl taking over for the guy.”
The Vegas Stats & Information Network covers sports betting from all angles. Stormy has taken the torch on My Guys In The Desert while showcasing her personality and knowledge. In addition to that role, she still continues to deliver college football and NHL sideline reports.
We chat about what the heck Metallica has to do with her two separate jobs and not being driven by goals. Stormy also talks about the growth of women in sports broadcasting and betting, and also provides a winning eight-team parlay for tonight’s action. (I might’ve embellished the last part.) Enjoy!
Brian Noe: Where are you from?
Stormy Buonantony: I am born and raised in Las Vegas.
BN: Oh wow, you’re local.
SB: Yes, I grew up here through high school and then I went to college at San Diego State. From there I kind of bopped around from different jobs. I moved to Colorado and then North Carolina and then I ended up back in Vegas. It’s really cool to be working back in the city where I’m from and be around my family and stuff. The majority of my family does live in Vegas or in San Diego. It’s really cool especially after being on the East Coast for a few years and having not seen them for a really long time to now seeing them all the time.
BN: Do you think that being a Vegas local gives you a bit of an edge when it comes to sports betting coverage?
SB: Not an edge to the coverage but I think a more natural understanding of it. I did grow up more so in the culture. My uncle, Eugene Buonantony, is an oddsmaker in town. My dad and my grandpa back in the day, just huge bettors, bet on absolutely everything. When I’m watching a football game as a five-year-old with my dad, the game is a blowout, but he’s rooting for another touchdown because he needs the points. [Laughs] It’s definitely a different growing-up experience than most.
BN: What’s it been like taking over for Brent Musburger on My Guys In The Desert?
SB: There are no words. It is surreal. And it’s so cool that he’s still so involved with the show because during football season he was on for the full hour every Wednesday with me. Any time I had a question about anything he was right there to answer it. He’s so nice. He’s so cool. He’s so wonderful at sharing stories even with the sideline work that I do, he would go out of his way to make sure he knew which game I was assigned so that he could watch a little bit of it and help give me tips in that area too. He’s such a legend obviously but so personable and down to earth. Every day that I get to do a show with Brent is the best day. It’s the best show. It’s incredible. I feel very, very honored that in any capacity my name can be referenced in the same frame as his. He’s incredible.
BN: What’s it like to try to keep the show somewhat similar to what it’s been while making it different now that you’re a part of it?
SB: We thought it was super important to make sure that we kept some of that old-school oddsmaker flavor on the show. I absolutely adore Vinny Magliulo, Jimmy Vaccaro, Chris Andrews, all those incredible legends and sports betting Hall of Famers. I’m getting their stories incorporated on a regular basis and making sure we’re always going behind the counter with some of these incredible guys, but also adding a little bit of flair and a little bit of my personality injected into it and some fun. I’m kind of a quirky human. [Laughs] We do little, fun bits. We just try to be as creative and fun-loving and entertaining as we can while also presenting important information that bettors need to know and following line movement and things like that, I guess with whatever Stormy is, thrown in the mix.
BN: With people like that who know this stuff inside and out, what’s something you’ve either learned from what they’ve told you, or by observing how they think and how they approach sports betting?
SB: So much more goes into it than I guess I initially realized. I didn’t even necessarily understand how many different options that you could have betting certain things. Talking to those guys and hearing the way they get to a number I think is really unique. Why their number might not add up to a lot of the other people that you’re talking to and their handicap and what led them to certain things I think is always intriguing to find out. Following line movement has been really, really interesting to me because just as a novice growing up I just think oh, the point spread is seven. Okay, cool. But I don’t think about it moving to 7.5 and what that means and the impact of that number as a kid. Or even somebody just when I was in college and thinking about this type of thing, I didn’t really know what steam meant.
Seeing these big players laying these huge, massive amounts of money that change the game is really incredible. How people get information and does the book know that information or not? I think it’s just more conversational and hearing their stories and hearing how they do things has been really eye-opening for me. I’m a broadcaster; I don’t think of myself as a betting expert. I bring betting experts on to the show.
I analyze a lot of numbers and I make my own bets and if you want to bet with me, let’s do it, we’re in this together. We’ll ride the highs and lows, but I like to bring people on the show who are dialed into their specific sports, who are dialed into the betting aspect behind the counter as handicappers and analysts, and making that information consumable for people that have been doing this and betting for a long time or in the industry. I’m not dumbing things down for them but also making it consumable and understandable for somebody who might be listening to us for the first time.
BN: What do you think about the growth of women in sports broadcasting and sports betting?
SB: It’s huge. I feel like so many stories that I had heard coming up in this business were just about how it’s really hard, there’s going to be a lot of preconceived notions about you being a woman in the locker room, being a woman in this space. You have to overcome a lot of hurdles. I have had some of those experiences I guess, but more often than not I’ve had so many men in my corner that were supportive and have made me feel so comfortable working in this industry.
I think and hope as more women continue to get invested in sports and in the sports betting side that they’re welcomed because I feel like every day I’m seeing somebody new getting involved or a new face on television that I hadn’t seen before that’s a woman. Not only in reporter roles but in analyst roles and in play-by-play roles.
When it comes to betting, I don’t know if it’s because of the explosion of legalization over the last handful of years, but from a content producing standpoint of women in sports betting that like to talk about it, there are so many female faces and voices, whereas it was such a long journey I feel like in the sports reporter realm to get to that point. Now with more states opening up with it, as soon as it pops up in a state, there are women that want to get involved. They want to be a part of this. I think that’s pretty telling for that section of the industry in itself.
BN: How do you have to switch your mindset when it comes to hosting a sports betting show compared to doing sideline reports?
SB: Being a reporter and host are two completely different skill sets because for being a sideline reporter, you do all of this work leading up to this one day, but you speak in 30-second increments so you have to make sure that you get your story out, it’s concise, it’s consumable, it makes sense to everybody and it’s good. On VSiN, I have this wonderful opportunity to sit there and speak my mind for an hour or longer depending on what show I’m on that day. Obviously my show is an hour, but when I fill in on other programs that are longer, you get to really dive into a lot more, which does mean more research and does mean more work, but it’s really fun to share your opinion.
Being a reporter and being a sports betting host are very different from the standpoint that I’m telling other people’s stories and trying to get in-the-now information there, and in my show, it is kind of about my opinion. For whatever reason people want my opinion and I’m not sure why. But I’m just very used to being the question asker and not being the one voicing that. At first it was a challenge for me to be able to do that because so much of being a reporter is to separate yourself from it. You’re not the story and you’re not part of it, but VSiN encourages that. They want you to dive into the numbers and share why you like something or why you don’t and what you know and what you don’t.
BN: It makes me think of the band Metallica. Back in the day they had these long, long songs. Then the black album came along and their songs were shortened quite a bit. They were asked which was harder to do. The drummer said it was harder to make the songs shorter and to be more concise. They could come up with ideas all day for longer songs, but to trim things down was difficult. Which do you think is more difficult for you; the quick sound bites, or all the prep and all the airtime you need to fill on the VSiN side?
SB: Yeah, that’s a really interesting question. I find them both equally difficult. It’s a challenge but they’re equally fun in their own ways. I’ve never really thought of it that way. It is different so one thing about the show that I’ve never had to deal with as a reporter that’s new for me, and anybody that works in radio or live TV for a long time has dealt with it plenty, but this is a very new thing for me when I had started with the show was if a guest drops out.
I don’t have a co-host or anything and on other shows I always have. That is a challenge for me. At the beginning, you plan out the show and you allow a certain amount of time for certain things. Then if you’re a minute into an interview and somebody drops out and they’re not able to reconnect again and you just have 11 more minutes to fill of just you talking, that was very hard for me at first just because I had never experienced it before.
My producer, Stephanie [Kamerschak], is incredible. That first time specifically she’s like I don’t know why you freaked out, you handled that really well, I’m really proud of you. I was like okay, thank you. Maybe we can plan extra segments each show or something so we can have something in the back pocket. That was harder for me because I had been so programmed to be a sideline reporter and to be more concise, so stretching was a challenge for me at first. But now I feel a lot more comfortable with it. I’ve done the job for a full calendar year now and I’m used to those things happening, but the first time I was like what’s happening? Why is this going on?
BN: What do you see happening in the near future for sports betting?
SB: I think growth first and foremost. It’s just going to continue to become more and more widely accepted. My Twitter feed is just constantly filled with it. When you watch NFL Network or any of these major TV programs, they have tickers on the bottom with spreads now, which is so different. I think that that’s just going to continue to elevate and elevate. Maybe it’s in broadcasting that they’re incorporating it more.
We’re seeing them already obviously, but in-game. I was watching the UFC fights and while maybe it wasn’t done great, the way that they presented some of the numbers and odds, but they’re not trained in that either. They just have a DraftKings logo and they’re like okay, we’re supposed to do this promo so we’ll do it. But I think that’s going to transform from it being a blurb and here are the odds because this is a requirement to wow, this number moved a lot. A lot of people are thinking that this underdog has a real chance here and talking about it like that and have it being a free-flowing conversation broadcast is going to happen sooner than later. Growth with more women involved, with more people of color involved as it expands. I’m really excited for the future of sports betting. I think it’s only brighter and it’s only going to get bigger.
BN: It’s funny because it makes me think of Al Michaels where he would have those read between-the-lines comments like well, that’s overwhelming. Do you see yourself on the sidelines, and it might not be your whole report, but at some point interjecting sports betting into what you’re saying?
SB: I actually have once. It was very fortunate the way that this panned out, but I was working the New Mexico Bowl this past bowl season and a couple of the players on the sideline kept on saying the number of the week. I think it was 11 maybe. But that was the point spread of the game. One of the kids even came up to me and was like did you hear that? I was like yeah, what was that about? He was like they were 11-point underdogs, that’s been their motivation. They knew they were being doubted. They were up at halftime. I just remember thinking that was so cool and I told my producer. I was like am I allowed to say this? He said go for it. It was really cool to see those worlds collide there for a moment.
BN: I wonder if that will ever become common. To me I just wonder where the line is, how far is it going to go before someone says that’s a little bit too much.
SB: Yeah, I’m not sure. Every other job that I have had prior to where I am at now, I’ve not been allowed to bet based on my contract. When I worked for the Mountain West Conference, you can’t even bet on any professional sport if it has an NCAA championship. You can’t bet on any college sports and you can’t bet on any professional sport that is associated with an NCAA program.
I worked for the Carolina Panthers in the NFL; you can’t bet on any NFL or football. I worked for the NHL; you can’t bet on anything hockey-related. It took a little while for my brain to flip that switch that no, you’re allowed to talk about this, it’s okay. Don’t freak out. [Laughs] It’s awesome now because I’ll go on a football game and our statistician will be over there like okay, Stormy, what’s the big game that we’re looking at this week? People are into it and it’s awesome and it’s cool and it’s normal. I’m sure it’ll take some adjusting for some of those big-wigs to welcome this transition. I don’t know where the line is. Fortunately, that’s above my pay grade and so I don’t have to worry about that right now. [Laughs]
BN: How often has it happened where you’re under contract, you can’t bet, and you’re like I would totally bet this line right now?
SB: All the time. It happened all the time. What was the worst was when I worked in collegiate athletics and working for a college conference you can’t even make an NCAA tournament bracket. Even if it’s not for money, you just can’t do it. So bizarre. When I worked in the NFL, my dad’s calling me every week, so what’s going on, Storm? I’m like, dad, I can’t tell you, but I do like that number. [Laughs] Stuff like that, it’s just so goofy. It’s really interesting. It’s a different world.
BN: What experiences would you like to have going forward in your career?
SB: I am the worst person to answer this question because I am just so on the fly and living life day by day. Whenever anybody asks me, where do you see yourself in five years, I’m like I have no idea because every time I think I know, I never end up there. And it’s been for the best. There have been so many jobs that I thought I really, really wanted and I didn’t get and I was so sad about it, but if I would’ve taken that job then I never would have gotten this other opportunity, which ended up being so much better for me. I’m very much just taking opportunities and taking life as it happens.
The fact that I’m with VSiN even feels super serendipitous. I was just back in town and someone basically saw me on a Golden Knights broadcast when I was working for the team in town and realized hey, that last name sounds really familiar and connected the dots with my uncle and was like wait, does she know sports betting? They just got to know me and asked if I liked or cared about sports betting and developed that relationship. I never ever, ever, ever would’ve thought that I would be working in this industry and now I can’t imagine not working in it. Yeah, just kind of seeing what happens.
BN: Do you ever think that goals could get in your way, meaning if you’re in the moment and you’re day by day, if you’re thinking I want to get to this job, could that almost throw you off in a way?
SB: I think sometimes because it doesn’t let you embrace what you’re doing currently enough. If you’re always seeking that next thing and that next opportunity, you’re probably not giving your all to your current job. That’s always been really important to me. People are paying me to do this job for a reason. I want to make sure they’re getting what they’re paying for. I want to make sure they’re getting all of my personality, all of my energy and that I’m not just always looking for what’s next. I think that’s really important and maybe that does get lost for some people.
I also think a lot of times at least for me early on in my career where I was thinking dang, why am I not quite here yet. I was looking at so many other people that were my age or younger doing certain things. Comparison is the thief of joy; I don’t know where that quote comes from but I very, very firmly believe in it. I’m more so focused on supporting and lifting other people up and celebrating everybody’s wins; it’s so much more important to me now than trying to get what’s next. I just think that’s really important.
Brian Noe is a columnist for BSM and an on-air host heard nationwide on FOX Sports Radio’s Countdown To Kickoff. Previous roles include stops in Portland, OR, Albany, NY and Fresno, CA. You can follow him on Twitter @TheNoeShow or email him at email@example.com.
Amanda Brown Has Embraced The Bright Lights of Hollywood
“My whole goal was that I didn’t need people to like me; I needed people to respect me.”
The tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and eight others aboard a helicopter, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, sent shockwaves around the world of sports, entertainment, and culture. People traveled to Los Angeles following the devastating news and left flowers outside the then-named STAPLES Center, the arena which Bryant called home for much of his career, demonstrating the magnitude of the loss. Just across the street from the arena, Amanda Brown and the staff at ESPN Los Angeles 710 had embarked in ongoing breaking news coverage, lamentation, and reflection.
It included coverage of a sellout celebration of life for Kobe and his daughter and teams around the NBA opting to take 8-second and 24-second violations to honor Bryant, who wore both numbers throughout his 20-year NBA career. They currently hang in the rafters at Crypto.com Arena, making Bryant the only player in franchise history to have two numbers retired.
During this tumultuous time, Bryant’s philosophy served as a viable guiding force, something that Brown quickly ascertained in her first month as the station’s new program director.
“I had people that were in Northern California hopping on planes to get here,” Brown said. “You didn’t even have to ask people [to] go to the station; people were like, ‘I’m on my way.’ It was the way that everybody really came together to do really great radio, and we did it that day and we did it the next day and we did it for several days.”
The 2023 BSM Summit is quickly approaching, and Brown will be attending the event for the first time since 2020. During her first experience at the BSM Summit in New York, Brown had just become a program director and was trying to assimilate into her role. Because of this, she prioritized networking, building contacts, and expressing her ideas to others in the space. This year, she looks forward to connecting with other program directors and media professionals around the country while also seeking to learn more about the nuances of the industry.
“The Summit is kind of like a meeting of the minds,” Brown said. “It’s people throughout the country and the business…. More than anything, [the first time] wasn’t so much about the panels as it was about the people.”
Growing up in Orange County, Brown had an interest in the Los Angeles Lakers from a young age, being drawn to play-by-play broadcaster Chick Hearn. Brown refers to Hearn as inspiration to explore a career in broadcasting. After studying communications at California State University in Fullerton, she was afforded an opportunity to work as a producer at ESPN Radio Dallas 103.3 FM by program director Scott Masteller, who she still speaks to on a regular basis. It was through Masteller’s confidence in her, in addition to support from operations manager Dave Schorr, that helped make Brown feel more comfortable working in sports media.
“I never felt like I was a woman in a male-dominated industry,” Brown said. “I always just felt like I was a part of the industry. For me, I’ve kind of always made it my goal to be like, ‘I deserve to be here; I deserve a seat at the table.’”
Brown quickly rose up the ranks when she began working on ESPN Radio in Bristol, Conn., working as a producer for a national radio show hosted by Mike Tirico and Scott Van Pelt, along with The Sports Bash with Erik Kuselias. Following five-and-a-half years in Bristol, Brown requested a move back to California and has worked at ESPN Los Angeles 710 ever since. She began her tenure at the station serving as a producer for shows such as Max and Marcellus and Mason and Ireland.
Through her persistence, work ethic and congeniality, Brown was promoted to assistant program director in July 2016. In this role, she helped oversee the station’s content while helping the entity maintain live game broadcast rights and explore new opportunities to augment its foothold, including becoming the flagship radio home of the Los Angeles Rams.
“Don’t sit back and wait for your managers or your bosses to come to you and ask what you want to do,” Brown advised. “Go after what you want, and that’s what I’ve always done. I always went to my managers and was like, ‘Hey, I want to do this. Give me a chance; let me do that.’ For the most part, my managers have been receptive and given me those opportunities.”
When executive producer Dan Zampillo left the station to join Spotify to work as a sports producer, Brown was subsequently promoted to program director where she has helped shape the future direction of the entity. From helping lead the brand amid its sale to Good Karma Brands in the first quarter of 2022; to revamping the daily lineup with compelling local programs, Brown has gained invaluable experience and remains keenly aware of the challenges the industry faces down the road. For sports media outlets in Los Angeles, some of the challenge is merely by virtue of its geography.
“We’re in sunny Southern California where there’s a lot of things happening,” Brown said. “We’re in the middle of Hollywood. People have a lot of opportunities – you can go to the mountains; you can go to the beach. I think [our market] is more about entertainment than it is about actual hard-core sports. Yes, obviously you have hard-core Lakers fans; you have hard-core Dodgers fans, but a majority of the fans are pretty average sports fans.”
Because of favorable weather conditions and an endless supply of distractions, Brown knows that the way to attract people to sports talk radio is through its entertainment value. With this principle in mind, she has advised her hosts not to worry so much about the specific topics they are discussing, but rather to ensure they are entertaining listeners throughout the process.
“People know the four letters E-S-P-N mean sports, but really our focus is more on entertainment more than anything,” Brown said. “I think the [talent] that stick out the most are the ones that are the most entertaining.”
Entertaining listeners, however, comes through determining what they are discussing and thinking about and providing relevant coverage about those topics. Even though it has not yet been legalized in the state of California, sports gambling content has been steadily on the rise since the Supreme Court made a decision that overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act established in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (2018). Nonetheless, Brown and ESPN Los Angeles 710 have remained proactive, launching a sports gambling show on Thursday nights to try to adjust to the growing niche of the industry.
Even though she has worked in producing and programming for most of her career, Brown is eager to learn about the effect sports gambling has on audio sales departments. At the same time, she hopes to be able to more clearly determine how the station can effectuate its coverage if and when it becomes legal in their locale.
“I know that a lot of other markets have that,” Brown said regarding the legalization of sports gambling. “For me, I’m interested to hear from people who have that in their markets and how they’ve monetized that and the opportunity.”
No matter the content, though, dedicated sports radio listeners are genuinely consuming shows largely to hear certain talent. Brown recalls receiving a compliment on Twitter earlier this quarter where a listener commented that he listens to ESPN Los Angeles 710 specifically for Sedano and Kap. Evidently, it acted as a tangible sign that her philosophy centered around keeping people engrossed in the content is working, and that providing the audience what it wants to hear is conducive to success.
At this year’s BSM Summit, Brown will be participating on The Wheel of Content panel, presented by Core Image Studio, featuring ESPN analyst Mina Kimes and FOX Sports host Joy Taylor. Through their discussion, she intends to showcase a different perspective of what goes into content creation and the interaction that takes place between involved parties.
“A lot of times in the past, all the talent were on one panel; all the programmers were on one panel,” Brown said. “To put talent and a programmer together, I think it’s an opportunity for people to hear both sides on certain issues.”
According to the most recent Nielsen Total Audience Report, AM/FM (terrestrial) radio among persons 18-34 has a greater average audience than television. The statistical anomaly, which was forecast several years earlier, came to fruition most likely due to emerging technologies and concomitant shifts in usage patterns.
Simultaneously, good content is required to captivate consumers, and radio, through quantifiable and qualifiable metrics, has been able to tailor its content to the listening audience and integrate it across multiple platforms of dissemination. The panel will give Brown a chance to speak in front of her peers and other industry professionals about changes in audio consumption, effectuated by emerging technologies and concomitant shifts in usage patterns.
Yet when it comes to radio as a whole, the patterns clearly point towards the proliferation of digital content – whether those be traditional radio programs or modernized podcasts. Moreover, utilizing various elements of presentation provides consumers a greater opportunity of finding and potentially engaging with the content.
“We do YouTube streaming; obviously, we stream on our app,” Brown said. “We’ve even created, at times, stream-only shows whether it’s stream-only video or stream-only on our app. We all know that people want content on-demand when they want it. I think it’s about giving them what they want.”
As a woman in sports media, Brown is cognizant about having to combat misogyny from those inside and outside of the industry, and is grateful to have had the support of many colleagues. In holding a management position in the second-largest media market in the United States, she strives to set a positive example to aspiring broadcasters. Additionally, she aims to be a trusted and accessible voice to help empower and give other women chances to work in the industry – even if she is not universally lauded.
“I’ve kind of always made it my goal to be like, ‘I’m no different than anyone else – yes, I’m a female – but I’m no different than anyone else,’” Brown expressed. “My whole goal was that I didn’t need people to like me; I needed people to respect me.”
Through attending events such as the BSM Summit and remaining immersed in sports media and the conversation at large about the future of sports media, Brown can roughly delineate how she can perform her job at a high level.
Although the genuine future of this business is always subject to change, she and her team at ESPN Los Angeles 710 are trying to come up with new ideas to keep the content timely, accurate, informative, and entertaining. She is content in her role as program director with no aspirations to become a general manager; however, remaining in her current role requires consistent effort and a penchant for learning.
“Relationships are very important overall in this business whether you’re a programmer or not,” Brown said. “Relationships with your talent; relationships with your staff. If you invest in your people, then they’re going to be willing to work hard for you and do what you ask them to do.”
The 2023 BSM Summit is mere days away, and those from Los Angeles and numerous other marketplaces will make the trip to The Founder’s Club at the Galen Center at the University of Southern California (USC).
Aside from Brown, Kimes and Taylor, there will be other voices from across the industry sharing their thoughts on aspects of the industry and how to best shape it going forward, including Colin Cowherd, Rachel Nichols, Al Michaels and Eric Shanks. More details about the industry’s premiere media conference can be found at bsmsummit.com.
“I’m excited to be a female program director amongst male program directors for the first time and get a seat at the table and represent that there can be diversity in this position,” Brown said. “We don’t see a lot of it, but… there is an opportunity, and I hope I can be an example for other people out there [to show] that it’s possible.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, he interns in video production with the New York Islanders and formerly worked as production manager for the team’s radio broadcasts. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks, wrote for the Long Island Herald and served as lead sports producer at NY2C. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
Pat McAfee Has Thrown Our Business Into a Tailspin
Yet even with all the accomplishments he’s been able to achieve, McAfee is still anxious and unsatisfied with the state of his show and his career.
When you have one of the hottest talk shows in America, you’re always up to something. That’s the case for the most popular sports talk show host in America – Pat McAfee.
The former Pro Bowl punter was on top of the world on Wednesday. With over 496,000 concurrent viewers watching at one point, McAfee was able to garner an exclusive interview with frequent guest Aaron Rodgers who announced his intention to play for the Jets.
Yet even with all the accomplishments he’s been able to achieve — a new studio, consistent high viewership, a syndication deal with SportsGrid TV, a four-year, $120 million deal with FanDuel — McAfee is still anxious and unsatisfied with the state of his show and his career.
At the end of the day, he is human and he’s admitted that balancing his show, his ESPN gig with “College Gameday,” and his WWE obligations has taken a toll on him.
McAfee and his wife are expecting their first child soon and he recently told The New York Post he might step away from his deal with FanDuel. Operating his own company has come with the responsibility of making sure his studio is up and running, finding people to operate the technology that puts his show on the air, negotiating with huge behemoths like the NFL for game footage rights, booking guests, booking hotels, implementing marketing plans and other tasks that most on-air personalities rarely have to worry about.
McAfee says he’s looking for a network that would be able to take control of those duties while getting more rest and space to spend time with family while focusing strictly on hosting duties. FanDuel has its own network and has the money to fund such endeavors but is just getting started in the content game. McAfee needs a well-known entity to work with who can take his show to the next level while also honoring his wishes of keeping the show free on YouTube.
The question of how he’s going to be able to do it is something everyone in sports media will be watching. As The Post pointed out in their story, McAfee hasn’t frequently stayed with networks he’s been associated with in the past for too long. He’s worked with Westwood One, DAZN, and Barstool but hasn’t stayed for more than a year or two.
There’s an argument to be made that the latter two companies weren’t as experienced as a network when McAfee signed on with them compared to where they are today which could’ve pushed the host to leave. But at the end of the day, networks want to put money into long-term investments and it’s easy to see a network passing on working with McAfee for fear that he’ll leave them astray when he’s bored.
It’ll also be difficult for McAfee to find a network that doesn’t put him behind a paywall. Amazon and Google are rumored to be potential new homes. But both are trying to increase subscribers for their respective streaming services.
It will be difficult to sell Amazon on investing money to build a channel on YouTube – a rival platform. For Google, they may have the tech infrastructure to create television-like programming but they aren’t an experienced producer, they’ve never produced its own live, daily talk show, and investing in McAfee’s show doesn’t necessarily help increase the number of subscribers watching YouTube TV.
Networks like ESPN, CBS, NBC, and Fox might make sense to partner with. But McAfee faces the possibility of being censored due to corporate interests. Each of these networks also operates its networks or streaming channels that air talk programming of their own. Investing in McAfee could cannibalize the programming they already own.
And if McAfee works with a traditional network that isn’t ESPN, it could jeopardize his ability to host game casts for Omaha or analyze games on Gameday. It’s not impossible but would definitely be awkward on days that McAfee does his show remotely from locations of ESPN games with ESPN banners and signage that is visible in the background.
If SportsGrid has the money to invest in McAfee, they might be his best bet. They have all the attributes McAfee needs and they already have a relationship with him. It is probably unlikely that he’ll be censored and he would even be able to maintain a relationship with FanDuel – a company SportsGrid also works alongside.
Roku is another option — they already work with Rich Eisen — but they would move his show away from YouTube, something McAfee should resist since the majority of smart TV users use YT more than any other app.
If the NFL gave McAfee editorial independence, they would make the perfect partner but the likelihood of that happening is slim to none. NFL Media has independence but it was clear during the night of the Damar Hamlin incident that they will do whatever is necessary to stay away from serious topics that make the league look bad until it’s totally unavoidable.
It’s hard to think of a partner that matches up perfectly with McAfee’s aspirations. But once again, at the moment, he’s on top of the world so anything is possible. The talk show host’s next move will be even more interesting to watch than the other fascinating moves he’s already made that have put the sports media industry in a swivel.
Jessie Karangu is a columnist for BSM and graduate of the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland but comes from Kenyan roots. Jessie has had a passion for sports media and the world of television since he was a child. His career has included stints with USA Today, Tegna, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Sightline Media. He can be found on Twitter @JMKTVShow.
5 Tips For Networking At the BSM Summit
“Have a plan and don’t leave home without it.”
Bring your game plan if you attend the BSM Summit in LA next Tuesday and Wednesday. No matter your purpose for attending: to learn, get a job, speak, or sell an idea, you must be able to read the room. To do that, it helps to know who will be there and how you can cure their pain.
Have a plan and don’t leave home without it. If you have time, buy How to Work a Room by Susan Roane. If you don’t, just follow these five tips:
- INTRODUCE YOURSELF: Before you arrive at The Summit, figure out what you want, who you want to meet, and what you will say. Once you get there, scout out the room and see if anyone of those people are available. Talk to speakers after they have spoken- don’t worry if you miss what the next speaker says. You are there to meet new people! Most speakers do not stick around for the entire schedule, and you don’t know if they will attend any after-parties, so don’t risk it. Refine your elevator pitch and break the ice with something you have in common. Make sure you introduce yourself to Stephanie, Demetri and Jason from BSM. They know everybody and will help you if they can.
- GET A NAME TAG: Don’t assume that name tags will be provided. Bring your own if you and make your name clear to read. If you are looking to move to LA or want to sell a system to book better guests, put it briefly under your name. Study this to get better at remembering names.
- LOSE THE NOTEBOOK: When you meet folks, ensure your hands are free. Have a business card handy and ask for one of theirs. Remember to look people in the eye and notice what they are doing. If they are scanning the room, pause until they realize they are blowing you off. Do whatever it takes to sound upbeat and open. Don’t let their clothes, hair, or piercings distract from your message. You don’t need to wear a suit and tie but do bring your best business casual wear. A blazer isn’t a bad idea either.
- SHUT UP FIRST! The art of knowing when to end the convo is something you will have to practice. You can tell when the other person’s eye starts darting or they are not using body language that tells you the convo will continue. You end it by telling them you appreciate meeting them and want to connect via email. Ask for a business card. Email is more challenging to ignore than a LinkedIn request, and you can be more detailed in what you want via email.
- WORK THE SCHEDULE: Know who speaks when. That is when you will find the speakers hanging around. Plan your lunch outing to include a few fellow attendees. Be open and conversational with those around you. I am a huge USC fan, so I would walk to McKays– a good spot with plenty of USC football memorabilia on the walls. Sometimes you can find the next day’s speakers at the Day 1 after party. Need a bar? Hit the 901 Club for cheap beer, drinks, and food.
Jeff Caves is a sales columnist for BSM working in radio, digital, hyper-local magazine, and sports sponsorship sales in DFW. He is credited with helping launch, build, and develop SPORTS RADIO The Ticket in Boise, Idaho, into the market’s top sports radio station. During his 26 year stay at KTIK, Caves hosted drive time, programmed the station, and excelled as a top seller. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter @jeffcaves.
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