Rich Ohrnberger Is Finding The Funny in Everything
“I like to make people laugh. It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed doing and has come naturally.”
Work hard, play hard. That’s the basic approach Rich Ohrnberger brings to sports talk radio. He spent six years in the NFL as an offensive lineman, including two years with the New England Patriots. When you think of head coach Bill Belichick, I doubt you immediately think rockin’ good time and belly laughs. Belichick is detail-oriented, serious and dedicated. That’s part of what Ohrnberger brings as a host. He’s a grinder who’s meticulous when it comes to being prepared and getting better.
The other half of Ohrnberger’s approach is lighthearted storytelling and finding the funny in everything. He’s doing a great job of blending two different worlds — serious yet fun. “It’s time to work,” versus, “It’s happy hour, baby!” When a host can find the balance of being fully dedicated while maintaining the fun factor, that mixture is ideal.
Ohrnberger hosts a weekday morning show for San Diego Sports 760, and also weekend national shows for Fox Sports Radio. This would be his sports radio scouting report: Adaptable — an East Meadow, NY native now living in San Diego. Perceptive — quickly recognizes what appeals to his audience and delivers more of what they want. Most important attribute — funny and entertaining. Areas to improve — could lose a few pounds. (Just kidding, just kidding.)
There are several great viewpoints and stories from Ohrnberger in the conversation below. He shares an awesome story about a conversation he had with Hall of Famer Russ Grimm. He talks about what it was like to entertain the entire Patriots team from time to time. Ohrnberger also talks about not being a sports junkie as a kid and how his perception of the media has changed. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: You’re a seven-day-a-week show host. How’s everything going with your schedule in general?
Rich Ohrnberger: It’s awesome to be perfectly honest with you. I love the idea of immersing yourself in work that you love to do. I remember feeling that way about football because the football season my entire life has been that. It’s always been a seven-day-a-week job. Now in broadcasting, it’s no different. Part of the reason why I wanted to get into sports broadcasting is to stay close to the game of football. Part of that is living the grind a little bit. I’m not nearly as sore on Mondays, I definitely enjoy that aspect of it. But I appreciate feeling purposeful and having something to do every single day of the week. And because we’re not launching rockets, and we’re not doing brain surgery, there’s still plenty of time for family outside of travel for game broadcasts and things like that.
BN: There are a lot of people in sports radio that have been sports junkies their whole life, and that wasn’t the case with you. What were you into during your childhood and how big or little of a part did sports play in your upbringing?
RO: Yeah, I grew up in a household of musicians. My dad is a really talented and proficient guitar player. My younger brother, he ended up picking up the guitar and teaching himself how to play and then eventually became an even better guitarist than my dad. He played in bands. My dad, when he was a kid, played in bands. My sister was an operatic singer. She had an opera trained voice and she went to college as a vocal performance major. My mom even was a clarinetist in high school and ranked in the state. I don’t really know exactly how that works with bands, but she was pretty good at it.
I didn’t have a musical bone in my body. I was a little bit of the oddball in my family, but I was always a really physical kid with a huge amount of energy. I needed an outlet and sports seemed like the best outlet for all that. But it wasn’t something I was passionate about watching. I didn’t really love sitting down and turning on a football game as entertainment, or watching baseball. I got involved in a sport that isn’t as popular nationally as say, football, baseball or basketball. I got involved in lacrosse.
I loved lacrosse, and I played lacrosse my whole young life. Then I started playing some basketball as well. I would say my earliest memories of even watching sports was just really falling in love with how great Michael Jordan was and thinking like, oh my gosh, he’s doing things that you just don’t think are possible and he’s making it look easy. I would be in my driveway bouncing the basketball and thinking to myself, maybe I could do that one day. I was convinced that one day I would be Michael Jordan. [Laughs] It was just ridiculous, but in my mind, I was like, well, he can do it so clearly it’s possible.
My love for sports really was fostered by playing it. I didn’t enjoy watching it as much as playing it. I fell in love with superlative athletes and I really tried to mimic what they did at first, and that was my education. I didn’t live in a house of huge sports fans. I had to rely on my peers to teach me about sports, sort of fill in the blanks that I was unaware of.
BN: What area do you think you’ve grown the most as a sports radio host?
RO: My awareness of the host I want to be. What I want to be — and what is paramount I think to all broadcasts — is just be entertaining. There were times where I would turn on the microphone and really think like, oh my God, okay, I’m a former player, I need to inform everybody about all the things I know about football from a former player standpoint. Yeah, that’s definitely a part of it. That’s important.
Then there were times where I would turn on the microphone and be like, okay, I need to make sure that I argue against a take that I disagree with and make sure that I can very clearly take down and make counter-arguments to this ridiculous, outlandish take that I just don’t seem to agree with. Yeah, sure, that can be a part of a show too. But the most important thing is to be entertaining.
I like to make people laugh. It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed doing and has come naturally. I just want to do that. How can I incorporate it? I think what I’ve gotten the best at is finding the funny in everything. Even sometimes when you’re talking about tough stuff or boring stuff. Where’s the angle that’s going to make somebody smile or feel like, oh wow, he said something a little clever there. Those are the things I search for as I’m waiting to speak or listening to somebody and try to catch something that they said that we can move the conversation in an entertaining direction. Those are the shows I like to listen to. That’s the broadcaster I want to be.
BN: I’m a perfectionist. I’ve grown in not letting that be a bad thing. You can’t be a perfectionist and have a good state of mind in sports radio; you’re gonna drive yourself crazy. Just do the best you can, celebrate the wins, work on the losses, but don’t be handicapped by them, because you easily can be.
RO: I’m so glad you shared that because I was very much so a perfectionist for a long time. To the point where there were times where I’d be so ashamed to hand in something that I worked on that sometimes I just wouldn’t even hand it in. Or I’d feel like even if it’s a good grade, it’s a passing grade, I’d be like, well, I think it sucks so what use is that?
I had an offensive line coach named Russ Grimm in Arizona. Just an old, grizzled former player, Hall of Famer, big mustache, chewed tobacco. One time I remember he was critiquing my technique. He gave me a compliment. He paused the tape and he was like, now that’s exactly how it’s done. I’m like yeah, but I kind of stepped behind myself and I probably need to widen my base a little bit if he bull rushes me. He goes, dude, fuck all that. It’s never gonna be perfect. He was like, Rich, sometimes good enough is good enough, and that was good enough.
Then he hit play and the film continued. I was like holy shit. I mean, this is coming from somebody, obviously, who is definitely far more talented than I was when he was playing. And he had this belief that the job just needs to get done, so good enough is good enough sometimes.
BN: Your NFL days obviously help with knowing the X’s and O’s and all of that. But as a sports radio host, it might be even more valuable being surrounded by so many characters. If you’re trying to be an entertaining host, having teammates that say hilarious things in a locker room setting, does that help you more when you’re trying to pick out what’s funny or entertaining about any topic?
RO: Yeah, and also if you speak to enough of your teammates, you get a really good look at what America looks like. When you’re in a locker room with a bunch of different guys from a bunch of different areas of the country, a bunch of different races and cultures, different families and different backgrounds, well you have to find a way to communicate with all of them. That, in sort of a microcosm way, is connecting with an audience the same way it is on a mass level. Can you do that? Can you be appealing broadly?
A locker room environment, especially when you can get a bunch of guys in a locker room laughing, or listening intently, and there have been many times where I’ve been called in front of teams that I played on and I had to perform, not just as a rookie. I remember in New England there were a couple of different times where Bill Belichick would just call me out. He would just call me out because he knew that I would have a story from my life that would make the team laugh a little bit, or just get guys rolling, or add a little levity to a serious-natured work environment.
He would have me go in front of the room and I would just tell the guys a story. It was fun. It was a great experience because you realize the power of your words. If you can carefully choose them, and if you can deliver them with a certain level of enthusiasm, you can make everybody’s day a little bit easier, a little bit better. That has really carried over into what I do today.
BN: When Belichick said something like, ‘Hey, Ohrnberger, tell the team a story,’ what was that experience like for you?
RO: It made me feel like I was a part of the team. A lot of people would probably get real nervous, but I was like, oh yeah, he sees value in me. I felt like, yeah, this is something that I can offer that nobody else in this room can. Tom Brady can’t do this. He can’t get in front of the room and captivate a roomful of players telling a story about his life, not the way that I can.
Look, I can’t throw a football like him. I don’t have the brain he has. I certainly did not play as long as he has. My durability pales in comparison, but I could get in front of a room of my peers and just introduce them to a story they’ve never heard before about my life, and just have them eating out of my hand, laughing and sometimes crying laughing. It was the best. It was a great feeling because it felt like I belonged, like there was a reason that I was there outside of just being a football player, that there was value beyond just what I was doing on the field that I brought to the team.
BN: If you could give me the CliffsNotes version of one of the stories you told that had people belly laughing, what’s something that comes to mind?
RO: Oh, my gosh, I would tell them the most personal horrifying stories that have ever occurred to me.
Without going into too great detail, imagine the most embarrassing moments of your life. You may have been walked in on doing something, you may have had an accident of some kind or another, and you felt like a complete fool in the moment, but you know it would make a great story if you were just brave enough to tell it. Well, that’s what I was doing in front of the team and it was killing.
BN: [Laughs] Man, that’s awesome. I think you sidestepped the landmines on that one very nicely.
RO: [Laughs] I was trying not to give too much away. Also, look, that could definitely be something that comes up on a slow day on our show.
BN: Yeah, and that’s the other thing too, that stuff not only kills in a locker room, it kills on whatever show you bring it to. Have you brought similar things to San Diego?
RO: Oh, yeah. Anybody who’s ever listened to a radio show I’m on, I think one of the things I try to do is talk about me. We’re definitely covering sports because it’s sports radio, but I think part of the partnership that the listener has with the host is trust, and how the heck do you develop trust with anybody other than getting to know them?
The first thing you’ll do when you’re starting to get to know somebody is find out about their background. Where are you from? What did your parents do for a living? Are you married? Are your kids? What are their names? How old are they? Those sorts of things are so important to sort of build out a whole character. Otherwise, you’re just this surface-level update guy.
Trust me, that serves a role too because again, you need to have information intertwined into your show, and there’s nothing wrong with that profession if that’s what you want to do, but when you’re hosting a show, in my opinion you gotta go deep. You have to dig in and show people who you are. I think the shows that most entertained me growing up were the shows where I felt a connection with the host who was on the mic.
BN: I never really made the connection, but something that Belichick has done a great job of, I think would be a great approach for any sports radio show. You lived through this, he’ll sit there and quiz his players about their teammates and be like, hey, what’s this guy’s wife’s name? What are his kids’ names? Where’d he go to college? All this stuff. It’s like, know your teammates. It’s not just employee 26917. Like, it’s a guy. He’s got a family. He’s got a story. He’s got loved ones. I think that sports radio misses the mark all the time when it comes to that because it’s just human nature to not dig into the details of getting to know someone. If we did, I think shows would be a lot stronger.
RO: Yeah, I completely agree with everything you said. Another really good comparison back to the days in New England, because I remember that was one of the more nerve-racking experiences was when Bill would go around the squad meeting and would point to guys. You could be quizzed on anything. You could be quizzed on the game. You could be quizzed on your teammates. He kept everybody on their toes.
He really wanted people to have a deep level of appreciation for each other on the team, their story, how they got to where they are, and what they’ve done since they’ve been in the league. In terms of the opponent, almost the same thing. Like, tell me about this player. Don’t just tell me that he plays safety. Tell me the routes that he struggles defending. Tell me if he’s aggressive on play action, and he’s going to have backfield eyes when there’s a good, hard play fake from the quarterback to the running back. Tell me those things. That’s how you know if somebody’s really paying attention. That’s one of the things that Belichick required in those rooms was having everybody paying close attention to the details.
BN: I think Belichick should go into sports betting when his career is over.
RO: [Laughs] He probably would be like one of those 75% hitters, like one of those unicorns out there.
BN: Right? I swear he’d have something for in-game betting, prop bets, he’d be all over it. How has your perception of the media changed since being a player, especially under Belichick?
RO: [Laughs] Boy, my perception has changed immensely. My original thought process was that the media — and that’s such an interesting word because that’s a term that’s couched with so much negativity, like the media. The media, all that means is the various different ways that people can reach information — whether it be audio, radio, podcasting, written media, magazine writers, online writers, newspaper writers, or television — whatever medium that you’re taking in your information, that makes up the media.
It’s like this boogeyman, right? That’s the way I used to look at it like, oh, the media. But that’s not what it is. What I’ve learned now leaving football and joining the media is we’re just serving as a conduit to the information that people don’t have the time to pay attention to because they have jobs, and they have families, and they have other important things that they need to do.
They’re just trying to grab a little bit of something that they can carry with them into the office to talk to their buddy about by the water cooler, or on the Zoom call, or when he hops on the phone with his dad, like, hey, you see how Geno Smith is playing? Yeah, I was just listening to the radio, this guy is leading the league in blah, blah, blah. You’re just serving as a conduit to the information that people really don’t have the time to go and look up themselves. My opinion of the media has changed greatly. I think it serves as a great asset for people. It’s not this enemy that a lot of coaches build it up to be.
BN: As far as your future goes, what do you want to accomplish and what do you think would make you the happiest?
RO: The things that make me happiest are just advancing, whether that means entertaining a wider audience, doing a better job. That’s really important to me. Every single day committing myself to doing a better job. I’m not afraid to say it; I’m going to be a stronger broadcaster next year because I know I’m going to work at it. I’m going to learn things. I don’t claim to know more than I do. I know there’s plenty that I haven’t unearthed in this career that I can’t wait to. I know I’m going to put in the work to figure out what those things are.
My main goal is to just keep advancing as I learn more about technique and learn more about connecting with an audience and just keep doing more of that. I don’t want to set any goals in terms of career or where or when. I just know that if I get better every single day, if I make that very simple commitment, opportunities always seem to come. That’s really been how I’ve lived my life. That’s how I lived my life as an athlete and that’s how I’m living my life as a broadcaster.
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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