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Liam McHugh Continues To Try New Things

“It’s probably healthier for the game — healthier for all these broadcasts — if it’s on multiple networks. I think a little healthy competition is not a bad thing.”

Derek Futterman

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have been one of the most consistent and dominant teams in the National Hockey League over the last decade, winners of four Stanley Cup championships in the last 15 years. If you’re a devoted hockey fan, that statement of fact is obvious, and you would expect the team to be part of any conversation about the Stanley Cup Playoffs taking place on Turner Sports’ studio coverage of the NHL, led by Liam McHugh.

Sometimes though, the conversation diverges from the sublime to the ridiculous – but it is in the ostensible absurdity where, perhaps, the NHL on TNT differentiates itself. In this case, it was discussing what Penguins’ defenseman Kris Letang had dressed up as for Halloween – which turned out to be a grasshopper – and then deliberating on the characteristics of the animal and whether it is considered a predator or prey.

“The intent of that was to show [the team] in costumes, make a comment and then move on – but it just took on a life of its own,” McHugh reflected. “In the same respect, the very next segment what [the analysts] do really well is they can then break down the game really well. They can hit a key moment; they can interview someone really well and bring some personality out of them.”

The enigma of taking different approaches to covering sports – ranging from shootout contests to musical performances by studio analysts to dropping teddy bears from the ceiling to displaying tweets in real time – captivates and engages the audience. It is, according to McHugh, a “smart, entertaining and fun” way to bring out the personalities of the studio crew, and, in turn, helps augment the reach and popularity of hockey.

The approach is straight out of the playbook of Inside the NBA, the broadcast entity’s signature studio program for its coverage of the National Basketball Association, and something McHugh learned from its host Ernie Johnson.

“You want to just put something out there because you know your co-hosts are going to react to it,” he said. “You’re not exactly sure what the reaction might be, especially when we have [Paul Bissonnette] – I can ask him a basic question and I don’t know what the reaction’s going to be – but you want to put something out there that you know they’re going to react to and see where it goes.”

Working as a lead studio host for broadcast coverage of the NHL was never an obvious landing spot nor something McHugh planned for. His mother worked as a librarian and his father taught English, making the command of language through reading and writing a vital part of McHugh’s upbringing. It turned out he gravitated towards writing and subsequently pursued a career as a print journalist upon matriculating at the University at Buffalo.

Even after McHugh joined ESPN The Magazine, he did not think of himself particularly adroit as a print journalist, and conversations with his editors suggested that focusing on a different niche in the industry was likely the most suitable option. Despite possessing a taciturn demeanor which was, at one point, uncomfortable with public speaking, McHugh decided to build a career in broadcast journalism and attended Syracuse University to attain his master’s degree in the craft.

“I remember there were plenty of people there who were, on day one, sitting there saying, ‘I’m going to be a SportsCenter host,’ or if they were in news, ‘I’m going to be a nightly news anchor,’” McHugh recalled pertaining to his time as a graduate student. “I was really at this point trying to make a career, enjoy it, make enough money to live on and have some success.”

After local television stops in Terra Haute, Indiana and Oklahoma City, the Versus Network came calling for him to be the host of The Daily Line, an evening sports news show focused on fan engagement and banter. McHugh worked with professionals in different sectors of the industry on the program, including comedian Reese Waters, blogger Jenn Sterger and handicapper Rob DeAngelis.

Although it was canceled after seven months because of low viewership, it led to a new opportunity following the merger of NBCUniversal and Comcast (then-owners of Versus Network) related to covering hockey.

McHugh grew up as a fan of the New York Islanders; however, he had not closely followed the sport for many years. At this moment of his career, he was grateful just for the fact that he was still employed after the show cancellation and would be able to make ends meet. Make no mistake about it though – McHugh desired to comprehensively learn hockey, leading him to fervently read and watch games while receiving guidance from Keith Jones, a studio analyst and trusted colleague.

“He was the guy who saw something in me, thought I could be a solid show host and someone that he could mesh with and be able to produce good content with,” McHugh said of Jones. “At the same time, he knew I was light on sort of the inside-hockey knowledge, but he was willing to sort of work with me and have conversations with me and educate me throughout that process.”

McHugh’s first role would be as the host of NHL Live, the studio-based show airing before and after each of NBC’s nationally-televised hockey games. Being present among a team of established professionals with an abundance of skills took the pressure of McHugh to be preoccupied about anything other than performing his primary job. He had never worked at a national level in broadcast media before; therefore, he felt an immense amount of pressure to make sure he continued to earn his place and the trust of his bosses and colleagues.

“I had basically done everything myself from editing and shooting and writing to all of a sudden, there is now a machine behind you and you don’t have to think about every little thing in the show,” McHugh said. “You get to focus a little bit more on your role [and], to me, that was a big change and part of that change was being able to trust people…. they’re going to make the show look good.”

When McHugh was at NBC Sports, he was also hosting the wrap-up show College Football Talk and, eventually, worked as the on-site host of Football Night in America. These broadcasts lead up to Thursday Night Football produced in tandem with NFL Network and, for McHugh, took place on the road amid raucous crowds filled with energy and excitement. The pacing of the show and types of conversations that appealed to the audience quickly became apparent to him, along with how to best encapsulate the atmosphere; that is, until everything changed.

“I was doing that role during the COVID-moments,” McHugh explained. “Now you’re talking about like, ‘Hey, let’s go out to Liam McHugh; he’s at an empty stadium’…. The atmosphere is grim and it’s depressing and it’s hard to deliver the things that you want to deliver on-air. It was a lesson in how to do those reports from those places.”

Following the conclusion of the 2020-2021 season, the NHL negotiated new media rights deals with ESPN and Turner Sports, working with multiple broadcast entities to grow the game of hockey and deliver a stellar broadcast product. Subsequently, McHugh departed from NBC Sports and joined the team at Turner Sports to host its studio coverage, working alongside Anson Carter, Rick Tocchet, Paul Bissonnette and “The Great One”, Wayne Gretzky.

“He clearly does not have to do this and I thought he’d come in week one, sit with us for five minutes and be like, ‘Why am I here? Why would I want to do this?,’” McHugh said of Gretzky. “But instead, [he was] very much a hockey player in that he wanted to be a part of a team [and] wanted to be a part of this group.”

In working with two broadcast entities, viewers may perceive a sense of competition between each to present the best coverage of hockey. McHugh does not refute that assumption, although he does not feel that way. Conversely, he is sure the analysts, many of whom are friends with one another, have felt it. In the end though, aiming to be the best hockey broadcast on television is all for the benefit of augmenting the reach and allure of the game.

“It was different because at NBC, we had all of it for so long,” McHugh said. “In the end, it’s probably healthier for the game — healthier for all these broadcasts — if it’s on multiple networks. I think a little healthy competition is not a bad thing.”

McHugh and the NHL on TNT studio broadcast look to highlight the personalities of hockey players in order to facilitate the growth of the game in key demographics. Additionally, hockey has grown in popularity among young athletes with people taking the ice in all different parts of the country. Thus it is essential to maintain interest and, consequently, the growth trajectory through humanizing standout players and personnel.

“Pregame interviews are tough – guys don’t always want to talk; they want to get warmed up [but] I think we brought a different dynamic here where we brought out some of their personalities,” McHugh said. “Postgame interviews are usually better for us where it’s conversational and guys are joking around with us and showing their personality. Now you want to know more about that team; now you want to buy that guy’s jersey; now you want to root for that team.”

Turner Sports will broadcast the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time within the new seven-year national media rights deal and have comprehensive coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as a whole. McHugh covered the Stanley Cup Finals several times while working with NBC, but what he did not have was the man widely regarded as the game’s greatest player on his panel.

He believes the presence of No. 99, the league’s all-time leader in goals, assists and total points, not to mention a key member of four Stanley Cup championship teams, will captivate fans and alter the way people view the game.

“Some captain is going to take that Stanley Cup and we’re going to all sit there and watch it,” McHugh said. “To have the first voice to speak about that be Wayne Gretzky who hoisted that cup; who was handed that cup as a captain, a superstar and a legend – that he’ll be the first person commenting on that; there’s nothing better than that.”

McHugh also continues to step outside of his comfort zone, recently signing on with Apple TV’s Major League Soccer Season Pass package as its lead whiparound studio host. His role with the NHL on TNT remains his priority, though, and he is grateful that Turner Sports executives did not encumber him when the circumstance arose. Just as he believes hockey has a chance to continue to grow its consumer base, soccer, which he played in college, is another sport drawing new viewers and imploring fans to keep tuning in.

“I love the game – I really do,” McHugh said. “I think it’s growing here in America and I think this is a league that’s getting stronger.”

Apple and Major League Soccer announced last November that they had reached an agreement to launch a subscription service to soccer fans in over 100 countries and regions. Fans can begin subscribing to MLS Season Pass on Feb. 1 for $14.99 per month or $99 per season and enjoy live games, highlights and an exclusive whiparound show among other features. McHugh is excited for the kickoff of the regular season on Feb. 25 beginning with a late afternoon matchup between New York City FC and Nashville SC.

“It’s a different type of show,” McHugh expressed. “Twelve years ago, it would have very much intimidated me and scared me – and I’m still a little scared – but I think, again, it’s out of [my] comfort zone and trying something different. It’s a cool opportunity to do all those things.”

The technology company continues to move into sports media and live game broadcasts with the addition of Major League Soccer as it prepares for a second year of Friday Night Baseball. It is a component of a larger implementation of streaming into the consumption experience, underscored largely in the National Football League with exclusive game broadcasts on ESPN+ and Peacock; Amazon Prime Video’s presentation of Thursday Night Football; and YouTube TV securing the rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket out-of-market package.

Covering hockey, soccer or most other sports, McHugh brings versatility and experience to programs on which he appears and looks to continue providing fans informative and entertaining talk. While having fun is certainly an important aspect of each broadcast, being able to maneuver in and out of moments of poignancy or earnest gravity is an indispensable part of discussing all subject matter. He learned how to do this by conversing with Ernie Johnson and Bob Costas, while also watching late night television hosts; that is, those who do not primarily focus on sports but rather entertainment and pop culture at large.

“Sitting there whether I was watching Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert or people like that and realizing how you can have serious moments in a show; then you can pivot and have a light moment; and then pivot right back to something serious,” McHugh said. “That’s something that I really wanted in a show and I wanted to know how to do that. It’s not an easy thing and I’m still learning. Those are people that I watched because they were the best at that, and I think it’s something we’re trying to bring to the table on this show.”

Embracing spontaneity with the ability to take on new roles or to create a memorable moment based on free-flowing conversation is an aspect of hosting Liam McHugh has worked to master over his time in sports media. He takes his job seriously but does not take himself too seriously, allowing him the freedom and flexibility to enjoy his work and develop amicable working relationships with the studio analysts. He has also had to make sacrifices and now looks to attend more of his childrens sports games since he missed many of them over the years.

In covering Super Bowls, Stanley Cup Finals and Olympic Games throughout his career, he has taken calculated risks in sports media and is trying to enjoy the journey on the “long, twisting road.”. His previous experience as a multimedia journalist, print reporter and athlete have rounded him into the professional he is today – providing an assist to showcase hockey and soccer as a host.

“I’m thankful for the fact that I’ve got to do so many things that I never expected to,” McHugh said. “In the end, they make you so much better at the things that you do know – they just do.”

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The 2024 BSM Summit Welcomes Stephen A. Smith, Andrew Marchand and 7 More Speakers!

“I am both personally and professionally excited to announce that Stephen A. Smith will join us at the 2024 BSM Summit.”

Jason Barrett

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This week’s column is going to focus a lot on the upcoming 2024 BSM Summit. We released the full schedule today on BSMSummit.com. This is also the final day for event sponsorships to be secured. If interested, email Stephanie at [email protected]. We only have a few remaining opportunities.

If you’re participating at the show, be advised that emails will go out today to all speaker groups with details on date/time of session, content focus, the address of the venue, and who to contact on the day of the event. I have a few names I still have to add to our advertising panel. Getting CMO’s and/or media buyers involved isn’t always easy but I think it’s important. More on that soon.

But let me not bury the lead. We have a major addition to announce. I am both personally and professionally excited to share that Stephen A. Smith will join us at the 2024 BSM Summit.

A month ago I wasn’t sure if this was going to work out. As a longtime fan of Stephen A.’s, this has been a session I’ve wanted to do for six years. Sometimes schedules don’t line up though. But when things do fall into place, it’s pretty cool. This is one of those times.

Stephen A. Smith is a man who needs no introduction or hype. He’s one of the most successful on-air talents in the industry today, helping First Take enjoy nearly 15 years of unmatched success. Aside from his on-air excellence and the impact he’s created at ESPN and during the course of a three decade career, Stephen A. also serves as co-executive producer of First Take, and operates his own production company, Mr. SAS Productions. His book, Straight Shooter; A Memoir of Second Chances and First Takes is a New York Times best seller. He’s also created a hit podcast The Stephen A. Smith Show, which continues to attract a wide range of notable guests and thought leaders, and large audience.

On March 13th, Stephen A. and I will close out day 1 with a wide-ranging, in-depth conversation on the state of the sports media business. It’s a discussion that I know our professional audience will want to be present for. Given his rise to stardom, and ability to maintain a high standard while expanding into other areas of business, there’s a ton to tackle. We’ve got thirty five minutes to do it, and I’ll make sure we make the most of it. My thanks to Stephen A. and his team for moving a few things around to be able to join us.

8 More BSM Summit Speakers:

Stephen A. is going to attract a lot of attention, rightfully so but I don’t want to ignore how valuable these next eight speakers are to the Summit too. I am thrilled to welcome sports media’s top news breaker and a man whose recent arrival at The Athletic instantly elevated the brand’s media coverage, Andrew Marchand.

Joining Stephen A. and Andrew as additions to the Summit are Omaha Productions host Kevin Clark, Outkick’s SVP and Managing Editor Gary Schreier, Audacy Chief Digital Officer J.D. Crowley, Executive Editor and SVP of the Cumulus Podcast Network John Wordock, Matthew Berry’s Fantasy Life CEO Eliot Crist, 98.5 The Sports Hub program director Rick Radzik, and KOA 94.1/850 program director Dave Tepper.

I also want to thank SiriusXM, Quu and Bonneville International for signing on as Summit partners. We operate our shows independently and can’t pull them off without industry support. I’m grateful to every group that has pledged support for our 2024 show, and each individual who’s making time to join us in the big apple next month.

One-Day Only Sale:

To celebrate today’s schedule release and the addition of nine speakers, I’ve rolled out a one-day only sale on Summit tickets. We’re taking $50 off of individual tickets. To take advantage of the sale, click here. Prices return to normal on Tuesday February 27th. Ticket prices increase on March 4th to $324.99 so act now to avoid paying more.

Complete The Phrase:

Last week we tried something new in our 8@8. We introduced a full week phrase, which gave our newsletter subscribers a chance to win tickets to the BSM Summit. Congratulations to Heath Cline, Nick Cattles, Karlos Ortiz, Logan Ward and Michelle Rabinovich on being selected as our winners. Thanks to all who participated in the contest.

Thumbs Up:

96.7/1310 The Ticket: What The Ticket has created in Dallas with Ticketstock is pretty damn cool. The free event is well supported with sponsorships, giveaways, merchandise, contests, and live content from the entire on-air staff. In a time where sports radio isn’t active as it should be producing big money making live events, it’s good to see one of sports radio’s originals out there creating an impact.

Rob Parker: In May of 2016 I wrote a column and asked why no station in America featured an all-black sports radio lineup. Corporate groups didn’t rush in but someone finally took the leap eight years later. Congratulations to Rob Parker and his investors on the upcoming arrival of Sports Rap Radio in Detroit.

Battling 97.1 The Ticket for sports radio dominance isn’t going to be the focus for the new local sports radio brand. Creating an alternative for the black community and launching new stars is. Will it work? Only time will tell. But I appreciate folks who take risks to innovate. That’s something sports radio needs more, not less of.

670 The Score: I absolutely loved what The Score did to turn debate and discussion around Caleb Williams and Justin Fields into an event involving their audience. Having the access to an in-house room to invite fans in is a great asset Audacy Chicago has. Mitch Rosen, Ryan Porth and the Parkins and Spiegel team made good use of it with their QB1 Town Hall. The content was crisp, the room was full, and 670 took a normal day of Bears talk and turned it into an opportunity to create a stronger bond with its audience. Nice job by all.

Jonathan Zaslow and Q Myers: I’ll eavesdrop on a show every now and then and if I know the host(s), I’ll send a text to let them know I was listening. Especially if I like what I hear. That was the case last Thursday night. I’m not usually out at 10pm on a weeknight but while I was in the car, I scanned the dial and landed on Q and Zaslow. Their energy and chemistry was great, and the NBA topics and discussions were relatable and easy to process.

Having worked the night schedule before, you sometimes wonder ‘is anyone listening?’ The good ones focus and perform whether they have an audience of one or one million. Twenty to thirty minutes may not be a ton of listening time, but capturing even five minutes at night is difficult. Nice job by Q and Jonathan. They were on target and kept me interested.

Thumbs Down:

JJ Redick: Since bursting on to the scene, I’ve enjoyed JJ’s opinions and willingness to mix it up. It’s clearly worked because ESPN recently added him to their top NBA broadcast team alongside Mike Breen and Doris Burke. What I don’t understand though is his constant complaining about what people enjoy. Insulting the audience and their preferences is a sure fire way to lose fans. Kudos to Nick Wright for calling it out.

Drama and opinion will always outsell education. Nobody is suggesting that JJ shouldn’t try to make fans smarter. I myself appreciate that. But if you expect people to prefer analysis over entertainment, prepare to be disappointed. Furthermore, despising the audience and what they value leads to more people tuning you out instead of in.

ESPN 97.5: Six months ago the station lost a promising afternoon show with Jake Asman, Brad Kellner and Cody Stoots. Fortunately, they had a strong midday show with Jeremy Branham and Joel Blank that was ready for the afternoon slot. They then added a new midday show with Joshua Beard and Michael Connor, and all seemed to be moving in the right direction.

Until this week.

The station has once again cut staff, killing the new midday show just six months into its run, and parting ways with the only program director in the building. It’s hard to say you want to compete when your decisions suggest otherwise. Frequent change also gives local clients less incentive to stick with you. Here’s to hoping it works out for John, Lance, Joel, Jeremy, Paul and Joe. Good, talented guys who deserve more help and stability.

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Peter Rosenberg Has Become a Dual Threat Across the New York City Airwaves

“I refuse to be the guy who’s like, ‘Let me just repeat kind of the same point so you hear my voice and I sound like a sports talk host.’”

Derek Futterman

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Peter Rosenberg
Courtesy: ESPN New York

Michael Kay and Don La Greca have been working together since 2002. The duo was able to accumulate success together for over a decade, but in September 2015, management chose to add a third host. Kay and La Greca did not desire the change, nonetheless, they welcomed Peter Rosenberg and were receptive to his ideas and perspectives. As a result, they’ve ascended to a higher level, creating exceptional chemistry while leaving an indelible mark on the sports talk format.

Before Rosenberg joined The Michael Kay Show, he frequently listened to it. He detected an overall warmth from the show and felt included as a listener. Combined with the confidence and track record he had procured in media, Rosenberg was able to assimilate into 98.7 ESPN New York and the sports talk format while continuing his music radio duties. He was certain he would be able to find his way and make meaningful contributions and believes the program found its groove in the new structure quickly thereafter.

“I knew that I would bring goods to the table, and once we did a few shows together and we got along, it was pretty easy to see how it was going to work,” Rosenberg said. “Probably easier for me to see than for Michael and Don, but I could tell how this thing was going to work.”

Prior to each show, Rosenberg and his colleagues consider what people are discussing and what they feel passionate about. There are times when his views diverge from that of the group, but he is given the latitude to express himself and offer his viewpoint. In the end, he feels that the show oftentimes gets it correct and finds a way to resonate with the audience. A common remark directed towards Rosenberg, however, is his tendency to not speak all the time. The practice comes from discipline he has accrued over the years, along with a cognizance of the three-person format and ability to suppress hubris.

“If I don’t have a lot to say on a subject, we have three people,” Rosenberg explained. “I refuse to be the guy who’s like, ‘Let me just repeat the same point so you hear my voice and I sound like a sports talk host.’ I would rather wait for the spot and be impactful or make that little quip.”

Rosenberg will be on hand at the 2024 BSM Summit along with ESPN New York co-host Michael Kay, taking part in a Day 1 discussion. Having previously attended the industry conference several years ago, he remembers interacting with industry professionals and learning more about the industry as well. The conference will highlight many aspects of the sports business while examining current challenges, changes, and opportunities.

“There are a lot of jokes about sports talk radio – it’s very easy to make fun of – but it really is an art form to do it well,” Rosenberg said. “I’m not putting every show we do in the Louvre. We do three-and-a-half-hours a day, five days a week, but there are days that belong in the Louvre.”

Outside of his job with ESPN New York, Rosenberg works as a commentator for World Wrestling Entertainment, appearing on television one to two times per month for events. The mode of entertainment blends athleticism with storytelling and is something he considers to be an art form. Additionally, Rosenberg hosts a variety of digital programs and podcasts surrounding the sport, including Cheap Heat with The Ringer and independent YouTube endeavors such as Wrestling with Rosenberg and Real Late with Rosenberg.

“There’s a phrase in wrestling called, ‘Getting your shit in,’” Rosenberg said. “Wrestlers will joke about having a match where it’s like, ‘Well, I want to get my shit in; I want to get my moves in.’ I don’t need to get my shit in every day.”

Despite Rosenberg co-hosting the show with La Greca and Kay, the program is titled The Michael Kay Show, something that people could assume may cause derision or divisiveness. On the contrary, he does not regularly think about the subject and instead focuses on how he can help the program thrive on a daily basis.

Throughout the show, Rosenberg delivers his opinions and insights when appropriate and most salient to the overall discussion. Even so, he is able to talk at length and lead segments if necessary, equipped with a skillset fostered through countless repetitions behind the microphone. The balance between speaking and listening took time for him to implement, and through years of practice, he has become more adept at choosing his spots.

“I take a lot of pride in the sort of humor that I bring to the show, and a lot of that comes in when Michael and Don are being very serious,” Rosenberg said. “You may not hear me very much and it may just be an ad-lib that if you’re a real fan of the show and you listen, it cracks you up because you know sort of what my angle is.”

Although sports media was Rosenberg’s primary interest in his youth, he transitioned to the music format while studying at the University of Maryland. Considering his skills and passions, he determined that the hip-hop genre would be conducive to success and had dreams of hosting on venerated radio station HOT 97 in New York, N.Y. Rosenberg positioned himself for growth in these years, starting his own radio program on the student-run radio station in the summer ahead of his freshman year.

By the time he was a sophomore, he was interning with Darian “Big Tigger” Morgan and Keith “DJ Flexx” Clagon where he learned about formatics and how to run the board. Upon graduation, Rosenberg had stints working at WPGC and WHFS before landing his own talk radio show on WJFK.

Eponymously titled The Peter Rosenberg Show, the program featured Rosenberg and co-host Daryl “Quartermaine” Francis and fused hip-hop with sports and other topics. Even though many perceived the program to be primed for growth, Rosenberg was fired after one year at the station following an on-air feud with colleague Don Geronimo. During the ensuing week, he was broadcasting online from his bedroom while thinking about the future.

Ebro Darden, the program director and morning show host of HOT 97, decided to hire Rosenberg to work at the station in 2007. Since then, Rosenberg has co-hosted Ebro in the Morning alongside Darden and Laura Stylez. The cast provides listeners with honest, candid discussions, exclusive interviews, and plenty of hip-hop. Together the group has thrived within the sprawling media marketplace, building a unique camaraderie across the airwaves.

“Not a lot of teams at this level get along this well, as evidenced by what happened to our competition in the market,” Rosenberg said. “It is not easy for people’s ego to be in check and also for people just frankly to have good relationships – even beyond the ego, actually enjoying each other’s company.”

By hosting in a marketplace considered a consensus birthplace of hip-hop with extensive platinum artists along with many accomplished professional sports teams, topic selection in New York City can seem like a daunting task. Despite not being from New York, Rosenberg tries to captivate and enthrall listeners on two very different programs. The dichotomy between the two formats is something he believes has allowed him to appeal to different segments of the audience.

“When you do music radio, a lot of young women listen to you,” Rosenberg said. “It puts you in a different space – the way that you entertain; the way that you talk – what’s interesting [and] what’s cool is different. When you get on sports talk radio, you’re mostly talking to 50-year-old men, so I think every once in a while it’s useful to be able to inject some of the things that make it work for you with that different audience.”

In August, Good Karma Brands will leave the 98.7 WEPN-FM signal, shifting its focus to its app and the 1050 WPEN-AM signal. Despite enjoying a steady presence on the FM band since 2012, the local marketing agreement (LMA) established between ESPN and Emmis Communications will expire, and Good Karma Brands has elected not to pursue purchasing the signal. With roughly 60% of its listenership taking place outside of radio, ESPN New York will move forward with its focus on digital distribution, relying on 1050 AM for over the air availability.

“I think it’ll force us to be creative in terms of how we market and things like that, and I’m excited to see what everyone does, but I don’t spend a ton of time concerned about it,” Rosenberg said. “I think if handled the right way, you can really make it a positive with how you push the listening online and maybe find a way to surprisingly expand the show into reaching a bit more of a broad audience.”

The head-to-head competition between ESPN New York and WFAN is frequently scrutinized in each quarterly ratings book and has been addressed on various programs between the two entities. Although The Michael Kay Show has finished behind WFAN in the daypart, Rosenberg measures the success of the program through a variety of factors. For example, the program sold out its 20th anniversary show in New York City and has loyal callers who frequently chime into the discussion.

“We just get up every day and act like good people and talk about things that we’re passionate about. I wouldn’t trade it to be one of these screaming lunatics who talks about subjects they don’t actually care about just to get people to bite,” Rosenberg said. “It’s not what we do. To me, I think being yourself is what it’s all about because then if you’re never lying, you don’t have to keep track of what you said in the past.”

While they all have deft knowledge of various sports, Rosenberg tries to stay away from breakdowns that could either be difficult to ascertain and actualize or are too obscure to render enticing. In fact, his least favorite editions of the show are those that closely examine techniques and schemes associated with the games themselves. There are times when it is necessary, but he feels that it evokes previous theories on how to engender interest in the format and a motif of the transformation of consumer options.

“I think that the future of sports talk, to me, is going to be audiences who really want granular sports talk seeking out specific podcasts around the teams and sports that they’re obsessed with,” Rosenberg said. “I think the role of mainstream sports talk radio as we know it will be people who love sports and want to talk about it in a very entertaining way while being themselves and doing other things as well.”

While he still enjoys hosting in the format, he also understands that technological advances, paradigmatic shifts in consumption patterns and proprietary, athlete-driven content has obliged traditional outlets to adapt and exercise prudence. Avoiding misfortune is sometimes out of one’s control, but it is something that Rosenberg attempts to prevent by always staying at the top of his game.

“You’ve got to be talented and innovative because there are going to be less jobs. That is for sure,” said Rosenberg. “In terms of what the jobs are that are offered by big companies and where you can get yourself a nice little salary and insurance, those will be limited if you’re not a former athlete. I think it’s super important that we’re ready to pivot and do different things because otherwise, there’s just going to be so much competition among people.”

Throughout his media career, Rosenberg has amassed many accomplishments while cementing his position with ESPN New York, HOT 97, World Wrestling Entertainment and several independent undertakings. Despite generating consistent success in the country’s number one market in multiple formats, he does not consider himself to have reached his pinnacle as a broadcaster. Rosenberg undoubtedly cherishes his past and present work, but he exhibits tireless determination to augment his standing by aiming to perform at a level commensurate to and exceeding the ingrained standard.

“I know we live in a world where if you get a lot of viewers on Twitch and you’re 19 and funny, you’re hot, but I view what we do a little differently,” Rosenberg said. “I’m probably finishing up my 10,000 hours or just did in the last couple of years, so I’m really trying to master this craft and get to another level that I haven’t gotten to yet. I’m still working on it.”

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‘Load Management’ is Ridiculous in Sports and Even More Dumb in Broadcasting

I think it is a bad decision by any content creator to not have consistency.

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NBA Load Management Graphic
Credit: a2zfacts.net

If you are a fan of the NBA, you are familiar with the term ‘load management’ which has become popular in the last couple of seasons. I should say, if you are a fan of today’s NBA, because the NBA I fell in love with in the 80’s and 90’s had players who played unless they were hurt. Somehow I don’t think the thought of just sitting out a game here and there because it is a long season ever occured to the ‘Showtime’ Lakers or ‘Bad Boy’ Pistons.

Look, if the season is too long for today’s pampered players, we need to figure out how to shorten them. If not, maybe the players can sit out any game they want, they just don’t get paid for it (bet we see a change in behavior then).

I would love to spend this whole column writing about ‘load management’ from the player and fan side. Since I don’t have an NBA team in my city, I have to travel to see a game or two each year. I don’t even want to think about spending the kind of money it takes for me to get to an NBA game and then add in having to wonder if the player or players I am really wanting to see sit the game out for ‘load management’ purposes.

But, I digress. We cover sports media, not sports, so why am I bringing up the topic of ‘load management?’ Well, if you are a fan of The Pat McAfee Show on ESPN, you know that the show is taking a two-week break until March 4. The whole show. Just not happening. For two weeks. Instead, those that tune in to ESPN looking for McAfee, are getting SportsCenter. So, now, we have ‘load management’ going on with talk shows? I’ll come back to this.

Over the last decade or so, it has also been happening in the play-by-play booths of our favorite teams, especially in baseball. Recently here at BSM we have covered some stories of play-by-play talent being hired by baseball teams as Spring Training broadcasts get set to begin. If you are paying attention you are starting to see more announcers referred to as the “primary” play-by-play voice and then there is someone who serves as the backup. In some cases, there’s more than one backup.

What in the name of Vin Scully is going on?

Now, not only are our athletes managing their loads, but our broadcasters are, too?

What happened to the days when you would tune in to a team’s broadcast and you knew unless someone was sick or had a major life event, they would be the voices you would hear? In most cases you had one play-by-play announcer and a color analyst and they stayed in their lanes. After all, the two jobs are very different.

Today, you listen to a baseball game on the radio and you have play-by-play announcers switching off, you have color analysts doing a few innings of play-by-play, you have some innings where people disappear altogether. It’s like one of those lightbulb jokes, “How many broadcasters does it take to call one Major League Baseball game?”

Look, I get that people need breaks. I understand the grind of these seasons, especially baseball. So, perhaps you miss a game here and there during the 162 game (at minimum) season and the fill-in person sits in for you. Every once in a while, that’s understandable.

However, the nonsense that goes on now with people needing multiple innings off every game is a joke. Let’s put some consistency back in to our broadcasting.

The same can be said about your favorite sports television show, radio broadcast or podcast. Pat McAfee works his tail off. He is more than entitled to take some time off. What I don’t understand is why does the whole show need to shut down? Why does ESPN allow their programming lineup to be completely disrupted?

I think it is a bad decision by any content creator to not have consistency. It is so tough these days to pull audience away from their other habits. Letting them look for other programming for a couple of weeks while you take time off is a terrible idea and, in my opinion, shows little care for the people writing the checks.

Fans tune in to The Pat McAfee Show because they like the mix of sports talk, humor, bravado and all that comes with the show. I doubt many of them flip on the station, see SportsCenter running in place of the show they tuned in to see and leave it on. What percentage go somewhere else to find what they get from PMS in another show? What percentage of those discover something new they like? What percentage doesn’t tune back in because the habit was broken?

You can’t tell me The Pat McAfee Show couldn’t put together some great ‘Best Of’ shows or find a suitable fill-in host. Taking time off to refresh, spend some quality time with your family, take a vacation or just sit around and do nothing is great and needed. I just don’t get why the whole show has to do it at once. Give your audience something in place of your normal show that gives them a reason to stick around.

In my radio station management days, I always required programming to have a plan for vacations and if there was more than one host on a show, they couldn’t take the same time off unless it was a holiday. It never even occured to me we would ever allow a show to just take a few weeks off, throw the network on and just hope everyone came back when vacation time was over.

Consistency is huge in this business. Whether you are tuning in a game broadcast or turning on your favorite radio or television show, podcast or other digital content, you should expect to be delivered what you are there for, at least in some way, shape or form.

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The Best Thing I Heard This Week

This past Thursday Kevin Clancy, better known as KFC from Barstool Sports, was a guest co-host with Gregg Giannotti on WAFN, filling in for Boomer Esiason (who notably took some time off without shutting down the whole show!). One of the conversations Gio and KFC had was about the behind-the-scenes nature of Barstool Sports. Clancy used the term “reality TV” to describe what viewers feel like they are watching whenever Barstool teammates start arguing with one another. It is like a family and it all plays out for the audience to see. This is great content for any talk show host to hear. Your audience wants to know what is happening behind the curtain.

You can hear the full conversation by clicking here.

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In Case You Missed It

On Thursday, Barrett Sports Media founder Jason Barrett announced the addition of Paul Heyman from the WWE as one of the speakers at the 2024 BSM Summit. If you follow wrestling at all, you know how big this is already. However, I know many of you have an aversion to sculpted men rolling around in their underwear in matches that are predetermined, so for those you that don’t know Paul Heyman from Paul Molitor, let me play Jason’s hype man and tell you, this is BIG.

Paul Heyman may be the best on-screen character in the history of pro wresting, he is certainly in the conversation. He is also one of the most gifted speakers on the planet and he flat out knows how to get a reaction from an audience and create great content. He has done it all, in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Bottom line, don’t miss this year’s Summit. Paul Heyman is worth the price of admission alone, and oh by the way, you also get insights from some of the brightest minds in broadcasting and content creation. Hope to see you in New York!

You can read Jason’s full announcement by clicking here.

You can also get just a taste of what Paul Heyman is all about by watching this preview of his WWE Network biography:

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