Steak Shapiro Has Never Been Boring
“One thing I’ve never been is boring. Now, you may love me or think I’m overrated, but I’m not boring.”
Radio is an unstable industry to earn a living. This is not breaking news. The interesting thing is that it’s just accepted. Similar to how people in Miami accept hurricanes or residents in Los Angeles accept earthquakes, most people that work in radio simply accept that they could be out of a job at seemingly any moment. Steak Shapiro has been a sports radio host in Atlanta for over 27 years. The cool part about Shapiro’s journey is that he didn’t just shrug his shoulders and accept random dismissals.
After he lost his initial gig in Atlanta back in 1996, Shapiro took an uncommon approach. He realized that it would be a lot harder to get fired if he owned a company instead. Yeah, makes a lot of sense. For over a quarter century, Shapiro has been part radio host, part business owner. Pretty cool. I picture radio employees that have been fired, raising a glass and saying, “Right on, Steak. Good for you, man.”
Shapiro talks about his weekday show at 92.9 The Game, and how rotating co-hosts keeps The Steakhouse fresh. He touches on the aftermath of a mini sparring session he had with Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett on Twitter. Shapiro also explains how much better his reality in Atlanta has been compared to his expectations and reveals the story behind his stage name. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: How are things going for you at The Game?
Steak Shapiro: It’s awesome, great station. Biggest station I’ve ever been on, 100,000-watt Audacy property. Really the king of the sports talk format in terms of that company. The two-hour show, they’ve afforded me to have a shift that really works given the other projects I’m involved with. I work with the people I asked to work with.
Sandra [Golden] and I are back together three days a week. Then I have Rusty Manzel on Wednesdays. He’s the number one recruiting guru in the Southeast. And then Drew Butler who’s a rising star in the media business. Five years in the NFL, played for Georgia, super creative. The five of us including my producer, Orin Romain, who worked for me back at The Zone years ago.
First time I’ve ever had my name in the show title, which is cool. It was always Mayhem in the AM, Mayhem in the PM, or other stuff. It could not be going better. It’s great hours, I don’t get up for morning drive anymore. It doesn’t take away from the company I run, Bread n’ Butter / Atlanta Eats. It’s the type of show that they want me to do — sports, food, business, entertainment. It’s built on the notion that sports is not the end all, be all. It’s super fun. It’s awesome. We’re crushing in terms of our ratings and numbers. But more importantly, it’s just a daily radio show is what I love to do. I’m very happy.
BN: How would you describe what it’s like to host the show with three different co-hosts on various days during the week?
SS: I just enjoy the collaboration part of radio. I like these three people so much. They’re like me, they’re funny, they’re entertaining. Every day, they’re excited because it’s their one day of the week or one of three days. I think a great radio show is built on the energy of the people in the room. I’m always excited. I may not be the most talented talk host in history, but nobody gets more excited to be doing sports talk and doing radio. I just enjoy all three of them.
I just change the format a little depending on who’s there. Sandra and I are like Kelly and Ryan, we’ve been together forever. We know each other like we’re work wives and husbands. Sandra and I have been together on and off for 20 years. Then Rusty and Drew are just great guys. It’s fun. Instead of making it challenging, it makes it easier because each person comes in completely fresh.
That’s their one two-hour shift to be on a 100,000-watt station that is the dominant station in Atlanta. When Rusty comes in, or Drew comes in, or Sandra comes in, they’re so fired up to be there. Radio can be a grind. Same people every day trying to make it fresh; it’s not a problem because it really is fresh with these guys. It’s what I enjoy, which is just being with different people on different days.
BN: What stage of your career did you think, man, I’ve got to have more stability professionally than just radio?
SS: I moved to Atlanta in 1995 to do mornings. I was fired in 1996 and I was like ‘Oh shit, that was my big break’. I was in my 20s. Next thing you know, I was out of a job because the Dickeys, David Dickey and their family, leased their station to Cox. We were essentially all fired by no fault of our own because somebody else took over the format, and they didn’t want edgy sports talk hosts. They wanted to kill the format.
I was engaged to be married to my first wife and I thought to myself, this is going to be my future. I’m going to have to move every few years. I’m always going to be chasing the next big market. I’m going to be beholden to new radio ownership. I’m going to be beholden to a new program director. I’m going to be beholden to my co-hosts or me doing something dumb on the air.
I started raising money and building a business model my second year in Atlanta. Remember we lost our job because the other folks that leased 680 back then, they didn’t want to do sports talk. That left an opening. I basically started on the entrepreneurial side right when I got fired the first time. I thought this is going to really suck; I didn’t grow up with parents in the business. I grew up in a pretty stable environment and I was like radio is opposite of stable. Radio is a friggin’ nightmare in terms of setting down your roots.
I was an owner and on the radio for 17 years straight. I figured the best way to not get fired, is to own the radio station. I say that facetiously in a way, but also like, you got to control your own destiny, so I was an owner. I was an on-air personality. I was head of marketing and programming for essentially 17 years, and I was able to raise my family in a great city.
Then when I sold the business to Lincoln Financial Media, I raised money immediately for a new business, Atlanta Eats / Bread n’ Butter. And for the right reason, because your co-host could get on-air and say the wrong thing, which is what happened to us. Then we were out of a job, or your boss can tell you during COVID, you make too much money, we don’t want to pay. I think he phrased it when he fired me and [John] Kincade, no more heritage radio contracts.
Here are situations by no fault of my own where I’m out of a job, and if I didn’t own a company that was my 9-to-5 really, then I would have had to move. I would’ve had to uproot my family. I haven’t been perfect with my career, but the one thing I’ll give myself credit for is I understood that ownership of a business would provide the stability I wanted, and that radio was never going to provide that stability.
BN: You’re the longest running radio and TV host in the city. With everything that you just described, what does that mean to you considering the instability of the industry and how you strategically positioned yourself?
SS: Well, I’m super proud of the opportunity I was given. When I was seven, eight years old, my dream was to be on the radio and talk about sports. I’ve done that with gaps in between, very small gaps, for 27 years. It also speaks to something you probably know now which is the Southeast was the place to come grow your career. The Atlanta’s, the Charlotte’s, the Nashville’s, the Orlando’s, the Tampa’s, phenomenal places if you’re aggressive about building a career. These are great markets to build stability. Listen, I’ve had a lot of bumps in the road, but I’ve hung in there.
At the end of the day, almost every on-air personality in the city of Atlanta, I hired in radio. Nick and Chris were hired by me, Chuck and Chernoff were hired by me, Kincade was hired by me, Mike Bell. I think I understood talent. All those guys have been on the air for 20 years, and every one of them was originally hired by myself at the other radio company. I think that says that Atlanta is a great market, that if you’re talented you can survive.
It also says that if you worked at The Zone, it was a pretty stable place. We never flipped formats. We never got bought by anybody. We stayed the course. We also were the originals of really building the format. Then 680 got back in the format when they saw how we were doing. Now you went from one sports station to two in the market, which is why everybody has been able to work in the same market for so long.
I’m very humble about it. I’ve had my ass kicked numerous times, as anybody who’s 56 years old. As Tom Brady said, I’m 46, I’ve got a lot of shit going on; I’m 56, I’ve had a lot of shit go on. But I’ve never had to leave Atlanta. I built a national name by never having to leave this town. And I’ve worked with everybody in this town in some way. It’s just Atlanta is a great town. I moved here, there were 1.5 million people. There’s now 7 million. We’re bigger than Boston, bigger than DC, we’re one of the biggest markets in America.
BN: You’ve been at The Zone, The Fan, and now The Game for multiple decades. When you think back to your initial move to Atlanta, what was in your head back then and how far away was it from the reality of what actually came to be?
SS: That’s a great question, nobody’s ever asked me that. My mindset was, the only way to get good at being on the radio was to be on the radio. You’ve got to find somewhere that you can be on the radio. You’re not going to get better being a producer, you’re not going to get better doing news, you’ve got to be a sports talk host. My only thought was just do a good show every day, promote yourself, be good to people and good things will happen.
I never thought I’d raise a family in Atlanta. I never thought I wouldn’t move market to market. I thought I was going to Philadelphia, to WIP. I thought I was going to go to WEEI and other stations. What happened was the farthest thing. To marry a girl eventually from this town, to have three kids, make my roots in Atlanta, and then to own a company; I had no desire to own a friggin’ radio company, media company.
I’m an on-air guy, I was an English major, I got a master’s in journalism, I didn’t know jack shit about owning a business, or being an entrepreneur. That part of my career is completely out of left field in terms of my dreams and in terms of what I envisioned. To now have owned a business in the city for 27 years, 17 at Big League Broadcasting, and now a decade of Bread n’ Butter Content Studio and Atlanta Eats, that is certainly the biggest surprise. Being in the same market, and being a staple of the city and an ambassador of Atlanta, never thought that would happen.
I never set foot in Atlanta, as a Boston guy through and through, your typical Masshole Boston sports fan, lived and breathed. I didn’t know shit about the SEC. I didn’t know about NASCAR. I didn’t know college football. Now those are like the back of my hand. I’ve been to more Georgia football games and SEC. I’ve covered more. I know more about Southeast sports history than Boston.
The most important lesson is just work hard every day, treat people well, try to get better and good things can happen. Anybody that comes through my office, I say, dude, just work hard, do a great show, opportunities happen. If you own a radio company, I never had a reason to leave. I was offered gigs at ESPN and back home in Boston. Why would I leave when I have stability? That’s the biggest surprise is being a business owner. It happened by chance. It happened because I got fired. Truly the expression one door closes, it just creates an opportunity that you never dreamed of. That’s happened to me numerous times.
BN: I wanted to get your thoughts on the Stetson Bennett thing. Now that it’s been over a month since your initial criticism and his response, what are your thoughts about that entire situation?
SS: First of all, what I said was what everybody other than Georgia sycophants were thinking, which is why is he behaving that way? Why isn’t he being more gracious? The only reason it went viral is because Stetson Bennett never ever posts, never does an interview. Obviously, someone said you’re getting a ton of shit, you need to address this. He decided to address it by writing a letter to me, which I thought was funny.
I love Stetson Bennett, his career. I have no problem with him. It wasn’t personal. It wasn’t aggressive. It’s like do better, be better. When you get on social media, and you get to 9 million views for one tweet, that tweet had 9 million views, we were in The New York Post, the LA Times. It was a sensational story because it was a quarterback of a national title team writing a letter to a radio talk host. The letter he wrote me was kind of a jumbled, funny letter calling me “Mr. Steak and Shake” and “Mr. Medium Rare”. If you read what I wrote about him, it really was fairly tame.
I’m not out to hurt people’s feelings, but I’m paid to give my opinion. But is it toxic out there? Yeah, the toxicity of going on the radio, you are putting your career on the line every single day that you are speaking extemporaneously for three hours. The wrong thing said in that three-hour window, and the wrong thing on social media, could cost you your gig. I’m not complaining about it. That’s just a fact.
You see it. Look what happened in Boston last week with Mazz. He didn’t lose his job, but it was a helluva shitstorm. I’m not going to comment on what he said, other than when you have to talk extemporaneously for three or four hours, you have to be super careful. And then at the same time, you’ve got to be funny, you’ve got to be knowledgeable, you’ve got to be edgy, you’ve got to be able to be more dynamic than some guy who’s just driving around town. You’re paid to be interesting. If you’re boring, you’re not there.
One thing I’ve never been is boring. Now, you may love me or think I’m overrated, but I’m not boring. But at the same time, you’re in the era where every day on the air and every tweet you write could cost you your current gig. It won’t cost you a career, but it could cost you the current job you’re in. I think everybody in my job now understands that and probably every writer, broadcaster, podcaster, interview subject, if it comes out the wrong way, then you’re in a vulnerable position.
BN: When you think about your future over the next five years — radio, businesses, projects — what do you want it to look like?
SS: This is a format that I’m actually fresh. I’m 56 years old. There are guys that do sports talk into their mid to late 60s, 70s. I’m right in a sweet spot for the format. I love doing my show. I want to grow my business into the biggest content agency in the Southeast. I want Bread n’ Butter Content Studio to be the biggest and brightest content agency around digital, storytelling, video content, unscripted. I love building companies, one day maybe sell the business. But I’m in the prime of my career in terms of owning a business. And I’m in the prime of my career in terms of being on the radio.
I don’t want to jinx myself and predict the future, but I’d like to see the content side of my business grow into one of the most influential. I want to be the highest rated sports radio show in Atlanta and in the Southeast. There’s nobody better at what I do in Atlanta. There’s a lot of people who are good at it, so I just need to keep doing well every day and then good things will happen.
And just be grateful. I mean shit, like you said, moving here I didn’t think it’d turn into one of the biggest markets in America. I didn’t think I’d own two companies. I didn’t think I’d get to be on the air for 25 years, have a Food Network show, do national TV, CNN, Fox News, all these things. Never dreamed of that. I don’t want to jinx myself, I’m very grateful. When you start not being grateful, or acting like an asshole, or acting like you deserve it, that’s when something bad is gonna happen. I don’t want that to happen. I try to be grateful with every person I come across in the business.
BN: Steak obviously isn’t your real name. What’s your actual name and how did Steak Shapiro come to be?
SS: So my real name is Stephen. I worked in Boston. I was at a sports talk radio station, WEEI, in the ‘90s. I was the producer, a really lousy one. The most famous sports talk guy in Boston history, Eddie Andelman, saw me in the office. He had just been to a steakhouse in Minnesota called Manny’s. The specialty of the house was steak shapiro at Manny’s. He started calling me Steak around the office.
I got my first chance to be on the air on a regular basis and I said, I can go as Stephen, which sounds like what my mother says to me when I’m in trouble, or now my wife, or I can come up with Steak, which sounds like a sports talk guy’s name. Now, I didn’t think I’d ever be in the food business; it’s actually even a better food name.
I owe it to the guy I listened to growing up. The reason I got in the business was Eddie Andelman because I listened to him every night when I went to bed. Maybe it was poetic justice that the guy that would give me my career name is the guy that made me want to be in the business. Eddie Andelman gave me the name in Boston back in the ‘90s.
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.
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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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Buck “Ballew” says you never hired him you overweight clown.