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Matt Miller Is the Future of the NFL Draft

“There’s some expectations [when] the guy who is the godfather of this industry vouches for you and says, ‘Hey, I want him on coverage.’”

Derek Futterman

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Many professionals who seek to foster careers in sports media often recognize it at a young age and then tailor their college experience towards doing everything possible to gain a foothold in the industry. Whether it is participating on live game broadcasts, producing television shows or writing in a local newspaper, the goal is to reach a point where being hired after graduating is a facile task. Conversely, there are others who know that they have a passion for sports. Yet, they do not immediately forge a path to working professionally because of its plausibility and an exiguous chance at success. Matt Miller can be considered a combination thereof since he wanted to work in football in his youth but did not begin his push to find a niche sector of the industry until his days in college were complete.

At the age of 8, covering the NFL Draft was Miller’s dream. He began compiling draft boards, participating in mock drafts and writing scouting reports. It never dawned on him that most of his peers were not embarking in this practice at the time, nor did all football fans have a vested interest in the annual occasion.

“You know when you’re asked, ‘If money was no object, what would you do?’?,” Miller said. “[My answer] was, ‘I’d write about football.’ It just seemed like the perfect job to be able to analyze teams and players, and then share your opinion and get paid for it.”

Unlike most people’s college experience, Miller did not walk across the stage and receive an undergraduate degree. Instead, he left Missouri Southern State University early upon receiving a lucrative job offer working in customer service marketing, aligning with his focus in business studies. It made more sense for him to make money working professionally than it did to continue to pay tuition.

Simultaneously, he started his own independent football scouting company – New Era Scouting – where Miller focused on outlining football prospects with the hopes of reaching player agents, teams and fans. In fact, Miller aggregated the mailing addresses for as many National Football League general managers as possible and mailed them a copy of his draft guide. Even he is surprised that he received some feedback from various team executives, guiding his future endeavors.

“I think I was able to hone in on evaluating players, but also how to take those evaluations and present them to the public,” he said. “There’s a difference in evaluating players for the general public and evaluating players for an NFL team – or, in my case, I was doing it for the CFL and the Arena League.”

In practicing how to be concise and proffer his opinions to a broad audience, Miller drew inspiration from the work of industry experts, such as Paul Zimmerman of Sports Illustrated, Peter King of NBC Sports, and Chris Mortensen of ESPN. Yet Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN always stood out to Miller as someone who was working his dream career and a role model on which to engender his future undertakings. 

Akin to Miller, Kiper founded his own company while he was in college and moved to cover the NFL Draft for ESPN, appearing on the network since 1984. Through his research and analysis, he aims to provide viewers a comprehensive, yet compendious insight into the world of professional scouting.

“He is this industry,” Miller said of Kiper. “I know there were some other folks that were doing it, but from a TV perspective, he’s the guy that you could always look to of, ‘There’s someone who’s actually doing this for a living.’”

Outside of writing for his high school’s newspaper, Miller had little to no journalistic experience. Therefore, he sought to cultivate his skills by writing for his brand, New Era Scouting. 

There is a difference in writing for a generalized audience when compared to creating content for football executives, and Miller had to work to understand how to best appeal to whom he desired to communicate. Creating, maintaining and producing content for the website helped him become a more effective talent evaluator while accentuating his innate ambition.

It positioned him to land a role with Bleacher Report in 2010 and eventually become the most read author in the history of the digital platform. Before taking the job with the brand, however, he had to do his own research as to what it encompassed since he had never previously heard of them. At the time, the brand was five years removed from its inception and gradually garnering space amid a crowded content ecosystem.

“One of the big things was they wanted somebody who was a self-starter and could kind of operate on their own,” Miller said of Bleacher Report. “There weren’t really day-to-day editors checking your work and coming up with assignment ideas. That all came later. It also taught me how to become a journalist – how to come up with story ideas, how to write a headline so that people would want to click on it, how to manage a schedule.”

When Miller was with Bleacher Report as its lead NFL Draft writer, he helped facilitate part of the company’s evolution across various platforms of content production. For example, when the company began experimenting with crafting content specifically for visually-based platforms, he was asked if he could begin appearing and divulging his work in that manner. Then as the popularity of podcasts grew, he paired with Connor Rogers to host their own titled Stick to Football, catalyzed by the success colleagues Chris Simms and Adam Lefkoe had in the medium.

“It was a 30-minute digital show so you had to learn how to write for a show versus writing an article or writing a podcast script,” Miller explained. “Bleacher Report gave me the opportunity to learn how to do a lot of different things and kind of find out what worked and didn’t work.”

Miller left Bleacher Report in 2021. Once he departed the company, he was not sure the best path to take, nor if he ever wanted to work for another brand. 

Throughout the course of this transition period, Miller worked fastidiously to cultivate a trusted platform and communicate his developed expertise to an audience. He never completely removed himself from the bonafide mainstream of the industry though, as he appeared on ESPN as a video contributor and spoke about the NFL Draft. 

Miller officially joined ESPN on a full-time basis as its year-round NFL Draft analyst in February 2022. As part of the role, he contributes to ESPN’s content across multiple platforms, including regular appearances on shows such as NFL Live and SportsCenter. Moreover, he creates content tailored to ESPN+, the company’s over-the-top subscription service. 

The transition from working independently to joining ESPN made things purportedly easier, as the network has what seems like an interminable archive of college football footage and the resources to perform substantive research. In addition to this, the colleagues he has across The Walt Disney Company offer him alternate perspectives.

“There’s a lot of times where I’ll reach out to guys who played in the NFL for a decade and say, ‘Hey, what are your thoughts on this player or this team?,’” Miller delineated. “The networking aspect of it is fantastic.”

As an NFL Draft analyst, the preparation for the event itself is all-encompassing. It’s a process that takes well beyond a calendar year. Even with the 2023 Draft just a few weeks removed, Miller is already amassing a list of players to watch for next year’s draft and collaborating with a variety of sources to ensure he does not miss any key names. Once the season begins, he watches a lot of college football and NFL games and takes notes. Combined with the viewpoints from primary sources, Miller tries to decode the puzzle of how that year’s NFL Draft will play out. His accuracy in being able to do that is one of many determinants that encompass his definition of success.

“It’s kind of a long game of judging your success [in] evaluating players,” Miller said. “Some of it is instant – if there’s a player you like and he gets drafted earlier than anyone else thought they would, I think there’s some validation in that even if it’s a little bit short-lived.”

Miller had never appeared on television during an NFL Draft, but Mel Kiper Jr. pushed for ESPN’s vice president of production Seth Markman to add him to the broadcast. Considering Kiper Jr. was someone from whom Miller drew inspiration when he was younger, that validation left him speechless.

“There’s some expectations [when] the guy who is the godfather of this industry vouches for you and says, ‘Hey, I want him on coverage,’” Miller said. “You really want to not let him down – not only because he is a mentor and the person who started what we do now – but when somebody goes out on a limb for you, you don’t want to mess it up. That was in the back of my head a little bit.”

The NFL Draft attained an unduplicated audience of 54.4 million viewers with an average audience of 6.0 million viewers, a figure up 12% from last year. 

Miller appeared on ESPN during the event’s final day. The moment starkly contrasted the first time he covered the event as a credentialed media member from Radio City Music Hall in New York in 2012. 

“It was a whirlwind experience,” Miller said. “I had never done anything like that before where you sit down and you’ve seen people do what you’re about to do, but you’ve not done it yourself. I think it took a little bit to get caught up to the rhythm of it.”

With a majority of sports fans viewing the NFL Draft, Miller aimed not to think about the sheer size of the audience. He remembers his son telling him that a lot of people watch the draft, a statement to which Miller replied, “I’d rather not think about it.” 

There are a variety of unknowns as it pertains to the NFL Draft, perhaps highlighted by the New England Patriots’ sixth-round selection of quarterback Tom Brady in 2000. The event itself consists of seven rounds, and Miller was on the air for Round 4 through Round 7 on ESPN.

Miller was placed alongside the aforementioned Kiper Jr, along with Todd McShay, Rece Davis and Louis Riddick. It was a colossal achievement for him and a ground on which to build, and he thought about everything he did to reach this pinnacle when he took his seat at the broadcast desk. He was driven to succeed not only because of his love for the game of football, but because of being afraid to fail.

“I felt like once I got to ESPN, I felt like that’s the pinnacle of this career,” Miller said. “I don’t want to let myself down or my family down. I don’t want to let down the people who hired me at ESPN coming off a 10-year run at Bleacher Report and having never appeared on TV outside of some guest hits in places.”

At the same time, the motivation to progress at his craft is driven by an innate competitive drive. There is a cacophony of places to find content, and Miller’s goal is to continue to grow his presence in the time leading up to the NFL Draft. ESPN announced that Miller will return to the airwaves for the 2024 NFL Draft, and many industry professionals are starting to believe he may be the successor to Mel Kiper Jr. once he retires. While he is only penciled in to cover the third day of the event next year, Miller hopes to become a regular presence on ESPN programming and have a chance to join the broadcast for additional time.

“This is what I’ve always wanted to do, and I think about the fact that there are a lot of people just like me who’ve always wanted this job,” Miller said. “You can’t let yourself get lazy or complacent or those people will come catch you and end up taking your spot.”

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Rich Shertenlieb Enters New Era on WZLX: No Fred Toucher, No Music, No Guarantees

“It’s worked for me in the past and there’s no secret sauce. It’s just try to be entertaining every morning and work your ass off to do it right.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Rich Shertenlieb and WZLX logo in Boston
Boston photo: courtesy of Getty Images

It’s a time of change and transition for rock radio listeners in Boston. WZLX rolled out its new morning show last week featuring local icon Rich Shertenlieb. It’s not only a new adventure for the former Sports Hub morning man. It’s also the start of a new era for the station.

Kevin Karlson, the anchor of the station’s previous morning show, died in his sleep in October. It ended a nearly 20-year run on WZLX for Karlson, McKenzie & Heather. Pete McKenzie and Heather Ford carried on, but earlier this month, they were let go.

“I definitely have big shoes to fill,” Shertenlieb says of his new gig. “Kenny Young, who was a member of the previous show, I got to know him pretty well over these last couple of months. He is now our producer, and he couldn’t be more valuable to the show. He has been an awesome bridge between what was and what is now, and I love the guy to death. He is one of the more skilled people in radio when it comes to being a jack of all trades and it’s awesome that he’s there.”

After seventeen years together, Shertenlieb split from his radio partner Fred Toucher in November. They held down morning drive at 98.5 The Sports Hub since the station’s launch in 2009. The duo was an institution in Boston and their ratings proved it over and over again. 

There has to be a juicy story there, right? I mean, who walks away from that kind of success without a concrete reason? 

Speculation will continue to run rampant. After all, each twist and turn during the final days of Toucher & Rich were covered pretty extensively on this site and others. According to Shertenlieb though, no one ever crossed a red line. There is no moment when he realized the partnership could not be saved. He was just ready for something new.

“I mean, listen, it’s kind of boring because it’s not as scandalous as people might think that it is,” he says. “You only get a couple of times in your career to be able to reevaluate what you’re doing. I would sign long term contracts for about five years. And so, you only get about once every five years to sit and say, ‘I got a chance to try to do something else.’ When your contract comes up, you ask yourself a few questions. It’s like, ‘Do I still absolutely love what I’m doing?’ and ‘Do I absolutely love where I’m doing it?’ And finally, ‘Is there another step I’d want to take?’ If any of those questions have any kind of doubt or cloud, then you owe it to yourself to at least explore what’s out there. And that’s what I did.”

Shertenlieb doesn’t hide from reality. It was scary to leave the familiarity behind. Even when apparent tension between he and Fred Toucher was impossible to hide, he never pinned blame for wondering what is next on the state of their relationship.

Listeners and social media followers did a lot of speculating about the show’s future in early 2023. Toucher missed extended time, first to deal with a vocal condition and then to focus on his mental health.  They wanted to know what was going on in the Beasley Media offices after Toucher took to Twitter to say no one from the show’s cast had reached out to check on him during his absence. 

Rich Shertenlieb says that the conversations were never that interesting. He didn’t think it had to be a catalyst for drastic action.

“There was no discussion about the future of the show. I think that there was confusion. The guys on the show, I think, were confused about why he was saying stuff about us that obviously, we’re all looking at each other and going, ‘Well, this isn’t true. Why is he saying that? I don’t know what was going on there.’ That part was definitely strange, but there weren’t any conversations about the future of the show at all.”

When the decision was made to leave Toucher & Rich, Shertenlieb says he knew instantly that it would mean leaving 98.5 The Sports Hub. It wasn’t about hard feelings. It was about on-air real estate.

Shertenlieb didn’t want to join an existing show. He wanted to start something new with him at the center. Maybe it would work. Maybe it wouldn’t. Either way, he was comfortable with the consequences of his name being the only one on the marquee. Without a major overhaul, that wasn’t possible at his current station.

“I don’t think that that would be fair to anybody. I think that to achieve that they’d have to move people around and stuff like that. I don’t think that that would be fair. I do think that in fairness to everybody else that I worked with, I would have to go do that on my own.”

WZLX, Shertenlieb’s new home, is owned by iHeartMedia. The company made it clear to the host that he was a priority. Bosses asked Shertenlieb who he wanted to work with and got those people on board. They presented him with the opportunity to launch a podcast network in the future. 

The company even acquiesced to Shertenlieb’s demand that the classic rock the station is known for disappear in morning drive.

“I’ve just looked around and I’ve seen that there’s really no morning show that is geared mostly towards guys that truly wins while also playing music. That’s the recipe that you have to go with, at least in mornings,” he says.

Music snobs aren’t totally left out of the new morning show. Shertenlieb loves rock music and makes it a part of the show’s regular discussions. He also notes that what is now considered “classic rock” is the music he grew up with and holds most dear, particularly Alice in Chains.

Listeners will hear Michael Hurley, who Shertenlieb calls “truly a gem” every day. Every host needs someone that gets all of his references and that’s what Hurley is for Shertenlieb. Throughout the week, former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson, Meadowlark Media host Charlotte Wilder and Mike Giardi of the Boston Sports Journal will all make appearances.

“I like having different personalities, you know, different walks of life and people who are experts in different things to be able to rotate,” Shertenlieb says. “The great thing about everybody that I picked, whether it be Ted Johnson or Mike Girardi or Charlotte Wilder, is that even if they didn’t talk about the one thing they’re known to be an expert on, I would still love talking to these people about everything else in their life, because they’re just that interesting.”

Every new show faces challenges when it launches and The Rich Shertenlieb Show is no exception. His former partner has poked fun, his former competitor has taken shots, but Rich Shertenlieb knows that no show gets to launched as a finished product. That only comes from years of building chemistry amongst the people in studio and the people listening.

He isn’t shy about admitting that there is no guarantee that he is going to leapfrog anyone in the ratings. Sure, he has the know-how given the success he helped propel The Sports Hub to in morning drive. He also has the advantage of joining a station that already performs well.

“It’s hard work and patience,” Shertenlieb says when asked if he has thought about how he will pull ahead of The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Hardy or anyone else. “It’s worked for me in the past and there’s no secret sauce. It’s just try to be entertaining every morning and work your ass off to do it right.”

Shertenlieb knows that, for many Bostonians, he and Fred Toucher will forever be linked. He doesn’t run from that. He says he never considered leaving Boston for a “fresh start” when he decided to strike out on his own.

He doesn’t wish Toucher or The Sports Hub any ill-will. He insists that the titillating scandal everyone wants to hear about doesn’t exist. He isn’t “over sports.” It was just time to do something new.

New adventure comes with risk and uncertainty. Rich Shertenlieb is willing to embrace it and live with whatever it becomes.

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Which Areas of Executive Performance Should Be Known in Media Companies?

“How do we know if a CEO, executive, market manager or PD is outperforming or underperforming?”

Jason Barrett

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I read a great piece on Monday from Front Office Sports, which reflected on the NBA’s financial growth under Commissioner Adam Silver. Since taking control in 2014, Silver has more than doubled the NBA’s annual revenue to $12 billion from $4.8 billion. The league also set an all-time regular-season attendance record this year, and grew NBA franchise values to an average of $3.85 billion, according to Forbes. The worth of an organization alone is up 75% from 2019.

If I asked you to judge the Commissioner of the NBA and whether or not he was doing a good job, would those three categories get your attention? Adam Silver isn’t perfect in other areas, but if you more than double league revenues, increase attendance and fan interest, and elevate the value of the league’s franchises, few are going to want a different voice.

But what about in media circles? How do we know if a CEO, executive, market manager or PD is making a difference? Shouldn’t we know if our markets/companies are growing in revenue and value, and increasing audience?

Radio program directors get judged by their brand’s ratings (quarterly and annually), but that doesn’t tell the complete story. What if the PD shrinks expenses 25% and stays flat? Isn’t that progress? How about if they possess digital skills and quadrupled the brand’s social media following, video viewing, newsletter signups, and podcast downloads but ratings dropped 10%. Is that a win or a loss? What if the company they work for lost the rights to a key property that drove ratings growth. Is that on them or their employer?

GM’s are tasked with boosting local market revenues, controlling expenses, and making smart business decisions. Most people inside of a cluster though have no idea if they’re on top of those things. They judge the GM based on an individual relationship, and trust the company’s judgment. The issue with that, sometimes company’s aren’t plugged in. Other times they know things that folks on the local level don’t. Regardless, little information is available to people in the building to show if the GM’s plan is working.

On the executive level, revenue growth, stock price (if public), investments in technology, continuing key relationships, forming new partnerships, recruitment, and company PR are all part of the company’s progress report. CEO’s earn credit and blame for the overall performance of the company, but wins and losses depend on people. You can blame and change them or the CEO when results are missed, but sometimes that’s a reflection of other factors. For instance, if the economy is weak, the individual and their ability to perform may not be the issue.

Examining company value over a 10-year period should be part of the evaluation process for executive leadership. But whether they’ve crushed it or laid an egg, few inside organizations know those details. Should it be? It’s easy to say yes, but radio isn’t the NBA. To expect similar progress is unrealistic. But to know how a company is growing or stalling beyond its stock price and year-to-year revenue would be helpful.

Aside from corporate leaders, many don’t know if their leaders are outperforming or underperforming expectations. We don’t look at enough areas of a position to determine if the right individual is in charge. For example, if your web traffic grew 10% but your social media audience declined 10% because article posts grew from 10 to 50 posts per day, is that a good or bad strategy? If a salesperson made budget because they got one big order from one client but did nothing else the rest of the month, is that acceptable? There should be multiple boxes to check to determine if someone is or isn’t successful in their position.

We should all be asking these questions, and challenging each other to help raise the bar. The best way to do that is through transparency. If everyone knows the score, the better equipped they are to make adjustments to win the game. That in turn inspires more confidence in those leading the company. Media folks are competitive by nature, and don’t like being tied to negative results. However, that also motivates people to perform better.

I’m not sure we’ll ever have information available the way it is with the Commissioner of the NBA. If we did, we’d know who the Adam Silver’s are in each group, and that would make our organizations stronger. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a boost in revenue, value and audience?

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Remembering Bill Walton

An industry giant was lost yesterday. Bill Walton passed away at the age of 71 following a battle with cancer. He was beloved by the sports media industry, thanks to his infectious personality, and ability to crack a joke, call something out or share a gem that left you smarter. Many have greater stories to share than mine but this was my favorite because I lived it.

It’s a Saturday night just after midnight, and I’m producing GameNight on ESPN Radio. John Seibel is hosting with Michael Kim, and Bill Walton calls in as scheduled. We bump back from break with Higher by Creed because Seibel wants to share the news that the band broke up. We welcome Bill to the show after the quick Creed story and try to transition to NBA talk but Bill wants more details on Credence Clearwater Revival’s breakup. John explains that it’s Creed, but Bill is so focused on CCR, that soon he’s telling 5-minutes worth of CCR stories.

We try to reset a few times to get on track but Bill keeps finding ways to connect CCR to Seibel’s words. The entire studio is crying laughing, and I tell John in his ear ‘don’t even try to talk hoops, just go with this.’ We do 12 minutes of CCR talk, laughing so hard it hurt, and wondering ‘was that radio gold or a train wreck?’ That was the beauty of Bill Walton. He kept you on your toes, went to places few did, but always kept you laughing and wanting to engage. Sports media has lost a larger than life character, great analyst, and gem of a human being.

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KNBR Fallout

I stand by everything I wrote last week and credit Cumulus Media for taking quick action in San Francisco. Yet seeing someone hurt their career is still sad. Larry Blumhagen, Bruce Gilbert and Dave Milner will find a strong, capable leader to move KNBR forward but for Adam Copeland it’s a blown opportunity.

I’m done discussing this issue but I want to make one thing clear. This was about unprofessional PD behavior, and a lack of understanding of how ratings work. I saw tweets raise the issue of race, which was embarrassing, and irresponsible. Some people say and do foolish things when they’re backed into a corner. Going down the diversity lane with me might be the dumbest decision yet.

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Thumbs Up:

Charles Barkley: He hit the nail on the head when he reminded folks that WBD CEO David Zaslav likely pissed off NBA Commissioner Adam Silver when he said that Turner didn’t need the NBA. Those comments in 2022 were likely going to create a stir. Sure enough, TNT is now in jeopardy of losing a near three decade relationship with a popular sports league. Kudos to Barkley for calling out executives for dropping the ball on what should’ve been a layup.

SKOR North: The Timberwolves haven’t answered the bell against Dallas, but SKOR North was more than ready entering the series. After Anthony Edwards told Charles Barkley following a Game 7 win against Denver to ‘bring ya ass’ to Minnesota, the Hubbard Radio brand had digital billboards, merchandise, and a box truck out on the streets promoting its content, featuring the famous Edwards quote. T-Wolves fever and leaning into the moment quickly, helped SKOR’s ‘Flagrant Howls’ crack the top-10 podcast charts last week. Nice job.

Stephen A. Smith: Nice job by Mr. SAS Productions on Up For Debate: The Evolution of Sports Media. Covering decades of the media industry in under two hours is impossible, but I watched all three episodes and enjoyed it. The guest list was beyond impressive. I can nitpick sports radio’s role in elevating debate style discussions not getting enough focus, and Jamie Horowitz and Skip Bayless deserving to be featured heavily given their roles with the shift to debate content, but if you watch a show looking for holes to poke, you’ll find them, and miss out on being entertained. If you watch to learn more than you knew previously, you’ll find it to be pretty good.

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Thumbs Down

Sports Emmys: The on-stage show and social media execution of the event was fantastic. The access given to media covering the show though left little to be desired. BSM covered the show, and was surprised by the lack of organization for pulling people aside for conversations. There was also no press working area or seats to view the show. Instead, press had to watch the show on a small monitor in the very back of the room for almost four hours. Given how awesome the Sports Emmys are, hopefully the media covering the show are taken care of better at the 2025 event.

WFAN: A phone number change? Say it ain’t so! New York sports radio fans know WFAN’s phone number better then their own. They also tend to be resistant to change. But they’ll get over it. The only valid question is why make the change at all?

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Jobs

Barrett Media is interviewing potential writers to contribute to our expanded music radio industry coverage. Our brand relaunch takes place Monday July 15th. If you’ve programmed or hosted on music radio stations, enjoy writing, and have views and insights to share on the industry, email a resume and writing sample to [email protected]. Please do not DM on LinkedIn or social platforms. I won’t be answering messages through there.

1010 XL in Jacksonville has a cool opening for someone with creative social/video skills. The outlet is looking for a Digital Content Producer. Details can be found here.

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Steve Fifer Adds Local Programming Back to 1250 The Fan in Milwaukee

“I don’t think it’s an impossible dream to think we can be right back in this battle again.”

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Photo of Steve Fifer and a logo for 1250 The Fan
Photo Courtesy: Steve Fifer LinkedIn Profile

In August of 2022, local shows at 1250 The Fan in Milwaukee were discontinued in favor of national programming from CBS Sports Radio, now called Infinity Sports Network.  Steve Fifer has been with the station since the launch in January 2005 and while other hosts looked for hosting opportunities elsewhere, he stayed on becoming the station’s Assistant Program Director.  He learned the ropes on how the management side works, hosted local podcasts like “Curd and Long,” “Green and Growing” and “Spare/Time Bowling Show” and also did some fill-in hosting on stations in other markets.

While Fifer missed local shows, he had zero intentions of leaving the radio station.

“There were days along the way when big things would happen locally where it’s like man, I wish I had a talk show today,” said Fifer.  “I was asked before if I would want to leave and I didn’t want to leave.  I love the people who work in this building.  I had no inclination at any point to leave this building or go anywhere.”

That loyalty and patience has paid off for Fifer because a little over two years later, local programming is back.

This past March, Fifer helped turn the clock back just a little when he started hosting Milwaukee Bucks postgame shows on “The Fan” and the reaction was overwhelming.

“It was like the old days,” said Fifer.  “It was huge.  It was absolutely over the top huge. It gave me a lot of hope for the future going forward that a lot of the people who were listening before were right back in it again and a lot of social media right back in it again.” 

And then, the station announced the launch of Wisconsin Sports Daily, a live and local show weekdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. hosted by Fifer.  It didn’t take long for the station’s loyal listeners from the past to return and also offer Fifer some feedback on what the show should sound like.

“Everybody came with their ideas and opinions of what was missing in the market, what this show needs to be about and so forth,” said Fifer.  “It’s been a very positive experience for sure.”

And so has the experience learning the business side over the last 2 ½ years.  Fifer has worked closely with several Audacy executives including Mitch Rosen, Operations Director and Brand Manager of 670 The Score in Chicago and the Vice President of the BetQL Network.  While The Fan continued to carry national programming, Fifer was absorbing the business side of the industry like a sponge.

A lot of that knowledge came from Rosen.

“He’s taught me a lot about the business,” said Fifer.  “I’ve learned a lot from him as far as just more of the professional side of how to be a programmer, how to work with talent, how to work with producers and how to work with people outside of the company.  The last year and a half to two years, even though there hasn’t been local programming, I’ve learned a lot and grown a lot and matured a lot and I’m ready for the next step.”

And now that The Fan has taken those first couple of steps back into the local game with the Bucks postgame shows and now Wisconsin Sports Daily, perhaps it’s time to go “Back to the Future” and bring back some more local programming.

Is it possible?

Not only is it possible, it’s the vision.

“That’s the hope and the plan is to eventually over the course of time is to eventually get this thing back to close to where it was as far as doing more local programming,” said Fifer.  “That’s going to be a process.  It’s going to probably be baby steps here over the course of time to try and work its way back up again.  Hopefully, at some point in the future, we’re able to do that.”

That vision is not just to restore local programming to The Fan, but the vision also includes returning the station to dominance in a crowded Milwaukee sports radio landscape.

The Fan is one of four sports talk stations in town and the goal would eventually be to be on top.

“I don’t think it’s an impossible dream to think we can be right back in this battle again,” said Fifer.  “I think we will be and eventually be back to being number one again in this market.”

Steve Fifer has been a loyal soldier to Audacy and The Fan in Milwaukee.  He could have left when the station went national, but he stayed and now there is excitement over the return of a local show and what could lie ahead down the road.

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