Connect with us
Executive Editor Ad
Jim Cutler Demos

BSM Writers

Michael Smith Isn’t Trying To Be All Things to All People

“I don’t want to be a ‘Walmart’ podcast network where everything’s under this one roof.”

Derek Futterman



Michael Smith
Courtesy: Michael Smith, Inflection Point Entertainment

The 18-month stretch from when Michael Smith learned that his edition of SportsCenter with Jemele Hill was being canceled to the time he reached a buyout with ESPN was pivotal in his career. When the network first branded the show, it stressed that it would differ from other SportsCenter programs in that it would explore the intersection of sports, culture and society. Upon its launch, Smith and Hill became the first Black duo to regularly host the program, but it quickly received a deluge of criticism from external viewers and those at the company. Social media users began calling the program “WokeCenter” and began to associate the “Worldwide Leader” with interpolating political discourse and commentary within a program that, at its core, pertains to sports.

Smith, however, knows that the show was ahead of its time and sees how other networks have used it as a template to create impactful programming. The duo added segments throughout the show that differed from what the audience was accustomed to, including unconventional interviews and whiparound discussions. Sports, to them, meant more than just reading the scores of the game or reviewing the Top 10 moments of the day.

“It was very difficult because I knew what we were doing, and I knew that the loudest voices and the loudest critics of what we were doing weren’t watching the show,” Smith said. “But they had different agendas – they had different political and social agendas – and they weren’t really watching what we were doing.”

While Hill began reporting for The Atlantic in early 2018 and reached a buyout with ESPN later that year, Smith’s future was somewhat in limbo. He recognized the power of the brand and took some time to ponder over what could be next. After all, Smith never intended to make it on television, instead studying journalism at Loyola University in New Orleans. There is a chance that none of it would have happened if not for the behest of his high school English teacher, who encouraged him to apply for an internship at The Times-Picayune

“The business kind of found me more than I found it,” Smith said, “but once I did find it, I found a lot of joy in storytelling and being able to really examine the personalities and the processes behind the people and the teams that I cared about.”

All throughout college, Smith maintained a presence at The Times-Picayune while also contributing to his school publication as a sports editor. Eventually, Smith was brought on to work nights on The Times-Picayune’s copy desk as a night editor, which he feels gave him his best writing experience over his formative years. Cognizant of the invaluable aspect of being versatile, Smith also interned with the local CBS television station where he solely logged tape. 

“I was a print major – that was my concentration – so I never thought about going into television, but even that internship with CBS while I was in college gave me some behind-the-scenes experience that turned out to be valuable,” Smith explained. “It also just allows you to meet people and connect with people. It’s not just for résumé purposes and not just even for reference purposes, but you just never know who you’re going to cross paths with again down the road.”

When it came time to graduate and find a full-time position, Smith had an advantage over others in that he had been galvanized to accrue deft professional experience as a student. Because he interned for two summers with The Boston Globe and, once again, left a good impression on the staff, he was offered a job to cover the New England Patriots. As an avid football fan, it was an opportunity Smith could not turn down – even if it meant he would be backing up one of the locale’s most prominent sportswriters.

Nick Cafardo was the primary Red Sox reporter for The Boston Globe and led coverage of the Patriots when the schedules did not overlap. Cafardo was unique in that he consistently demonstrated a sense of humility and worked with Smith rather than trying to bring him down. 

“Not only did he welcome me on the Patriots beat; he made space for me and empowered me on the Patriots beat,” Smith said of Cafardo. “I liked to approach it every day like I was the beat guy, but I started out as his backup. He didn’t treat me like his backup at all; he empowered me to cover the beat and share it with him. I’ll never forget that.”

The future of local journalism as we know it is very much in a perilous state, accentuated by reporter layoffs and quarterly losses. The New York Times Company purchased The Athletic in early 2022, and it is now set to utilize it for all sports coverage in lieu of a dedicated section in The New York Times. Moreover, the Los Angeles Times announced that it is transitioning its sports section to resemble a magazine, focused on deeper storytelling rather than daily news. The industry is in the midst of a paradigm shift, which was evidenced from Smith’s first day at The Boston Globe that happened to coincide with its sales to The New York Times Company.

When Smith was a reporter, he quickly discerned how TV networks were beginning to equip print reporters to provide context and become parts of programming. His first television appearance came at just 23 years old on Around the Horn, the roundtable debate show hosted by Tony Reali. Smith was able to give his opinions on various topics and back them up with facts, which helped him appeal to the audience.

Since he dislikes the sound of his voice, Smith neglected to watch tape and instinctively knew where he needed to improve in order to have more chances to appear on television. It led to more opportunities on other ESPN programming, such as The Sports Reporters and E:60.

As Smith’s profile elevated at ESPN, the opportunities he received became even more prominent, culminating in hosting the 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter with Hill. Upon that program’s cancellation though, he began to feel as if he was no longer valued or wanted at ESPN, which led to him negotiating a buyout and leaving the “Worldwide Leader.” The harrowing 18-month process induced sentiments of bitterness and uncertainty with a glimmer of hope clandestine beneath the surface.

“I always felt like a part of it, but to be ostracized and to be viewed internally, or at least it felt like I was, [as] radioactive was difficult,” Smith said. “At a certain point I was just like, ‘You know what? It’s time for me to take my career into my own hands and take back control of my own story and author a new chapter.’”

For the first time in his professional career, Smith was a bonafide free agent – and he was not necessarily looking to join a traditional media entity. Instead, Smith took steps towards becoming an entrepreneur, which started by joining two startup companies in different roles. He first joined (co)laboratory, a sports media content factory based in Los Angeles to oversee its content production and dissemination; however, the role only ended up lasting for seven weeks before complications forced the company to shutter.

The spin-off startup company, game1, made Smith one of its partners, along with film producer Basil Iwanyk and Greg Economou. Early on, the brand inked content partnerships with NBA all-star guard James Harden and famed racecar driver Danica Patrick, and it has since continued to produce distinct content. After about a year with the brand, Smith felt ready to start a new, independent media venture and grow it from scratch.

“I look at both of those startup experiences as successes personally because it taught me and showed me the ropes, more or less, on how to do this myself,” Smith said. “I’m not saying I have all the answers – by no means – but it gave me the perspective, the insight, the experience and confidence to go at it on my own and start my own company.”

Smith partnered with entertainment lawyer Terrence Williams and entrepreneur Dwayne Bernal to create Inflection Point Entertainment. The name of the company was deviated from the Henry Crown Fellowship Program within the Aspen Institute, which recruits classes of business and community leaders at inflection points in their lives and careers. Smith is a member of the 2017 class of the program and is using his experience to author a climax on the palisade of persistence, remaining prescient that his efforts will pay off in the long run.

By working independently, Smith is able to do what he feels is necessary to actualize groundbreaking, distinctive content offerings amid the crowded multimedia ecosystem. Within the company’s first year, it inked a development contract with NBCUniversal’s Peacock, producing original content through the company. Smith and co-host Michael Holley began the original series Brother From Another, which streams daily on Peacock and airs on SiriusXM.

“It’s podcasted; it has a loyal YouTube following as well, but that’s more a daily talk show; that’s more in the vein of a His and Hers [or] a Pardon the Interruption,” Smith said. “It’s more that type of show with obviously a different vibe because the vibe is a reflection of me and Michael’s relationship – our brotherhood; our friendship [and] our personalities, but it’s more of a news of the day show since it’s five days a week.”

The company is beginning to see the fruits of its labor through a new partnership with iHeartMedia that launched the new Inflection Network, which features a variety of different podcast offerings ranging from fantasy football to resiliency. Charita Johnson, the former producer of the His and Hers podcast at ESPN, is leading the network, which will soon add new personalities and programs to its content lineup. For Smith, the partnership was a “no-brainer” in being able to expedite broader distribution of content and enable people to express themselves. Just as Cafardo did for him in Boston, he wants to provide opportunities for the proliferation of the space and demonstrate his magnanimity towards media’s progeny.

“I felt like it was just a natural piece of the portfolio [and] a natural vertical for this company to have,” Smith said. “We’re making feature films; we’re making scripted television series [and] we’re making documentaries. Audio content felt like just a natural play, and it’s something that I always wanted to do as a talent, which was to identify and nurture up-and-coming talent and amplify other voices that just needed the platform.”

Inflection Point Entertainment views the deal with iHeartMedia as a monumental moment in the growth of its business. The challenge in delivering consistent, premium content is in identifying a target audience and providing a valuable return on investment, expanding the metaphorical consumption profit margin. Smith and his company have eclectic interests and passions, and the evolving identity will define the scope of the undertaking.

“I’m not out to be all things to all people – that’s impossible – you can’t please all the people all the time,” Smith said. “I don’t want to be a ‘Walmart’ podcast network where everything’s under this one roof. I also didn’t want to be so specific to where I was not only putting myself in a box, but limiting both our audience and our opportunities in terms of who we work with.”

Over the course of Smith’s journalism career, his storytelling has become more nuanced and enterprised, a more deficient area than instant news reporting. It is one of the reasons he began contributing to Football Night in America on NBC last season through his series, “Gets It.” Smith, who is continuing the project for a second season, interviews NFL players, coaches and personnel who he feels “gets it,” as the name of the show indicates. He believes that the name of the show is one of the greatest compliments that can be given to sports luminaries, many of whom have consistently tried to find their own way and build a successful foundation.

“People have an insatiable appetite for information, insight and enlightenment,” Smith said. “They want to be entertained and they may not have the same level of attention span as they once did… but they still want the information.”

While helping to grow his company, Smith continued to rekindle his presence with larger media entities over the course of the last year. Ahead of its launch of Thursday Night Football, Smith signed on with Amazon Prime Video to work as a correspondent for its pregame, halftime and postgame coverage. When he first met his colleagues, he could tell that they shared a common understanding and dedication to help grow the streaming giant’s sports footprint and bring it to new heights. 

In the weeks leading up to its second season on Amazon Prime Video, the NFL convened a meeting with broadcasters, producers and executives to discuss rule changes and areas of emphasis for the upcoming campaign. For its part, Amazon reviewed its performance from last season as it gears up to embark on the inaugural Black Friday game and utilizes its new flex scheduling ability, both of which are affirmations of the league’s belief in the platform. After one of the meetings, an Amazon executive told everyone, “We haven’t done shit. This is a new year,” emblematic of the collective mindset among those involved.

“It felt familiar and familial,” Smith said of the seminars. “It was like a bunch of rookies who were now going into season two or year two. Everybody’s got their feet underneath them, [and] you can just see the confidence; you could see the chemistry [and] the potential for big things in year two now that we aren’t introducing ourselves to one another.”

Success in the industry is often judged by advertising revenue and web traffic, and while Smith understands how fundamental quantitative metrics are, it is not the reason he began working in the field. He is as dedicated to developing relationships with sources and getting to the truth as he has ever been. Standing by these bedrock principles allowed him to be more than just a reporter or a pundit in the background.

“I didn’t want to be limited by the imagination, the vision or lack thereof of somebody in some corner office,” Smith said. “I wanted to be able to not only be in control of my own story, but tell stories the way I wanted to tell them [and] own my… intellectual property as best I could.”

Inflection Point Entertainment has rapidly flourished from an idea to an investment, and its management team is poised to maintain its upward trajectory. Smith desires to be an architect and foster a place through which people can turn the corner and thrive through tergiversation and disquietude. By embracing the process of constructing a viable infrastructure, he is leading a new story where he, munificently, does not view himself as its main character. In this space, however, Smith is able to share his vision for the future to ensure that the company falls outside of the 90% of startup businesses that fail. Instead, he is focused on attaining an opulence of content and chorus of unique voices.

“I want [it] to be something that provides not only entertainment, enlightenment, information or insight to its audiences and its consumers, but I want it to be a platform for people,” Smith elucidated. “I want it to be something that tells stories the way that they need to be told for the people that need to hear them and see them.”

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.

BSM Writers

Matt McClearin is Not Just Filling a Void at The Ticket

“As much as I dreamt about this opportunity, it’s even more so than I probably could ever have dreamt.”

Derek Futterman



Matt McClearin
Courtesy: Matt McClearin

Norm Hitzges is considered an industry pioneer, helping establish morning sports talk radio in the Dallas area. Spending a total of 48 years in the format, he made an immense contribution to the field. When Hitzges officially retired in June, there were questions surrounding who would move into the midday slot on Sportsradio 96.7 and 1310 The Ticket to work alongside host Donovan Lewis. The station eventually made the decision to bring one of its own home in Matt McClearin, and he has excelled in the assignment since officially taking over in August.

McClearin, a Texas native who grew up listening to Hitzges and other programs on the outlet, is living his dream with the medium he set his sights on from the time he was young. Over the years, he had a chance to be around Hitzges and saw his elite level of preparation and congeniality firsthand.

“One of the kindest humans I think that I’ve ever met,” McClearin said of Hitzges, “especially in this business, and that says a lot, I think, about how to carry yourself. Even when you have success and get to a certain level, [knowing] the right way to treat people and the right way to go about your daily business.”

It is safe to say that Hitzges had an impact on everyone at The Ticket, and it is a legacy that McClearin hopes to further perpetuate. Every time he walks into the studios, it is not lost on him the magnitude of the assignment he has been entrusted with, and he remains focused and driven on realizing his full potential.

Reaching this point took endurance and patience, but the timing ultimately ended up working out in his best interest. Growing up in the metroplex, The Ticket was a fundamental part of the sports sound and represented McClearin’s innate ambition.

McClearin was selected by station management to work in paid positions for two years while attending Texas State University – production director and program director – which entailed 20 to 25 hours per week within the offices and studio. In addition to working on job-specific functions, he also used the time to perfect his editing skills and board operating procedures and gain on-air repetitions. By the time he graduated and sought to apply for a job, he surmised that possessing versatility would engender a larger swath of chances to become immersed in the craft.

“Originally, [I was] kind of practicing the craft as much as [I] could and learning as much as I could,” McClearin said. “I could increase [my] value, I think, of being able to walk into a radio station in Dallas in a Top 5 market and say, ‘I can run the board; I can do production [and] I can do on-air stuff,’ but not just talk.”

By happenstance, he learned that The Ticket was looking for a part-time sports anchor to fill in for various shows, leading him to send his demo reel to the outlet. After some conversations with station management, McClearin officially joined the team and became immersed in refining his on-air skillset with guidance from program director Jeff Catlin.

“He’s very hands-on [by], early on, giving you a lot of constructive criticism and helping you to learn the ins and outs and proper formatics and how to set up each segment correctly,” McClearin said of Catlin. “Doing things like that and having those opportunities [are things] I always enjoyed.”

McClearin eventually began working as a pregame and postgame studio host for Dallas Stars broadcasts. Moreover, he would attend Dallas Cowboys games and collect audio from the players and coaches to edit and send back to the radio station to be used across its programming.

Working hard and going the extra mile helped separate McClearin from his competition both inside and outside of the radio station, ultimately earning him a weekend show with Scot Harrison. His candid assessments of the local teams and ability to delegate on the show, indifferent towards whether or not he is the center of attention, have rendered his hosting abilities conducive to success.

“I’m just a big believer in being who you are and being real and presenting that on the air,” McClearin said, “so no matter what you’re going through or what’s different about you, there are listeners out there that can connect with that and understand that you’re being real.”

The program remained a fixture on the weekends before both hosts were offered the chance to become part of the weekday programming lineup, following sports radio luminary Paul Finebaum. This opening, however, would require McClearin and Harrison to pick up and move to Birmingham so they could broadcast from the studios of Jox 94.5.

Both hosts eventually agreed and spent the next three-and-a-half years on the outlet, growing a new audience and becoming an indispensable part of the evenings in the area. There are certain instances in any business that are fugacious and unexpected in nature though, and the show cancellation in 2016 was an example of such.

McClearin returned to Dallas to work as a part-time radio host on ESPN Radio 103.3 FM, an extraordinary circumstance in that he was in the same building he used to work in with The Ticket. The station was operating under a local marketing agreement (LMA) with Cumulus Media and competing with the very outlet they were sharing the building with, cultivating a professional atmosphere mired by the ratings. The onset of the global pandemic caused the station to shutter.

“It was one of those things where you’ve just got to believe in what you’re doing and believe that there’s an appeal to what you’re doing,” McClearin said. “You get hired for a reason, and you continue to perform and try to grow what we were doing at the time.”

Catlin continued to serve as a mentor for McClearin during his years away from The Ticket, a venerable radio professional who has helped further build the outlet into a local powerhouse. The station frequently posts stellar ratings each quarter, representing a place where McClearin feels he can grow his brand and show to unrealized heights.

“The goal is to be No. 1 in the ratings in our [demographic] and to continue that,” McClearin said. “That’s something that I think drives me every day. When you’re not No. 1, you want to know, ‘Okay, well why aren’t we No. 1?,’ and when you get to that point, the question then becomes, ‘Okay, well how do we maintain this and continue to go and be better and bigger than what we were the previous month?’”

Before he ultimately returned to The Ticket to work with Lewis in the midday time slot, there was a bit of irony in that he, once again, called Birmingham home. When McClearin’s original program was canceled, he felt as if he had assimilated into the city and found his niche. He was disappointed in the outcome and always thought of the area in a favorable light, which then led to his phone ringing with a call from program director Ryan Haney.

As fortune would have it, Haney asked McClearin if he would be interested in returning to the station to host a solo program as part of a refreshed local lineup. Without hesitation, he conveyed that he would be interested in making a comeback in the locale, a full-circle moment filled with feelings of both satisfaction and gratitude.

“I never thought that I would go back to Alabama, much less work for the same station that, five years prior, had made the decision to let, at the time, Scot Harrison and I go,” McClearin said. “….I never wanted to leave in the first place, [so] I was really, really happy and I’m very fortunate that Ryan believed in me and gave me that opportunity to come back.”

The dynamic of the show differed the second time around in that he was the primary host, yet he also had help from John Saber and Conrad Van Order. Being around the Birmingham audience for a second time gave him more chances to talk about college football, basketball and other sports topics dominating the local and national scene.

Moving from one marketplace more focused on professional teams to one that was dominated by college sports, he furthered his abilities and worked to finish at the top of the ratings.

“I say the things that I actually believe in and I talk about the things that I really do to where, yes, sometimes I think I probably do some weird things and I’m a different type of person, but that’s just my personality and I have my quirks and my eccentricities,” McClearin said. “Again, I think if I present that and that is me, then the audience understands that and I think it comes across that way.”

Just as he thought during his initial stint in Birmingham, McClearin was prepared to stay in the marketplace for the long haul and try to further cement his name in the radio airwaves. Being able to reconnect with the audience and discuss meaningful, impactful topics was validating and worthwhile for him, and he was especially steadfast to the outlet. After all, he never had a particular interest in voyaging to television and still, to this day, concentrates his efforts on growing and maintaining the sports radio format.

“My brain just doesn’t think like that in those three-minute little quips that you do,” McClearin said. “TV is just so much more structured and short than radio, where we can have a 15-minute segment and have a real conversation.”

The only way McClearin was going to leave the station was if The Ticket came along, and sure enough, an opening became available concurrent with Hitzges’ retirement. While he enjoyed his time in Birmingham, he doubled down on his commitment to the Dallas-Fort Worth marketplace for the long run in making this move and conceding a solo program for a new co-host.

“When I got the call and went through the process with Jeff Catlin, [it] was a little bit surreal because it truly is a dream coming true,” McClearin said. “I found out that they’re going to put me with Donovan Lewis is kind of when Norm Hitzges decided to retire and I was going to walk in, [and] it’s really such a new show. Donovan and Norm had had such success for a while.”

As soon as McClearin took the air with Lewis for the first time, he felt an instant connection. Just a few months into the program, both hosts know there is plenty of room for growth and consistent improvement to create enthralling and proprietary content that will amplify cume and serve the community.

“We both are just two people, I think, that really care about the listener [and] what we’re putting together each and every day to make it the best that we can,” McClearin said. “So far, it’s been really easy and it’s been just – as much as I dreamt about this opportunity, it’s even more so than I probably could ever have dreamt.”

The Ticket is in competition with 105.3 The Fan in the Dallas-Fort Worth marketplace, along with other media outlets across various platforms. Whereas the Birmingham market releases its ratings through quarterly diaries, Dallas has monthly figures through PPM, but he makes sure the influx of quantitative data does not command his mindset.

“We can all see the ratings that the two main sports stations here have – they’re very healthy ratings and I think there’s a real hunger,” McClearin said. “A lot of that is football-driven – the Cowboys, nationally, are crazy relevant. All the [networks with] NBC and ABC and FOX and everybody; they always want to put them on because the Cowboys drive the needle. Well, they also drive the needle in Dallas very, very much so.”

Understanding and capitalizing on the reach and relevance of the Cowboys helps these local programs gain further traction. Arriving unprepared equates to marketplace malfeasance.

“Prep is very important to me, and I like to try to come into the pre-show meeting that I have with Donovan and our producer Travis every day with my own ideas, but also, ‘Okay, Donnie, what do you think?,’ and then, ‘Travis, what do you think about that?,’” McClearin said. “From that and our own individual prep, we kind of do the show prep together [to present] the in-depth segments that we roll out.”

The majority of content focuses on the Cowboys since they are the team that exhorts the most interest in the area, but there are plenty of other storylines within the landscape. The Texas Rangers are headed to the Major League Baseball postseason for the first time since 2016, while the Dallas Mavericks organization enters its first full season with superstar guard tandem Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving. Sometimes, sports fans do not want to solely listen to discussions about the teams themselves but rather hear about other pertinent topics in which they may be interested.

“I like to call them, I guess, lifestyle segments because I don’t think anybody, even the most passionate sports fan, only does sports in their life,” McClearin said. “We all have relationships and we have TV shows that we like to watch, and we went to the store and [some] random thing happened. We incorporate that, I think, into the show, and I think that’s The Ticket itself. It’s a very real station that has real conversations with a focus on sports.”

Everything throughout McClearin’s professional journey has centered on reaching this moment, and he wants to maximize the opportunity he has earned by bringing his best to the air on a daily basis.

From the onset, he knew where he wanted to end up and took the necessary steps to get there, even if it meant enduring some difficult setbacks. By taking advantage of every opportunity in his purview, he has made it in front of the microphone, and he has no plans on going anywhere at any time soon.

“I want to continue to grow the audience and have as many people enjoy doing what I love to do as possible,” McClearin said. “I get a lot of motivation from that [and] just the excitement of driving into the station every day and the excitement of when that light comes on and it’s time for the show. It’s like being on stage to me; it’s almost like you just get kind of high off of that feeling, and I love it.”

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading

BSM Writers

3 Questions to Ask Before Booking a Guest

Nobody has more passion for your show than you do. Be very careful who you invite to share that passion.

Avatar photo



In my formative years of sports talk, the legendary Rush Limbaugh was at the absolute height of his popularity. Limbaugh had a very simple formula, nobody could argue against the success of that formula. Each hour was pretty much the same; a monologue or two, a sound bite, a few phone callers, and lengthy reactions to those calls. One thing that was absent was a guest, Limbaugh almost never had a guest on his show.

He was once asked about that and maintained there isn’t a guest that has the same passion for his show as he does so, why hand the show over to someone without that passion? It is an intriguing and thought-provoking strategy.

Each show has a unique approach to guests; the type that work, the length of the interview, the times they should be on. There is no cookie-cutter approach that works for every show in every market. I do think a strategy for a show as it relates to guests is absolutely crucial. Scheduling them without first answering a few “whys” would be a critical mistake. We only get so much time with each listener, few things can run them off like a bad one.

More on the “whys” in a moment but I first need to address what I believe to be a misconception. I often hear that a show is good because “it gets great guests”. That may be a plus for the listener but I refuse to believe it is what makes a show great.

Ultimately, a show is great because the entire production is entertaining. Guests are only part of what makes a show entertaining. Even two in an hour on a show still leaves the hosts having to fill the majority of the time. If they aren’t entertaining hosts, there isn’t a guest alive that makes the show good. All of that gets me to the “Whys”.

Why is this guest on?

There must be a reason to hand part of your show over to a guest. They must be extremely entertaining, covering a topic that is of great interest to your audience, or be someone you know beyond a shadow of a doubt your audience loves.

If you can get at least two of those three, you have a winner.

Otherwise, it feels like a segment filler and I think most audience members can spot a segment filler from miles away. I get it, I’ve done small market shows solo before and felt like I was the only one listening. I know the appeal of having someone to help fill a segment.

The truth is, it does more harm than good if it isn’t entertaining.

Why does this guest want to be on?

Every guest you have on has an ulterior motive. It is part of the transaction: They scratch your back and they get something out of it. The more they feel they get out of it, the more likely they are to give you a better interview.

Having someone who understands the value of a spot on your show will exponentially increase the interest and effort of that guest in their given segment. Simply put, if they’re not into it, the segment isn’t going to work.

I’ve seen shows chase the “big name guest” and the big name has very little interest in the interview. It shows. We once had a former athlete turned analyst on our show who was doing the interview on speakerphone while he was packing for a trip. He could not have been less interested in doing the interview and I still don’t know why he agreed. It was a show killer.

I don’t care how big the name is, if the big name just goes through the motions, it will be a failure.

Why is this YOUR guest?

Most topics you’ll discuss on a show have numerous possibilities tied to them. Rarely is there only one guest that can discuss that topic. Try finding the person who has the best chemistry with your show. Show chemistry matters when selecting hosts, I think it should matter just as much when selecting guests. It is likely your show has a unique personality of its own, lean into that when you are selecting guests.

As an example, my show is far more likely to discuss a player’s haircut rather than his NextGen Stats. When we have someone on, it is important to us that they understand that and isn’t thrown off by it. That is an understanding of the chemistry of the show and the importance of that to the audience. I think every booking has to be viewed through that prism.

Ultimately, I have always believed having no guest is far better than having a bad guest. If people are consuming your show, they already value your opinion and insight, don’t lend that audience trust to someone who will not value it to some extent. Rush Limbaugh may have taken it to extremes, he was good at that, and he was also correct in his assessment.

Nobody has more passion for your show than you do. Be very careful who you invite to share that passion.

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading

BSM Writers

Gregg Giannotti is Living the Dream at WFAN

“I don’t take it for granted. I appreciate every show, every hour and every minute.”

Avatar photo



Gregg Giannotti
Courtesy: Audacy

When Gregg Giannotti was hired as an intern at WFAN in 2005, he had big dreams. His ultimate objective was to not just one day get on the air at the legendary all-sports radio station, but to occupy a portion of WFAN’s prime real estate. 

In radio industry terms that means morning drive, middays, or afternoon drive and the Long Island native would embark on a career path that has taken him to the co-host chair of the Boomer & Gio morning show on WFAN and simulcast on CBS Sports Network.

“You never really know if it’s going to happen,” said Giannotti. “When it does happen, it’s sort of a shock and it took me at least six months to a year to realize that I was actually doing it and then you want to make sure that you keep doing it because this business is very fickle.”

After graduating from the WFAN newsroom, Giannotti became a full-time employee in 2007, becoming a board op and then a producer, most notably for Joe & Evan, hosted by Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts. In 2008, he had his first opportunity to host a show on WFAN and then in 2010, he left New York to help launch 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh. After six months as the evening host, Giannotti was promoted to host the morning show, a program that became the top-rated sports show in town. 

After five years in Pittsburgh, Gregg Giannotti returned home to New York to co-host the morning show with Brian Jones on CBS Sports Radio, and then in 2017 he moved down the hall on the 10th floor of 345 Hudson Street in New York City when he was named to replace Craig Carton as co-host of WFAN’s morning show.

“The fact that now I’m sitting here in year six with Boomer and it’s so comfortable, it feels so good and we all trust one another and we all really enjoy seeing each other,” said Giannotti.  “After the tumultuous way that everything started, the cliché is that it’s a dream come true but it really is. This is all I ever wanted to do.”

And he’s doing it with people who have had a big impact on his life and his career.

The legendary Eddie Scozzare, who hired Giannotti as an intern, serves as Boomer & Gio’s board op and is best known for his ability to play the appropriate “drops” at just the right time.

Morning show update anchor Jerry Recco, who will also fill in as host when Giannotti and/or Boomer are off, trained Gio in the newsroom during his internship.

Giannotti has always been a big fan of producer Al Dukes who has enjoyed a storied career and is a student of radio.

And then, of course, there’s his co-host, former NFL MVP and fellow native Long Islander Boomer Esiason.

When Gregg Giannotti joined the WFAN morning show, he had big shoes to fill in replacing Carton, whose arrest and prison sentence sent shockwaves through the station and the industry.

Boomer & Carton was a successful show for a decade and radio listeners can be creatures of habit. The audience loved the show and then, all of a sudden, there was someone new sitting next to Boomer.

When Giannotti took up residence in that chair vacated by Carton, he knew he had a huge responsibility.

“It was up to me to make sure that the audience didn’t leave and wanted to be a part of what we were doing,” said Giannotti. “You go from that day in 2017 where no one knew what their future was going to be and things were scary for a lot of people and their opportunities. You couldn’t have written a better script for the comeback story for Craig and how Boomer & Carton turned into Boomer & Gio and the radio station didn’t skip a beat in morning drive.”

Giannotti has been a smashing success because, as many people in the industry will tell you, he “gets it”. He has a clear understanding of what should go into a show, particularly a morning show, and that means knowing who your audience is.

Growing up on Long Island listening to WFAN certainly gave Giannotti a leg up on others who may have aspired to work at the nation’s first all-sports radio station.

“I grew up as one of those guys who would get in the car and have a miserable commute and put on WFAN,” said Giannotti. “What you try to do is to understand what your audience wants, what they’re expecting out of you, and in morning drive, you want to entertain. There’s a lot of times where you have to know the spot that you’re in and understand who you are and who your audience is.”

Being entertaining during a morning show is vitally important to being a success. The discussion is not always about sports and there are times during the year when the sports world, especially locally, could be going through a slow period. That’s when a morning show has to spend some time on pop culture, radio station drama, and politics and doing whatever needs to be done to keep the listeners engaged.

Gregg Giannotti was clearly born with the gift of gab and the ability to entertain, a trait that began in fourth grade when he started making fun of his teachers and doing something that he has been known for throughout his career…doing impressions.

“There’s an ability to entertain that I think some people have and some people don’t,” said Giannotti. “There’s an ability that some people are born with that can do it and some can’t.”

Clearly, Giannotti is in the category of those who can.

His long list of impersonations includes long-time legendary WFAN host Joe Benigno.

“Benigno is probably the easiest one,” said Giannotti. “It always gets a laugh and I think it’s the most authentic and the one that sounds the best so it’s definitely at the very top.”

Giannotti also gets everyone laughing with his impersonations of former WFAN hosts Mike Francesa and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo but at the top of the list now is a New York sports executive.

“My favorite, if I could just pick one, is when I do the Sean Marks, the GM of the Brooklyn Nets, and his Australian/New Zealand accent when he treats (WFAN host) Evan Roberts like a little kid,” said Giannotti.

There are different paths to being a success in the radio industry. With technology today, there are those who go down the road of being a YouTube sensation or hosting a podcast in order to get noticed.  For Gregg Giannotti, the choice was to leave New York for Pittsburgh and work his way back home.

He will always cherish his five years at 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh.

“It was the best thing that I ever could have done because I took that risk,” said Giannotti. “I really needed that in my career to get me to where I am now because it was essentially like going to college to learn how to deal with all of the major things you have to deal with when you’re doing big-time drive time radio. It was perfect. I could have stayed there if things didn’t work out the way they did with my wife being from there. I had dreams of getting back to New York that I couldn’t let die.” 

And those dreams have indeed come true for Gregg Giannotti with the success of Boomer & Gio on WFAN.

“I don’t take it for granted,” said Giannotti. “I appreciate every show, every hour, and every minute.”

To succeed, you have to dream big and follow the correct career path. You also have to have the talent to entertain. Gregg Giannotti has certainly checked all of those boxes and the results speak for themselves.

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading

Barrett Media Writers

Copyright © 2023 Barrett Media.