Chuck Oliver Is Distracting People In Traffic
“Oh dude, the beginning of the week, my shirt is tucked in, pressed collar. By about Thursday, I look like I just killed a bear with a knife.”
You might enjoy P.F. Chang’s. Chances are, however, that the restaurant doesn’t play a role in you eventually hosting a syndicated radio show. It is part of Chuck Oliver’s story though. The Auburn grad hosts a syndicated college football show year-round throughout the South, as well as an afternoon drive show on 680 The Fan in Atlanta. That’s right; two separate shows, six hours a day, five days a week. Fire up the Keurig and let her rip.
Chuck isn’t one to complain. He knows his career is a blessing. Chuck loves what he does, but the former high school football coach also talks about the demands of working 13 to 14-hour days. Keeping a tight schedule is essential just like his PhD in coffee. Chuck talks about having an understanding partner, why he eludes Twitter trolls like Barry Sanders used to sidestep defenders, and the need for bike horns. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: Are you originally from Atlanta?
Chuck Oliver: Essentially. I was born in Houston, but six months in my parents moved to Atlanta. I was born in December of ’67 and then the summer of ’68 my dad got a job in Atlanta. I was the youngest of four kids, so the Vista Cruiser station wagon with the fake wood grain panels on the side, it left Houston and landed in Atlanta. Except for college, this is where I’ve been.
BN: Have you been a college football junkie from the get-go?
CO: I was a baseball fan actually more than anything growing up. My first Major League game was the Braves home opener against the Astros in April of ’77. I was a third grader. My dad and I went to Opening Day every year after that. Literally it was every single night with the Braves on Ted Turner’s satellite. I’m running down to the driveway every morning trying to get the paper before my dad so I can read the box scores and everything. I was a huge baseball fan.
College football, I actually grew up with no allegiance to anybody because neither of my parents went to college. Pepper Rodgers was the head coach at Georgia Tech. I would watch the Pepper Rodgers Show on Sunday mornings because nobody was on TV. You would have two or maybe three games on a Saturday. Most of them were regional. You’d have Texas and Oklahoma playing, USC and Notre Dame playing. If you lived in Lawrenceville, Georgia you may get Maryland and Wake Forest. It was a totally different challenge to be a college football fan. I’d watch the Pepper Rodgers Show on Sunday and catch up on Georgia Tech football. That was kind of the environment; you had to watch those coaches shows just to see anything.
BN: How did you start your syndicated college football show?
CO: A guy named Chad Scott was a producer for me way back in the day at 790 The Zone in Atlanta. I had a conversation with him at a P.F. Chang’s parking lot in 2008. He said every day that you don’t do the Chuck Oliver Show, you’re throwing money into the trash can. I ended up switching jobs. I was at 790 The Zone, which was a tremendous station; it should have been legendary. I was afternoon drive there, which was a pretty nice patch of radio real estate to have, but it was just one station in Atlanta. I went and met with David Dickey when my contract had a provision in it where I could get out with no non-compete, no anything. I had about a 30-day window and I was like well let’s jump on this.
I met with David Dickey in September of ‘08. He said “I’m David Dickey”. I said “I’m Chuck Oliver; I want my own syndicated college football show”.
He laughed. And by the way, he was right to laugh about that. You tell me, how many dudes in the South have had the idea that hey, we’re going to put together a syndicated show and just talk college football? I would bet you a couple of hundred have even tried it. That’s the reason I left afternoon drive at 790 and went to middays at 680. I was like I didn’t care about that; that’s the local play. Then six years later, David Dickey pushed the Staples button on this and made the syndicated thing happen. I started with one affiliate and now seven years later it’s two hours a day, nine states, and I think next week we add our 55th stick just outside of Knoxville.
BN: Do you cover the SEC exclusively?
CO: I’m of the opinion if the customers want hamburgers, give them hamburgers. And that really is the SEC. Now, granted the flagship is in Atlanta and we go from Lexington down to Ocala, over the Baton Rouge and Fayetteville. That’s basically our footprint, our circle.
If you’ve got 55 stations in that footprint, the majority of it each day is probably 80 to 85 percent SEC. I’m going to say it’s 15 to 20 percent maybe ACC. But let’s be honest. That’s Clemson — not this year — but we talk some ACC. That means you talk Florida State, Clemson, Miami, Virginia Tech maybe, and North Carolina with Mack. You don’t talk NC State. Dave Doeren is therapy for terminal insomniacs. That’s just not how the conversation is going to carry the day. It’s almost exclusively SEC.
I don’t claim to be anything superior here at all. I’m talking college football in the South. It’s supposed to work. But we don’t get dropped. Rush Limbaugh would be picked up and dropped. Dave Ramsey has been picked up and dropped sometimes. For the most part we don’t get dropped when we get picked up. It’s just a really, really nice compliment. We’re in Alabama and Tennessee and Mississippi talking college football so it works, but the response has been really, really nice.
BN: What’s your schedule like on a daily basis?
CO: I’m on from 11-1 on the syndicated show. Then there’s an hour break. Then I do the afternoon drive show on 680 The Fan in Atlanta from 2-6. It’s a full day and it’s extremely unusual. I get that. In fact our sales manager when I started, he used to be in Cincinnati, and he said we had a host that tried this, it lasted three months. It’s not easy. But I also understand the blessing is the opportunity. I’m just trying to maximize the opportunity and be thankful for it. Again I’m not playing all shucks; it’s a full day. I’m out of bed every morning at five. At 5:15 I have coffee and I’m at my computer already prepping at 5:15 and I get off at six. But I’m not complaining. Like I said that’s a heck of an opportunity, so I’m just trying to show up and do a decent job.
BN: A lot of broadcasters don’t want to talk about how it’s mentally demanding and tires you out, because you’re not digging ditches or doing physical labor. But just the mental focus it takes, do you feel it on a Thursday or Friday when you’ve been doing it all week?
CO: Oh dude, the beginning of the week, my shirt is tucked in, pressed collar. By about Thursday, I look like I just killed a bear with a knife. As we go through the week there’s this deterioration. I don’t want to complain and I’m not, I’m just saying that the physical part of it, it literally is 13 to 14 hours a day. I was asked to do Atlanta Braves watch parties. From six to nine I was out. That’s part of it. The blessing is going out to a bar for a paid appearance. That’s awesome. Today I woke up at five and I’ll be getting home about 9:30. I ain’t complaining; I’m just saying it’s a full day and I’ve been doing it for seven years.
I’ll be honest, Brian, it’s doable. My daily schedule is like a Jenga tower. If I take out the wrong thing — I’ll be candid — you and I were texting back and forth and it got down to like we were negotiating at a fair or something. I was like 9:14, and you were like 9:16, and I was like all right 9:15. It fit perfectly in there. I just have to be really regimented and disciplined and scheduled to get it all done. The thing is that would be the same for anybody that was doing these two jobs. I’ve just evolved over time and started drinking coffee. I didn’t drink coffee when I started the job. I have my schedule laid out and as long as there’s no real big curveball, I can handle it. It’s been seven years and it’s fine.
BN: What’s your go-to coffee and how many cups are we talking here?
CO: All right, brother, I’ve got the Keurig. I actually wrote that thing off. I was like this is a business expense. I go all the way on strength, two of the three bars on temperature, and I use Don Francisco’s hazelnut coffee pots. Can I give you a hack? Everybody start doing this immediately. The only dietary thing I do is I don’t have any added sugar ever. I eat everything else all day long, whatever I want, no added sugar ever. What I add to my coffee instead of half and half; heavy whipping cream. It turns it into a hazelnut latte with zero sugar in it. I have two or three of those every single morning. You wake up, it’s like walking dead, then after three of those, man, you are ready to roll. That’s what I do. Heavy whipping cream, people. Start that. It’s a treat.
BN: I’d assume your wife [Kristen] is pretty understanding about the demands of your job, right?
CO: Oh gosh, yeah. For instance I was in Charlotte for three days. I was in Houston for three nights for the World Series. In two weeks I’m going to Knoxville and blah, blah, blah. It’s a blessing, but it also is me taking off and heading on the road and saying I’m going to see Tennessee and Georgia play at Neyland. Well that’s great for me; she’s back here in Atlanta running the house and the dogs and oh yeah, trying to essentially be a PA. That’s what she’s pursuing while she’s doing everything else.
She’s awesome though. You’re right, she has a big understanding of this. The cool part though is that I’ve told her when she graduates and when it’s all done in about four weeks, the world is her oyster as far as getting a job. With radio, you can do that job anywhere. Just give me a microphone and some power and I can broadcast in India. I’m ready to roll, man. I’m really looking forward to the next chapter and it being all about her.
BN: I’m curious how you’d describe Georgia fans this year. Are they braggadocious, we’re number one, or is it sort of like this could go south at any time?
CO: Georgia fans right now are occupying themselves with the Stetson Bennett, J.T. Daniels thing. Here’s the weird thing; they’re more boisterous and finger in the air if they’re like 9-1 than they are right now after beating Florida. It’s been weird. Going into the Clemson game, it was the height of anxiety. After they got into conference play, the South Carolina game, we all looked around and realized this is what the defense is. They looked at the schedule and were like Auburn ain’t beating us, Tennessee isn’t beating us, Vanderbilt’s not beating us, Florida’s not beating us. They already looked at the entire regular season and said there’s a really good chance we’re 12-0.
This is all in the course of about two months. I had two Georgia fans tell me I’m not going to Jacksonville. They canceled their plans and sold their tickets. I was like why? Quote, it’s not a big enough game this year. I almost needed a paper bag to breathe into. I couldn’t believe a Georgia fan telling me Jacksonville ain’t a big enough game. That’s what it is.
BN: There was some serious turnover during COVID at 680. Are you feeling good about where things stand now?
CO: Yeah, John Kincade is a very, very good friend of mine and played a huge role actually in me going over to 680. When John got canned, that was just awful, awful, awful. It’s tough because you look at John, you can’t do the job better than John does it. You can’t be more prepared. You can’t work harder. He has something to say. All right, he got fired. That was kind of an attention getter. That was Sheriff Justice kicking you in the butt against the side of the car. For John personally I knew that he’s a cat, he was going to land on his feet. Steak Shapiro and Mark Zinno the same sort of thing, they’re too good. Steak’s got his TV empire anyway.
It wasn’t necessarily just related to okay what happens to these individuals? Because I knew all of them were good and were going to land. It was just a tough commentary. I’ll say this about David Dickey, he is not knee-jerk. He does not react in the moment. Everything is very measured and thought out. If that was the decision he came to, I was like all right, this is another indication of how real this thing is. John is really good at his job. It was kind of jarring because that’s just not the kind of thing that has happened at DBC since I’ve been there. And it happens everywhere in the industry, but just not there.
BN: Where do you think you would be right now if you stuck with coaching?
CO: I want to say coaching d-line somewhere. In fact I’m going to tell you right now honestly if you dropped me down onto a college coaching staff right now, I could coach technique. I could coach technique tomorrow. I would be almost useless with a game plan. I can break down film and tell you what’s going on, but I know zero. I know a thimble full as far as preparing for a modern offense. It’s just been too long.
But the techniques have never changed. Alignments, stance, hand placement, footwork, leverage, it’s never changed. I can do that. And that was awesome. I loved it. Actually you know how I could coach? Here’s what I need, just two concessions, the offense only gets three formations and there’s no pre-snap motion. If you could make that a rule, I’m back in coaching tomorrow. I promise you. It was so much fun. It was just a tremendous experience.
I coached high school football for six years and even got a ring. That was kind of cool. Also there were kids on the defensive line when I was there that went to Troy State, one went to Auburn, we had several go to Cumberland and Maryville and various places. You see a kid that showed up who’s like I’m 14 and I’m a freshman, I’m just here to play high school ball, and then four years later you realize he’s about to be able to graduate from college without any student loan debt. It is a huge, huge deal, and so many of those kids, I just loved when they got their chance.
BN: I love your Twitter bio. Part of it says it’s not possible to troll me, I just don’t engage the negative on Twitter, ever. Why is that your approach?
CO: I have a co-worker of mine, Mark Zinno as a matter of fact, he gets out of bed every morning like he’s stepping into a boxing ring on Twitter. He’s like well these people said things about me. The way I said it, my studio is on the 4th floor and there’s a big floor-to-ceiling window about 12 feet away. I don’t sit anywhere near it. I said Mark here’s Twitter, there’s a thousand people on the sidewalk that have been yelling just rude, awful things to you for the past hour. He’s like really? I’m like no. Because you haven’t gone over and looked. I was like they might have been there just yelling the most vile, awful things for the past 60 minutes, but you don’t know that because you didn’t engage them. You sat in your chair 12 feet away. I was like I sit in my Twitter chair 12 feet away.
It’s really a different environment for me. I have some funny, really insightful, sometimes helpful folks on Twitter. That’s really what I try to limit my engagements to. Twitter is this dark alley that you step into it and then thousands of people jump out with sticks and just start beating on you. I’m just not going to do that. I don’t respond to anybody because again it’s not trolling unless you engage back and kind of shine a light on it yourself. You have to be complicit in this and I just don’t do it.
BN: Over the next five to 10 years what do you want your ideal radio schedule to look like?
CO: Gosh, the syndicated thing continues to kind of unfold on its own pretty steadily. We’ll pick up six to seven affiliates. People hear about it and over the year they add some. That’s kind of only been growing. I assume that that’ll keep going unless people lose taste for college football. I found a schedule that works. I believe that I’ll keep on rolling along until public taste changes and nobody likes college football in the South.
BN: How would you describe the difference between doing your 680 show with [Matt] Chernoff where it’s a two-man show, and your syndicated show, which is solo?
CO: Chuck and Chernoff is a traditional, like the wacky morning zoo with the bike horn and all that in the afternoon. We do a dumb show. It’s fun, but it’s dumb. We’re silly and we don’t take ourselves seriously. It is the anti — because college football is serious stuff — it is the anti-Chuck Oliver Show. It’s just a lot of fun. This is my professional life and I just hope they don’t catch on soon.
BN: It’s six hours on the air each day, you probably need the bike horn at the end of the day, right?
CO: Oh God, if it was six hours of brain surgery and the neighbor’s yard is so much better than mine and everything in between, no. It can’t be all serious issues all the time. We’ll go crazy. That’s the thing about the job actually I’ve said, my job is not important. I don’t fly the space shuttle for a living. But I’ve had so many people tell me that it’s important to them. When you’re in Atlanta traffic, which you average an hour and seven minutes a day in afternoon drive, here’s what people don’t want; they don’t want a statistical seminar on the Atlanta Braves matchup with the Astros. What they want is distract me in Atlanta traffic. That’s all they want, distract me. Make me not notice what’s going on in front of me. So we just try to distract people for a little bit while they’re in traffic.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com or find him on Twitter @jeffcaves.
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