Al Michaels Wasn’t Sure What to Expect From Amazon
“I didn’t know what my expectations were except for the fact that I knew that with Fred in control, this was going to look big-time – and it did.”
As Jacksonville Jaguars kicker Riley Patterson launched the football between the uprights, the crowd in Jacksonville erupted in jubilation, a stark contrast to its palpable despondence just a short time before. The Los Angeles Chargers had established a sizable 27-0 lead in the Wild Card game but proceeded to have no answer for the Jaguars’ offense in the second half. Working in his emeritus role with NBC Sports, Al Michaels was on the call for the matchup and delivered the final call to a national audience, which subsequently received a deluge of criticism from sports fans and media pundits alike.
In fact, some people, deeming the broadcast lackluster, went so far as to suggest Michaels should step aside and retire from broadcasting altogether.
Yet Michaels, who has made a stellar career of nailing the big moments with just the right tonality and volume, saw an official throw a penalty flag following the game-winning field goal. As an experienced national play-by-play announcer, he remained patient and waited for the ruling to see if it would impact the final score.
It was a shrewd observation on his part, but the penalty, which turned out to be a defensive offside on Asante Samuel Jr. of the Chargers, was declined by Jacksonville. The game ended in a 31-30 Jaguars victory, and many fans preferred the impassioned call made by Jaguars’ radio voice Frank Frangie, sharing it across social media.
“It might have been something like, ‘A comeback for the ages for the Jaguars; a meltdown for the ages for the Chargers,’” Michaels hypothesized on his final call had there not been a penalty flag. “That’s it. I don’t go on and on. I don’t holler the game at you; I don’t scream the game at you.”
For the previous 16 seasons, Michaels had been the voice of Sunday Night Football on NBC, working with the late-John Madden and Cris Collinsworth on the prime time matchup of the night. Throughout what turned out to be his final season with NBC Sports in 2021, there was much speculation about where Michaels would end up; however, it was made obvious to him that his broadcast scenery would change.
“I was not offered the opportunity to remain on Sunday night, so we start there,” Michaels said. “This was not a move that I made; this was a move that was made for me.”
NBC Sports had chosen Mike Tirico to take over as the play-by-play announcer for Sunday Night Football, one segment of a larger broadcasting shakeup across the NFL last offseason. Michaels and Tirico had corresponded over the years at NBC, having conversations about the future of the business and collaborating on broadcasts as the play-by-play announcer and Football Night in America host, respectively.
Recognizing that Tirico is a veteran in the industry, Michaels knew he would quickly assimilate into calling Sunday Night Football full time with Cris Collinsworth – especially since Tirico had been his predecessor once before. As a result, he knew Tirico would not need unprompted advice from him regarding the new role.
“Don’t forget, Mike did 10 years of Monday Night Football,” Michaels said. “It’s not like Mike was coming into a fishbowl and he hadn’t been there before. People forget [that] I did 20 years of Monday night [and] he did the next 10. Monday Night Football is still… a major, major American television institution. Mike has had a ton of experience; it wouldn’t be like somebody brand new coming in and making a big leap.”
In March 2021, the NFL announced a new media rights agreement beginning in 2023 worth a reported $110 billion between CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC/ESPN, and Amazon Prime Video. The deal also includes increased flex scheduling for Sunday Night Football on NBC and Monday Night Football on ESPN, along with Amazon Prime Video being named the exclusive home of Thursday Night Football.
Originally, Amazon Prime Video was not supposed to begin its production of Thursday Night Football until the 2023 season; however, negotiations between the company and the league resulted in its launch being moved a year earlier. FOX Sports had been producing Thursday night football games since 2018, and the broadcast was simulcast to NFL Network and on Amazon Prime. The network raised no qualms when afforded a chance to back out of the final year of its agreement, ceding the broadcast property to Amazon Prime Video.
Amazon Prime Video officially announced the signing of Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit as its inaugural Thursday Night Football booth after months of speculation and reporting about the potential broadcast pairing. The OTT streaming service had secured the Thursday night broadcast rights for 11 years and sought to build ethos and trust with its audience while innovating on its modern platform.
A key move that piqued the interest of Michaels in joining Amazon Prime Video was when it named Fred Gaudelli as the broadcast’s executive producer. Michaels had worked with Gaudelli for the last 21 years – 5 at Monday Night Football on ABC; 18 at Sunday Night Football on NBC – and developed a rapport with him.
Due to the success of Sunday Night Football as being prime time television’s number one show for the 11th consecutive year while averaging a total audience delivery of 19.9 million viewers, Michaels was, in his own words, “surprised… that he was going to do this.”
“He’s at the very top,” Michaels said of Gaudelli, who produced his final NFL game last month in the truck but will continue in the executive producer role with Amazon Prime Video and NBC. “A lot of us in the business say, ‘Our producer; our director is the very best.’ I’ll go to war about that…. Fred is at the top of the line.”
With the broadcast team in place, Amazon Prime Video began preparing for the season by assembling shoulder programming, composing a theme song and building out hi-tech mobile broadcast units. The production felt at scale with what Michaels had departed from, and he felt confident the new endeavor in his career would be successful.
“I didn’t know what my expectations were except for the fact that I knew that with Fred in control, this was going to look big-time – and it did,” Michaels said. “I credit him with making the show look what it looked like. He did it like Sunday Night Football; he put together a crew from scratch.
“Our directors; our guys – ‘Take one;’ period; end of story; live,” Michaels said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for the people who do this [and] I would hope the league appreciates how good television makes the National Football League look every week on all of the networks.”
According to Nielsen ratings data, Amazon Prime Video’s presentation of Thursday Night Football averaged 9.58 million viewers over its 15-game package, peaking during its first broadcast in a matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers. A particular challenge Michaels and the broadcast team faced emanated simply from broadcasting games on a Thursday.
“It’s difficult for the league to give us a compelling game every week because you can’t ask teams to play more than once a year on a Sunday-Thursday type of schedule,” Michaels said. “That’s why, for the most part, you have to do every team in the league.”
Throughout the season, Thursday Night Football had its fair share of matchups that were ostensibly not appealing to consumers because of the teams and/or the flow of the game.
Michaels had similar experiences over his time with ABC and NBC, enduring through contrasting facile and difficult stretches of games, but knew many factors were beyond his control. Just because a game fell short of expectations, however, did not mean it equated to a subpar broadcasts, as there were contests throughout the season – most notably the Los Angeles Rams’ Week 14 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders – that were decided in the final five minutes garnering an implausible and/or unlikely denouement.
“You’re going to get some dramatic games; you’re going to get some pretty good games; you’re going to get some okay games; and you’re going to get some stiffs,” Michaels said. “….We had our share this year of games that were less than compelling, so hopefully the law of averages gets us some games that will go down to the wire.
“I don’t think anything televises like football,” Michaels said. “I think a lot of the popularity of the National Football League can be attributed to what it looks like, and I think the advent of HDTV years ago, and now 4K [and] skycams – you’re taken inside the huddle; you’re taken wherever you need to go…. I’m even amazed being inside the business of how great it looks and how amazing it is that we’re able to get the shots that we get.”
One of the first things Al Michaels remembers in life is walking into Ebbets Field on the first-base side in the early 1950s with his father, Jay, by his side. As he marveled at the baseball field the then-Brooklyn Dodgers called home, he knew his future would somehow involve remaining around the world of sports.
His father, who initially worked as a booking agent and went on to become a television executive, taught him about the rules of the games and kept him immersed in the Dodgers, along with other local teams. He would go on to attend many more Dodgers games in his formative years, always transfixed on both the action and the broadcasters. Additionally, he would listen to baseball games from afar, including local New York Giants and New York Yankees broadcasts.
“Sports had to be a part of my life and it never wavered,” Michaels said. “It is the only thing that I ever wanted to do; I was able to do all of the things to get to the point where I was able to get into the business.”
Around the same time when Michaels attended his first Dodgers game, the team had introduced its new announcer who would go on to be known as the legendary voice of baseball, Vin Scully. In his rookie season, Scully worked with Red Barber and Connie Desmond, two established sportscasters in their own rights – and went on to broadcast the World Series three years later at the age of 25.
Working within the Dodgers organization for 66 years, Scully was a renowned figure among baseball fans at large. He was widely regarded as a master storyteller, emblematic of America’s national pastime and a recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award for his contributions to the game. Michaels followed Scully from his early days as a member of the Dodgers’ broadcast team and is someone for whom he has a profound amount of respect.
“I was unbelievably and thrillingly honored when the Dodgers asked me to come and emcee the Opening Day tribute to Vinny going into his last year,” Michaels said. “So many of the players I grew up with were there to honor him. Vinny – number one – was the guy I always strived to model myself after.”
Shortly after his graduation from Arizona State University, Michaels called Hawaii Islanders’ Minor League Baseball games, a Triple-A club then-affiliated with the Chicago White Sox. This came after a brief stint as a talent coordinator with Chuck Barris Productions where he would assist in the planning of The Dating Game, a television game show hosted by Jim Lange.
Additionally in 1967, he had worked with Chick Hearn as a broadcast assistant for the Los Angeles Lakers while also helping the team in its public relations department. After eight games (four of which he appeared on the air) though, Michael was surprised to learn that he had been fired via a phone call by Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke. He found out years later that he had only been brought on the broadcasts to help Hearn assimilate working with a partner, who eventually would turn out to be Rodney Hundley.
While many people visit Hawaii to relax and unwind, Michaels did the complete opposite, working in a variety of roles that gave him a decade’s worth of experience in the span of just three years. In addition to his role calling Islanders baseball, he announced University of Hawaii football and basketball games and high school sporting events. He also wrote a column in a weekly magazine all while appearing on television twice per day on a news station at 6 and 10 PM.
His ticket back to the continental United States came when someone at NBC had heard Michaels broadcasting during their vacation and recommended the Cincinnati Reds interview him for their open radio play-by-play announcer job. Michaels’ first major league broadcast partner was former Reds pitcher Joe Nuxhall and together, they covered Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, and “The Big Red Machine” for the next three seasons.
Early in his broadcast career, Michaels had displayed versatility and was always cognizant of opportunities to learn new information and gain new experiences. When the team qualified for the World Series in his second season, he appeared on NBC at the age of 27 alongside its national broadcast team of Tony Kubek and Curt Gowdy to call the game and provide local insight.
“I also loved Curt Gowdy when I was growing up because Curt was extremely versatile,” Michaels said. “Curt did the Super Bowl; he did the World Series; he did the Final Four and a number of other shows…. It was a great thrill for me to get to work with [him].”
Following the next season, Michaels returned to California to call games for the San Francisco Giants and also began calling men’s basketball for UCLA. In 1977, he signed with ABC Sports and became the lead play-by-play announcer for its coverage of Major League Baseball and had the opportunity to call the World Series seven additional times, two of which he alternated broadcast duties with Keith Jackson depending on the location of the game.
One of those World Series occurred in 1989 when the San Francisco Giants were playing the Oakland Athletics – and Michaels was live on the air when Game 3 was interrupted by the Loma Prieta earthquake, which registered a 6.9 on the Richter scale. For the next eight hours, Michaels broadcast live coverage of the earthquake from Candlestick Park, the home of the Giants, demonstrating his adept proficiency in adjusting the scope of coverage. He received an Emmy nomination for his abeyance of broadcasting the game itself to provide on-site news coverage, informing viewers in the San Francisco Bay Area and around the country as to what had occurred and the events that ensued.
While at the network, Michaels had the opportunity to cover a wide range of different sports, including college football, horse racing and ice hockey. In 1980, Michaels was on the broadcast team for the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid – the year when the United States upset the Soviet Union 4-3 in what was perhaps the 20th century’s most iconic moment in sports. The game was aired on tape delay and ultimately resulted in a gold medal finish for the United States when they came back to defeat Finland two days later. The victory also ended the Soviet Union’s streak of capturing four straight Olympic hockey gold medals.
Michaels affirms that his famous call, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!,” is the unequivocal highlight of his career. Years later, it was utilized in the Walt Disney Pictures movie “Miracle,” a depiction of the 1980 U.S. Men’s National Team starring Kurt Russell as former head coach Herb Brooks and Patrick O’Brien Demsey as team captain Mike Eruzione. Even without the movie though, the team remains fixed in American sports lore forever – and Michaels’ call continues to provide the bonafide soundtrack of what is perhaps its most heralded moment.
It also continues to run in the family, as his grandson, who is a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, is set to call his first women’s hockey game.
“The hockey coach at the University of Wisconsin – they’ve got a fantastic program – is Mark Johnson, who [was] one of the big heroes at Lake Placid,” Michaels said. “Everyone thinks about Eruzione and Jim Craig, but I can’t wait until Mark Johnson finds out that my grandson [is] going to be announcing one of his team’s games. I can’t believe it – it’s just unbelievable. I’m excited as hell for that to happen; I can’t tell you.
“My younger grandson plays hockey and his team went to Lake Placid about three years ago when he was 12 or 13 years old, and they wound up winning the gold medal in their group,” Michaels added. “Here’s my… grandson at Lake Placid, on the ice, taking a picture with a gold medal around his neck. You can’t make this stuff up – it’s unbelievable.”
When Al Michaels first became aware of the job opening with Amazon Prime Video, he was not looking to reinvent the wheel, instead trying to find aspects of the broadcast on which to improve each week. After all, there is no competition from other television broadcasts in the National Football League on Thursday nights, giving Amazon Prime Video a unique chance to differentiate itself from other programming.
In persuading viewers to try streaming the game, Thursday Night Football brought on an credible and sagacious broadcast team in Michaels and Herbstreit. The commentators, joined by Kaylee Hartung as its sideline reporter, quickly developed chemistry in the broadcast booth, blending traditional perspectives and modern insights to cultivate an appealing weekly program.
Some viewers, however, were confused as to why Herbstreit was added onto these broadcasts, but the decision made complete sense to Michaels. He pointed out that more than half of the players on NFL rosters today are either in their first, second or third seasons – meaning that Herbstreit, from his time in college football, had an esoteric base of knowledge on which to provide cogent, detailed analysis.
“‘He’s seen them all,’” Michaels said he told those skeptical of the decision to hire Herbstreit. “‘He’s more up-to-date with those guys than anybody who’s been doing just the NFL.’ I think that boded well for what it was.”
As a play-by-play announcer, Michaels aims to foster a connection with the listener and accurately depict what is occurring on the field. Despite moving from linear television to an OTT streaming platform, the way in which he calls the game has remained the same. If he had changed his announcing style, Michaels says people would have questioned what he was doing and why he deviated away from what had worked for a prolonged amount of time.
“I have no idea,” Michaels said regarding changing his announcing style. “Would I bring back Dennis Miller? Well, I could do that too. Anyway, that’s what it is. People are more comfortable – I don’t want to say with a standard telecast – but if you go too far… you make it more about yourself than the game and people don’t like that.”
Over his storied career in sports media, Al Michaels has called 11 Super Bowls, most recently last year’s contest between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams. Several of the contests came down to key plays made in the waning moments – such as Kevin Dyson falling one-yard short of keeping the game alive in 2000 and Malcolm Butler’s interception in 2014.
“You get to the game and you don’t want to get over-excited – you just have to calm yourself down and make the week as normal as possible if you’re doing a regular game,” Michaels said. “Once you’re on the air, it’s very exciting. You know where you are; you know how many people are watching – but once you get going, it’s pretty much like the players say: You have that first contact; the play gets underway; the pregame hype is over and then you do your job.”
It was never a sporting event Michaels thought about broadcasting in his youth because the first Super Bowl was not played until 1967, the year after he graduated Arizona State University, in a matchup between the AFC’s Kansas City Chiefs and NFC’s Green Bay Packers. Over the years, the game has become “an unofficial national holiday” and usually dominates sports media coverage upon the completion of the NFL’s championship round.
Although its linear television ratings have slightly decreased over the years, partially due to viewers streaming the game, it remains, by far, the most-watched sporting event of the year in the United States.
As Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen prepare to call the action this year on FOX, the critical thing, just as it is in any other game, will be to keep viewers informed regarding all the action.
“You want to make sure that you’re right on top of everything,” Michaels said. “I’ve had a few of them that went down to the very last play of the game and you’ve got to make sure you’re on top of it. You don’t want to have a blown call on the last play of the game.”
Despite the disparity in the ratings compared to previous years on linear television and inconsistency in the appeal of the schedule, Michaels was pleased with the first season of Thursday Night Football.
He is cognizant of the challenges the broadcast has to continue to overcome in attracting viewers from a broad range of demographics and making the technology accessible en masse; however, the opportunity to be part of this avenue of innovation in sports media both excites him and keeps him motivated to perform at a high level.
“It’s intoxicating and exhilarating for me to still be a part of this and still be a part of the National Football League, which has become the king of all sports right now,” Michaels said.
“The thought of moving away from it – no, that has no appeal to me. To do what? People say, ‘Well, you can retire and play golf.’ I play enough golf….. To me, it’s not a job really; it really isn’t. It’s a source of great enjoyment for me and it keeps my brain stimulated. I’ll probably do this as long as somebody will have me and my health holds out.”
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.
Amanda Brown Has Embraced The Bright Lights of Hollywood
“My whole goal was that I didn’t need people to like me; I needed people to respect me.”
The tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and eight others aboard a helicopter, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, sent shockwaves around the world of sports, entertainment, and culture. People traveled to Los Angeles following the devastating news and left flowers outside the then-named STAPLES Center, the arena which Bryant called home for much of his career, demonstrating the magnitude of the loss. Just across the street from the arena, Amanda Brown and the staff at ESPN Los Angeles 710 had embarked in ongoing breaking news coverage, lamentation, and reflection.
It included coverage of a sellout celebration of life for Kobe and his daughter and teams around the NBA opting to take 8-second and 24-second violations to honor Bryant, who wore both numbers throughout his 20-year NBA career. They currently hang in the rafters at Crypto.com Arena, making Bryant the only player in franchise history to have two numbers retired.
During this tumultuous time, Bryant’s philosophy served as a viable guiding force, something that Brown quickly ascertained in her first month as the station’s new program director.
“I had people that were in Northern California hopping on planes to get here,” Brown said. “You didn’t even have to ask people [to] go to the station; people were like, ‘I’m on my way.’ It was the way that everybody really came together to do really great radio, and we did it that day and we did it the next day and we did it for several days.”
The 2023 BSM Summit is quickly approaching, and Brown will be attending the event for the first time since 2020. During her first experience at the BSM Summit in New York, Brown had just become a program director and was trying to assimilate into her role. Because of this, she prioritized networking, building contacts, and expressing her ideas to others in the space. This year, she looks forward to connecting with other program directors and media professionals around the country while also seeking to learn more about the nuances of the industry.
“The Summit is kind of like a meeting of the minds,” Brown said. “It’s people throughout the country and the business…. More than anything, [the first time] wasn’t so much about the panels as it was about the people.”
Growing up in Orange County, Brown had an interest in the Los Angeles Lakers from a young age, being drawn to play-by-play broadcaster Chick Hearn. Brown refers to Hearn as inspiration to explore a career in broadcasting. After studying communications at California State University in Fullerton, she was afforded an opportunity to work as a producer at ESPN Radio Dallas 103.3 FM by program director Scott Masteller, who she still speaks to on a regular basis. It was through Masteller’s confidence in her, in addition to support from operations manager Dave Schorr, that helped make Brown feel more comfortable working in sports media.
“I never felt like I was a woman in a male-dominated industry,” Brown said. “I always just felt like I was a part of the industry. For me, I’ve kind of always made it my goal to be like, ‘I deserve to be here; I deserve a seat at the table.’”
Brown quickly rose up the ranks when she began working on ESPN Radio in Bristol, Conn., working as a producer for a national radio show hosted by Mike Tirico and Scott Van Pelt, along with The Sports Bash with Erik Kuselias. Following five-and-a-half years in Bristol, Brown requested a move back to California and has worked at ESPN Los Angeles 710 ever since. She began her tenure at the station serving as a producer for shows such as Max and Marcellus and Mason and Ireland.
Through her persistence, work ethic and congeniality, Brown was promoted to assistant program director in July 2016. In this role, she helped oversee the station’s content while helping the entity maintain live game broadcast rights and explore new opportunities to augment its foothold, including becoming the flagship radio home of the Los Angeles Rams.
“Don’t sit back and wait for your managers or your bosses to come to you and ask what you want to do,” Brown advised. “Go after what you want, and that’s what I’ve always done. I always went to my managers and was like, ‘Hey, I want to do this. Give me a chance; let me do that.’ For the most part, my managers have been receptive and given me those opportunities.”
When executive producer Dan Zampillo left the station to join Spotify to work as a sports producer, Brown was subsequently promoted to program director where she has helped shape the future direction of the entity. From helping lead the brand amid its sale to Good Karma Brands in the first quarter of 2022; to revamping the daily lineup with compelling local programs, Brown has gained invaluable experience and remains keenly aware of the challenges the industry faces down the road. For sports media outlets in Los Angeles, some of the challenge is merely by virtue of its geography.
“We’re in sunny Southern California where there’s a lot of things happening,” Brown said. “We’re in the middle of Hollywood. People have a lot of opportunities – you can go to the mountains; you can go to the beach. I think [our market] is more about entertainment than it is about actual hard-core sports. Yes, obviously you have hard-core Lakers fans; you have hard-core Dodgers fans, but a majority of the fans are pretty average sports fans.”
Because of favorable weather conditions and an endless supply of distractions, Brown knows that the way to attract people to sports talk radio is through its entertainment value. With this principle in mind, she has advised her hosts not to worry so much about the specific topics they are discussing, but rather to ensure they are entertaining listeners throughout the process.
“People know the four letters E-S-P-N mean sports, but really our focus is more on entertainment more than anything,” Brown said. “I think the [talent] that stick out the most are the ones that are the most entertaining.”
Entertaining listeners, however, comes through determining what they are discussing and thinking about and providing relevant coverage about those topics. Even though it has not yet been legalized in the state of California, sports gambling content has been steadily on the rise since the Supreme Court made a decision that overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act established in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (2018). Nonetheless, Brown and ESPN Los Angeles 710 have remained proactive, launching a sports gambling show on Thursday nights to try to adjust to the growing niche of the industry.
Even though she has worked in producing and programming for most of her career, Brown is eager to learn about the effect sports gambling has on audio sales departments. At the same time, she hopes to be able to more clearly determine how the station can effectuate its coverage if and when it becomes legal in their locale.
“I know that a lot of other markets have that,” Brown said regarding the legalization of sports gambling. “For me, I’m interested to hear from people who have that in their markets and how they’ve monetized that and the opportunity.”
No matter the content, though, dedicated sports radio listeners are genuinely consuming shows largely to hear certain talent. Brown recalls receiving a compliment on Twitter earlier this quarter where a listener commented that he listens to ESPN Los Angeles 710 specifically for Sedano and Kap. Evidently, it acted as a tangible sign that her philosophy centered around keeping people engrossed in the content is working, and that providing the audience what it wants to hear is conducive to success.
At this year’s BSM Summit, Brown will be participating on The Wheel of Content panel, presented by Core Image Studio, featuring ESPN analyst Mina Kimes and FOX Sports host Joy Taylor. Through their discussion, she intends to showcase a different perspective of what goes into content creation and the interaction that takes place between involved parties.
“A lot of times in the past, all the talent were on one panel; all the programmers were on one panel,” Brown said. “To put talent and a programmer together, I think it’s an opportunity for people to hear both sides on certain issues.”
According to the most recent Nielsen Total Audience Report, AM/FM (terrestrial) radio among persons 18-34 has a greater average audience than television. The statistical anomaly, which was forecast several years earlier, came to fruition most likely due to emerging technologies and concomitant shifts in usage patterns.
Simultaneously, good content is required to captivate consumers, and radio, through quantifiable and qualifiable metrics, has been able to tailor its content to the listening audience and integrate it across multiple platforms of dissemination. The panel will give Brown a chance to speak in front of her peers and other industry professionals about changes in audio consumption, effectuated by emerging technologies and concomitant shifts in usage patterns.
Yet when it comes to radio as a whole, the patterns clearly point towards the proliferation of digital content – whether those be traditional radio programs or modernized podcasts. Moreover, utilizing various elements of presentation provides consumers a greater opportunity of finding and potentially engaging with the content.
“We do YouTube streaming; obviously, we stream on our app,” Brown said. “We’ve even created, at times, stream-only shows whether it’s stream-only video or stream-only on our app. We all know that people want content on-demand when they want it. I think it’s about giving them what they want.”
As a woman in sports media, Brown is cognizant about having to combat misogyny from those inside and outside of the industry, and is grateful to have had the support of many colleagues. In holding a management position in the second-largest media market in the United States, she strives to set a positive example to aspiring broadcasters. Additionally, she aims to be a trusted and accessible voice to help empower and give other women chances to work in the industry – even if she is not universally lauded.
“I’ve kind of always made it my goal to be like, ‘I’m no different than anyone else – yes, I’m a female – but I’m no different than anyone else,’” Brown expressed. “My whole goal was that I didn’t need people to like me; I needed people to respect me.”
Through attending events such as the BSM Summit and remaining immersed in sports media and the conversation at large about the future of sports media, Brown can roughly delineate how she can perform her job at a high level.
Although the genuine future of this business is always subject to change, she and her team at ESPN Los Angeles 710 are trying to come up with new ideas to keep the content timely, accurate, informative, and entertaining. She is content in her role as program director with no aspirations to become a general manager; however, remaining in her current role requires consistent effort and a penchant for learning.
“Relationships are very important overall in this business whether you’re a programmer or not,” Brown said. “Relationships with your talent; relationships with your staff. If you invest in your people, then they’re going to be willing to work hard for you and do what you ask them to do.”
The 2023 BSM Summit is mere days away, and those from Los Angeles and numerous other marketplaces will make the trip to The Founder’s Club at the Galen Center at the University of Southern California (USC).
Aside from Brown, Kimes and Taylor, there will be other voices from across the industry sharing their thoughts on aspects of the industry and how to best shape it going forward, including Colin Cowherd, Rachel Nichols, Al Michaels and Eric Shanks. More details about the industry’s premiere media conference can be found at bsmsummit.com.
“I’m excited to be a female program director amongst male program directors for the first time and get a seat at the table and represent that there can be diversity in this position,” Brown said. “We don’t see a lot of it, but… there is an opportunity, and I hope I can be an example for other people out there [to show] that it’s possible.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, he interns in video production with the New York Islanders and formerly worked as production manager for the team’s radio broadcasts. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks, wrote for the Long Island Herald and served as lead sports producer at NY2C. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
Pat McAfee Has Thrown Our Business Into a Tailspin
Yet even with all the accomplishments he’s been able to achieve, McAfee is still anxious and unsatisfied with the state of his show and his career.
When you have one of the hottest talk shows in America, you’re always up to something. That’s the case for the most popular sports talk show host in America – Pat McAfee.
The former Pro Bowl punter was on top of the world on Wednesday. With over 496,000 concurrent viewers watching at one point, McAfee was able to garner an exclusive interview with frequent guest Aaron Rodgers who announced his intention to play for the Jets.
Yet even with all the accomplishments he’s been able to achieve — a new studio, consistent high viewership, a syndication deal with SportsGrid TV, a four-year, $120 million deal with FanDuel — McAfee is still anxious and unsatisfied with the state of his show and his career.
At the end of the day, he is human and he’s admitted that balancing his show, his ESPN gig with “College Gameday,” and his WWE obligations has taken a toll on him.
McAfee and his wife are expecting their first child soon and he recently told The New York Post he might step away from his deal with FanDuel. Operating his own company has come with the responsibility of making sure his studio is up and running, finding people to operate the technology that puts his show on the air, negotiating with huge behemoths like the NFL for game footage rights, booking guests, booking hotels, implementing marketing plans and other tasks that most on-air personalities rarely have to worry about.
McAfee says he’s looking for a network that would be able to take control of those duties while getting more rest and space to spend time with family while focusing strictly on hosting duties. FanDuel has its own network and has the money to fund such endeavors but is just getting started in the content game. McAfee needs a well-known entity to work with who can take his show to the next level while also honoring his wishes of keeping the show free on YouTube.
The question of how he’s going to be able to do it is something everyone in sports media will be watching. As The Post pointed out in their story, McAfee hasn’t frequently stayed with networks he’s been associated with in the past for too long. He’s worked with Westwood One, DAZN, and Barstool but hasn’t stayed for more than a year or two.
There’s an argument to be made that the latter two companies weren’t as experienced as a network when McAfee signed on with them compared to where they are today which could’ve pushed the host to leave. But at the end of the day, networks want to put money into long-term investments and it’s easy to see a network passing on working with McAfee for fear that he’ll leave them astray when he’s bored.
It’ll also be difficult for McAfee to find a network that doesn’t put him behind a paywall. Amazon and Google are rumored to be potential new homes. But both are trying to increase subscribers for their respective streaming services.
It will be difficult to sell Amazon on investing money to build a channel on YouTube – a rival platform. For Google, they may have the tech infrastructure to create television-like programming but they aren’t an experienced producer, they’ve never produced its own live, daily talk show, and investing in McAfee’s show doesn’t necessarily help increase the number of subscribers watching YouTube TV.
Networks like ESPN, CBS, NBC, and Fox might make sense to partner with. But McAfee faces the possibility of being censored due to corporate interests. Each of these networks also operates its networks or streaming channels that air talk programming of their own. Investing in McAfee could cannibalize the programming they already own.
And if McAfee works with a traditional network that isn’t ESPN, it could jeopardize his ability to host game casts for Omaha or analyze games on Gameday. It’s not impossible but would definitely be awkward on days that McAfee does his show remotely from locations of ESPN games with ESPN banners and signage that is visible in the background.
If SportsGrid has the money to invest in McAfee, they might be his best bet. They have all the attributes McAfee needs and they already have a relationship with him. It is probably unlikely that he’ll be censored and he would even be able to maintain a relationship with FanDuel – a company SportsGrid also works alongside.
Roku is another option — they already work with Rich Eisen — but they would move his show away from YouTube, something McAfee should resist since the majority of smart TV users use YT more than any other app.
If the NFL gave McAfee editorial independence, they would make the perfect partner but the likelihood of that happening is slim to none. NFL Media has independence but it was clear during the night of the Damar Hamlin incident that they will do whatever is necessary to stay away from serious topics that make the league look bad until it’s totally unavoidable.
It’s hard to think of a partner that matches up perfectly with McAfee’s aspirations. But once again, at the moment, he’s on top of the world so anything is possible. The talk show host’s next move will be even more interesting to watch than the other fascinating moves he’s already made that have put the sports media industry in a swivel.
Jessie Karangu is a columnist for BSM and graduate of the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland but comes from Kenyan roots. Jessie has had a passion for sports media and the world of television since he was a child. His career has included stints with USA Today, Tegna, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Sightline Media. He can be found on Twitter @JMKTVShow.
5 Tips For Networking At the BSM Summit
“Have a plan and don’t leave home without it.”
Bring your game plan if you attend the BSM Summit in LA next Tuesday and Wednesday. No matter your purpose for attending: to learn, get a job, speak, or sell an idea, you must be able to read the room. To do that, it helps to know who will be there and how you can cure their pain.
Have a plan and don’t leave home without it. If you have time, buy How to Work a Room by Susan Roane. If you don’t, just follow these five tips:
- INTRODUCE YOURSELF: Before you arrive at The Summit, figure out what you want, who you want to meet, and what you will say. Once you get there, scout out the room and see if anyone of those people are available. Talk to speakers after they have spoken- don’t worry if you miss what the next speaker says. You are there to meet new people! Most speakers do not stick around for the entire schedule, and you don’t know if they will attend any after-parties, so don’t risk it. Refine your elevator pitch and break the ice with something you have in common. Make sure you introduce yourself to Stephanie, Demetri and Jason from BSM. They know everybody and will help you if they can.
- GET A NAME TAG: Don’t assume that name tags will be provided. Bring your own if you and make your name clear to read. If you are looking to move to LA or want to sell a system to book better guests, put it briefly under your name. Study this to get better at remembering names.
- LOSE THE NOTEBOOK: When you meet folks, ensure your hands are free. Have a business card handy and ask for one of theirs. Remember to look people in the eye and notice what they are doing. If they are scanning the room, pause until they realize they are blowing you off. Do whatever it takes to sound upbeat and open. Don’t let their clothes, hair, or piercings distract from your message. You don’t need to wear a suit and tie but do bring your best business casual wear. A blazer isn’t a bad idea either.
- SHUT UP FIRST! The art of knowing when to end the convo is something you will have to practice. You can tell when the other person’s eye starts darting or they are not using body language that tells you the convo will continue. You end it by telling them you appreciate meeting them and want to connect via email. Ask for a business card. Email is more challenging to ignore than a LinkedIn request, and you can be more detailed in what you want via email.
- WORK THE SCHEDULE: Know who speaks when. That is when you will find the speakers hanging around. Plan your lunch outing to include a few fellow attendees. Be open and conversational with those around you. I am a huge USC fan, so I would walk to McKays– a good spot with plenty of USC football memorabilia on the walls. Sometimes you can find the next day’s speakers at the Day 1 after party. Need a bar? Hit the 901 Club for cheap beer, drinks, and food.
Jeff Caves is a sales columnist for BSM working in radio, digital, hyper-local magazine, and sports sponsorship sales in DFW. He is credited with helping launch, build, and develop SPORTS RADIO The Ticket in Boise, Idaho, into the market’s top sports radio station. During his 26 year stay at KTIK, Caves hosted drive time, programmed the station, and excelled as a top seller. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter @jeffcaves.
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