Brian Anderson Is A Repeated Witness to History
When you speak with people around the game of baseball and ask them what the most important position on the field is, many of their answers would be the catcher. Not only does the backstop frame pitches, but it also helps enforce defensive shifts, call pitch sequences and hold runners on the basepaths. Brian Anderson always dreamed of playing in the major leagues and was the backup catcher for two years on the nationally-ranked St. Mary’s University Rattlers.
This weekend, he will call the NBA All-Star Game for the first time in his career, acting in essence as a catcher: a leader guiding the broadcast and captioning the images of the annual event.
About two years into his time as an undergraduate student, Anderson realized playing professional baseball was no longer a realistic goal and had an important decision to make about his future. He had received an offer from the Cincinnati Reds to be trained as a scout; however, that path would require he attend scouting school and likely travel around the country. Brian’s brother, Mike, had been discovered by the team’s scouting supervisor Chuck LaMar at an open tryout, and was subsequently signed by the team.
As Mike Anderson trudged through the minor leagues in his quest to pitch in “the show,” Brian would visit his brother and converse with the broadcasters, spending time with them and observing their habits on their shows in the booth. Moreover, Brian’s college team leased their field to the San Antonio Missions, a then-minor league affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and through their conversations, was encouraged by the team’s broadcasters to give sports media a try.
“I wouldn’t say I stumbled into it because I was purposeful on what I wanted to try to pursue, but I didn’t know; I didn’t really have any formal training,” Anderson said. “I was an English major in college, so I had to kind of start really from scratch to build a broadcasting career.”
Through his time in college, Anderson worked on the technical side of the industry, operating cameras, monitoring audio and building graphics, but he was exposed to a whole new side of the industry as the voice of the Missions.
As its radio play-by-play announcer, he was broadcasting 140 games a year and traveling with the team, requiring him to acclimate to life on the road with aspiring professional athletes. It also became imperative to monitor his voice and care for it to ensure he would be able to endure the continuous, unimpeded nature of baseball.
Aside from baseball, Anderson was gaining play-by-play experience elsewhere as a high school football and college basketball announcer, giving him consistent opportunities across all four seasons to be behind the mic. These repetitions and concomitant development of versatility helped shape his future in sports media, always accepting new assignments and adapting as necessary all through internal motivation and feedback.
“You start to treat your broadcasting like a golf swing, really, and not take it too personal and try to fix your slice and your hook and all your swing flaws,” Anderson said. “I just approached it like an athlete, basically.”
Beginning in 1999, Anderson worked as the sideline reporter for the San Antonio Spurs on FSN Southwest as part of a deal that would allow him to also call additional college basketball games. He was part of the media contingent during head coach Greg Popovich’s early years as head coach of the team, and witnessed the preparation and all-star play of David Robinson, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan – coalescing in the form of three championships.
Broadcasting from the Alamodome, he improved on his skills as a journalist, which continue to enhance his play-by-play announcing – a role towards which he was never solely fixated over his formative industry years.
“I know how hard the job is; I know how important the job is,” Anderson said. “You may not say a word for 10 minutes or 15 minutes of real time, but then when you do, you have a small amount of time to communicate quickly and effectively.”
Over this time, Anderson continued broadcasting Minor League Baseball games for the San Antonio Missions, but decided to move on from baseball following the 2002 season, opting to join the Golf Channel. Just as he had recognized he would likely not make the major leagues as a player, Anderson was realistic in that he knew it was near-impossible to land an announcing job in the major leagues in the minor leagues.
For approximately 120 days a year, Anderson was appearing on television bringing viewers the latest news across the world of professional golf, refining the craft of doing opens and standups. Within that four-year stint, he immersed himself in television, working with producers and directors and amassing vast examples of his work that proved vital when an opportunity to return to baseball emerged.
Upon the departure of Daron Sutton, the Milwaukee Brewers’ television play-by-play job became available, and it was something Anderson decided to take a chance in pursuing. He had been away from the game, hardly following it but occasionally attending matchups as a fan since he had always been enamored with “America’s Pastime.”
In meeting with his broadcast agent, they compiled a demo reel of Anderson’s television opens with the Golf Channel and sideline reports with the Spurs to demonstrate his comfort and versatility in that medium. Then, they followed it up with various examples of radio calls he had made for the San Antonio Missions to display his familiarity with the game of baseball.
“It worked, and I was as surprised as anybody that I even made it to the round of 25 to start with,” Anderson said, “and then it just kept escalating from there.”
Anderson began the 2007 season with the team as its play-by-play announcer, a surprising revelation for him considering he knew of the difficulties associated with landing and remaining in a major-league broadcast job. In his first year broadcasting locally, he began to stand out in the craft, leading him to join Turner Sports to call baseball games nationally, including during its postseason coverage.
There is an obvious contrast between calling games locally and nationally; however, Anderson was able to effectively perform both roles due to his vast knowledge about the Brewers and the sport as a whole – evinced by a passion for the game and thorough preparation.
“There’s a lot more pressure; there’s a lot more viewers,” Anderson said of national broadcasts, “but at the same time, you have to concentrate mechanically on celebrating the success of both teams…. You’re parachuting in; you’re not with the team every day, so you have to do a lot more prep to prepare for a national broadcast.”
Simultaneously, Anderson also added college basketball play-by-play duties to his schedule – first with ESPN, and later with Turner Sports and CBS, which includes covering the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament. Additionally, he was a play-by-play announcer for Big Ten, Big East and Big 12 regular season games, following college teams and athletes in their journeys to attain their goals.
In being present at events such as “March Madness” that garner extensive mass appeal and interest, Anderson is fascinated with the storylines of the participants, some of whom may be at the peak of their careers. He does his best to supply adequate play-by-play announcing through his innate fandom, engrossing preparation and broadcast expertise.
“Most of the players that we cover on the college game and the NCAA tournament are not going to play professionally, and so this is it for them,” Anderson explained. “….We’re trying to serve the players well, and that means you have to be right there with them in the middle of their story.”
Over his broadcast career, Anderson had not broadcast the National Basketball Association as a play-by-play announcer until he was offered a chance to enter into that area of coverage with Turner Sports in 2014.
Today, he is one of its lead national announcers, frequently calling showcase games for the NBA on TNT throughout the week on its Tuesday night doubleheaders consumed by millions of basketball fans around the world. As a media member, he has a role in facilitating interest in the league, which itself has what can seem like an endless stream of information.
“The news of the NBA is just as big off the court as it is on the court,” Anderson said. “It’s a whole brand and a whole scene. My role is to call the games, so I have a small part of that, but it all kind of fits together with how we present the games on TNT.”
There is a stark contrast between the skill level between college basketball and the NBA, with Anderson affirming the worst NBA player would be the best player on a college team. The game moves at a faster pace and possesses a deeper meaning in its contextualization of how it affects championship quests and legacies, making effective preparation integral to realize any level of sustained success.
When he dons the headset, Anderson tries to think about broadcasting to an “audience of one,” being authentic and elocuting the moment to the viewer. Unlike radio play-by-play announcers, Anderson has images and pictures to use to his advantage in accompanying his speech, which also allows his analyst to have more time to dispense their opinion into the broadcast.
Over his time with Turner Sports, some of the analysts with whom he has worked include Reggie Miller, Stan Van Gundy and Dennis Scott. Moreover, he is one of the play-by-play announcers featured in the NBA 2K video game series, popular among basketball fans, gamers and Esport competitors.
“The prep doesn’t feel like work even though it is,” Anderson said. “It just feels like an interesting rabbithole to go down, and you just try to deliver that in a timely fashion between plays to an audience. That’s really the skill and the art of this industry is to take yourself out of it… and then [determine] how best we can serve the audience and the players and these teams and the league.”
The preparation proved vital last week in Los Angeles, Calif. when Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James needed 36 points to break the NBA’s all-time scoring record. James, who entered the contest averaging 27.6 points per game, made quick work of the Oklahoma City Thunder and reached the milestone by the third quarter, giving Anderson, who was on the national television broadcast, time to crescendo into the moment everyone had been waiting for.
As an experienced play-by-play announcer at the national level, Anderson thrives in the spotlight by being himself and reacting with the crowd rather than scripting what he wants to say in advance.
“You force yourself to not let your mind go down that road and have all these lines and all these things mapped out because that’s trouble, even though you really want to write these things out so you don’t screw it up,” he said. “You just have to trust your vocabulary and trust your ability to ad-lib and trust [your ability] to translate [the action] into words quickly because that’s your job.”
It was not the first time Anderson had called a record-breaking NBA moment, as he was courtside last year from Madison Square Garden in New York City when Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry broke the NBA’s all-time record for three-point field goals made. The difference was that Curry began that game just two three-point shots away from the record, meaning that Anderson had to quickly reach a level of excitement conducive to the magnitude of the moment.
Curry ended up breaking the record less than five minutes into the game, halting play and receiving a standing ovation from New York Knicks fans, underscoring his influence on the sport and its future.
This time around though, Anderson closely monitored the points difference between then-record holder Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James and elevated his enthusiasm as it dwindled into the single digits. There was no guarantee James would even reach the record that night, so Anderson had to be ready to pivot and primarily discuss the game at hand rather than focusing the commentary on the scoring record.
Luckily, he was prepared for either scenario – but “King James” ended up drilling a 15-foot fadeaway jump shot to shatter the record and put the uncertainty to rest.
“Ninety percent of what we do, we never use on the broadcast,” Anderson said. “That can sometimes be frustrating, but you have to be okay with leaving all that information; all that homework you did out on the floor because it didn’t quite fit. The 10% that does fit is really impactful.”
This Sunday, Anderson will call the 72nd NBA All-Star Game from Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah, the home of the Utah Jazz, televised on TNT. He will be joined by sideline reporter Dennis Scott and analyst Reggie Miller. Candace Parker, an accomplished forward with the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces, will also serve as an analyst and become the first woman to call an NBA All-Star Game.
In working with Turner Sports, Anderson had previously commentated the Jordan Rising Stars Game and select events on State Farm All-Star Saturday Night, including the three-point and slam dunk contests.
“It’s really important for me to just flow with my partners and what’s happening in front of us, and be able to trust myself to recognize when the moments occur and be able to latch on to those moments,” Anderson said. “That’s kind of the plan going in and just being extremely pliable.”
Parker has worked with Turner Sports since 2018 when she joined its networks to contribute to NCAA tournament coverage and became involved with NBA broadcast coverage in 2019. Anderson is excited to work with her on the broadcast, and will set her up to provide her unique perspective as an active professional athlete and further the reach of the game.
“She just gets it – that’s the only way I can say it,” Anderson said of Parker. “You tell her one thing and she’s extremely coachable; she wants to learn. She’s a sponge; she wants to learn the business and learn all the behind-the-curtain stuff with television…. I’ve never been around anybody who has picked it up that fast and thrives this quickly.”
Standout players from across the league will be on hand for the festivities, including Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Dončić, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell, Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum and Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić – the question, though, will be for what team they end up competing.
The aforementioned James and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo were the leading vote-getters in their respective conferences; therefore, they will serve as captains and draft their teams playground-style one hour before tipoff in the NBA All-Star Draft, presented by Jordan Brand.
“It’s going to make it fun, and it’s going to instantly create some competitive fire because you’re either getting shunned or you want to do well for the guy who picked you,” Anderson said. “….It’s going to be a challenge [for] the play-by-play announcer to get all that organized and who’s on whose team. You have to file all your notes in a different kind of way.”
Throughout the live game broadcast, the commentators will interview players, experiment with new technologies and promulgate basketball’s best talent. Last year, the game attracted 6.28 million viewers across Turner Sports’ networks (TNT/TBS), up 6% from 2021 when the game earned a 3.1 share, and aims to continue this upwards trajectory Sunday night by showcasing the personalities of the players.
It compares to Capital One’s The Match, televised exhibition golf matchups between professional golfers and other athletes, some of whom have included Tom Brady, Stephen Curry and Peyton Manning. Its first iteration was a 22-hole match between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson with the winner donating the $9 million purse to charity. Anderson has hosted the event numerous times since its inception in 2018, referring to it as “the sweet spot of sports and entertainment” where athletes are showcased in a different light for a good cause.
“It reminds me [of] when I was a kid, watching superstars and Battle of the Network Stars and you’re taking people out of their comfort zone; you’re putting them in a different arena, but you can also learn a lot about them and have some fun with them,” Anderson said. “I’m fascinated by it; I’m really glad I get to do it.”
In high school, Anderson was a member of the basketball and football teams, and went on to play baseball in college. When he was not on the field, he was often following sports, learning about the players, teams and leagues and, in turn, broadening his knowledge and proficiency. Today, he calls baseball, basketball, football and golf, and always remains ready to take on new challenges should they be presented to him.
“I like changing and feeling a little bit uncomfortable, especially when you make the transition from one to the other,” Anderson said. “….I like the fact that I can do all sports. It takes a little bit of extra work and there’s not really an offseason.”
Although the goal of partaking in a “perfect broadcast” is impractical, he tries to reach as close to it as possible to effectively serve his viewing audience and the personnel. Furthermore, Anderson seeks to improve with every repetition on the air and act as a conduit for sports fans to engage with their favorite players and teams and follow whatever path his career takes him.
“I won’t always get it right – and I strive to get it right; every inch of it,” Anderson said. “You add all those pieces together and hopefully you end up with a really good broadcast.”
From broadcasting in the minor leagues to taking a sideline reporting job with the San Antonio Spurs; from the television play-by-play voice of the Milwaukee Brewers to a national sportscaster with Turner Sports and CBS, Brian Anderson has built a multifaceted career in sports media that continues to grow.
By having a second means of income by working production and technology jobs in sports media, he afforded himself the chances to slowly improve at broadcasting and establish himself in the industry, a process that took five years alone.
Today, he genuinely enjoys preparing for each broadcast and thinking about how he can disseminate detailed information in a compendious manner – all while exuding an avidity for the action on the hardwood. It will be on display Sunday night from Salt Lake City and for the remainder of this NBA season filled with signature moments and a maelstrom of unpredictable playoff action on the horizon.
“What we do on the air is basically the test,” Anderson said. “It’s studying for the test and preparing for the test – that’s the work [and] nobody sees that part. When nobody’s watching, how disciplined will you be?”
TNT and TBS will televise the NBA All-Star Draft, presented by Jordan Brand at 7:30 p.m. EST followed by tip-off of the 72nd NBA All-Star Game at 8:30 p.m. EST. Brian Anderson, Reggie Miller, Candace Parker and Dennis Scott will be on the primary TNT broadcast, while Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Draymond Green will present an alternate broadcast of the matchup on Inside the All-Star Game.
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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