Sean McDonough Still Has a Lot Left to Do at ESPN
“I’ve always said my philosophy is that we should add to the viewer’s enjoyment of the game and not detract from it.”
In the early years when one dreams about their future, aspiring sportscasters will often think about calling the College Football National Championship Game, the World Series or the Stanley Cup Final – annual signature events that captivate sports fans and attract millions of viewers worldwide. Sean McDonough is no different.
Eventually, most aspiring broadcasters come to realize the challenge to reach such a pinnacle in a career is extremely difficult, if not near-insurmountable, and they eventually end up working either somewhere else in sports media or in a different industry entirely. Few play-by-play announcers have the chance to call any championship round in any sport – let alone more than one and on repeated occasions.
McDonough is in that select group, but if not for his internal motivation, love of professional sports and sagacious advice from his late-father, there is a chance his place of work may be in an office instead of in a broadcast booth.
While attending Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final with some of his friends, Sean McDonough looked across TD Garden and found Mike “Doc” Emrick. That night, unbeknownst to many people, Emrick would be broadcasting his penultimate Stanley Cup Final series, and his last containing a sellout crowd due to the forthcoming global pandemic.
McDonough had not broadcast a hockey game in 15 years and never was behind the mic for the dynamic, heart-pounding action of the Stanley Cup Final he had fervently watched in his youth. In fact, he still has a poster of Boston Bruins forward Bobby Orr flying in mid-air to score the series-winning goal in 1970, an image firmly rooted in the subconscious of hockey fans everywhere.
During the game, McDonough remembers turning to his friends and saying, “Wow, it would be so awesome to have a chance to call this on national TV.” Three years later, McDonough was the anchor of the first Stanley Cup Final broadcast on ABC/ESPN since 2004, bringing fans the six-game series between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche, the latter of whom went on to win the championship.
“Everybody around the world who broadcasts hockey, no matter what level it is, would love to call the Stanley Cup Final,” McDonough said. “That I have the chance to do it is an opportunity for which I am incredibly grateful and feel enormously blessed.”
As part of its new seven-year media rights agreement, The Walt Disney Company (ABC/ESPN) and Turner Sports (TNT/TBS) will alternate broadcasts of the Stanley Cup Final annually, meaning it will be Turner Sports lead hockey play-by-play announcer Kenny Albert, rather than McDonough, on this year’s call.
Nonetheless, McDonough will surely watch the finals from afar and its presentation by Turner Sports while thinking about how he and his team at ESPN will look to improve in their broadcasts for the following season.
“I hope they have a great Stanley Cup Final this year and I think they feel the same for us,” McDonough said of Turner Sports. “‘The better it is for one of us, the better it is for all of us’ is the way I look at it. They… do a good job, so I think that part of the relationship is certainly friendly.”
Growing up in the Boston area, McDonough would often accompany his father, Will, to games and sat with radio announcers in the booth during the matchup since he was not permitted to remain in the press box. As a sportswriter for The Boston Globe, Will McDonough covered multiple sports rather than specializing in one, and influenced the mindset of his son who aspired to be a sportswriter as well.
Will McDonough passed away suddenly in 2003 at the age of 67 due to what was later discovered in an autopsy to be cardiac amyloidosis. Earlier on the morning of his death, he had undergone a stress test that came back clean, and his death bewildered his family and doctors alike. In order to effectuate awareness of the disease and raise money in the quest for treatments and a cure, Sean McDonough holds an annual celebrity golf tournament.
“It’s a passion thing for me; it’s a way to honor my dad, follow his example and hopefully help these doctors,” McDonough said. “They’re already making progress; the treatments are better than they used to be [and] they’re extending lives. Now the challenge is to cure it completely, because really right now the only way over time you can beat it is with a heart transplant.”
Over the last five years, McDonough’s event has raised $1.8 million, attracting attendees from the worlds of sports and entertainment including Charles Barkley, Geno Auriemma and Bill Murray. Proceeds are given to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, M.A., whose research team is at the forefront of innovation in the space.
“It’s more important than the broadcasting stuff,” McDonough added. “When you meet the patient whose lives you’re trying to save and you meet their families who are extremely grateful for the time and effort that everybody puts in to do this, it’s worth every second that you spend doing it – and we’re going to keep doing it until they find a cure. It’s a labor of love.”
Four years after his graduating from college, McDonough was a finalist to land his dream job as television voice of the Boston Red Sox. He knew these jobs did not often become available, evinced by the longevity of the previous broadcast team of Ken Coleman, Ned Martin and Johnny Pesky, making the process exciting while realizing that he may never have another shot to get to that point.
Dan Berkery, who was the general manager of WSBK-TV, the channel that broadcast Red Sox games, had hired McDonough three years earlier in 1985 as a studio host for its Bruins telecasts. Recognizing his experience in broadcasting baseball and television, he took a chance on McDonough, a 25-year-old, naming him the play-by-play announcer for his childhood team.
“Opening Day 1988 – We’re at Fenway Park and I knew obviously a few months before that I had been hired to do the job,” McDonough recalled. “It wasn’t really until I sat in the booth, sat in the chair and looked out… at the field and thought, ‘Holy moly, I’m really doing this. This is my job; I am living my dream.’”
For the next 17 seasons, McDonough provided the soundtrack to Red Sox baseball and had the chance to follow the team that broke the infamous 86-year championship drought in 2004. After a 15-year absence, McDonough returned to the Red Sox in 2019 to call select games on WEEI, its flagship radio station.
“On radio as the broadcaster, you’re really in charge of everything,” McDonough said. “You can talk about whatever you want to talk about in whatever order you want to talk about [and] describe it however you want, whereas on TV, you are interacting with the producer and director about what’s coming up on the screen. For a lot of TV, you’re putting captions on pictures.”
McDonough also began broadcasting baseball nationally for CBS Sports as part of its lead broadcast team, including calling the 1992 World Series at 30 years old, making him, at the time, the youngest broadcaster to ever call a World Series game. It was also during that postseason when McDonough articulated the walk-off hit by Atlanta Braves catcher/first baseman Francisco Cabrera, sending the team to its second-consecutive World Series.
The team was defeated by the Toronto Blue Jays, who ended up winning the championship the next year as well when outfielder Joe Carter hit a walk-off home run, just the second World Series to end in that fashion. McDonough was on the call for that as well in a clip that remains a classic for baseball fans reliving history.
Historically, McDonough has a stellar track record in the big moments, authoring the words to accompany an interminable number of game-winning hits, touchdowns or goals over his career in sports media. For him, it is all about arriving to a point where the call clearly stands out from his intonation and timbre over the preceding portions of the game. The principle of calling a big moment simply by being in the moment guides his commentary on the NHL on ESPN today.
“If you have to think, ‘Oh my gosh, Joe Carter – that ball’s going to left field and that’s going to be a home run that wins the World Series, so I’d better scream really loud,’… then you’re in the wrong business,” McDonough said. “Part of that is just going to be instinctive; you know without really thinking about it…. Your call should reflect that, and I get criticized sometimes for not being excited enough, maybe in sort of routine situations, but I’m a huge believer in ‘You have to have some place to go.’”
Since 1989, McDonough has been a part of ESPN, excluding a four-year period in the late 90s when he was working exclusively on CBS. Whether it has been as the voice of ESPN College Football on ABC; Monday Night Baseball; or hosting the PGA Championship, his versatility has lended him the chance to call 11 professional sports on the national stage.
Regardless of whether or not he is working, McDonough’s nascent enamorment towards sports keeps him going and motivated to voice indelible moments no matter where they are. The skill of transitioning between different sports, he says, is “transferable,” so long as one has an understanding of the context and that it will generally take a short time to ramp up from one to the other.
“I think as long as you understand the sports and keep up with them, most play-by-play people can do it; it’s the same skill,” McDonough added. “You’re describing what you see; hopefully, you’re providing the pertinent information at the right time.”
McDonough called college football on ABC over a 15-year span with Chris Spielman, a partner that formed the duo named as the 2015 Sports Illustrated Broadcast Team of the Year. He then exclusively moved over to commentating games for the National Football League, succeeding Mike Tirico on Monday Night Football and, in so doing, becoming just the fifth play-by-play announcer to be named to its heralded play-by-play role.
Although Monday Night Football is no longer the sole standalone broadcast entity in football like it was when McDonough was young, its eminence was underscored by the enthusiasm demonstrated by NFL players in production meetings.
While he was grateful for the chance to call these prime time games, he would always pass by a stadium television with a college football game and ponder over how he missed calling those matchups. He knew the NFL attracted large swaths of viewers and higher ratings than college football and had called NFL games on ESPN Radio for the three years preceding his promotion.
Despite this, he returned to calling college football in 2018 and still watches Monday Night Football today. Since his departure, ESPN had had Joe Tessitore and Steve Levy call games before signing Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, a broadcast duo of two decades, to contracts before the start of last season.
“There’s been a lot of transition in the Monday Night Football booth the last few years, but obviously that’s going to stop because those guys are as good as any booth there is and they’re going to be doing it for a long time,” McDonough said. “I think the booth of Monday Night Football [and] the legacy of Monday Night Football is in good hands with those two for sure, and with Lisa Salters.”
Today, McDonough calls the College Football Playoff National Championship Game on ESPN Radio, along with a semifinal game on ESPN/ABC and a game each week during the regular season. Once basketball season begins, he calls ACC Big Monday matchups and also has previously called Big Monday BIG East games as well with Jay Bilas and Bill Raferty.
Once ESPN reacquired broadcast rights for the NHL and McDonough knew he would be the network’s lead play-by-play announcer, he initially did not have much concern returning to hockey. After all, he had called the sport previously and conjectured that he would quickly be able to immerse himself in the game as a media member.
Much to his surprise, during his first game, an opening night matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning, he identified the augmented pace of play and knew he would need to make changes in the way he prepares and executes a broadcast.
“If you look down at your notes and take your eyes off the ice for even a second or two, when you look back up you’re not going to know where the puck is and it might be in the net,” McDonough explained. “I had to quickly adjust to that.”
In facilitating the growth of the sport, McDonough tries to provide viewers with more than just quantifiable metrics, such as total goals scored or penalty minutes. Instead, he offers the viewers comprehensive yet succinct background information or storylines gathered through research and reporting, widening the scope of the program.
It was a salient point he made in meeting with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman prior to last season, but one that was laborious to effectively carry out because of the sport’s rapid pace.
In order to make the adjustment, McDonough, much like a player, watched tape and found areas of his profession in which he could improve, and then implemented those notes into the next broadcast.
By actively refining both his parlance and the velocity of his speech to better fit the play on the ice, he found suitable moments in the game to infuse his own personality and information, even though it is still very much a “tough balance.” Without sacrificing goal calls or losing the ability to observe key plays or the movement of the puck, he is able to fulfill his role and catalyze further conversation with his colleagues.
“I’ve always said my philosophy is that we should add to the viewer’s enjoyment of the game and not detract from it,” McDonough said. “There’s a fine line…. Some viewers might like the background information about the players [while] other people are going to think, ‘Just call the game. I don’t care about his background. I just know that he plays for my team and I want him to score a goal.’”
In broadcasting a hockey game, the play-by-play announcer sometimes divulges their opinions known to the audience, something typically associated with the role of an analyst. McDonough is cognizant of avoiding making the broadcast about himself and duly opts to focus on conveying the story of the game at hand; however, the narrative is ameliorated through conversation and, within it, informed editorialization on the topic of discussion.
“In this day and age, you should have an opinion, but it should be fair – you shouldn’t be a bomb-tosser,” McDonough said. “….I think sometimes people say things just to be provocative; to get attention. I think it’s fine – you should have an opinion, especially if it’s a controversial situation, but it should be fair and you should explain why you have that opinion.”
The paradigmatic arrangement of a broadcast booth in the NHL involves the play-by-play announcer and analyst either sitting or standing abreast and following play. Most broadcast booths are situated high on the press level and far back from the ice, rendering a less than ideal viewing experience for professionals who need to follow a small, round object with a 3-inch diameter for 60 minutes of regulation play. Monitors, spotters and other tools help alleviate this pressure, along with resets throughout the game, but in being located far from the rink, the broadcasters are, by no fault of their own, losing a point of view.
Ray Ferraro is the lead broadcast analyst for the NHL on ESPN and expressed interest last season in giving his color commentary from between the benches. Despite it being an atypical setup, McDonough and Ferraro are able to effectively work together and refrain from interrupting the other. In this position, Ferraro is able to hear conversations taking place between players, coaches and the officials, allowing him to instantly report on the action and uncover storylines that might otherwise go unnoticed.
“When we were doing a few games at the beginning of last year together, we were jammed in [the booth] like sardines when you add a statistician or a stage manager,” McDonough said. “There’s no place to put your notes, and it was uncomfortable in a few of those places. I like the added space because I come with a lot of notes and charts; that sort of thing.”
Through repetition and familiarity, McDonough and Ferraro have engendered a natural chemistry and fully engage in the flow of the game. The broadcast also implements a third voice, reporter Emily Kaplan, who compiles news and quotes from team personnel she presents on the broadcast. Off the air, Kaplan is a print journalist, writing columns for ESPN and authoring and voicing video features for the network as well, including on its weekly studio show The Point.
“Unlike a lot of people in our business, she actually listens, and a lot of times her follow-up question is directly a byproduct of what the coach just said,” McDonough said of Kaplan. “She has great information, so that’s really her role during the game [and] we try to get to her a few times a period.”
This Saturday, McDonough, Ferraro and Kaplan will be on the call for ESPN’s first outdoor NHL game – a Metropolitan Division tilt between the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes – from Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C.: the home of the North Carolina State University Wolfpack. The venue has a capacity of 57,000 for the Stadium Series game – approximately 37,000 more than nearby PNC Arena, the home of the Hurricanes – and it is expected to be completely filled with all tickets sold out amid palpable excitement for the event.
“There’s going to be a lot of people coming to that event Saturday night that have never been to a hockey game and are really going for the novelty of it and the fact that it is a special event,” McDonough said. “You hope that when they’re there, they catch the hockey bug and they decide they want to come back to view more games.”
For those watching the game from afar, McDonough and the broadcast team seek to accurately portray the atmosphere and communicate the appeal of hockey. Making it easier is the utilization of state-of-the-art broadcast technology and camera feeds, including the Supercam which will be exclusively utilized on the alternate All-12 presentation on ESPN+. It is named as such because it will display all 12 players on the ice throughout the course of play.
“It used to be a harder game to watch on TV, but with the technology advances in TV, it is much easier to follow the puck and that sort of thing than it used to be years ago,” McDonough said. “It’s a great opportunity and I hope all of us who have an opportunity to capitalize on it do.”
Aside from hoping the weather cooperates, McDonough does not feel added pressure going into this game and will do his best to view it like any other hockey game, although he knows that is far from what it truly is. In essence, this event has been planned for many months with people working to ensure it runs without a hitch, and as the voice of the game, he will look to accentuate the sport.
“There’s certainly a desire to do the best possible job that you can do,” he said. “You always feel that for the viewer and for your teammates who you’re working with. I think particularly in an event like this that is unique and you know there are going to be a lot of eyeballs on it, you want to make sure that you’re at your best.”
ABC will televise the 2023 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series at 8 p.m. EST on Saturday, Feb. 18. For fans looking to watch the game from a unique aerial perspective, ESPN+ will televise the All-12 Alternate Presentation of the game, also beginning at 8 p.m. EST.
Sean McDonough, Ray Ferraro will be on the call on both broadcasts, and are set to be joined by reporters Emily Kaplan, Kevin Weekes and Marty Smith. Steve Levy, Mark Messier, Chris Chelios and P.K. Subban will provide studio coverage for the game, along with a Friday night matchup between the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks at 9 p.m. EST on ESPN.
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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