Ken Korach Turns A New Page With Every Game
At this time of year, hope springs eternal as the aroma of baseball permeates the air. At ballparks across Florida and Arizona, the sound of sprinklers washing the field; the melodious thump of a baseball in a mitt, and the resonant crack of the bat have all emerged from hibernation, suffusing the atmosphere with its venerable pastime. Ken Korach is quite familiar with this environment as the Oakland Athletics radio play-by-play voice for the last 27 seasons but still enters each season with unwavering enthusiasm.
Ahead of the team’s spring training opener tomorrow against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Korach has focused on rekindling connections and learning more about the various new players. This offseason, the Athletics added reliever Trevor May, outfielder J.J. Bleday and infielder Aldemys Díaz, pairing with a burgeoning core of young talent with hopes of improving on a 102-loss season.
Most MLB 2023 season projections do not have the Athletics making the postseason, which, if proven correct, would extend the team’s championship drought to 34 years. Yet Korach, no matter what is happening on the field, will work to keep listeners engaged through vivid storytelling and comprehensive portrayals of the game. It is a lesson he learned growing up in Los Angeles, listening to Dodgers’ broadcaster Vin Scully, widely regarded as baseball’s poet laureate.
“From the first time I listened to Vin Scully do the Dodgers, I was always really intrigued and fascinated by it,” Korach said. “….When you went out to Dodgers games, you could almost hear him without bringing a radio.”
Korach attended baseball games early in his youth and gazed up at the press box, identifying it as a subliminal phenomenon he aspired to enter. Whether it was Scully, Dick Enberg, or Chick Hearn, he was an avid listener to local broadcasts and through them, became proficient in sports vernacular and knowledgeable about the teams. Additionally, his father was a physical education teacher and coach for high school and junior college basketball and baseball, giving him increased exposure from a different perspective.
Korach opted to attend college down I-5 at San Diego State University where he was a journalism major and sports editor of The Daily Aztec. Following two years, he transferred to the University of California, Santa Barbara; however, the school did not have a dedicated major in journalism. Instead, he studied social sciences and graduated, always thinking about pursuing broadcasting but cognizant of the reverence and immersion requited to attain any level of success.
Five years after his college graduation, Korach secured his first job in broadcasting at a local radio station in Petaluma, Calif. At the same time though, he worked a variety of different jobs to make ends meet, including at a golf club and clothing store. His role at the station pertained to more than just sports, as he hosted music programs, delivered news, and performed voiceovers in addition to exploring job openings in sports media.
By the mid-1980s, he was given a chance to broadcast approximately 27 games for the Redwood Pioneers baseball team in the California League. It is where he began to regularly spend time around the team and hone his craft – but a baseball career was never his primary focus. Instead, Korach sought to augment his versatility and continued working as a play-by-play announcer for football and basketball games at Sonoma State University. In fact, Korach continued calling college sports until 2004 – including at San José State University and UNLV – largely on the radio.
“I never focused on one over the other,” Korach said. “When I got into this, I really was focused on trying to get as good as I could in all three, and I’ll leave those judgments to other people.”
Korach advises young broadcasters to be able to broadcast multiple sports and show a willingness to adapt as opportunities become available. After continuing to broadcast baseball for the Phoenix Firebirds and Las Vegas Stars of the Pacific Coast League from 1986 to 1991, Korach received a call to the big leagues in 1992 with the Chicago White Sox. Although he was solely broadcasting weekend games, the chance to call games at the major league level was invaluable for Korach. He never aspired to call Major League Baseball games during his early years in the industry though, something he says may have been a “defensive mechanism.” Nonetheless, he continues to remain focused on the day-to-day aspects of the job to improve game after game.
“It’s a really subjective business, but the only things you can control are how hard you work and how professional you are,” Korach said. “Those are the things I tried to strive for back then, and then the most important thing was to try to learn to be the eyes and ears of the audience.”
The trial and error afforded to Korach in the minor leagues allowed him to make mistakes and enhance his storytelling ability, something especially important in calling baseball on the radio. Moreover, he fostered professional relationships with players, coaches, and other sources of information who, through conversation, divulge intelligence and anecdotes often imbued into the broadcast. It harkens back to Korach’s skills as a journalist in being able to identify the primary storyline and then using his broadcasting skills to catalyze both thought-provoking and spirited conversation.
Korach’s longevity and connection with baseball fans has largely been a result of his work ethic and passion for the sport; however, there was one particular broadcast partner who shaped his career. Bill King, a fixture over the airwaves in the Bay Area, longed to call Major League Baseball after spending many years calling games for the NFL’s Oakland Raiders and NBA’s Golden State Warriors. Over his career, King had established a style conducive to success and, through his indefatigable work ethic and efficient use of his time, broadcast all three Oakland-based teams for parts of three years.
Growing up in Los Angeles, Korach was able to listen to Warriors basketball games, listening to King articulate the spectacular feats of Wilt Chamberlain, Rick Barry, and Nate Thurmond en route to a championship 1974-75 season. Korach calls it “one of the great gifts” of his career to be able to work alongside a voice of his childhood in King. He went on to author a book about King titled “Holy Toledo,” named after his signature catchphrase.
“When I wrote my book about him, I tried to describe him in 270 pages and even that was hard,” Korach said. “He was just a tremendously passionate guy. He was governed by his passions; he lived life by his own terms…. You just knew that he was well-versed and that he was always prepared.”
King’s sports lexicon and linguistic command, along with external interests in opera, fine dining, and sailing, earned him the moniker of being a “Renaissance man.” His erudition and dogmatic propensity for knowledge made him an ideal broadcaster for a team once filled with superstars such as Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, and Jeremy Giambi; and then discovering hidden gems en route to a 20-game winning streak in 2002. That period, referred to as the “Moneyball” era, was the impetus for a book and the creation of a movie based on the team.
King passed away in 2005 at 78 after suffering a pulmonary embolism following hip surgery, devastating Bay Area sports fans and leaving an open position in the broadcast booth. To begin the 2006 season, that spot was filled by Vince Cotroneo, and it has remained that way ever since.
Korach and Cotroneo were longtime friends before they began broadcasting games together, making the transition more facile for the duo to endure. Yet Korach estimates that stepping into a position occupied by a titan of the industry was difficult for Cotroneo in that Athletics fans had been long accustomed to hearing King. Furthermore, Korach had to make sure to stay within himself and remain genuine toward the audience in moving to the lead announcing role.
“We missed Bill every day and thought about him every day,” Korach said, “[but] I didn’t think about it as being that tough of a transition because I knew Vince and I would have a good chemistry right off the bat.”
As a radio play-by-play announcer, it is essential Korach continues to paint a picture of the action for the listener. Whether it is mentioning the handedness of a hitter; the positioning of the outfield; or the score and the count, making the game a “comfortable listen” is a recurring goal. Additionally, being able to effectively capture big moments and play to the crowd appropriates the recursivities embedded in an aural medium. Korach never wants people to say that the broadcast did not keep them accurately informed as to what was occurring on the field, nor does he want to convey a sense of apathy or inadequacy towards the team itself.
“I really want to open my mind to whatever happens on the field so it just flows and you’re immersed in the moment,” Korach said. “Then, try to use your voice, the emotion of the moment, and the drama and your inflection. I think that’s getting a little more technical, but that’s a big part of it.”
Arriving at the ballpark and taking in Major League Baseball games are motivating factors enough for Korach to prepare and perform his job at a high level. Every day, there is a chance Korach could see something historic or unprecedented ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Despite having the lowest average attendance in Major League Baseball last season, Oakland Athletics fans are vociferous and unabashed in their zeal toward the team. Sitting in the outfield at RingCentral Coliseum, they chant and play drums throughout the game often shouting “Let’s Go Oakland!” The team’s future in the locale, however, is very much up in the air.
For many years, the Athletics have been trying to build a new ballpark in Oakland, most recently unveiling a development plan on the waterfront at Howard Terminal. Although the plan received permission to commence from the waterfront commission, the organization has not yet secured the necessary approvals. Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf tweeted that residents want to come to a “win-win solution” with the team and that the Oakland City Council will protect taxpayers from costs associated with the ballpark and ancillary development.
Last month, Tim Kawakami of The Athletic reported that Major League Baseball is focused on helping the Athletics move to Las Vegas, Nev. without a relocation fee. Korach happens to keep an offseason home in the area and would continue broadcasting Athletics games if the team made the move, yet he hopes the team remains “Rooted in Oakland” with a new ballpark and maintains the two-team marketplace.
“I think when the Giants got their new ballpark, it was a little bit of a game-changer,” Korach said. “People forget that when the A’s moved in 1968 – of course the Giants got to San Francisco in 1958 – if you looked at all the years the Giants were at Candlestick Park and the A’s were at the Coliseum, the attendance was split right down the middle almost literally. It may have been the Giants had the biggest crowds one year and the A’s had the biggest crowds [in] the other.”
Korach remembers the time when the Athletics had a large payroll and nearly pushed the Giants away from the Bay Area. He also remembers the teams of the mid-2010s, which qualified for the postseason from 2012-2014 and 2018-2020, including players such as Josh Donaldson, Coco Crisp, and Dallas Braden (who threw a perfect game in May 2010). He knows the way for the Athletics to once again attract larger swaths of fans will be to build a new ballpark and leave the multipurpose-Coliseum.
Broadcasting for a team that plays its home games at a seemingly-anachronous stadium with attendance that plummeted to a 42-year low at the start of last season, some fans may naturally gravitate towards the San Francisco Giants or other teams. Combined with the American League’s worst record and the lowest payroll in baseball, fans outside of the area may view the situation as disquieting or untenable. Korach remembers Hank Greenwald, former television play-by-play announcer for the team, saying, “If you get down when your team isn’t playing well, you’re going to sound like [how] the team is playing, and you can’t allow that to happen.”
The people of Oakland though, according to Korach, embody a unique grit and spirit through which they continue to embrace the Athletics, and in turn, listen to the broadcasts. It was evinced in 2020 when the team dropped terrestrial radio broadcasts in favor of A’s Cast, a 24/7 audio stream of games and other Athletics content through the TuneIn app or the team’s official website. Six games into the abbreviated 2020 season, the team changed course, moving A’s Cast from TuneIn to iHeartRadio and signing a deal to air games on Bloomberg 960 KNEW-AM, a business talk station in Oakland.
“I think the most important thing for us is to blend the two, and understand that people are tuning to apps to listen to games or A’s Cast, which is 24 hours, and they do a tremendous job over there,” Korach said. “There are also people who prefer to listen to the games on the radio, and I think there’s still a place for AM radio for that.”
The amalgamation of terrestrial radio and streaming-based audio gives Athletics fans of all ages avenues through which to consume aural content. It also gives the team its own dedicated media outlet after Oakland Athletics team president Dave Kaval stated the team lacked “fair and balanced” coverage. The remark was made amid a Twitter interaction with 95.7 The Game afternoon host Damon Bruce, which began with Kaval pointing out low attendance at a Giants game and pondering if San Francisco media would comment on it.
Korach has always felt supported by the organization, never once being questioned for a comment over his 27 seasons with the team and having flexibility in his schedule. He enters the season in the final year of his contract and will broadcast 116 regular season games, largely in the western region of the league. While he intends to return to the organization next year, he recognizes the uncertainty of the future and looks to remain invested in the present moment.
“There’s no place I’d rather work than the Bay Area,” Korach said. “That may be one reason why I had a decent amount of success there because I moved there in 1979, [and] I have great love for the area. When you’re talking to people and trying to build that one-on-one relationship with the listener, these are the same people I’ve gone to games with and concerts with. You kind of think of them as your friends.”
In working among a team of people around a sport he grew up fervently consuming, Korach considers himself fortunate and appreciates the camaraderie within his job. Simultaneously, he thinks about the people who are alone or unable to attend games and tries to bring joy to their days through the broadcasts. Korach recalls that Chick Hearn, one of the announcers Korach listened to in his youth, frequently dedicated his broadcast to the “shut-ins.”
Being able to perform the job well comes with steadfastness towards the craft and intricate preparation through research and conversation. Every offseason, Korach adopts a project to work towards, and this year it was learning how to speak Spanish to cultivate a better rapport with players of Latin American descent. He acknowledges that he is “failing tremendously” at it and that it has been quite difficult, but he remains persistent in the endeavor.
Additionally, Korach and Cotroneo will welcome a new member of the broadcast team this season for the first time since 2006 with the addition of Johnny Doskow. As the longtime voice of the Sacramento River Cats (the Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants) since 2000, he will host pregame and postgame coverage, and also provide play-by-play for various games throughout Spring Training and the regular season.
Rule changes across Major League Baseball – which include limiting defensive shifts, enlarging the size of bases, and implementing a pitch clock – are meant to increase offense, prevent injuries and hasten the pace of play. Over the years, the league has tried to expand into a younger demographic and better market its superstars, part of the reason why changes in scheduling will result in the Athletics playing all of the other 29 franchises this year. It will be a challenge for the broadcasters in terms of preparation and in adapting perhaps a larger view of the league than in years past, but for the fans, it is yet another reason to consume the game.
“I’ve always kind of resented the fact that you work like crazy to prepare for a team for three games and then you don’t see them again for three years,” Korach said. “I’ve always really loved the games in your own league because you really start to get a great feel for those players and really understand their clubs and the tendencies and the managers. It was always a lot more comfortable to do games in your own league because you had such a better knowledge of the club.”
Due to advancements in technology and alacrity to pursue the craft, there are more opportunities than ever to explore a career in media. Even so, working hard, being professional, and remaining grounded in what one can control are established pillars that predicate success in the industry and traits Korach has demonstrated throughout his career.
When he steps into the ballpark though, Korach tries to remember his childhood and how he thought of the press box as being “magical.” Today, he calls it his workplace and the means through which he disseminates the sport and, in turn, helps keep the tradition of Oakland-based sports alive and well. Over the last five years, the area has lost the Warriors to nearby San Francisco and the Raiders to Las Vegas, and both teams play in new facilities (Chase Center and Allegiant Stadium, respectively).
Korach is an author as well, authoring several nonfiction books over the years about the Athletics and Bill King. He views the broadcast as a means through which to listen to a developing and dynamic story, nuanced in contrasting moments of halcyon and exigence, both of which can be blissful or anguishing in nature. Although broadcasters do not dictate the action, they are the ones describing and recounting it to listeners both in real time and during subsequent games or other programs. When history is made, it is their exclamations etched onto the soundtrack of summer, representing the disposition of the fans at large.
“In baseball, because of the everyday nature of it, especially when you’re broadcasting locally, you hope that people can kind of look at it as this great book that unfolds over the course of six months,” Korach said. “The chapters and the pages get turned every day, and if you’re really a fan of our team, the radio broadcasts are like turning the pages of a book.”
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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