Jamie Hersch Is Breaking News and Glass Ceilings
“In the past few years, I think we’ve all been encouraged to kind of have our own voice.”
With every tick of the clock, the NHL trade deadline draws closer as organizations decide whether or not to add pieces to compete for a Stanley Cup championship. Whether teams elect to make deals ahead of deadline day or wait until the final seconds, the landscape of the league is subject to change at a moment’s notice and fans are on edge to learn and react to breaking news. It is adrenaline garnered off the ice, and a feeling that Jamie Hersch and those at NHL Network typically experience as spring nears its bloom.
Hersch grew up as a fan of the Minnesota Wild, but she closely follows the NHL and the evolution of the game working for this league-owned broadcast entity. Throughout each program, she has the freedom to express her opinion, implement analysts as she sees fit and collaborate in segments to present a compelling, on-air product. Much like developing strategy at the trade deadline, Hersch continues to ruminate over her career – filled with relocations, special events and other trials and tribulations – to serve as a role model for women in sports media and catalyze a new normal.
Over the last year, Hersch has experimented working as a play-by-play announcer for select showcase games on NHL Network, something she never thought possible; that is, until someone recommended she try it. The suggestion came after she voiced a desire to hear more women call live sporting events. “Someone kind of called my bluff on that,” Hersch explained pertaining to how she started to think about working at the craft.
Through preparation at home, in the studio and in the studio parking lot before her shift, she has quickly honed her craft, augmented her versatility and set an example for women everywhere.
“No one ever told me you can’t call games because you’re a woman, but I think I never had that example in my mind as an option for me because it hasn’t really been done,” Hersch said. “….I’m having the time of my life.”
In this new wrinkle to her broadcasting career, Hersch has had to spend an immense amount of time preparing for games, which she satisfies by reading articles, reviewing statistics and learning background information about the players and personnel. She calls the games remotely off of a monitor from NHL Network’s studios in Secaucus, N.J. and pairs with an analyst to break down the action. The preparation for this type of role, however, is nuanced and intricate, demanding pliability and alacrity to rapidly adjust and tailor the broadcast to the story of the game – all while keeping informed about the movement of the puck.
Within her preparation, Hersch tries not to depend on studying line charts considering forward and defensive units often change over the course of a game. As a result, it is nearly impossible to guarantee consistency unless a line is well-established and invariably productive, giving the coaching staff no reason to alter it. Moreover, it is critical to know information about each of the players whether they are a superstar or a healthy scratch, along with their tendencies – just in case they end up becoming the primary storyline of the contest or a last-minute addition.
“I’ve always believed that the separation is in the preparation,” she added. “….I know that if I’ve put in my time and prepared to my utmost, then I can go into a game confident that I know what I’m talking about.”
With each broadcast, Hersch estimates she spends about 20 hours in total studying, whereas hosting studio programming and reporting takes considerably less time since it comes much more naturally to her. Growing up in Champlain, Minn., Hersch has early memories watching Minnesota Vikings football games with her father, along with keeping score of Minnesota Twins’ baseball under her grandfather’s tutelage. One of the first times she thought about pursuing a career in sports media came from watching Michele Tafoya, former sideline reporter on Monday Night Football, present information to enhance the broadcast from the field.
“[She] really stood out to me as a component, capable woman speaking about football just as eloquently and knowledgeably as any of the guys,” Hersch said. “I remember really being struck by that as a girl and thinking, ‘Oh wow, I could do something like that; I think that would be really fun.’”
In high school, Hersch demonstrated an indefatigable drive to attain her goal and began attending football practices as a student-media member. Accompanied by her friend who desired to work in film, the duo recorded interviews with players and coaches, along with collecting other B-roll to compile into video reports that aired on the school’s morning news program, The Rebel Report.
Shortly thereafter, she submitted her work to the Minnesota State High School League, an organization that offered her a chance to work as a student sideline reporter. Eventually, Hersch found herself reporting from state hockey, football and basketball tournaments as a high school student, her penchant for sports and journalism evident on news networks across the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Simultaneously, she was a member of the school’s softball, basketball and volleyball teams, affording her recondite perspectives garnered by athletes.
Captivated by its broadcast journalism program, Hersch attended college at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Once per week, she participated in a newscast resembling professional working conditions, including a morning editorial meeting, shooting stories as a “one-man band” and editing the piece in time for the show. Additionally, she had the chance to anchor some of the programs, sometimes pivoting to breaking news in the process, along with reporting on the esteemed USC Trojans football program.
“I always say it was like a first job because it allowed me to get that experience of actually reporting live and having to work under incredible deadlines and go out there and actually get the story,” Hersch said. “I did that on the news side, but I also always loved sports.”
Out of school, Hersch relocated to Madison, Wis. where she began anchoring a weekend news program and serving as a multimedia journalist with WKOW-TV. Being in the state capital, Hersch was frequently assigned to cover gubernatorial stories, such as those pertaining to the Wisconsin state legislature. While she was grateful to receive chances to go on the air, she desired to tell feature stories that she found excitement in reporting, drawing her back to the world of sports.
“My time in news taught me that I only want to work in sports,” Hersch said. “It takes a really special type of person to be able to handle the grind of a daily news reporter job in terms of the content that you’re covering.”
Hersch transitioned into anchoring and reporting on sports on WKOW-TV where she covered teams including the Milwaukee Brewers, Green Bay Packers and University of Wisconsin Badgers. Through this work, she was able to attend events including the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, Super Bowl XLV and the National League Championship Series. Additionally, she had the chance to return to Los Angeles, Calif. to cover the Badgers in the Rose Bowl for three consecutive years (2011-2013), creating lifelong memories and building vast on-field reporting experience.
Weeks after the 2013 Rose Bowl, Hersch announced she would return home to cover the Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Wild in a dual media role with Fox Sports North (today known as Bally Sports North). During the baseball season, Hersch was a reporter, traveling with the Twins and enterprising stories to present during the broadcast.
Conversely, the start of hockey season was indicative of transitioning into hosting studio coverage, through which she previewed and subsequently recapped Wild games. In addition to staying on the pulse of the team, she was responsible for eliciting comprehensive, succinct analyses from panelists and, when necessary, conducting interviews.
“The person you’re interviewing, I think, can very quickly know if you’re just nodding your head and waiting to ask your next question,” Hersch said. “I think it’s disrespectful almost to not listen to the answer when they’re taking the time to give you an interview. Not only that, but then sometimes they might say something really interesting or really ridiculous and you can ask a follow-up question if you are listening to the answer.”
The two jobs, which are currently held by Audra Martin, have a stark contrast in how they are executed; however, their broader goals align in keeping the fan informed and engaged. Although Hersch preferred her time as a studio host for Wild broadcasts because of the extended time to effectively report a story, being able to maintain a constant presence around the Twins gave her unparalleled access. The tradeoff of having the potential to divulge stories that, without traveling, may have otherwise gone undetected was in the way the information was delivered.
“You have about 20 to 30 seconds that they want you to get all the information you can in that time and then talk back to the action because you don’t want to miss a hit in baseball or a goal in hockey,” Hersch explained. “[The roles] are completely different just in terms of the length of time that you kind of have a voice.”
While baseball has instituted several new roles ahead of the 2023 season to speed up the pace of play – which have largely been successful in spring training – the game of hockey at its core is predicated on dynamic action. Whether it is the addition of a pitch clock, larger bases or limiting defensive shifts, baseball is attempting to modernize tradition and ingratiate itself towards a younger audience. There is a definitive strategy involved in finding ways to innovate and position teams and leagues for success regardless of the varying tempos of different sports.
“I’ve thought about maybe trying baseball in the future, and it couldn’t be more different than hockey,” Hersch said. “Hockey is non-stop action [where] every second, something could happen; whereas baseball is a lot more methodical.”
Hersch affirms that being a woman in sports media evinces heightened expectations and conspicuous misogyny from consumers and some colleagues. Despite many women entering the industry in a variety of different roles, Hersch believes they are held to a higher standard and expected to be flawless. While she knows these expectations are prejudiced, they motivate her to show up informed, alert and ready for each broadcast.
“I think credibility as a woman in sports is so, so hard to build and so easy to lose,” Hersch said. “I feel it’s my responsibility almost not just as a woman, but someone who cares about their job, to make sure I do my homework, do my research and go in prepared as much as possible [for] every single show. One slip-up that may have been easy to overlook if you’re a man can be very easily turned against you as a woman.”
Following her stint with Fox Sports North, along with working as a sideline reporter for the Big Ten Network’s presentations of football and hockey games, Hersch joined NHL Network as a studio host. Leaving home was not an easy decision for Hersch and it disappointed fans of Minneapolis-St. Paul sports; however, it gave her the opportunity to appear on a national stage.
As the host of On The Fly, a nightly recap show with highlights, news, analysis and interviews, Hersch brings fans action from around the league in less than an hour (when factoring in commercials). She has also contributed to Quick Pitch, the baseball recap show on MLB Network, which usually requires summarizing 15 or more games per episode. Certain game days in hockey have considerably fewer matchups on the slate, meaning more time per episode to explore games in detail and focused preparation.
Sometimes, the network pairs Hersch with a studio analyst to break down aspects of contests to be able to dive deeper into the program. She generally does not leave the studio until 2 a.m. EST, coinciding with the completion of games on the West Coast, but finds that working on a show in this format keeps her thoroughly immersed in the sport.
“To be able to tune in and watch a one-hour recap show, you literally see almost every goal [and] every big save, and we try to sprinkle in a lot of relevant information as well,” Hersch said. “It’s exciting; it’s fast-paced; we’re only showing the very best of each and every night.”
During her time at the network, Hersch has also hosted NHL Tonight, a national show featuring hockey analysts and insiders discussing the game in a more protracted format, often centering around the night’s action. As hockey seeks to market its superstars and entice younger demographics, Hersch hopes network programming plays a role in growing the game no matter the viewer.
“I think we do a good job, or at least we try to, of balancing both generating interest from people that really know the game and want to know even more [while] also making it very applicable to people who are just tuning in because they’re trying to learn more about hockey or maybe another team because they only follow one team,” Hersch explained. “We try to do a good job of covering all 32 teams in the league and making it fun in the process.”
Over the years, Hersch’s hosting style has evolved to a place where she is able to let her personality shine through. Moreover, she interacts with her colleagues on the air, fostering compelling conversation surrounding hockey aimed at retaining viewers by imbuing the show with entertainment-value. It took time for Hersch to become comfortable displaying her personality on camera, but she has found a way to gradually grow accustomed to expand her on-air presence and exhibit her versatility.
“In the past few years, I think we’ve all been encouraged to kind of have our own voice,” Hersch said. “….All of us as hosts, I think now we tend to be a little more open and fluid with the more, I guess, traditional style of hosting.”
Amid the continued trend of cutting the cord and consuming content through OTT providers and direct-to-consumer platforms, the future of regional sports networks is very much up in the air. With the expected bankruptcy claim of Diamond Sports Group; the recent news that Warner Bros. Discovery is looking to divest its assets in the business; and NBCUniversal planning to stream its RSNs on Peacock, the business and coverage of teams is changing.
In the near future, it is entirely reasonable to surmise teams may own their own broadcast network, as is the case with Monumental Sports and Entertainment – owners of the NHL’s Washington Capitals, the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the regional sports network, NBC Sports Washington.
In working on a regional sports network prior to joining NHL Network, Hersch enjoyed focusing her coverage on hometown teams. Yet she was unable to go genuinely in-depth with some of the topics around the league, making subpar seasons challenging in terms of retaining interest.
Now at the national level, Hersch has a plethora of teams to discuss and a roster of expert analysts and contributors to confer information from and instantiate working chemistry. In other words, she is able to examine timely storylines whether they pertain to the Montréal Canadiens, Seattle Kraken or any team in-between – free of the repudiation or suppression from expressing a point of view.
“Having that freedom to criticize teams when they’re not doing as well and maybe some changes should be made… is a much more sensitive topic when you’re working for a regional sports network because you are partners with that team,” Hersch said. “….I think it’s a lot better to just be able to speak your mind and kind of just for our analysts to be able to call it like they see it and they don’t have to sugarcoat it. That’s, I think, liberating from a national perspective.”
Throughout her career in sports media, establishing and maintaining relationships at all levels of the industry has been imperative for collaboration and success. Whether it is members of the crew, on-air colleagues, producers or executives, she is grateful to have a team of people around her assisting in all facets of the production. It reminds Hersch of her formative days in the industry when she was effectively her own production crew, capturing stories in the field while serving all roles from director to production assistant.
Furthermore, Hersch views the hockey community as familial in the sense that there is a predominant sense of professional congeniality around the league. For example, she points to a pattern of fired coaches quickly being hired by other organizations, ensuring they remain part of the game and still lend their expertise.
Even though the game is played with the ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup in mind, the action on and around the ice genuinely extends beyond a frigorific clash. It is encapsulated in the proceedings of NHL All-Star Weekend, a gathering of players, personnel and fans where they exude their passion for the game.
“It’s one of my favorite events ever because everyone is just relaxed and everyone knows that they’re just there for fun and to celebrate the game and there’s nothing really on the line,” Hersch said. “It takes the pressure off of everything, and you end up getting to talk to some of the biggest players in the game who would normally be really stressed out.”
On March 8, Hersch will be part of an all-women program on NHL Network on International Women’s Day alongside colleagues Jackie Redmond and Lauren Gardner. The first time the network aired such a broadcast in 2018, Hersch was nervous whether she and the other women would be able to carry it, but her fears were quickly assuaged thanks to their knowledge and abilities as media professionals.
“It’s been so much fun to kind of watch it grow over the years and evolve into kind of just a regular NHL Now that happens to be hosted by all-women and have women contributing in various roles on- and off-camera. It’s no longer this big deal, pressure-cooker show that it [once] was.”
In the past, Hersch was motivated to excel in order to continue improving and satisfy her ego and other self-serving interests. Today, she is a mother of two children and looks to set a positive example for them as both a woman in sports media and a working mother. Being a parent has changed Hersch, and renewed her perspective on the impact she garners in the industry.
“I posted a video that my husband took of me calling a game and my kids watching,” Hersch said. “I’m getting emotional thinking about it because it’s so special to me to have them be able to see that. I think that it’s really cool [for them] to know that women have a voice in sports just as much as men do, and I think they’ll grow up knowing that’s completely normal. That’s a really beautiful thing to me.”
Entering any broadcasting assignment prepared and ready to perform at a high level in any role is a fundamental aspect of durability and productivity. By gaining as many repetitions as possible and possessing an acute awareness of sports and the business world, established and aspiring professionals alike can stay ahead of the curve and avoid mayhem at the last minute. Hersch will host trade deadline coverage on NHL Tonight this Friday at 7 p.m. EST, where she will recap all of the transactions around the league, guiding and contributing to the discussion as the playoffs move closer.
“It’s fun to talk about winning teams,” Hersch said. “Every single night, we’ve got plenty of winning teams to talk about.”
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 email@example.com or find him on Twitter @jeffcaves.
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