By: Adam White, @FOSAdam
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Bobby Guarente, Managing Partner & Program Director of I95 Sports & Entertainment Network. He is an alumnus of Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ where he received his B.A. in Criminal Justice with a minor in Business Administration. He was gracious enough to offer up his insight on what it is like to run a sports radio network, how he is helping students break into the industry and why networking is key to being successful.
What were your previous positions if any before your current position? How did those positions help you get to where you are today?
In my previous corporate life, I was primarily in the Banking industry. I started out as an Assistant Branch Manager at the age of 25 and worked my way up to a Business Banker, focusing solely on the business banking community. In between I was a Branch Manager at several institutions in Northern New Jersey. These positions provided me with both the working knowledge and foundation to be an entrepreneur. I acquired the skills to manage people effectively, market myself and learned how to operate a business.
For people who do not know, what is I95 Sports Network? Where did the idea come from?
The I-95 Sports & Entertainment Network is a broadband sports network based in Northern New Jersey in the shadows of Met Life Stadium. This ride began with a football-centric talk show I did with my cousin Anthony called Talking Football LIVE. Being in the largest media market in the world, we found it very difficult to get on a terrestrial radio station. We started using Blog Talk Radio but found the site to be audibly inferior and they do very little to market their shows. Eventually we found a small AM station in Central New Jersey that we paid for the airtime and while we had some success there, we found it much too far to do a show from their studio. Lastly, we found a Type-15 AM station in Paterson, NJ that we stayed on for a year or two. While their AM signal was a couple of miles wide, we found that their presence was more on the Internet. I then decided to build a sports network online that would contain many broadcasters in the same situation as us and run I-95 as if it were a terrestrial radio station. Today, we have sports programs up and down the East Coast as well as a student broadcasting program that calls games at my alma mater, Elmwood Park High School.
What is a normal day like for you? What are some of your day to day challenges?
A typical day finds me getting up early to set the programming for the station and uploading shows from my various broadcasters. I’d then have some conversations with my inner circle on any new developments both in sports and/or in the broadcasting game. I spend loads of time online looking for new shows, answering inquiries from those wanting to come on I-95 and marketing the network. I’m also developing some sister, complimentary networks including a high school network (North Jersey Sports Network). Other days find me at a New York Giants practice, Rutgers football game or Elmwood Park HS football practice. My main challenge is finding someone to train that can back me up as far setting up the programming. If there’s a day that I’m out of town or at an event early, then the station doesn’t get up and running for the day until late.
What drew you to being a part of broadcasting/ radio aspect of sports?
The main thing that drew me to the broadcasting side of the sports business was that I have a canvas to create sports and entertainment shows from the ground up. I love that I have my own network to try an idea out on what I believe would be a successful show. I also love helping others with an idea for a sports show develop their concept and get it on the air.
What is your ultimate career goal for yourself and for the radio station?
My ultimate career goal for myself is to build my I-95 Sports Net to the point where I can have a comfortable living, while being my own boss and enjoy attending sports events and games. Also, as I mentioned earlier, to help others build shows and have them in a position to either earn some money or build a strong hobby, both doing something they love. For I-95 Sports Net itself, I want to build it and its sister networks to be a viable, known sports entity that finds its niche in the vast sports broadcasting landscape.
What’s the highlight of your career to this point?
My highlight thus far has been our successful first season of our Student Broadcasting program at Elmwood Park High School. With a very good team and high profile quarterback, I’m able to have alum throughout the country tune in to hear their team play live. Our student broadcasters love what they are doing and one of them wants to take broadcast journalism in college. This was something I was unaware of as a student there many moons ago. My whole idea for this program was to give students interested in this field the opportunity to work in it before they go to college. Though I was a professional DJ when I was in high school, I never knew this field even existed!
What do you like best about working in sports? And in your case being a part of sports from a radio point of view?
Thanks to my dad, I’ve been a sports fan since I was very young. To now be involved in the sports business and doing what I love is incredible. I watch sports in a totally different way and get to interact with pro/college athletes, coaches and more. Aside from watching sports, what does a die-hard sports fan want to do? Talk sports! Many of them think they could be the next Chris Berman or Mike Francesa. I can give them the opportunity to reach for the stars and talk sports on the radio.
How important is networking in your eyes?
Networking is KEY to success in this business. For example, until we get to the point of hiring a PR/Marketing firm or staff to take care of the marketing aspect of the business, it’s all about networking to let people know that I-95 exists and is growing. I network feverishly to brand I-95, find new broadcasters and to get interviews with players/coaches.
What is the best career advice you have been given so far?
To make money at this early stage, become a BIG fish in a SMALL pond…..there are sports, teams, leagues and more that are under-covered in the sports media
Many people think working in sports is all glitz and glamour, can you elaborate on how much work and how many hours it takes to be successful in the sports industry specifically the radio aspect?
In this industry and especially in the position I am in, there are not enough hours in the day! One has to spend a lot of time to not only watch sports to effectively talk about them so when you add this to a normal day that I described above, then the day needs more hours to get everything done! I keep Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks in business, especially during football season! Then again, once your foundation is built, whether you are a station owner or show broadcaster, your time does open up some. But always be available 24/7!
You can check out his station at: i95sports.net