SBD/January 29, 2014/People and Pop Culture

Minding My Business With Turner Sports VP/Talent Services Tara August



August oversees on-air talent for MLB, the NBA and NASCAR, among other sports
Overseeing sports talent for TNT, TBS and CNN -- plus online and new media -- Turner Sports VP/Talent Services TARA AUGUST touches just about every sport and platform for the Atlanta-based media giant. In charge of talent acquisition, contract negotiations, media assignments, and booking on-air guests, her job melds together aspects of management, PR and TV production. "It's almost like I'm an internal agent for Turner," she says. In this case, August's agency consists of five department staffers, plus about 50 full-time talent at Turner Sports, including MLB, NBA, NASCAR, NCAA basketball, and golf. Here, she chats with THE DAILY about searching for the next great commentator, why sports TV needs to lighten up a little, and which NBA analyst could be found hanging out with DON HENLEY.

A day in the life...
I spend most of my time thinking about long-range planning: What’s the next iteration of our show, what’s the next iteration of our games? Who do we want to hire, who should we bring in? Thinking about superstars that are retiring and how we build relationships with them. Who would be good, and who might not be? It's not just about the ex-athletes, we've got hosts and sideline reporters. I can't give away who's on our radar. But when we have our eye on someone, we'll put a little star by their name and sort of watch contract talks and think, "I wonder how long that girl or guy will be playing, they seem like they've got something interesting."

Vote for Pedro...
We really wanted to come out with a bang last year, and from the beginning, we were all super impressed with PEDRO MARTINEZ. He typifies what we like to do, which is take chances but also let people be themselves. We don’t want to put them in a box. Both on and off the air, he's the nicest guy, so funny, and the accent just adds to the flavor of it all. The suits, the hair -- he was just amazing.

Constant communication...
I talk to SHAQ's rep every single day. I’d say COLIN SMEETON and I now are really close friends, just for the sheer volume. Shaq has so much going on so we really have to be in-depth with communicating with each other. Me communicating to them what new shows we have going on, or show ideas, what new elements are coming up. And they've got new partners that they want to introduce us to, or appearances that they're making.

The sports industry needs more...
Having fun with it. I love on our network or a competitive network when you see a little personality come out. So if someone makes a joke or is self-deprecating or they say the wrong word and they can laugh it off, I feel viewers can connect with that. I like real moments in sports television.

Best advice...
Give people their moment and be kind to people, and I've learned that most from CHARLES BARKLEY. If you’ve ever met him or seen him in a room, he’s extremely appreciative that people want to say hello or take a photo. It can be exhausting, but he makes everybody feel like they had their moment, and they had some attention from him. He's extremely kind, extremely humble, and showing that through example is even better than being able to preach it in words. Charles and I are great friends, he's such a kind and generous person, he's a friend to anybody.

Wake up, get outta bed...
The first thing I look at most days is Instagram. I'm not a huge social media person. I don't even post that much, but I'm really interested in looking at photos, posts and what people are liking and not. It's a fun, snackable thing to get your brain going that's not a harassing e-mail or headline.

Checking in on the "competition"...
I like to balance my day with non-sports information, because that's sometimes where I get ideas, when I'm watching trashy reality TV or international news. I watch so much sports that sometimes I want to watch what other platforms are doing. I want to see what MTV is doing or what Bravo is doing, and look at how we can use that in the sports realm. My excuse is, I'm in talent, so I need to know the whole spectrum of talent. We get plenty of calls from reality stars who say, "Hey, I want to be your next sideline reporter," or, "Can you put me as a correspondent during All-Star week?"  

They're playing my song...
I'm from the West Coast, so I have an affinity for West Coast hip-hop. Now I'm in Atlanta, so I'm a little turned out with 2 CHAINZ and YOUNG JEEZY, a little YUNG JOC, a little WAKA FLOCKA, that's probably playing in my car or even in my house. I'll answer the phone and have to turn it down because I've got some obnoxious lyric playing in my office. Also, everybody knows that I'm a MARIAH CAREY fan. I'm absolutely obsessed with Mariah. I don't like kooky divas -- except for Mariah. 

In my free time...
I like going to concerts. I went to an EAGLES concert with Charles Barkley a few years ago, along with a bunch of people from production. I've been a huge Eagles fan ever since. Charles is a huge, huge Eagles fan. He's probably seen them 10 times. We've had a lot of fun with Don Henley. Charles likes to go to dive bars and small places if somebody comes in town. NELLY is here a lot, so he and Nelly hang out quite a bit.

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