Preparing for a Super Bowl to be played in your own backyard is a lot of work for a radio station. Toss in a pandemic complete with restrictions and CDC guidelines and there is a whole extra set of problems to navigate through. It’s something that John Mamola knows all too well leading up to Super Bowl LV this Sunday. John is the program director at 95.3 WDAE and WFLA NewsRadio in Tampa, Florida. Let’s just say he’s been light on sleep lately while living up to the #RespectTheGrind portion of his Twitter bio.
John makes several great points during our conversation below. He mentions why it’s a much different reason that the Super Bowl is a can’t-miss event for the city of Tampa this year. John talks about staying focused on the Chiefs-Buccaneers game not turning into a superspreader event and how Tom Brady challenged everybody. He reveals why he’d be perfectly fine with a 2-0 outcome, and also demonstrates that he’s cool enough to use the word lit without setting off warning sirens. Enjoy.
Brian Noe: What’s it like right now in Tampa with the Super Bowl approaching?
John Mamola: The vibe is good. The vibe is positive, a lot of shock, but a lot of excitement. This has been a really good 12 months for this market between the Stanley Cup championship, a World Series appearance, and now a Super Bowl appearance on top of the game being right down the street from where I’m actually driving right now. The vibe is great. This will be my 10th year in this market after moving from Chicago and I’ve never seen the town lit like this. It’s a lot of smiles.
Look, it’s been a rough year for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons, but just to have laughs and smiles and excitement, it’s like holy cow, I can’t believe they actually did this. It’s really cool to see. The station is buzzing right now. The listeners are excited and happy and just thrilled to be witnessing what they’re witnessing. Overall it’s a great vibe.
BN: When Tampa secured its Super Bowl berth, what did you immediately think of as a PD in terms of how to maximize the value of this opportunity?
JM: Well the first thing I thought of was how little sleep I’m going to have for two weeks. Beyond that the first thought is that we’ve been on radio row as a station for going on about 15, 17 years, so we knew that part was going to happen. What we didn’t know honestly is what it would look like. I think we’re going to have a really successful week of programming at radio row. We have a ton of people already lined up.
From a sales perspective it was like all right, what are we creating? What can we continue on? Luckily we sold our big game coverage many months ago because the game was here, but what can we add on to it? From a programming standpoint, we’re adding a ton of programming especially on gameday. We were able to secure a singular broadcast site really close to the stadium where the party is going to be at, so if you don’t have a ticket, or if you can’t get in for any reason but you want to be around the stadium, we’re probably at the best place possible to enjoy the game and a couple of libations, socially distanced of course. Also how could we maximize this digitally too?
The difficult part is this is a pandemic so we can’t really do what a normal run of a Super Bowl would do because we can’t get in front of people. We can’t gather. I would love to do a ton of live broadcasts this week just ramping up excitement or live broadcasts on site at a ton of different places instead of maybe going to radio row because radio row is going to be virtual this year for the most part. But at the same time you have to adhere to the guidelines. That kind of limits you at the same time.
It is very different being the host town because it’s amazing how many people reach out to you as opposed to you reaching out to people. I appreciate that, and believe me, we’re going to use that to our full advantage. It’s just going to be really fun and it’s going to cap off a fantastic year for the market, fantastic year for the station, and it’ll be a really, really good, quality experience I think for everybody involved.
BN: Do you feel like something’s missing with Tampa being the first team to play a home game in a Super Bowl, but with a limited crowd?
JM: Well the Super Bowl wasn’t going to be filled with Bucs fans anyway. It’s the people that can afford those tickets. I don’t think the decreased amount of people that’s going to be there is necessarily a bad thing because the Super Bowl is really never a home crowd anyway. Yeah, there is a little bit of a sentiment of well maybe it could have been, but let’s be honest, not a lot of people can afford that kind of rate on a ticket price. It just wouldn’t be that.
I think the NFL is doing it right by giving first responders, healthcare workers, and frontline people the day in the sun that they deserve by giving them free Super Bowl tickets. I think that’s absolutely the right play. Then saving a certain select number of those for people that can afford them. Not having a home crowd for a home team in the Super Bowl isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
It’ll be interesting though for me just from a viewer of Bucs football, how close to a normal home game they keep it. Do the cannons fire off when they get inside the 20? Do they do that for both teams? Is there fake crowd noise for both teams? The Bucs are the NFC representative as the home team for this, so do they keep it down the line like a normal Super Bowl where you would hear cheering for both teams? I’m interested in seeing how close they have it to an actual Bucs home game. But it’s the NFL’s show. If they want to keep it down the line 50/50, we’ll see how they present that.
It was never going to be a Tampa Bay crowd. The Tampa Bay crowd is going to be the one crowded outside Raymond James Stadium, especially if they win.
BN: What is the city like in terms of security with the game around the corner?
JM: We don’t have a lot of security right now. I don’t know if you’ve been to Tampa, but Raymond James is right next to where the Yankees do their spring training. There is a lot of open field. There’s really only about four streets that surround Raymond James; you’ve got Himes Avenue, Dale Mabry, which I’m on right now, and then you’ve got some cross streets, but that’s really about it. They’ve closed off one of them, and that’s more or less to just set up the parking lot for the entryway and to make sure the people have an easy in for those that are working on the stadium. But as far as security past two or three blocks of the stadium, it’s not there yet. I’m sure that there’s going to be fencing going up. There’s fencing already up in the parking lots to help people enter. Obviously there’s going to be COVID precautions so people will probably get their temperature checked and all that kind of stuff. But around town? It’s normal traffic right now. I’m sure Thursday or Friday will probably be a little different. There’s not really a bigger sense of security yet.
BN: What’s the difference between how you manage the news station’s content and how you manage the sports station’s content right now?
JM: The news station’s content is a different audience. Let’s call a spade a spade; it’s a red state. People that listen to what we do on WFLA like the Bucs, they kind of keep up with the Bucs, but they’re not in love with the Bucs. The audience on DAE loves the Bucs and doesn’t really want any of the political stuff.
As far as the news station, for me it’s just kind of making sure we have the right people on. We’re the official media partner of the host committee. I try to make sure we give them their time on the station. Rob Higgins who’s the Executive Director of the Sports Commission has done a fantastic job with us for many, many years. Obviously giving him some time to talk about the events and things to do around town, not necessarily X’s and O’s. It’s just more or less giving people information on how they can experience a little slice of the Super Bowl.
With COVID, everything is restricted for the most part. The Super Bowl experience is typically open to the public. You can come in, come out. This year you have to get an appointment and you have a certain amount of time that you have to enjoy it. All of those are sold out. If you’re looking to get a pass right now, good luck. It probably ain’t happening. It’s just making sure that people are informed as opposed to really diving in. Street closures will be a bigger thing when we get closer to the game. Press conferences obviously we’ll be running that in our news and sports reports. We don’t do deep dives on the news station like we do on the sports station. There is a little directive to pepper it in here and there just with the most update information as possible, but really it’s not in-depth kind of stuff.
Also making sure that people understand that when the game is over, it’s not a mosh pit. I know when the Bucs got back into town there were a lot of people around the airport. The city just mandated masks everywhere, even outdoors and all public places. They’re serious about this. We do not want this to be remembered as a superspreader event. We want this to be remembered as a great showcase of the entire area and that does include Clearwater, St. Pete, and the Sarasota area too. We don’t want this to be remembered for something other than that.
BN: Along those same lines, how would you describe the way Tampa planned for the pandemic, and how it was actually hit by the pandemic.
JM: Let’s start with the second part. We were supposed to have a Stanley Cup run. We were supposed to have WrestleMania. We were supposed to have the Valspar tournament down here. We were supposed to have a little slice of March Madness. The Rays season got shortened. We couldn’t go to any of those games. The amount of money that this market lost between March Madness, WrestleMania, a World Series, a Stanley Cup, Tom Brady just in general playing home games, and on top of that you throw a Super Bowl that isn’t going to be like any other Super Bowl. I’m sure the lost revenue that was planned is just going to be absolutely massive.
With that being said, when this whole thing started I feel the host committee knew the challenge they had in front of them. They held everything very close to the vest. They didn’t want to make any proclamations like, oh yeah, we expect this and we expect that. No, they were very aware and very good at adjusting. That’s also a credit to the local governments out here between Tampa, St. Pete, and Clearwater — Mayor Castor of Tampa, Mayor Kriseman of St. Pete — working with the host committee on trying to make this still a great experience for not only the area, but everyone traveling to the area. I think they adjusted really well to this. We don’t even know what tomorrow is going to look like with this thing, unfortunately. Every state is a little different. Every situation is a little different.
Florida has a high number of cases. It just does. People are very lax about wearing masks around here. But if you can make it known that this is going to be distanced, it is going to be to the CDC guidelines, then it’s up to them to adjust to that. Radio row is going to be completely different. They’ve cut down on the amount of outlets that can come out. We have plexiglass now on tables at radio row, which will be interesting for the setup on Sunday.
With the amount of loss that this market had with just potential revenue for some really big events, I think they approached this one as we can’t miss. I think they really, really adjusted well to where they can still make this a really great event — again not just for the locals and those traveling — but also a great showcase for the area. Everyone has worked together. It’s been tremendous teamwork for the entire area and the host committee. I’m really looking forward to at the end of the day looking back on this thing and saying look, even through a pandemic, we put on a hell of an experience for this market and a hell of a game for NFL fans.
BN: It’s funny, man. You’ve been there for about a decade and this is the first playoff experience for Tampa.
JM: Yeah, how bout that, huh?
BN: I know, right? How would you describe what Tom Brady has meant to the Tampa area?
JM: I’ve always looked at Buccaneers fans like Cub fans. Every year there’s a renewed hope. No matter who’s wearing a jersey, every year is a new hope. I love ‘em for that. But when you have the greatest player, quarterback, whatever, to come into your backyard — I don’t care if he’s 65 years old — the fact that he’s putting on the pewter and red, that’s a huge burst of energy and just a jolt of life into the organization.
We got the feel that Tom was thinking Tampa really early. It was like, ehh probably not, but it’s kind of fun to think about. Then it happened. It was about two weeks of like holy crap. [Laughs] We got Tom Brady playing football. I got more calls from people in Boston saying hey congratulations. I was like well I didn’t do anything, but thanks, appreciate it.
It’s just breathed new life into a product that every year you kind of start hot, like man here we go, Buccaneers football is finally here. We’re out at training camp, we do the preseason, we get those first couple of games in, and then typically by end of October we’re kind of done with it. The season is pretty much over. You have those diehards, so you have to supply them with some Buccaneers conversation and breakdowns, but it just seemed too routine. Then you put that guy in there wearing number 12 and it’s like okay, this is different. It was almost like it challenged everybody to be a better fan. It challenged us to be a better radio station. It’s just been a really, really interesting journey.
Then on top of that, Bucs fans are also Rays fans and Bolts fans too. This has been Christmas in a pandemic for them. When he signed it was like okay, this is for real now. It’s home run or nothing now and it’s been a home run ever since. Everybody is benefiting. Everybody wins. It’s a good vibe in the market. It’s a good vibe for fans because goddammit they needed it. Five years of Jameis Winston? To have the GOAT here has been a real good vibe. I don’t care if he plays until he’s 70; just keep playing. Let’s just keep it going.
BN: How do you think Tampa winning the Super Bowl would benefit DAE?
JM: When I first started here we used to have a slogan because the home games were blacked out because they didn’t sell a certain percentage of tickets. We always used to say when the Bucs would lose, it’s good for us because people need a place to bitch and vent. No one wants to talk about a winner. Now? It’s completely different.
We’ve had a Stanley Cup and a World Series to kind of introduce more people to us. We’ve benefited off of that. It’s kind of like Trump. Trump gets Obama’s economy and then he takes full credit for it because then the economy is great. It’s kind of like that too. We’ve benefited so much off a Lightning Stanley Cup run and a Rays World Series run, then you add Tom Brady and a Buccaneers Super Bowl run to that, we’re capitalizing off that because we already got everyone else.
Our ratings have been fantastic every single book. Our digital numbers are even better than they were last year and those were some bigger numbers than we’ve ever had. The station is benefiting because it’s Tom Brady and they’re winning.
Honestly if you’re not winning if you had all of this success, you probably should just hang it up. You really should. This never happens. I think it’s only happened in Boston like once. And look what happened with EEI and Sports Hub; they’re combined 25, 30 shares. You’re not going to get that in Tampa, but the numbers that we’re doing and the revenue that we’re generating is fantastic. If we weren’t doing that, then you wouldn’t be talking to me right now. I promise you that.
BN: I think I have to ask you for a prediction, man. What do you think about the game?
JM: You know, it’s funny; I’m a Bears fan. You know that. I wanted Tom Brady so bad. It’s like God, because Trubisky is awful. I’ve always said what makes the Bucs dangerous is that there’s no pressure. None. Because the guy that puts it all on his shoulders is the guy that’s in his 10th one. That team is playing loose. They’re smiling. They’re high-fiving. They haven’t had a team really test them to where they’re breaking. Everyone thought when Antonio Brown signed here that it would change the culture of the locker room and it didn’t. Tom Brady tried to high-five a ref against the Saints. Come on, man.
This team is playing with house money and they know it. Now they’re in their own damn stadium. There ain’t no pressure on this team. None. That starts with the top. It starts with BA and it starts with Tom. I got the Bucs winning and why not, right? Cap off 2020 with a Stanley Cup, an NFL Championship, and a World Series berth. Hell yeah, let’s do it. I don’t have a score and don’t care as long as they win.
BN: Yeah, you’d take 3-0.
JM: Get a safety for all I care. As long as they win.
Adam The Bull Is Giving Cleveland Something It’s Never Had Before
“It was only more recently that I was like why do I have to only be a radio guy?”
After spending 22 years on the radio, Adam “The Bull” Gerstenhaber was ready for a new adventure. In fact, the former co-host of Bull and Fox on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland did not have a new job lined up when he signed off from his 11-year radio home last month.
“I was already leaving without having a new project,” admitted Gerstenhaber during a recent phone interview with BSM. “I left before I knew for sure I had a ‘next project’.”
Gerstenhaber was preparing for his final show with co-host Dustin Fox on April 1st when he was contacted by an executive producer for TEGNA, a company that was developing a Cleveland sports television show on YouTube. The executive producer, who had just found out that Bull was a free agent, made it clear that he wanted Bull to be a part of the new project.
It all came together very quickly.
“Let’s talk on Monday,” Gerstenhaber told the executive producer. “And within a week they signed me up.”
The Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show on YouTube featuring Gerstenhaber, former ESPN personality Jay Crawford, 92.3 The Fan’s Garrett Bush, and rotating hosts to make up a four-person round-table show, made its debut last Monday. The show, which airs weekdays from 11am to 1pm, features passionate Cleveland sports talk, live guests, either in-studio or via Zoom, as well as interaction from the audience through social media.
“I’m very excited,” said Gerstenhaber. “It’s a definite adjustment for me after 22 years on radio doing television. For the last 11 years, I’ve been doing a radio show with just one other host and I was the lead guy doing most of the talking and now I’m on a show with three other people and it’s such an adjustment. So far, I’m having a ball.”
And so far, the reaction to the show has been very positive.
A big reason why is that it’s something that Cleveland didn’t have and really never had, unlike a city like New York, where there are local radio shows that are simulcast on regional sports channels.
“There’s nothing like that in Cleveland,” said Gerstenhaber. “And there was certainly nothing like this with a panel. Cleveland is such a massive sports town and now people that don’t live in Cleveland that are maybe retired in Florida or Arizona, now they actually have a TV show that they can watch that’s Cleveland-centric.”
The new venture certainly represents a big change in what Bull has been used to in his radio career. He’s enjoying the freedom of not having to follow a hard clock for this show. In fact, there have already been some occasions where the show has been able to go a little longer than scheduled because they have the flexibility to do that on YouTube.
Doing a show on YouTube gives the panel a great opportunity to go deep into topics and spend some quality time with guests. And while there is no cursing on the show at the moment, there could be the potential for that down the road.
Don’t expect the show is going to become X-rated or anything like that, but the objective is to be able to capture the spirit and emotion of being a sports fan and host.
“It’s something we may do in the future,” said Gerstenhaber. “Not curse just to curse but it gives us the option if we get fired up. It is allowed because there’s no restrictions there. The company doesn’t want us to do it at the moment.”
There’s also been the shift for Gerstenhaber from being the “point guard” on his old radio show, driving the conversation and doing most of the talking, to now taking a step back and having Crawford distributing the ball on the television show.
For a guy called “The Bull”, that will take some getting used to.
“Jay is a pro’s pro,” said Gerstenhaber. “He’s the point guard for this but he’s also part of the conversation. I’m not used to not being the point guard so I have to adjust to that. I think it’s gone pretty well and the chemistry is pretty good and with time we’ll get used to the flow of it.”
Gerstenhaber’s move from sports radio to an internet television show is a perfect example of how the industry is changing. A good portion of the listening and viewing audience these days, especially those in the younger demographic, are not necessarily watching traditional television or listening to terrestrial radio. For a lot of sports fans, watching and listening on a mobile device or a computer has become a very important way of life.
The desire to adapt, along with a shorter workday, was very enticing to him.
“It was only more recently that I was like why do I have to only be a radio guy?” wondered Gerstenhaber. “There were things about my job that I was unhappy about. I was doing a five-hour radio show. It’s too long. That’s crazy. Nobody should be doing a five-hour radio show at this point.”
Broadcasting on the internet has arrived and it’s not just a couple of sports fans doing a show from their garage anymore. The business has evolved to the point where the technology has provided more opportunities for those who have already enjoyed success in the industry and are looking for new challenges.
Kind of like Adam The Bull!
“I think years ago, probably like many people in the radio business, we looked at internet and podcasts as like whatever…those guys aren’t professionals…they’re amateurs,” said Gerstenhaber. “But the game has changed.”
Gerstenhaber, Crawford and everyone associated with the “Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show” should not have much of a problem attracting the younger audience. That demographic is already accustomed to watching shows on YouTube and other streaming platforms. The challenge now is to get the more mature audience on board. There are certainly some obstacles there.
I know this from experience with trying to explain to my mother in Florida how she can hear me on the radio and watch me on television simply by using her tablet.
Bull can certainly relate to that.
“My mother is still trying to figure out how to watch the show live,” said Gerstenhaber with a chuckle. “The older fans struggle with that. A lot of my older fans here in Cleveland are like how do I watch it? For people that are under 40 and certainly people that under 30, watching a YouTube show is like okay I watch everything on my phone or device. It’s such a divide and obviously as the years go by, that group will increase.”
With the television show off and running, Gerstenhaber still has a passion for his roots and that’s the radio side of the business. In the next couple of weeks, “The Bull” is set to announce the launch of two podcasts, one daily and one weekly, that will begin next month. But he also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning to terrestrial radio at some point.
“I have not closed the door to radio,” said Gerstenhaber. “I still love radio. I would still, in the right set of circumstances, consider going back to radio but it would have to really be the perfect situation. I’m excited about (the television show) and right now I don’t want to do anything else but I’m certainly going to remain open-minded to radio if a really excellent opportunity came up.”
The landscape of the broadcasting industry, particularly when it comes to sports, has certainly changed over the years and continues to evolve. Adam Gerstenhaber certainly enjoyed a tremendous amount of success on the radio side, both in New York and in Cleveland, but now he has made the transition to something new with the YouTube television show and he’s committed to making it a success.
Why You Should Be Making Great TikTok Content
“We’re specially trained in the world of TSL (time spent listening), and the longer people view your content on TikTok, the more the app rewards you by shoving your content into more and more feeds.”
It feels like there’s a new social media platform to pay attention to every other week. That makes it easy to overlook when one of them actually presents value to your brand. It wasn’t long ago that TikTok was primarily used by teenagers with the focus being silly dance trends filmed for video consumption with their friends and followers alike. Now, as the general public has become in tune with how this complicated app works, it’s grown far beyond that.
TikTok is now an app used by all types of demographics and unlike TikTok’s closely related cousins Instagram and Facebook, this app provides a certain type of nuance that I think people in our line of work can really excel in.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of how you can use TikTok to your advantage and how to make your videos catch on, I think it’s important to first mention why this matters for you. Now, if I’m being realistic, I’m sure there are some that have already stopped reading this or those that could scroll away fast enough when they saw the words TikTok. You might be thinking that this doesn’t fit your demo, or maybe that it’s a waste of time because productivity here won’t directly lead to an uptick in Nielsen ratings. But I’m not sure any social network directly leads to what we ultimately get judged on, and we aren’t always pumping out content directly to our core audience.
TikTok, like any other app you may use, is marketing. This is another free tool to let people out there know who you are and what you offer in this endless sea of content. And the beauty of TikTok is that it directly caters its algorithm to content creators just like us. Bottom line, if you are a personality in sports talk, there’s no reason you can’t be crushing it on TikTok right now. All it takes is a little direction, focus, consistency, and a plan.
Unlike Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter where you can throw a photo up with a caption and be done for the day, TikTok’s whole model is built on creative videos that keep users engaged for longer periods of time. This approach works. According to Oberlo, a social media stat tracking site, people spend more time per day on TikTok than any other popular social media application. 38 minutes per day!
This is where this is good news for us in talk radio. We’re specially trained in the world of TSL (time spent listening), and the longer people view your content on TikTok, the more the app rewards you by shoving your content into more and more feeds. TikTok’s algorithm doesn’t care how many followers you have, your level of credibility, or the production on your video. All ir cares about is 1) Is your content good. and 2) Are people watching it. 3) How long are they watching it. The more people watch and the longer they watch creates a snowball effect. Your videos views will skyrocket, sometimes within hours.
So, how do you create content that will catch on? It’s really not all that different than what you do every day. Create thought-provoking commentary that makes people think, argue, or stay till the end to get the info you teased up for them. I’ve found through my own trial and error that it’s best if you stay away from time-sensitive material, I’ve had more success the more evergreen my content is. That way, the shelf life expands beyond just that day or week. This is different for everyone and there’s no one-size-fits-all, but this is where I’ve seen the most success.
Also, put yourself out there, don’t be afraid to say something that people are going to vehemently disagree with. Again, it’s not unlike what we do every day. It’s one thing to get someone to listen, it’s another to get them to engage. Once they hit you in the comment section, you’ve got them hooked. Comments breed more views and on and on. But don’t just let those sit there, even the smallest interaction back like a shoulder shrug emoji can go a long way in creating more play for your video.
If you want to grow quickly, create a niche for yourself. The best content creators that I follow on TikTok all put out very similar content for most of their videos. This means, unlike Instagram where it’s great to show what a wildly interesting and eclectic person you are, TikTok users want to know what they’re getting the second your face pops up on that screen. So if you are the sports history guy, be the sports history guy all the time. If you are the top 5 list guy, be the top 5 list guy all the time, and on and on, you get the point.
Other simple tricks:
- Splice small videos together. Don’t shoot one long video.
- 90 seconds to 2 minutes is a sweet spot amount of time.
- Add a soft layer of background instrumental music (this feature is found in the app when you are putting the finishing touches on your video)
- Label your video across the screen at the start and time it out so that it disappears seconds later. This way a user gets an idea of what the content is immediately and then can focus on you delivering your message thereafter.
- Research trending hashtags, they are far more important than whatever you caption your video.
- Use closed captions so that people can follow your video without sound.
Finally, don’t be intimidated by it or snub your nose at it. Anything that helps your brand is worth doing and anything worth doing is worth doing well.
Does Tom Brady’s Salary Make Sense For FOX In a Changing Media World?
“The risk here doesn’t have to do with Brady specifically, but rather the business of televising football games in general.”
FOX is playing it too safe when it comes to adding Tom Brady.
That’s going to sound weird given the size of Brady’s broadcasting contract. Even if that deal isn’t worth as much as initially reported, it’s a hell of a lot of loot, especially considering Brady has remained steadfastly uninteresting for a solid 20 years now.
Let’s not pretend that is a detriment in the eyes of a television network, however. There’s a long line of famous athletes companies like FOX have happily paid millions without ever requiring them to be much more than consistently inoffensive and occasionally insightful. Yes, Brady is getting more money than those previous guys, but he’s also the most successful quarterback in NFL history.
The risk here doesn’t have to do with Brady specifically, but rather the business of televising football games in general. More specifically, the fact that the business of televising football games is changing, and while it may not be changing quite as rapidly as the rest of the sports-media industry, but it is changing. There’s an increasing number of choices available to viewers not only in the games that can be watched, but how they are consumed. Everything in the industry points to an increasingly fragmented audience and yet by signing Brady to be in the broadcast booth once he retires, FOX is paying a premium for a single component in a tried-and-true broadcasting formula will be more successful.
Think of Brady’s hiring as a bet FOX made. A 10-year commitment in which it is doubling down on the status quo at a time of obvious change. FOX saw ESPN introduce the ManningCast last year, and instead of seeing the potential for a network to build different types of products, FOX decided, “Nah, we don’t want to do anything different or new.” Don’t let the price tag fool you. FOX went out and bought a really famous former player to put in a traditional broadcast booth to hope that the center holds..
Maybe it will. Maybe Brady is that interesting or he’s that famous and his presence is powerful enough to defy the trends within the industry. I’m not naive enough to think that value depends on the quality of someone’s content. The memoir of a former U.S. president will fetch a multi-million-dollar advance not because of the literary quality, but because of the size of the potential audience. It’s the same rationale behind FOX’s addition of Brady.
But don’t mistake an expensive addition from an innovative one. The ManningCast was an actual innovation. A totally different way of televising a football game, and while not everyone liked it, some people absolutely loved it. It’s not going to replace the regular Monday Night Football format, but it wasn’t supposed to. It’s an alternative or more likely a complement and ESPN was sufficiently encouraged to extend the ManningCast through 2024. It’s a different product. Another option it is offering its customers. You can choose to watch to the traditional broadcast format with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the booth or you can watch the Mannings or you can toggle between both. What’s FOX’s option for those audience members who prefer something like the ManningCast to the traditional broadcast?
It’s not just ESPN, either. Amazon offered viewers a choice of broadcasters, too, from a female announcing tandem of Hannah Storm and Andrea Kramer beginning in 2018 to the Scouts Feed with Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks in 2020.
So now, not only do viewers have an increasingly wide array of choices on which NFL games they can watch — thanks to Sunday Ticket — they in some instances have a choice of the announcing crew for that given game. Amid this economic environment, FOX not only decided that it was best to invest in a single product, but it decided to make that investment in a guy who had never done this particular job before nor shown much in the way of an aptitude for it.
Again, maybe Brady is the guy to pull it off. He’s certainly famous enough. His seven Super Bowl victories are unmatched and span two franchises, and while he’s denied most attempts to be anything approaching interesting in public over the past 20 years, perhaps that is changing. His increasingly amusing Twitter posts over the past 2 years could be a hint of the humor he’s going to bring to the broadcast booth. That Tampa Tom is his true personality, which remained under a gag order from the Sith Lord Bill Belichick, and now Brady will suddenly become football’s equivalent of Charles Barkley.
But that’s a hell of a needle to thread for anyone, even someone as famous as Brady, and it’s a really high bar for someone with no broadcasting experience. The upside for FOX is that its traditional approach holds. The downside, however, is that it is not only spending more money on a product with a declining market, but it is ignoring obvious trends within the industry as it does so.