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Listening, Entertaining and Grinding At The Center of Mark Schlereth’s Success

“I have a couple of different radio philosophies that I think just work. Ultimately I’m the one that turns on the mic so I’ve got to be comfortable with it. And it’s got to be authentic and entertaining.”

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There are three core ingredients that fuel Mark Schlereth’s success in broadcasting — grinding, listening, and teamwork. He’s a worker. Mark prepares by breaking down NFL film so he has the answers to the test. He also listens. It’s one of the most overlooked skills in broadcasting, but Mark knows that listening is mandatory in order to actually have a real conversation. Finally, the three-time Super Bowl champ fully understands the importance of team. That goes a long way in broadcasting. Mark knows that it’s not just about him; it’s also about his on-air partner and what the listeners want to hear.

Mark is having a blast calling NFL games and doing his morning show on 104.3 The Fan in Denver. He oozes enthusiasm and passion for his gigs. We cover a lot of ground in our chat below. Mark talks about how Jim Lampley played a significant role in his career. He mentions a piece of advice from Colin Cowherd that resonated with him. Mark has an interesting reaction to receiving criticism from Dan Le Batard. He also talks about acting, consulting, and even uses the word extemporaneous. I was impressed because it’s three syllables longer than 95 percent of the words I use. Enjoy.

Brian Noe: Being from Alaska, what players or teams did you grow up rooting for?

Mark Schlereth: I grew up being a big football fan and rooting for the Steelers. That was my introduction. Funny enough when you grow up in Alaska, the Sunday morning game kicked off at like 7 a.m. It was kind of pre church. I’d get up early on Sunday mornings and pretty much every Sunday was the Steelers game; that’s the game we got. Then in the afternoons it was a Cowboy game. I’d watch the Steelers before we went to the church service. I just grew up watching Terry Bradshaw, Stallworth, Swann, Harris, Bleier, “Mean” Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Jack Ham, and Jack Lambert. Those were my guys. I fell in love with professional football and the Steelers.

The funny thing is years ago when I was still with ESPN, I’m walking through the lobby in Arizona, and Mel Blount is standing in the lobby of the media hotel. I’m walking with Trey Wingo and I’m like, oh my God, that’s Mel Blount, that’s Mel Blount. I’m such a big Steeler fan, right? I’m trying to act cool, but I’m literally like fanboying out. Mel Blount is every bit of 6’4, 270 and looked good. Mel Blount is a huge man. And he’s not fat; he’s just a thick dude. So I’m trying not to geek out. We walk by and I’m like let’s just not saying anything. He looks over and goes, “Hey, Mark. Hey, Trey. How are you guys doing?” I walk over and say hey big man, it’s really good to meet you. I’m a huge Steeler fan, blah blah blah. Meanwhile deep down inside I’m like (singing) Mel Blount knows my name. I’m trying to act so cool on the outside but deep down inside, man, I was freaked out because that’s your childhood hero.

I’m a huge Steeler fan. In fact my dad took me to one of the last games that Bradshaw played in. We stayed at their hotel and just stood in the lobby and got autographs. I became that guy as a kid standing in the lobby that all the Steelers wanted to talk to because I grew up in Alaska and they all wanted to come up and fish. I got to talk to all of my childhood heroes. It was just a phenomenal experience for me. When the Seahawks came into existence in ‘76, that was really the team that Alaska adopted. It was the closest in proximity but I just remained an ardent Steelers fan.

BN: When you think about your media career, did you ever think you’d be doing what you’ve done?

MS: Funny enough, when I first retired, I thought I would take two years off and then figure it out. I got done and literally within two weeks my wife was like if you don’t find something to do, we’re getting divorced because you’re driving me crazy. I just like to have work. I like to be busy. I like to be in the yard. I’m just constantly working. I probably spend two hours a day watching film and studying formations and defensive fronts and how defensive fronts tie to secondary and coverage. I just kind of geek out on it. I always have something that I’m trying to do. I like being busy. My wife was like you need to find something to do.

I actually did an interview with HBO. It was Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. Jim Lampley came out to the house to interview me. They were doing a segment on injuries and all of the stuff you have to put up with as a player. We did this whole interview and it was great. Lampley was awesome. It was a great three hours or whatever we spent chopping it up. You know how they have the little sit-down interview after the piece runs that they taped. Bryant Gumbel was like so what’s Mark going to do now? And Jim Lampley goes, I have no idea what he’s going to do, but he should get into broadcasting because the guy can speak.

I’m not kidding you — I had no agent or anything — literally my phone rang 10 minutes after that aired on HBO. It was an agent that said ‘hey man, I can get you work’. So I was like all right, what the heck. I already had a deal with FOX to go do an NFL Europe game. He got me that. Then three days later I was on a plane to Bristol. I literally auditioned for a half hour, had lunch and they hired me. It was just that fast. I put in 16 years there in studio.

BN: Before Lampley said that about you, were you even interested in doing media?

MS: I really hadn’t thought about it. I had done a lot of public speaking — a lot of corporate motivational speaking and other stuff. I traveled around from grade schools to high schools to junior high schools, and always had a flair for it. I always enjoyed getting up and entertaining. That part was easy. I did a lot of radio here like my last couple of years playing in the offseason and just had a blast doing it. At the time it was Dave Logan and Scott Hastings. I just really enjoyed that part of it. But I really didn’t have a plan. It was one of those things where I was just blessed to have some things fall into my lap, and also to realize that I couldn’t sit still. I just had to be doing something. I thought that after 12 years of playing and all the surgeries and everything else, I thought I could just chill. There’s just no way I could have done it.

BN: What was your most challenging role where you might have sat there and thought ‘I don’t actually know what I’m doing yet’?

MS: Yeah, the funniest thing was my first show; I went out for a show in July — at that point NFL Live only did Mondays in the offseason. We have our production meetings. Then they’re like come back at six for makeup. I’m like all right. I get back over there. We go down to the studio and I have no idea what I’m doing; I have no clue. We’re all sitting in our spots and the producer says ‘how are you doing’? Great, everything is good. Okay, we’re going to go into the A segment here; after the host tees you up, make your comments to camera one. I was like okay, there’s camera one, I see camera one. Okay I’m good. Then they’re like all right 10 seconds to live TV, good luck. And that was it, man. At that point we were just doing live TV.

Frankly you learn things over time. Initially I was trying to script things out. Eventually you figure out what works for you. For me it was to just listen. My thing is I’m always going to be prepared. I am the son of Herb Schlereth. That son of a bitch works like nobody I’ve ever met in my entire life. I have picked up that wonderful trait from my father. I’m going to grind. Then ultimately my big thing was I might put down one word on a rundown that I want to get to, but I’ve just found the best thing to do is listen. Somebody may say something that you completely disagree with or that changes your whole train of thought. You’ve got to be willing to be extemporaneous and make it work. That’s one of the things that I’ve always done is I’m going to sit down here and I’m going to listen to you, and to you, and to you. Then we’re going to have a conversation. That to me makes it the most organic and the most real. That’s how I’ve always approached it.

BN: At The Fan you went from Armen Williams, who is highly thought of in the industry, to a first-time PD in Raj [Sharan]. What was that transition like for you?

MS: It was great. Armen and I are very close friends and so are Raj and I. Ultimately the one thing that has remained the same — I mean pretty much everything has remained the same — but the thing that really has remained the same is kind of the open door policy. There were things that Armen and I disagreed on when we started together. I have a couple of different radio philosophies that I think just work. Ultimately I’m the one that turns on the mic so I’ve got to be comfortable with it. And it’s got to be authentic. My biggest thing with Armen and with Raj has been it’s got to be fun and it’s got to be entertaining.

I learned a couple of valuable lessons when I was working at ESPN with Colin Cowherd who I think does an incredible job. One of the things that Colin said to me years ago was my show is called The Herd, it’s not called the caller or the texter, it’s The Herd. It really resonated with me. I learned this from Colin; I won’t put a guest on if the guest isn’t more entertaining than I am, or if the guest doesn’t have a bigger name than me. Why would I bring somebody on and bog down the show if that guy doesn’t have great information or doesn’t have huge name value?

Content is important, but if I’m on at 6:15 in the morning, 90 percent of the people driving to work are going to a job they really don’t like. It’s my opportunity and honestly it’s my responsibility to entertain them. I always think about it this way; I want somebody to be at work as they’re putting together their 100th widget and they’re like, that dude just made me laugh or that dude’s an idiot. I think that’s important. We’ll have good content. When we’re talking football, there’s nobody that can talk football with our show. But it’s got to be fun and it’s got to be entertaining. It’s got to be something to me that everybody feels like they get to be a part of. That’s just kind of how I believe in radio.

Radio can be the funnest thing you do and it also can be the biggest pain in the ass of anything you do. If you have the right format and you have the right partner. And I do, Mike Evans — I’ve worked with Greenberg, I’ve worked with Colin Cowherd, I’ve worked with some of the great radio people in the history of this profession — there is nobody better at running a show than Mike Evans. The guy is phenomenal. He just knows how to run the show and push my buttons and does not let me get away with anything. He challenges me on a consistent basis. It’s a great fit. It’s the reason we’ve been so successful.

BN: How did Mike earn your respect?

MS: Well first and foremost from day one there was a camaraderie and connection, a mutual respect. We had a lot of the same philosophical points when it came to how to do a radio show. Ultimately one of the things I said to Mike on the first day we worked together, I said your job is to run the show so I can run around in it. When it comes to doing a show, Mike has zero ego. He’s not worried about getting his shine. He’s not worried about getting enough airtime. He looks at it truly like my job is to set my partner up and let my partner run.

The thing I respect about him is he has an opinion. There are so many times I say to him, have you not learned anything over all of these years doing radio with me? You still don’t know anything about football. I’ll just bust his balls and he’ll come right back at me with stuff. There’s been this mutual give and take. That’s the other thing; nobody at the end of the day has hurt feelings. We challenge each other, but we’re doing a show. There is no animosity and nobody is getting hurt feelings. If I tell you you’re an idiot and you have no clue what you’re talking about, he’ll come right back at me and challenge me on things. I’ll try to explain how it actually works versus the way he thinks it works. We get into it that way. At the end of the day it’s authentic, it’s real, and we have a blast doing it.

BN: Could you work with someone who got hurt feelings easily?

MS: No, I grew up in a locker room. I played at the University of Idaho. My guys, I meet with them every year. I’m going next month to our Vandal reunion; it’s like year 24 in a row. Ten to 15 of us get together and they are the wittiest, smartest, most sarcastic people on the face of the planet. It was kill or be killed. You better learn how to survive; otherwise you’re going to get destroyed. And that’s how we operated. That’s just how guys show love to one another. I would have no patience for somebody who can’t handle that type of atmosphere. That’s just the way I’ve grown up. That’s the way I approached adulthood through high school football, and college football, and in the pros. That’s just the way a locker room works. I would have a really hard time if I had to be careful about hurting somebody’s feelings.

BN: [Laughs] Sure. The Man 101 bits are hilarious. What do you think about Dan Le Batard taking shots at those bits of yours?

MS: Dan Le Batard, I don’t care, he can do whatever he wants. If that helps his show, great. It’s always funny because anytime I put a Man 101 up there, I see a bunch of people tagging Le Batard. [Laughs] But whatever, it doesn’t affect me. It’s kind of the old lions don’t concern themselves with the opinions of sheep. I don’t care. My hobby is landscaping. It’s what I do. I’m constantly in my yard working. I’m competitive. I’ll let all my neighbors know you’re getting your ass kicked in yard care right now. I’ve occasionally left notes on my neighbor’s doors from my lawn to their lawn. Like are you okay, you look sick over here. Things are great on my side. I’m a gracious loser but I’m a terrible winner. I’ll let you know about it. But Le Batard can do whatever he wants. I honestly, I’ve done his show once or twice, I don’t have a relationship with a guy, I don’t really know the guy. But whatever floats their boat is fine with me. If it gives me more views and more likes and more people watching my stuff, then that’s great.

BN: How did you get into consulting for various NFL teams?

MS: Teams have enough respect for what I do as a broadcaster and what I did as a player that I’ve had the opportunity to consult for a couple of different teams. I’ve just enjoyed the heck out of that. It’s like coaching. It still keeps you really tied into the game. That part has been really fun for me to just kind of sit and pick on the philosophes. It’s funny; I was with a team two weeks ago. They wanted to talk to me about running the ball better. I said to this particular team, I go everybody says they want to run it better, but are you actually going to commit to running it better? I go I don’t know what it is with you play callers but you guys are funny to me. You’ll run it three times and net two yards per attempt, and you’ll be like aww fuck it, we can’t run the ball. But you’ll throw six incompletions in a row, and you’ll keep throwing the damn thing. I go I don’t fuckin’ understand any of you guys. [Laughs] Like what is that? This particular coach just started laughing. He goes it is so true.

BN: How did the acting stuff come about and do you see yourself doing more of it in the future? 

MS: I do it if people ask me to do it. I know my strengths and weaknesses. I understand staying in my lane and being a football guy. I enjoy doing that. I’m not trying to become an actor. So I really don’t give a rip. If something like Ballers comes up, then great. I have a blast doing it. It’s fun. It’s one of those things that’s challenging because I know that’s not my wheelhouse. The Guiding Light stuff came up just because the guy who was the casting director was a big ESPN fan. He just liked me on TV. So he said hey will you come up and audition? I did and they booked me. I went on a two-year run for a recurring role. My big joke is that show was on air for 72 years, it took me two years to get it knocked off air. It was a soap opera on radio and then 50 years on television and I got it cancelled. But yeah if the opportunity came, I certainly would do it.

BN: When you look to the future do you have any goals or anything specific in mind that you would like to experience?

MS: Not really. I love doing games so much and being part of a team. That to me is what makes it exciting. Calling a game, there’s so much that goes into it. There’s so much work, so much preparation that goes into it. The coolest part is you get to be with the team. I love being part of a team. It intrigues me. That everybody has to sacrifice for one another for our team and our broadcast to be good. It’s very much the same way it was when I was playing. I’m a Christian and love Jesus; what’s the first thing Jesus did? When he started his ministry he got 12 guys together. He got his disciples and collected his team. I’m just a big believer in sacrificing and leaning on one another and working together. Every Thursday I get on a plane and I just am so excited to go be together. I love it. My dad told me something when I was a little kid, find something you love to do and you’ll never have to go to work. Shoot, I’m 55 years old. All I’ve been doing is playing and talking about football my entire adult life.

BSM Writers

Imagine If Sports Media Had To Justify Its Own Tucker Carlson

“Of course Tucker Carlson lies. Even his most dedicated fans think he lies.”

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Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 2.0.

Last week, our partners in the news media department posted a story about Tucker Carlson. It was about a recent interview the FOX News host did with some guy on YouTube. In the interview, Carlson admits that there are times he blatantly lies on his show – the most popular show that is broadcast by what is ostensibly a news channel.

“I guess I would ask myself, like, I mean I lie if I’m really cornered or something. I lie,” Carlson told Dave Rubin. “I really try not to. I try never to lie on TV. I just don’t – I don’t like lying. I certainly do it, you know, out of weakness or whatever.”

When I first read this story, I just dismissed it. Of course this jackass lies. Even his most dedicated fans think he lies. There is just no way he is actually as stupid as he pretends to be when he makes that “I am shocked by what I just heard” face. You know the one. It looks like he just discovered there’s a Batman movie where the suit has nipples.

born miserable on Twitter: "Tucker Carlson always looks like someone's just  shown him a picture of a vagina… "
Courtesy: FOX News

I tried to dismiss it, but then later in the week came his impassioned plea to Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend to come on TV to discuss his balls after the rapper tweeted a story about how the Covid vaccine made this guy’s testicles swell and thus ruined his potential wedding.

It is a clip that was passed around Twitter thousands of times. It showed up in my feed over and over with comments like “This is THE NEWS in 2021” and “I never want this man to stop talking about Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend’s balls.”

Can you imagine if Carlson’s bullshit was acceptable in sports media? I could write the same thing about FOX News in general, but let’s keep this focused on Tucker, because this past week he crossed the rubicon into a special category of absurd.

There are plenty of people in sports media that will go on TV and explain to you why a loss is actually good for a team or why undeniable greatness is actually unimpressive. This is someone going on TV and telling you that it doesn’t matter what you saw with your own two eyes on Thursday night, the Giants actually beat Washington or that the Brooklyn Nets can be dismissed as title contenders because there is no proof that anyone on their roster has even been to the All-Star Game.

I have written in the past that news commenters, be they on radio or television, do not impress me. Those people are not original or interesting at all. They aren’t even talented. I’m only bringing up that opinion to be completely transparent.

Sports Tucker Carlson would be a totally different animal. In fact, such a thing would be unacceptable.

Now, I am sure some of you are out there shouting that sports media does have a Tucker Carlson. In fact, the sports Tucker Carlson works for the same company that the real Tucker Carlson does. His name is Skip Bayless.

Llia L Retweeted This Skip Bayless LeBron Is Tired AGAIN??? Has Looked a  Little Lethargic All Night Isn't He Supposed to Be the World's Finest  Conditioned Athlete? MJ Never Got Tired MJ

Look, I hear you. Skip brings no sincerity to anything, but I also don’t think Skip has any values he is trying to push. His takes are ridiculous for the sake of being ridiculous. ALL HAIL THEM CLICKS!

Besides, the great thing about sports broadcasting in general is that the stakes of what we are talking about are pretty low. Creativity and absurdity are welcome. None of this is important, nor is there any illusion that it may be. No one is showing up at the Capital with zip ties and bear mace demanding the Chiefs be re-instated as Super Bowl champions or screaming at doctors that the Covid vaccine is a scheme to return Miami to relevance in the college football world.

Putting on my programmer hat for a second, I just cannot imagine how to justify a Tucker Carlson. Then again, my programmer hat was not made and fitted by people trying to pass performance art off as news. So, maybe me not getting it is the strategy.

Photo by Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 2.0.
Photo by Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 2.0.

Either way, this, to me, feels like very good information to take to advertisers next time they question the desirability of a sports radio audience versus a news audience. Our listeners are passionate, intelligent people looking to be entertained and engaged by conversations about their favorite teams and they’re willing to support the people that do that for them. The most popular name in news talk admits that he lies when the facts don’t match up to the story he wants to tell. The reaction from the public is “well of course he does.” Which one would you rather have your brand associated with?

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Back To Basics

Back To Basics: Teases

“If we think about this from a very basic level, we need listeners to hold onto our signal as long as we can possibly keep them.”

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I think one of the things I love about radio is how theoretical a lot of our strategies can be. We assume a lot in this business, and its largely because we have to. We assume we know what topics our listeners want to hear, we assume they know things that might actually need more explanation, and sometimes we assume they’re just going to stick around because they like us. Sure, there are metrics that you can follow, trends you can keep track of, and social growth that helps gauge your impact, but largely a lot of the content we put out, and specifically the way we put it out, we’re just hoping it lands. 

2,622 BEST Fingers Crossed Kid IMAGES, STOCK PHOTOS & VECTORS | Adobe Stock
Courtesy: Adobe Stock

I think one of the easy tactics to lose sight of when you’re going through the daily gauntlet of hours of talk time, is the good old fashioned radio tease. In an ever-increasing world of digital tracking and analytics, the value of a tease going into a commercial break can be difficult to track. And because we don’t know its true impact it can easily be forgotten or just ignored altogether.  To me, this is a massive mistake and a big opportunity lost. Sometimes, we just need to let common sense prevail when determining what is and is not worth our time.  

If we think about this from a very basic level, we need listeners to hold onto our signal as long as we can possibly keep them. How do we do that? Compelling conversations, debates, interesting interviews, and personality they can’t find anywhere else. All of that is great, but at some point you’ll need to go to commercial break, and no matter how likable or entertaining you think you might be, 6 minutes of commercials is likely going to take your average listener across the dial to a new location. So, how do you keep them or at least ensure they’ll find their way back? Give them something they need to know the answer to. Again, I’ll ask you to think about this logically: Which one of the examples below is more likely to keep a listener engaged through a commercial break? 

Example 1: “More football talk, next!” 

Example 2: “Up next, the one move that will guarantee Brady another ring, right after this!”  

We all know the answer. Example 2 gives the listener something to think about. You’ve provided just enough information that you have them thinking, while creating a gap of information that they will hopefully want filled. Yet, we opt for Example 1 way more than we should. Myself included. It’s lazy and more than anything it’s a lost opportunity to keep a listener.

The most loyal/die-hard members of your audience aren’t going anywhere, so it doesn’t matter how you go to break for those individuals. The least loyal, who maybe like your show, but they are just jumping around every day in their car or online, they aren’t sticking around no matter what you say. It’s those in the middle, the one’s who are looking for, usually subconsciously, a reason to stay or comeback. That’s the audience you’re providing this tease for. 

Teases are not for your most loyal listeners, teases are for people that are stopping by to see what you have going on, which is the majority of your overall CUME. If you can hook those casual listeners, even just a few, to stay through a commercial break and listen to a fertility clinic commercial, then you’ve done your job as a host. 

I find the best radio tease is direct, a good description that leaves the audience hanging for an answer or your opinion on the issue. Nebulous or nondescript teases don’t give the audience enough to sink their teeth into, you want to leave them guessing but if they guessing too much they’ll probably lose interest. You want to make them think, you don’t want them to have to solve a puzzle. 

Example 1: “Could Aaron Rodgers be subtly hinting where he wants to play next?” 

Example 2: “A player makes it known he wants out, but where does he want to go?” 

Both examples above are fine, it’s certainly a step up from the “more football, next” tease but Example 1 provides the listener with something specific enough for them to start thinking of answers in their own mind, thus creating that desire to see if their idea matches up with what you are about to tell them. Giving the listener a player or team that you know most of them care about, plus a level of mystery, equals a good/solid tease that is more likely to keep them hanging on through the break. Example 2 is good but the problem I find with those is that they’re so nebulous that you aren’t sure you care as a listener. You might want to know the answer, but without a solid description, you give the audience a chance to decide that they don’t care or you just simply miss the opportunity to elicit a response by not drawing attention to an item that they are passionate about. 

Photo by: iStockPhoto

The next step in all of this is making sure you follow up on what you tease. You might only get a couple opportunities to mislead a listener before your teases mean nothing to them in the future. If you say you are going to talk about Alabama’s dominance in the SEC around the corner, make sure you do it, and if you aren’t able to, I think its only fair to draw attention to the fact that you couldn’t follow up on it. Apologize and move on. It’s live radio, things happen, and I think people listening understand that but you also have to be respectful of the time they are giving you. 

Bottom line is, teasing is a radio parlor trick and it’s an easy one to lose sight of. We don’t prioritize them as much as we go along in this business, whether that be for egotistical reasons, laziness, or just not prioritizing them as part of the show prep process. Treat your teases with seriousness and a level of priority, the same way you do with the topics and content you create. We all know we’re not reinventing the wheel, there’s nothing that we can say that hasn’t been said 100 times in the sports talk sphere, but portraying that to your audience is doing them and yourself a big disservice. 

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BSM Writers

Athletes Are Making Their Money In Content

“Jordan’s example has led to the next generations’ emergence in entertainment, media, and sports. It is an emergence that is beyond in some ways what Jordan has accomplished.”

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In many ways, the voice of athletes started its exponential growth with the introduction of social media, where every human being has access to a personal broadcast channel to express themselves, their passions, stories, and ideas.  The athlete as an artist immediately expanded from highlight reel to Hollywood film and television reel as a content producer.  However, it was The Players’ Tribune, founded by Derek Jeter in 2014, that jumpstarted the athlete-driven voice of content, first in writing, and later in video, polls, and podcasts.  

On the Line: Derek Jeter | By The Players' Tribune
Courtesy: The Players’ Tribune

Michael Jordan was the first international athlete that made millions in sponsorship money—selling his name or attaching his name to products for the purpose of endorsing them for a profit.  He also starred in the Warner Bros. live-action/animated film Space Jam.  Jordan turned those partnerships into ownership of an NBA basketball team and a partner and focus of one of the most iconic athletic brands in the world, Jordan/Jumpman (Nike).  More recently, Jordan was the focus of the Emmy award-winning The Last Dance docuseries about the NBA Chicago Bulls six championships and more specifically the sixth and final trophy for Air Jordan his Bulls team.  He also co-owns a NASCAR team with Joe Gibbs.  

Jordan’s example has led to the next generations’ emergence in entertainment, media, and sports. It is an emergence that is beyond in some ways what Jordan has accomplished.  However, that is the point—the mentee should always outperform the mentor with proper, training, guidance, and a little luck too.  Where many athletes have pursued broadcasting work as color analysts during and after their professional careers in sports, Jordan did not pursue these avenues or seek to open a television or film production studio to develop entertainment, media, and sports content.  

The direct-to-consumer approach of Hollywood and sports networks through streaming platforms, combined with the introduction of athlete voices through social media and podcasts has led to more opportunities.  Los Angeles Laker LeBron James launched his SpringHill Company in 2020 not long after joining showtime in Tinseltown.  SpringHill is a content studio that develops and looks to other studios for major production and distribution.  LeBron has the sponsorship advertising prowess, but can also add documentaries and feature film content to his resume.  

Kevin Durant launched a podcast titled “The Boardroom” through his company, Thirty-Five Ventures.  With YouTube on par with Netflix in revenue (minus the paywall), it provides another direct-to-consumer platform for everyone and more opportunities.  Steph Curry launched Unanimous Media in 2018 as a content and production studio, originally in partnership with Sony Entertainment, now the studio is partnered with Comcast owned NBCUniversal in the $10 million dollar range.  

The media has deemed the Curry deal a first, which is noteworthy, but so is the faith and family focus of Curry’s programming that will span many brands in the NBCUniversal entertainment family.  Curry will join the NBC broadcast for the Ryder Cup as an analyst and host and interview guests for an educational series, which does not include film projects and the second $200 million dollar basketball contract Curry signed in 2021.  Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, and Dwayne Wade have been involved with film projects of their own.  Tim Tebow is a nationwide celebrity and motivational speaker, not to mention a world-renown athlete and person with a big heart towards faith and philanthropy.    

Peyton and Eli Manning also have their own broadcast for Monday Night Football.  Peyton also starred in the very successful “Peyton’s Places” that will have season two launched soon on ESPN+.  Both are produced by Peyton’s Omaha Productions.

Speaking of Disney brands, the company’s 30 for 30 is still one of the main catalysts for highlighting the struggles and triumphs of athletes.  Hard Knocks, Ballers, and Jerry Maguire also gave insight into the world of sports beyond the field, statistics, and championships.   

The growth of entertainment, media, and sports has been and continues to be exponential.  Some additional areas to watch include development of series and docuseries in baseball, hockey, soccer, and in other popular, but not the big five sports in America (e.g., lacrosse, cricket, etc.).  With women’s sports receiving more attention on television, there are tremendous opportunities for growth in entertainment production particularly in women’s soccer. 

LFG (2021) - IMDb
Courtesy: WarnerMedia

To date, NBA players have dominated the entertainment, media, and sports landscape for Hollywood production.  However, to each their own, because some stars love developing content, others love speaking about content, and still others love to own content (particularly in the form of brands and franchises) (see Michael Jordan and Derek Jeter).  Indeed, the era of athlete as Hollywood producer is upon us.      

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