No one, and I mean NO ONE has made a bigger impact on the way football is presented on television than John Madden. You could just mention his eponymous video game series and the way TV executives plucked innovation after innovation from it to change the way the sport looks on TV and that would be enough. His contributions and the things networks did to woo him and make him happy though go far beyond however many pixels we are at these days.
Busses, turduckens, telestrators – these are all things football fans know and think about because of John Madden. He orchestrated a trade of a cartoon character to Disney in order to get the partner he wanted at NBC.
This is a piece that could go on forever. Frankly, there is no one correct way to eulogize John Madden. That is why the BSM staff is doing it in ten different ways.
After news of Madden’s death became public, I scribbled down about two dozen ideas. Then I picked my ten favorites and sent them to our columnists to make sure the guy got every kind of tribute he deserved. Enjoy! – Demetri Ravanos
PERFECT PARTNERS FINALLY REUNITE by Jason Barrett
Pat Summerall and John Madden’s pairing was perfect. They were a hit for over two decades because they understood their roles and the differences each brought to the broadcast booth. In Summerall, you got the straight man, who gave the booth the steady, serious touch it needed when important moments were unfolding. No matter how dramatic the moment, Pat was calm, cool, and collected, allowing the pictures to tell the story. Perhaps his best quality though was understanding Madden, and giving him the room needed to operate.
The nation became captivated by John’s personality and vocabulary, but they also respected his ability to analyze football. The fact that each spent time in the NFL led to mutual respect between them, which allowed them to understand the pace of the game, tell stories, and interact unlike any other combination in the history of football broadcasting. Many are understandably saddened by John’s passing. But knowing that one of the greatest tandems of all time is now reunited in Heaven should ease some of the pain, and make all of us envious of not being able to hear their next broadcast.
THE BEST MOVE FOX EVER MADE by Ryan Maguire
Growing up, when Madden and Summerall were the ones doing YOUR game, you knew the eyes of the entire country were going to be on your team (for better or worse). Whenever another announcing crew from CBS was calling the action, it just didn’t feel as special or meaningful.
When FOX got the rights to air games in 1994, reuniting that duo was vital and Rupert Murdoch outbid NBC and ABC to do it. Why? Because he knew that having Madden and Summerall as the number one crew helped give his young network much-needed credibility to the league and its fans as a rookie rightsholder.
Sure, Fox brought new voices and innovations to the broadcast that have withstood the test of time, but having Pat and John remain the duo that would bring you every week’s marquee matchup provided that comfortable familiarity that made things feel legit.
MR. THANKSGIVING by Brian Noe
Of all the many reminders we have of Madden — his famous video game, his signature usage of the word “boom!” — any mention of turducken will also remind me of him immediately. Madden routinely professed his love for the magical mixture of boneless chicken, duck and turkey on Thanksgiving Day telecasts. Madden also began giving away a turkey leg to the Thanksgiving Day MVP way back in 1989.
Madden fit perfectly on Thanksgiving; he had a jolly vibe and was ready to eat. If only Madden had been on the call for the infamous Jerome Bettis botched coin toss game in 1997. Now that would’ve been some tremendous television.
HOW JOHN MADDEN HELPED US UNDERSTAND FOOTBALL by Andy Masur
When you think of John Madden, you may harken back to his Super Bowl victory as head coach of the Raiders. But if you’re of a certain age, it’s all about Madden the television analyst. That’s where I’m most familiar with his work.
Think about how many times you heard, “Boom!”, “Whap!”, “Bang!” or “Doink!” to describe action on the field. Madden was a master of describing things the way we saw it. He simply said it how we were thinking it. The words live on as his legacy.
He also pioneered the use of the telestrator, a device he first used during the 1982 Super Bowl to draw plays and routes on our screens at home. Madden would use his squiggly lines to punctuate things that happened on the field. But they weren’t only used to highlight those plays. He once circled the lack of facial hair on Troy Aikman who said he was trying to grow a beard. But when it came to football, those markings were followed by information that the common fan could understand.
Imagine trying to watch a game now without a telestrator. You can’t, can you? He paved the way for Tony Romo and even a still facial hairless Troy Aikman.
AN HONOR GREATER THAN ANY THE LEAGUE COULD GIVE by Tyler McComas
Who was the NFL MVP in 2005? Yeah, I don’t remember it either, but I could easily tell you who was on the Madden cover that year. That’s because being on the cover of Madden was arguably more celebrated and memorable than winning the league MVP.
“The Madden Curse” even became so synonymous with the NFL, that EA Sports had to continually dismiss the notion an actual curse was hovering over the game. The suspense of the unveiling of the Madden cover athlete has turned into one of the main events of the NFL offseason, and that will only continue to grow in time. Madden’s is easily one of the most iconic names in video game history.
JOHN MADDEN MADE FRANK CALIENDO by Demetri Ravanos
Mad TV was to Saturday Night Live what the La Quinta by the airport is to the Chrysler Building. The former produced nearly nothing worth remembering. That is, nothing except for Frank Caliendo’s impressions and one stood out above the rest.
Caliendo’s John Madden impression struck a chord. Thanks to the video game and his presence on the biggest games every week in our country’s most popular sport, Madden’s voice was ubiquitous enough to convince even the most casual of sports fans that this Frank Caliendo guy was onto something.
Viewers noticed and networks noticed too. Since he retired Madden, Caliendo has brought Terry Bradshaw, Mel Kiper Jr, Jon Gruden, and more to life for both FOX and ESPN. The sports world wouldn’t know Frank Caliendo existed, let alone have him on speed dial, if not for Caliendo locking in on John Madden as his jumping-off point.
FOOTBALL’S MOST FAMOUS BUS by Jeff Caves
John Madden didn’t hurry to get to his next NFL assignment. Due to claustrophobia, he avoided airplanes and rode the “Madden Cruiser” to his assignments. He willingly signed up for a life on the road from September until February from 1979 all the way until 2008.
He stopped and visited with people in small towns, went to minor league baseball games, and interviewed people on the bus. He even did the Madden NFL video game deal on the bus in a few days. He reminded us to enjoy the ride. And he wasn’t in it for the luxury. He gave a bus tour here in 1991. It wasn’t glamorous. He had to love it!
THE EULOGY BEFORE DEATH by Brandon Kravitz
The All Madden documentary on Fox aired at the perfect time considering the news that followed. The build-up and promotion to this one-hour special was tremendous, and the special delivered on the hype.
I sat down and watched the first 15 or 20 minutes on Christmas Day when it originally aired, but amid all the NFL, NBA, and family obligations, I was forced to finish it on another night. As fate would have it, that night would be Tuesday, and I received the notification about John’s passing during the final 10 minutes of the documentary. What started as a beautiful detail of this legend’s life/career, became this picture-perfect eulogy. I’m just so glad John was able to sit there and witness all the great things people had to say about him and the impact that he had just prior to his passing, very rarely are we fortunate enough to honor living legends that way.
He was an icon as a coach, an all-time great broadcaster, a Hall of Fame father, and he taught us all how to love and appreciate the game of football. John Madden was truly one of a kind and this documentary could not have aired at a better time. How fitting that the special would end with the screen fading to black and a reflective and emotional John Madden saying “whoa, that was something. When I hear that stuff, it makes me realize what I didn’t realize.”
WHAT NOW FOR EA SPORTS? by Jeremy Evans
The game itself is unlikely to change as it is popular and the main goal of the game is to win with current players, but tribute will continue to be given to John Madden and his family for the quintessential role he played in the growth of American football and living a graceful life. Maybe Madden will introduce in-game cheat codes on a play, to increase player rating, or possible Coach Madden advice on whether to use certain plays or defensive schemes. That would indeed be a great highlight and memory for the man in the game. Madden’s legacy lives on.
THE VIDEO GAME THAT CHANGED TV by Derek Futterman
With improvements in technology and design, video games across all sports have become more realistic, giving users the ability to authentically simulate matchups of their choosing at any time. The Madden NFL video game series truly set the standard for authenticity, as it always was – and remains – highly detailed by featuring accurate player portrayals, stadium renderings and parcels of in-game strategies, including team-specific playbooks and artificial intelligence to bolster the CPU.
Evidently, Madden NFL changed the way football is disseminated to an audience, especially through the medium of television. Today, watching a football game encompasses much more than seeing the action on the field; it is about having an understanding of the teams, the strategy and the implications of each matchup, just as Madden himself did every week. Additionally, graphics and presentation aspects from video games, including the vertical view of the field and detailed voice tracking by play-by-play and color commentators, have lent their part into modern-day television broadcasts.
John Madden’s intuitiveness for the game as a player, coach, broadcaster and video game connoisseur has required existing personnel at all levels of the game to make sure they are prepared and able to perform their role to the highest of their ability, no matter what it may be – one of many reasons why his legacy will live on in perpetuity in the world of sports.
The Future Is Now, Embrace Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+
As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible.
This week has been a reckoning for sports and its streaming future on Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+, ESPN+, and more.
Amazon announced that Thursday Night Football, which averaged 13 million viewers, generated the highest number of U.S. sign ups over a three hour period in the app’s history. More people in the United States subscribed to Prime during the September 15th broadcast than they did during Black Friday, Prime Day, and Cyber Monday. It was also “the most watched night of primetime in Prime Video’s history,” according to Amazon executive Jay Marine. The NFL and sports in general have the power to move mountains even for some of the nation’s biggest and most successful brands.
This leads us to the conversation happening surrounding Aaron Judge’s chase for history. Judge has been in pursuit of former major leaguer Roger Maris’ record for the most home runs hit during one season in American League history.
The sports world has turned its attention to the Yankees causing national rights holders such as ESPN, Fox, and TBS to pick up extra games in hopes that they capture the moment history is made. Apple TV+ also happened to have a Yankees game scheduled for Friday night against the Red Sox right in the middle of this chase for glory.
Baseball fans have been wildin’ out at the prospects of missing the grand moment when Judge passes Maris or even the moments afterwards as Judge chases home run number 70 and tries to truly create monumental history of his own. The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand has even reported there were talks between YES, MLB, and Apple to bring Michael Kay into Apple’s broadcast to call the game, allow YES Network to air its own production of the game, or allow YES Network to simulcast Apple TV+’s broadcast. In my opinion, all of this hysteria is extremely bogus.
As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible. Amazon brought in NBC to help with production of TNF and if you watch the flow of the broadcast, the graphics of the broadcast, NBC personalities like Michael Smith, Al Michaels, and Terry McAuliffe make appearances on the telecast – it is very clear that the network’s imprint is all over the show.
NBC’s experience in conducting the broadcast has made the viewing experience much more seamless. Apple has also used MLB Network and its personalities for assistance in ensuring there’s no major difference between what you see on air vs. what you’re streaming.
Amazon and Apple have also decided to not hide their games behind a paywall. Since the beginning of the season, all of Apple’s games have been available free of charge. No subscription has ever been required. As long as you have an Apple device and can download Apple TV+, you can watch their MLB package this season.
Guess what? Friday’s game against the Red Sox is also available for free on your iPhone, your laptop, or your TV simply by downloading the AppleTV app. Amazon will also simulcast all Thursday Night Football games on Twitch for free. It may be a little harder or confusing to find the free options, but they are out there and they are legal and, once again, they are free.
Apple has invested $85 million into baseball, money that will go towards your team becoming better hypothetically. They’ve invested money towards creating a new kind of streaming experience. Why in the hell would they offer YES Network this game for free? There’s no better way for them to drive subscriptions to their product than by offering fans a chance at watching history on their platform.
A moment like this are the main reason Apple paid for rights in the first place. When Apple sees what the NFL has done for Amazon in just one week and coincidentally has the ability to broadcast one of the biggest moments in baseball history – it would be a terrible business decision to let viewers watch it outside of the Apple ecosystem and lose the ability to gain new fans.
It’s time for sports fans to grow up and face reality. Streaming is here to stay.
MLB Network is another option
If you don’t feel like going through the hassle of watching the Yankees take on the Red Sox for free on Apple TV+, MLB Network will also air all of Judge’s at bats live as they are happening. In case the moment doesn’t happen on Apple TV+ on Friday night, Judge’s next games will air in full on MLB Network (Saturday), ESPN (Sunday), MLB Network again (Monday), TBS (Tuesday) and MLB Network for a third time on Wednesday. All of MLB Network’s games will be simulcast of YES Network’s local New York broadcast. It wouldn’t shock me to see Fox pick up another game next Thursday if the pursuit still maintains national interest.
- One of the weirdest things about the experience of streaming sports is that you lose the desire to channel surf. Is that a good thing or bad thing? Brandon Ross of LightShed Ventures wonders if the difficulty that comes with going from app to app will help Amazon keep viewers on TNF the entire time no matter what the score of the game is. If it does, Amazon needs to work on developing programming to surround the games or start replaying the games, pre and post shows so that when you fall asleep and wake up you’re still on the same stream on Prime Video or so that coming to Prime Video for sports becomes just as much of a habit for fans as tuning in to ESPN is.
- CNN has announced the launch of a new morning show with Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins. Variety reports, “Two people familiar with plans for the show say it is likely to use big Warner Bros. properties — a visit from the cast of HBO’s Succession or sports analysis from TNT’s NBA crew — to lure eyeballs.” It’ll be interesting to see if Turner Sports becomes a cornerstone of this broadcast. Will the NBA start doing schedule releases during the show? Will a big Taylor Rooks interview debut on this show before it appears on B/R? Will the Stanley Cup or Final Four MVP do an interview on CNN’s show the morning after winning the title? Does the show do remote broadcasts from Turner’s biggest sports events throughout the year?
- The Clippers are back on over the air television. They announced a deal with Nexstar to broadcast games on KTLA and other Nexstar owned affiliates in California. The team hasn’t reached a deal to air games on Bally Sports SoCal or Bally Sports Plus for the upcoming season. Could the Clippers pursue a solo route and start their own OTT service in time for the season? Are they talking to Apple, Amazon, or ESPN about a local streaming deal? Is Spectrum a possible destination? I think these are all possibilities but its likely that the Clippers end up back on Bally Sports since its the status quo. I just find it interesting that it has taken so long to solidify an agreement and that it wasn’t announced in conjunction with the KTLA deal. The Clippers are finally healthy this season, moving into a new arena soon, have the technology via Second Spectrum to produce immersive game casts. Maybe something is brewing?
- ESPN’s Monday Night Football double box was a great concept. The execution sucked. Kudos to ESPN for adjusting on the fly once complaints began to lodge across social media. I think the double box works as a separate feed. ESPN2 should’ve been the home to the double box. SVP and Stanford Steve could’ve held a watch party from ESPN’s DC studio with special guests. The double box watch party on ESPN2 could’ve been interrupted whenever SVP was giving an update on games for ESPN and ABC. It would give ESPN2 a bit of a behind the scenes look at how the magic happens similarly to what MLB Tonight did last week. Credit to ESPN and the NFL for experimenting and continuing to try and give fans unique experiences.
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.
ESPN Shows Foresight With Monday Night Football Doubleheader Timing
ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7 and then 10 on their primary channel.
The Monday Night Football doubleheader was a little bit different this time around for ESPN.
First, it came in Week 2 instead of Week 1. And then, the games were staggered 75 minutes apart on two different channels, the Titans and Bills beginning on ESPN at 7:15 PM ET and the Vikings at the Eagles starting at 8:30 PM on ABC and ESPN+. This was a departure from the usual schedule in which the games kicked off at 7:00 PM ET and then 10:00 PM ET with the latter game on the West Coast.
ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7:00 PM and then 10:00 PM ET on their primary channel. That’s the typical approach, right? The NFL is the most valuable offering in all of sports and ESPN would have at least six consecutive hours of live programming without any other game to switch to.
Instead, they staggered the starts so the second game kicked off just before the first game reached halftime. They placed the games on two different channels, which risked cannibalizing their audience. Why? Well, it’s the same reason that ESPN was so excited about the last year’s Manningcast that it’s bringing it back for 10 weeks this season. ESPN is not just recognizing the reality of how their customers behave, but they’re embracing it.
Instead of hoping with everything they have that the customer stays in one place for the duration of the game, they’re recognizing the reality that they will leave and providing another product within their portfolio to be a destination when they do.
It’s the kind of experiment everyone in broadcasting should be investigating because, for all the talk about meeting the customer where they are, we still tend to be a little bit stubborn about adapting to what they do.
Customers have more choices than ever when it comes to media consumption. First, cable networks softened the distribution advantages of broadcast networks, and now digital offerings have eroded the distribution advantages of cable networks. It’s not quite a free-for-all, but the battle for viewership is more intense, more wide open than ever because that viewer has so many options of not just when and where but how they will consume media.
Programmers have a choice in how to react to this. On the one hand, they can hold on tighter to the existing model and try to squeeze as much out of it as they can. If ESPN was thinking this way it would stack those two Monday night games one after the other just like it always has and hope like hell for a couple of close games to juice the ratings. Why would you make it impossible for your customer to watch both of these products you’ve paid so much to televise?
I’ve heard radio programmers and hosts recite take this same approach for more than 10 years now when it comes to making shows available on-demand. Why would you give your customers the option of consuming the product in a way that’s not as remunerative or in a way that is not measured?
That thinking is outdated and it is dangerous from an economic perspective because it means you’re trying to make the customer behave in your best interest by restricting their choices. And maybe that will work. Maybe they like that program enough that they’ll consume it in the way you’d prefer or maybe they decide that’s inconvenient or annoying or they decide to try something else and now this customer who would have listened to your product in an on-demand format is choosing to listen to someone else’s product entirely.
After all, you’re the only one that is restricting that customer’s choices because you’re the only one with a desire to keep your customer where he is. Everyone else is more than happy to give your customer something else.
There’s a danger in holding on too tightly to the existing model because the tighter you squeeze, the more customers will slip through your fingers, and if you need a physical demonstration to complete this metaphor go grab a handful of sand and squeeze it hard.
Your business model is only as good as its ability to predict the behavior of your customers, and as soon as it stops doing that, you need to adjust that business model. Don’t just recognize the reality that customers today will exercise the freedom that all these media choices provide, embrace it.
Offer more products. Experiment with more ways to deliver those products. The more you attempt to dictate the terms of your customer’s engagement with your product, the more customers you’ll lose, and by accepting this you’ll open yourself to the reality that if your customer is going to leave your main offering, it’s better to have them hopping to another one of your products as opposed to leaving your network entirely.
Think in terms of depth of engagement, and breadth of experience. That’s clearly what ESPN is doing because conventional thinking would see the Manningcast as a program that competes with the main Monday Night Football broadcast, that cannibalizes it. ESPN sees it as a complimentary experience. An addition to the main broadcast, but it also has the benefit that if the customer feels compelled to jump away from the main broadcast – for whatever reason – it has another ESPN offering that they may land on.
I’ll be watching to see what ESPN decides going forward. The network will have three Monday Night Football doubleheaders beginning next year, and the game times have not been set. Will they line them up back-to-back as they had up until this year? If they do it will be a vote of confidence that its traditional programming approach that evening is still viable. But if they overlap those games going forward, it’s another sign that less is not more when it comes to giving your customers a choice in products.
Danny O’Neil is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously hosted morning and afternoon drive for 710 ESPN Seattle, and served as a reporter for the Seattle Times. He can be reached on Twitter @DannyOneil or by email at Danny@DannyOneil.com.
Media Noise: Sunday Ticket Has Problems, Marcellus Wiley Does Not
On this episode of Media Noise, Demetri is joined by Brian Noe to talk about the wild year FS1’s Marcellus Wiley has had and by Garrett Searight to discuss the tumultuous present and bright future of NFL Sunday Ticket.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.