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No Combine Means Less Content For The Media

“What is surely to be missed is the plentiful off-camera interactions with players, agents, and team personnel.”

Stan Norfleet

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The modification, or essentially cancellation, of the 2021 NFL Scouting Combine will significantly impact far more talent than the draft hopefuls which traditionally compete in the annual “Underwear Olympics.” Each February since the late 80s, over 300 of the nation’s top college prospects, along with their trainers and agents, have converged on Indianapolis to audition for NFL General Managers, coaches, and scouts. However, due exclusively to the ongoing challenges pertaining to the pandemic, these standouts will be relegated to other means in order to impress talent evaluators in 2021. Consequently, the NFL Network and various other media outlets will not be permitted critical access to all of the aforementioned parties, thus the short-term affects are potentially troubling.

The NFL draft combine is dumb | For The Win

For the last 16 years the NFL Network has primarily aired this 4-day event (ABC/ESPN televised some of the combine for the first time in 2020). Some 60 hours of live content featuring over 40 analysts, commentators, and reporters is produced throughout the week. How is the NFL Network supposed to offset this misfortune or replicate the usual benefits regarding such an essential piece of the NFL’s programing calendar? I’m not sure it can.  

From a media standpoint, the combine obviously presents plenty of unique content to air, given the ratings understandably fall short in comparison to an actual live football game. However, I can make the case that the programming isn’t necessarily the single most valuable commodity here. What is surely to be missed is the plentiful off-camera interactions with players, agents, and team personnel. Why are these touchpoints so critical? Because they provide a semi-casual environment to build rapport, while accumulating information and contacts for future interviews and sourcing.

There’s enough “inspiration” for material floating around Lucas Oil Stadium to sustain media talent well into the offseason and up to the start of training camp. Sure, similar interactions take place at the Super Bowl, Pro Bowl, etc., but often the presence of fans and advertiser or sponsor influences can disrupt this organic energy. Oh, if the walls in St. Elmo Steak House could talk!

Another element that will surely be missed, will be the platform to learn first-hand about the personal background of these NFL hopefuls. Participants are often more open and relaxed within that dedicated space. Their agents and PR team have prepared them to willingly communicate and share their individual testimonies, as to best promote themselves for the sake of the highest draft position. There’s just a rare connectivity to the guys only the combine offers. It just won’t be the same during on-campus pro days. That’s IF the pandemic will even afford consistent media access at that point either.

The combine also serves as a means to engage the newly appointed General Managers and Head Coaches, of which there’s almost always a handful. It’s an opportunity for us and NFL fans worldwide to familiarize ourselves with their individual personalities and football philosophies as the start of a new league year approaches.  

And with the pending start of the league’s new year, likewise, this event is a natural introduction into free-agency. Analysts and commentators can pivot from dialogue pertaining to 40-yard dashes and 225-pound bench repetitions to preview how these draft hopefuls might be impacted by certain veterans finding new stadiums to play. Obviously, the networks will produce specific shows allocated to free-agency, but what better billboard to promote that content than the combine?

Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy of Alabama cement themselves as first-rounders

Also consider how mock drafts will be impacted without a traditional scouting combine this year? Analysts and draft gurus are accustomed to introducing or tweaking a mock as intel surfaces regarding the participant workouts, along with other scuttlebutt throughout the week. That’s a whole lot of digital traffic which has just been compromised, and must now be engineered a different way.

I do not at all blame the league for moving off of the traditional combine format this year. I’m simply disappointed that we’re being deprived of such a rich tradition and opportunity to produce unique content. The show must go on! The prospects, GMs, and coaches will adjust; therefore we have to as well. We don’t miss some things until it’s gone. Here’s to you Naptown! I miss you already!

BSM Writers

The NFL Hopes You’re Lazy Enough to Pay Them $5

“This app reportedly doesn’t even have any original content of it’s own. NFL Films produces content for ESPN+, HBO Max, Peacock, Tubi, Epix, Paramount Plus, and Prime Video. It has also reportedly had discussions about producing content for Netflix. Unless they plan to bring all of those shows in-house, what kind of shows could NFL Films produce for NFL Plus that you couldn’t already find on all of those other apps?”

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NFL Streaming

Corporate goodwill is a hard thing to ask for. It’s not something that is a requirement for any entity to engage in. But it can go a long way in establishing a deeper bond for the future. According to Sports Business Journal, NFL owners are contemplating launching a streaming service for the league.

The app would feature podcasts, content created by teams and radio content. It’s unknown where the podcast content will come from but one can assume it’ll include the various podcasts the NFL produces with iHeartRadio. Team content that is expected to be featured could come from videos and audio that is already posted on team websites and social media platforms such as YouTube.

Various organizations across the league have expanded their YouTube efforts over the last couple of years as the Google-owned site has slowly set itself apart as a leading source for viewership. My hometown team, the Baltimore Ravens, for example promotes a talk show with cornerback Marlon Humphrey where he interviews players and other key figures from the team about their lives and careers and how they got to where they are today.

The most important part of this app will be NFL games itself. On Sunday afternoons, whatever games are airing in the specific location you’re in while using the app, those are the games you have access to watch. If you’re in Baltimore and a Ravens game is airing on CBS while the Commanders are on Fox, those are the games the app will offer. If you’re in Boston and a Patriots game is on CBS while a Giants game is on Fox – you won’t have access to the Ravens game airing on CBS in Baltimore or the Commanders game on Fox in Baltimore even if that’s where you normally live. These games used to be a part of a deal with Yahoo Sports and Verizon – who distributed them on their apps for free.

JohnWallStreet of Sportico notes, “longer term, the existence of a league-owned streaming platform should help ensure broadcast rights continue to climb.” But at the end of the day, how does this help the fan? The increase of broadcast rights is going to end up costing viewers in the long run through their cable bill.

ESPN costs almost $10 per cable customer. The app, as of now, isn’t offering anything special and is an aggregation of podcasts, games and videos that fans can already get for free. If you want to listen to an NFL podcast – you can go to Spotify, Apple Podcasts and various other podcast hosting platforms. If you want to watch content from your favorite teams, you can go to their website or their social media platforms. And if you want to watch games, you can authenticate your cable subscriptions and watch them for free through your cable company’s app or CBS’ app or the Fox Sports app.

It’s nothing more than a money grab. Games are already expensive to go to as it is. Gas prices have reached astronomical highs. Watching content has become extremely costly and it’s debatable whether buying streaming services is cheaper or more expensive than the cable bundle. And now the NFL wants to add more stress and more expenses to their viewers who just desire an escape from the hardships of life through their love of a beautiful game? It seems wrong and a bit cruel to me.

The beauty of paying for content apps is that you’re going to gain access to something that is original and unique from everything else in the ecosystem. When House of Cards first premiered on Netflix, it was marketed as a political thriller of the likes we had never seen and it lived up to its expectations for the most part. The critically-acclaimed series led viewers to explore other shows on the app that were similarly a more explicit and unique journey from what had been seen on television before.

This app reportedly doesn’t even have any original content of it’s own. NFL Films produces content for ESPN+, HBO Max, Peacock, Tubi, Epix, Paramount Plus, and Prime Video. It has also reportedly had discussions about producing content for Netflix. Unless they plan to bring all of those shows in-house, what kind of shows could NFL Films produce for NFL Plus that you couldn’t already find on all of those other apps? Even YouTube has partnered with NFL Films to produce behind the scenes footage of games that is available for FREE.

If you’re going to force viewers to pay $5 to watch games on their phone, the least you could do is give fans access to speak with players and analysts before and after the games. Take NFL Network over the top so that we can wake up with Good Morning Football. Offer a way for fans to chat while games are being watched on the app. The ability to watch an All-22 feed of live games. A raw audio options of games. The ability to screencast. Even a live look at the highly paid booths who are calling the games.

Five bucks may seem small in the grand scheme of things but it is a rip-off especially when the content is available for free with a few extra searches. Goodwill and establishing a person to person online relationship with fans could go a long way for the NFL. It’s not going to work using these tactics though. And after facing such a long pandemic, offering it up for free just seems like the right thing to do.

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BSM Writers

Sports Talkers Podcast – Danny Parkins

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Danny Parkins opens up to Stephen Strom about why he is so passionate about defending Chicago. He also gives his best career advice and explains why a best friend is more important sometimes than an agent.

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BSM Writers

Marc Hochman is The Lebron James of Miami Sports Radio

The Hochman and Crowder Show with Solana isn’t like anything you’ll hear in most major markets. But they wear that distinction with a badge of honor. They’re not interested in breaking down why the offensive line can’t get a push on short-yardage situations, they want to make you laugh, regardless if it’s sports content or not. They’re perfectly Miami sports radio. 

Tyler McComas

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Marc Hochman

There’s 30 minutes to go until Marc Hochman’s summer vacation and he’s suddenly overcome with emotion. Instead of staring at the clock, he’s staring at an article from The Miami New Times, which has just named him Best Talk Radio Personality in its “Best of 2022” awards issue. It’s an incredible honor in a city that has several worthy candidates, including the man sitting right next to him, Channing Crowder. 

But it’s not just the honor that’s catching Hochman’s eye, it’s also the paragraph where the newspaper compares him to Lebron James. No, seriously. Compliments are nothing new for the Miami radio veteran, but being compared to one of the best basketball players of all-time is new territory. Part of the paragraph reads like this:

“His current domination of the afternoon drive simulcast on both WQAM and 790 The Ticket (WAXY) is akin to Lebron playing for the Lakers and Clippers simultaneously. Could he do it? Probably. Does Hochman do this daily? Yes. Advantage, Hochman.”

Talk about incredibly high praise for a sports radio host. Especially one in Miami where there’s still a lot of hard feelings towards Lebron. But the praise is accurate, because the Hochman and Crowder Show with Solana airs on two different Audacy stations every day. It’s an interesting dynamic, especially for a market the size of Miami/Fort Lauderdale. 

“We have a joke that if you don’t like what you’re hearing on 560, feel free to tune in on 790,” laughed Hochman. “But it’s fun and I think in some strange way it’s increased our audience. As crazy as it is to say in 2022, there are people who listen to a particular radio station and don’t ever change it. I do think being on both stations has expanded our audience. We have fun with it. The show is on for four hours on 560 WQAM and three hours on 790 The Ticket.”

It’s cool to see Hochman get this type of honor during his 10th year of being an afternoon host on 560 WQAM. Especially since he’s originally from Chicago, but has carved out an incredible career in a city he’s called home since the late 80s. It’s funny to think Hochman had no interest in sports radio in 2004 when his college friend Dan Le Batard offered him a job as an executive producer at a startup station in Miami. Now, 18 years later, he’s being voted as the best to do it in the city. 

“Everybody likes to be recognized for what they do,” said Hochman. “We get recognized all the time by the listeners, but when someone out of your orbits writes their opinion of what you’re doing, and it’s that glowing of an opinion, it’s great. I’ve been compared to Lebron before, but it’s always been my hairline. It was nice to be compared to him for another reason. That was super cool.”

The best part about all of this is how Hochman will use this as a funny bit on the show, because, above anything else, he’s instantly identified as someone who’s incredibly gifted at making people laugh on the air. There’s no doubt it will become a theme on the show, both with him and his co-hosts, Crowder and Solana. 

“The award came out about 30 minutes before I was leaving for my summer vacation, so I had about 30 minutes on the air to respond to it,” Hochman said. “So I’m sure it will become a bit on the show, I certainly will refer to myself as the Lebron James of sports talk radio in Miami. Although, there’s still some hard feelings here towards him.

That was the one part that jumped out, obviously, to me, Crowder and to Solana. I don’t think I’m Lebron James but Crowder said on the air that sometimes you have to acknowledge when you’re playing with greatness, and he said “I used to play defense with Jason Taylor and Junior Seau, now I’m doing radio and I will acknowledge greatness.”

With or without this honor, it’s pretty evident Hochman is the happiest he’s ever been in sports radio. He’s surrounded with two talented co-hosts, but the sentiment is that Hochman does an incredible job of putting both Solano and Crowder in situations to be the best versions of themselves on the air. However, Hochman sees it differently. 

“I think that’s more on the people around you,” he said. “If you have great teammates, they’re great. Crowder and Solana, those dudes, if you want to make a basketball comparison, we have ourselves a Big Three.

Solana is the best at what he does, Crowder is the absolute best radio partner I’ve had in my career. He’s so aware of what it takes to entertain but also has broadcast sensibilities at the same time. I actually think he’s the one that makes us sound better than what we really are. He has a really incredible knack for entertaining but also informing.”

The Hochman and Crowder Show with Solana isn’t like anything you’ll hear in most major markets. But they wear that distinction with a badge of honor. They’re not interested in breaking down why the offensive line can’t get a push on short-yardage situations, they want to make you laugh, regardless if it’s sports content or not. They’re perfectly Miami sports radio. 

“I would say Miami is the strangest sports radio market in the country,” said Hochman. “I grew up in Chicago so I’m intimately familiar with Chicago sports talk. Miami sports talk, which is Le Batard, who redefined what works. In Miami, that’s what it needed. It’s more guy talk than sports talk. We certainly can’t break down a third inning in a Marlins game and why a runner should have been running when he wasn’t, the way that New York, Philadelphia or Boston radio could.”

“That doesn’t work here. When Crowder and I go on the air everyday, we’ve always said, our goal is we want to laugh the majority of our four hours on the air. If we’re laughing, we assume the audience is laughing, as well. That’s our personality. We both like to laugh and have fun. I like to do it, no matter what is going on. That translates to the radio. Luckily, Miami is a sports radio market that embraces that, because I don’t think we could do a show any other way.”

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