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Michael Grady Has Proved The Doubters Wrong

“I’m excited about it because this whole situation and this team and their makeup reminds me of the teams that I grew up rooting for in Indiana where it felt like it’s us against the world,” Grady said.

Derek Futterman



The Chicago Bulls defeat of the Utah Jazz in 1998 has gone down as one of the best NBA Finals of all time. The image of Michael Jordan dropping in the winning basket during Game 6 is engrained in the minds of millions of sports fans, including new Minnesota Timberwolves television play-by-play announcer Michael Grady.

“I remember being in awe of what Michael Jordan was doing to win the game for the Bulls,” Grady recalled, “but also the way that [Bob] Costas called it and… just how beautifully he put everything into context.”

To this day, Grady affirms that it was in ’98 at the age of 15 when he began thinking about pursuing a career in sports media. It has taken him on twists and turns that have helped him evolve through augmenting his versatility and connecting with athletes and other media members.

During his days at Warren Central High School in Indianapolis, Ind., Grady joined student-run 91.1 WEDM and worked as a play-by-play announcer for the school’s football and basketball teams. From there, he attended Vincennes University, a place he utilized to refine his skills to be ready to work in the professional world; however, he was able to attain some of that experience early through a news partnership with a local PBS affiliate.

Upon his graduation, Grady started his career as a part-time board operator at WIBC, and while the job may not have seemed the most glamorous to some, it was imperative for him to get his foot in the door. Having a singular mindset about a potential career, according to Grady, is quite perilous when working in media, as it is essential to be able to step into opportunities and excel in them as they become available.

“If you’re stepping into broadcast media and your mindset is ‘I’m only going to be interested and enthusiastic about this one aspect of this career field,’ I don’t believe that you’re destined to make it,” Grady stated. “One thing that I encourage a lot of people when they’re coming up is to embrace everything. It wasn’t my goal to be a board op., but I knew that [it] was a stepping stone towards what was next for me.”

Being enthusiastic about taking on a job is something that is noticeable to colleagues and managers, especially when starting in the field. Throughout his time growing up, WIBC was a part of the soundtrack in that it would always be playing in his mother’s car when he was waiting with her for the school bus. Over the years working there, his role evolved into becoming a producer – first for a pet show before producing Indiana Sports Talk, a weekend sports talk show that starred Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Lovell.

“For me fresh out of school to get a board-opping job at WIBC; it was a huge deal for me,” Grady said. “What I took away from it was [that] it was a learning experience for me and I had such enthusiasm and pride in doing that job and trying to do a good job and then utilizing that as a springboard towards other opportunities.”

Grady did not need to move far for his next opportunity, staying on the 1070 AM frequency when it changed to an all-sports format in late 2007 after WIBC moved to 93.1 FM. In its place came ESPN 1070 The Fan, and Grady was quickly named an executive producer by program director Kent Sterling. The management team essentially had to build the station from the ground-up, hiring on-air hosts, some of whom had never hosted a radio show before, and training them to effectively perform the job. As he coached new talent and learned additional aspects of hosting from others though, Grady began to think that he could do it as well and began thinking how he could move from producing to hosting.

“I started putting the bug in the ear of my superiors, and it was in 2011 [after] a managerial change [when] they finally took it seriously,” Grady said. “In 2011, they brought me in as the co-host of the Grady and Big Joe Show, and those were some great years for me.”

Growing up and working in Indianapolis, Grady was a fan of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers and NFL’s Indianapolis Colts and closely followed and spoke about the teams. Having the ability to connect with a local audience differentiated the program from others, eventually making the show “appointment radio” for some listeners. Together, he and former Colts offensive lineman Joe Staysniak established a chemistry on-air and brought Indianapolis sports fans entertaining coverage and discussion on their favorite teams.

“When people hear me talk about the teams, they can sense the passion in my voice; I had great dialogue with the listeners,” Grady said. “You kind of create a culture right there on the airwaves. The show [was] only two hours, but still in that time, you were able to develop a strong bond with the listening audience.”

But that wasn’t all he was doing. Fueled by his innate competitive drive and work ethic he attributes to his mother Mavis, Michael Grady began working directly with the Indiana Pacers – briefly as an in-arena host and then as the team’s public address announcer prior to the 2010-11 season. Just over three years later, he landed a job working in television as a sports reporter for the ABC-affiliated WRTV-6 reporting on stories related to all sports in the area. Having the ability to create relationships with personnel in the NBA, along with continuing to grow more adept in different areas of television, were invaluable experiences that helped Grady progress into the next stage of his career. Yet it was also a lot to balance at once, especially on days where the Pacers were playing a home game.

As Grady recalls, on Pacers home game days he would host his sports talk radio show from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and then have a small break before heading to the television station. While there, he would prepare his sportscast, which he would then deliver from the floor of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Pacers’ home arena. Then, he would head behind the scorer’s table to P.A. announce the game, and no sooner than he announced the final score, would drive back to the television studio to deliver another sportscast.

“It wasn’t easy, but hearing people say ‘Man, I don’t think he can do that; that’s too much’ kind of fueled me from a competitive standpoint,” Grady said. “….I just wanted to prove to everybody that I can do it and I can do it well.”

Working in television, as compared to working in radio, was different in the sense that he was entering people’s homes through a different medium; however, it taught him the importance of adaptability. For a while, Grady thought he would work in radio for the rest of his career, but saw the value in trying new things and being open to change.

“You learn editing for sure in terms of content and scriptwriting, and I got a real education into television,” Grady said of his time at WRTV-6. “We didn’t have a ton of resources. There were times where I was my own cameraman; I was editing videos once done; I’m writing my one script; I’m loading things in a system.”

After several years covering sports on a news television station and being the voice of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Grady hired an agent who originally approached him about working together. While he felt a tie to Indianapolis, he knew that in order to expand his own potential, he would likely have to relocate to a new market. Grady was undoubtedly enjoying what he was doing, but he felt that there was the capability for more and a chance to continue to elevate.

“I feel like I was blessed with a gift and I felt like I owed it to myself and those who love me to see how far I [could] push this thing and see if I could inspire people in my family [and] people in my community,” Grady said.

After flying around the country to attend meetings, mock broadcasts and interviews, Grady did not feel attracted to any particular gig – until he made a visit to Brooklyn, N.Y. As a music fan, Brooklyn was representative of the epicenter of hip-hop as the birthplace of The Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z. Furthermore, having interests in both art and fashion had previously exposed Grady to the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat, an artist known for his enigmatic and distinctive style.

Despite being from Indianapolis, Grady had always felt a connection to Brooklyn and the community there, and saw the potential in the Brooklyn Nets to grow into a prominent basketball franchise and brand after initially struggling following the move from Newark, N.J.

“Even though they were a 21-win team at the time, I felt like it wouldn’t take much time before that franchise really popped,” Grady said. “To me, it felt like a leap of faith.”

Working as the sideline reporter for the Brooklyn Nets on YES Network, Michael Grady entered the position planning just to be himself and tell stories that would help humanize and give context to the game on the court. Obviously, that requires building relationships with interviewees and by building a reputation based on trust and professionalism, Grady quickly became a well-respected figure among media members at Barclays Center.

“I think the biggest thing for someone in [that] position – and really in any position – is stepping in with no ego,” Grady said. “There’s a balance because you have to take pride in your ability… and all those things, but you can’t let ego get in the way of what you’re trying to accomplish, especially when it’s about establishing relationships.”

Throughout his five seasons on YES Network, Grady would prepare for each interview by researching and contextualizing scenarios beforehand so he could formulate relevant questions that would elicit thoughtful and comprehensive responses. Inspired by Costas’ knowledge and the vivacious personality of sports reporter Ahmad Rashad, Grady contributed to game coverage and saw his job become easier once the team began to win. The mood around the team was more positive and, in turn, people were more willing to share their stories, further enhancing the potential of his work and reputation as a reporter.

“Before new guys even walk into the locker room, people are telling them: ‘Michael’s a good guy. You can trust him, etc., etc.,’” Grady said. “Now, I’m already set up well when I sit down with a player for the first time who was just acquired. I still have to prove myself and make it evident that the things that they heard are true, but at least I’m stepping in [already] in a good spot with the guys feeling like: ‘Okay, I can trust this guy right out of the gate.’”

Throughout his time in Brooklyn, Grady established relationships with all-stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and previously with D’Angelo Russell and Jarrett Allen earlier in their careers before they departed Brooklyn. Additionally, he worked alongside Ian Eagle and Sarah Kustok, the primary broadcast duo that has continuously helped elevate the network’s television ratings in the New York-Metropolitan area. Nets on YES telecasts are still second to New York Knicks basketball on MSG Networks in terms of regional performance, but the separation between the numbers has lessened and the Nets have seen high performance when it comes to national ratings.

Eagle commentates a majority of the Nets games, but his commitments with the NFL on CBS and Turner Sports’ national NBA coverage do not allow him to make all of the games. Still, working alongside Eagle has taught Grady aspects of play-by-play and demonstrated just what makes a versatile broadcaster able to balance local and national games across different leagues.

“He’s a masterful tactician when it comes to preparation and presentation,” Grady said of Eagle. “He always meets the moment and weaves in a sense of humor, which I feel is a breath of fresh air…. It takes a true master to be able to balance everything that he’s able to balance and to execute the way that he executes and do it in a way that fans watching at home find delightful, engaging, informative and entertaining.”

Eagle’s backup is sports media veteran Ryan Ruocco who, besides working on New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets coverage on YES Network, announces games on ESPN and DAZN and hosts the R2C2 podcast with former Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia. If Ruocco was unable to make a game, Grady would step in as the play-by-play announcer, something he had the chance to do periodically, including Kyrie Irving’s 60-point performance against the Orlando Magic this past season.

“I loved every minute of what I was doing,” Grady expressed. “I loved the sideline reporting aspect and getting to know these guys…. I loved every bit of it and life in New York.”

But that wasn’t all he was doing. Taking advantage of other opportunities that became available to him, Grady polished his play-by-play skills calling WNBA games for the New York Liberty on YES Network and college football and basketball games on CBS Sports. Additionally, he has worked with NBA TV and Turner Sports as a play-by-play announcer. Outside of play-by-play, he hosted studio coverage for Yankees and Nets games, sideline reported select NFL games on CBS and appeared across NBA programming on SiriusXM NBA Radio. With this vast array of experience, Grady began trying to land a full-time play-by-play job once his contract allowed him to explore the job market.

“Minnesota reached out and was very aggressive in showing their interest [and] I wanted to hear them out,” Grady said. “I didn’t step into this going: ‘I’m absolutely taking this no matter what if they want me.’ I stepped in because I’m serious about full-time play-by-play, and I wanted to hear their direction, hear what they envision this role being and just the overall vision for the franchise as a whole.”

Following conversations with the upper management and ownership group of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Grady was officially offered the job calling games on Bally Sports North and made the move to Minneapolis. It is an opportunity he never thought he would have when he was younger even though he claims he was a “pretty confident kid,” and is honored to have been chosen for the job.

“I’m excited about it because this whole situation and this team and their makeup reminds me of the teams that I grew up rooting for in Indiana where it felt like it’s us against the world,” Grady said. “….I’m excited about the opportunity [and] everything about the community and the franchise. I’ve just got to bundle up – but everything else is really just a slam dunk.”

Grady steps into the role after the organization chose to move on from its previous play-by-play announcer Dave Benz after 10 years, a move that was so unpopular with the fan base that a petition was started which has racked up nearly 7,500 signatures. Looking at the connection Benz was able to cultivate with the fanbase excites Grady for the opportunity to become familiar with the community and the team.

“I have a great deal of respect for Dave Benz,” Grady said. “I don’t know him personally, but I love the love affair he was able to have with this fanbase, and that really excites me as this opportunity opens up for me. My focus is really [on] getting to know the fanbase, fanning that flame of excitement and enthusiasm for this team and just having fun watching this game that we all love.”

With a young, contending roster in place that features Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, Rudy Gobert and former Brooklyn Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell, Grady is reminded of his days in Brooklyn in terms of having talent but being written off. Now as the voice of its television broadcasts, Grady will seek to emulate the passion of the Timberwolves fanbase as the team continues to build and take on stellar competition around the league.

“My mindset, as it’s been over the course of my entire career, is to be me,” Grady said. “Be myself; have fun. There’s only 30 of these jobs and I have incredible gratitude being one of the 30 to be blessed with the opportunity to have a microphone and be a storyteller watching some of the best athletes in the world.”

Grady recently lost his mother after she battled cancer for the last five years and refers to her as his biggest supporter throughout his many career endeavors. Now as he enters a new chapter in his broadcasting career, Michael Grady hopes to continue to make her proud. Moreover, he hopes to serve as a source of inspiration for the next generation of sports media professionals – especially those without anyone or anywhere to turn to get started akin to him after devoting himself to the industry after the 1998 NBA Finals.

“In some ways I look at the things I’ve been able to accomplish and I just shake my head,” Grady remarked. “I’m just incredibly thankful for how blessed I’ve been and the people who have been in my life who have given me opportunities to continue to grow as a broadcaster and a man. I’m going to devote myself to helping others and inspiring them to accomplish their dreams as well.”

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BSM Writers

Day Spent With: Omaha Productions

“We want to tailor it to what we think is going to be the best episode, and that can be anything.”

Derek Futterman



Day Spent With – Omaha Productions

The fourth edition of BSM’s a ‘Day Spent With’ shifts to the digital world. Derek Futterman spent time in Las Vegas with Omaha Productions shadowing Kevin Clark and the production team to learn what goes into content creation with ‘This is Football.’ During the time that Futterman was on site, Baker Mayfield and Steve Young appeared on the show, each conversation cutting through as a result of Clark’s preparation and strong ability to listen and follow up.

In addition to observing Clark’s pre-show preparation process and talking with him at lunch about a variety of factors related to his program and work, Futterman also spent time with the production team consisting of Anthony Jimenez and Michael Flynn, and Omaha’s Head of Audio, Richelle Markazene. As a digital content brand, the programming isn’t restricted by a programming clock. That allows the hosts to focus on quality, and the production team to be selective. Once decisions are made on which content to amplify, the final touches are made to make sure it’s both compelling and visually appealing.

My thanks to Jamie Horowitz, Richelle Markazene, Kevin Clark, Anthony Jimenez and Michael Flynn for providing BSM with access to capture a day in the world of ‘This is Football.’ Next week, we move behind the scenes to educate readers on what goes into a day of programming at the ESPN Radio network. Derek spent a full day in Bristol with the majority of the network’s programming team and I’m sure you’ll find it to be as interesting as today’s feature.

Still to come are a day in the life of a market manager, social media manager, sports television show and media buyer. We’ve also left one slot open to see which of a few possibilities makes the most sense as we move deeper into the series. If you or your brand wish to be involved and have an idea you want to pitch, please email [email protected].

– Jason Barrett

As Omaha Productions host Kevin Clark prepares for an interview on his digital program, This is Football, he jots down his thoughts and elements of his research on standard yellow legal paper. The notepad does not have developed questions, but rather words or phrases that will prompt Clark to summarily craft a query apropos to the conversation itself.

Being on NFL Media Row for Super Bowl LVIII, he is aware that the content his show generates will be competing for the attention span of a variety of consumers. The Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas is filled with radio, television, digital and print media outlets all looking to document different facets of the week and disseminate a story to an audience. It is up to Clark to be distinctive and stand out.

While previously reporting for The Wall Street Journal and The Ringer, Clark recognized how essential it is to have a compelling value proposition to urge consumers to interact with his content. Amid an era with dwindling attention spans and imperfect methodologies, storytelling has to adapt to appeal to a wide audience. Although the first interview Clark is preparing for on this day is only scheduled to last for 10 minutes, he has committed several hours to studying previous media appearances by his guest and reading articles divulging different aspects of his career.

“I think the most important thing is getting these guys to tell you the best thing you’ve ever heard,” Clark said. “I used to have an editor who used to say, ‘The lead quote in every story should be, ‘I’ve never seen anything like it,’ because you should literally be giving people something that has never been out there before and hasn’t even been thought of before.’”

Clark recently joined Omaha Productions after a four-year stint with The Ringer, transitioning into hosting his own digital media program in partnership with ESPN. Aside from being able to ask Peyton Manning questions about quarterbacks, he immediately observed that no two days are the same and evinces the many different ventures with which the company is involved.

“My feeling was with the way Omaha was set up and then the ESPN partnership and what I’m able to do with ESPN TV, when this all came together it felt like a no-brainer to me,” Clark said. “I love the Ringer; I still love these people [and] they’re still some of my best friends. Bill Simmons is my favorite media person ever, and I’m so lucky to have had him as a boss for so long and he taught me so much. It just felt like the right time, and there’s nothing but love for The Ringer.”

Omaha Productions recently completed its third year working on the Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli alternate broadcast, which averaged 1.24 million viewers across nine games this past season. In addition to its visual content, which includes iterations of the Places series on ESPN+ and the critically-acclaimed Quarterback series on Netflix, the network has an offering of original podcasts with video components. Knowledgeable and prominent personalities host these shows including Kevin Clark, Mina Kimes, Greg McElroy and Cam Heyward among others, many of whom were on site in Las Vegas for the Super Bowl.

“I think it’s important for us to have them here,” said Richelle Markazene, head of audio at Omaha Productions, “to have the presence and also just the exposure, and the content that we’re getting here is extremely important for their shows.”

Last year, Omaha Productions received an investment from The North Road, an outside investment firm owned by Peter Chernin, that reportedly valued Omaha at more than $400 million. Omaha’s portfolio continues to grow with various projects and partnerships with companies such as ESPN, Verizon, Caesars Entertainment and PGA of America. Markazene observed the programming throughout the week on Media Row and took notice of various digital outlets on site ahead of the Super Bowl matchup.

“I started in this business in linear years ago and just what I’ve seen over what I consider a few short years is unbelievable,” Markazene said. “In this day and age where content can go out in any way, I think it’s fantastic for content creators, including us, and I love to see all of the new creators here, and for us to be a part of it is amazing.”

Former NFL offensive lineman and current broadcaster Ross Tucker complimented Clark during Super Bowl week, stating that his clips cut through his digital timeline. Rather than asking a few questions, carving time for a product plug and then thanking them for their time, Clark genuinely does not know the direction his interviews could take the show.

Instead of operating with a formulaic approach, he embraces his role as an active listener and is a welcome participant in the interview that sounds more akin to a discussion. There are benchmarks Clark wants to hit when he has a guest on the show, but there are still plenty of opportunities for free-flowing, extemporaneous talk as well, some of which comes through pertinent, direct follow-up questions.

“We have these guys for this set amount of time and can go anywhere with it,” Clark said. “We don’t have to ask them the score prediction [and] we don’t have to ask them what they think of [Patrick] Mahomes, although that could be a great question. We want to tailor it to what we think is going to be the best episode, and that can be anything.”

Going into his first recorded interview of the day, which was with free agent quarterback Baker Mayfield coming off a career-best season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Clark knew that he wanted to mention the unforgettable offensive frenzy in a collegiate game against Patrick Mahomes. Mayfield led the Oklahoma Sooners to a 66-59 win over Mahomes and the Texas Tech Red Raiders in October 2016 by throwing for 545 yards on a 75% completion percentage, attaining a 266.3 quarterback rating in just 36 pass attempts.

Before he broached that topic though and other football-related questions, Clark offered an icebreaker question by asking Mayfield if he was a Vegas guy. In response, Mayfield said that he has had some good and some bad experiences in the city, causing Clark to follow up and ask what happened. This led Mayfield to delineate that when he was 21 years old, he arrived in the city and ran out of money quickly. As a result, he asked his friends for money to buy water, off which Clark handed him a water bottle. Another probing question elicited Mayfield to reveal that he lost his money by playing craps and that he can only handle about three days in the city.

Clark says he has usually had about 10 minutes to speak with NFL quarterbacks throughout his career, necessitating that he is efficient and intentional to best optimize his time. In order to ensure he does not waste a question and crafts an informative, entertaining discussion, preparation is imperative so he can approach a conversation with the necessary background knowledge needed to thrive.

“When someone comes on our show – and it’s a different goal if it’s a writing thing or it’s a journalistic endeavor – but when someone comes on, we just want to have the best hang possible and give people a story they’ve never heard before; analysis they’ve never heard before, and I feel like with Baker we did that,” Clark said. “Talking about how he salvaged his career; the doubt he had last year; how he kind of simplified everything – my takeaway was that Baker was really good for 10 minutes. I really enjoyed it.”

The interview remained close to the plan Clark originally outlined with his producer Michael Flynn, who was keeping detailed notes throughout the conversation sitting alongside the video and audio engineers. The setup in its entirety contained three cameras, several microphones and lights to enhance the quality of the production with wires running to power stations and other computers.

After the interview concluded, Clark and Flynn reviewed the segment and identified topics within the conversation that could work to repurpose into standalone clips. In the end, they determined that Mayfield’s story about losing money in Las Vegas satisfied that criteria. Moreover, they also concurred that Mayfield’s anecdote about reigniting his career would also constitute interest from the audience.

The editing process began almost immediately after the conversation ended with the intent to post the interview as part of a show episode that same day. For Super Bowl Week, Clark recorded new episodes of his show that were released daily.

Generally speaking though, new episodes of This is Football are posted on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays during the NFL season. He uses the rest of the week to book guests and prepare for upcoming interviews. Clark does not have sentiments of complacency and indifference, retaining ambition that he hopes will allow him to balance the Omaha Productions work with another writing endeavor in the future.

“I want to write – it’s my favorite thing in the world – but if I said, ‘I’m just a writer,’ I never would have gone to The Ringer. I never would have said, ‘Hey, I’m going to do this podcast,’” Clark explained. “….You can take storytelling you used to be able to do in writing and bring it to the digital space, and it gives you a unique perspective.”

Although he realizes he does not have the esoteric knowledge about football that some former players do, he can contextualize current situations and relate it back to previous experiences. For example, in his interview with former NFL quarterback Steve Young, Clark acknowledged that he did not know as much as Young. Consequently, he wanted to learn how Young reached a stage in his career where he was content with doing what is necessary to execute a play rather than demonstrate his immense talent at the quarterback position.

Clark took notes as he listened to all of Young’s weekly radio hits with KNBR during the NFL season before the 25-minute conversation at Media Row occurred. The program booked Young in advance, who, like Mayfield, was on a schedule of media appearances on-site throughout the day. Although the interview began 12 minutes late, Clark was not flustered and quickly spoke about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy and head coach Kyle Shanahan.

“If you come into a Steve Young interview and say, ‘I’m going to go toe to toe with you on ball talk,’ you’re going to lose, the audience is going to lose respect for you and you’re going to have no credibility in anybody’s eyes,” Clark elucidated. “But if you can come in and say, ‘Hey Steve – I’ve done a lot of leg work; I’ve watched a lot of Shanahan stuff, but what do you appreciate that I would never appreciate?,’ he knows what that means and he can give us a great answer.”

During the interviews, Clark asks a variety of different types of questions while trying to avoid closed and double-barreled constructions. The process of active listening, which is supplemented by facial expressions and salient mannerisms, are demonstrated consistently and indicative of comprehension. At the same time, Clark is comfortable admitting he has less knowledge in certain subject areas and empowers his guests to expound on areas of shrewd acumen.

Clark recorded an introduction positioning the listener for the episode following the interviews, lasting 50 seconds in duration and immediately getting to the hook. There is no close for the show, instead ending on Clark thanking Mayfield for his time. Throughout the rest of the week, he repeated a similar process with guests such as Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, ESPN analyst Marcus Spears and Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. While football is the main focus of his current work, he is open to exploring other areas to supplement the sport on the program as well.

“My feeling is to major in NFL always; that will always be the No. 1 thing,” Clark said. “Minor in college football and golf because I’m going to follow those sports and do research on those sports anyway, so I might as well talk about them.”

While Clark is enjoying his new job with Omaha Productions, he aspires to continue to grow the program to reach new audiences. One of those opportunities could be through a regular television slot, something he has yet to attain in his professional career. Clark is presently committed to growing the show with Omaha, and spending time on Media Row with current and former NFL athletes is a step forward in that direction. Just as he prepares for interviews, he ponders over how the show can continue to improve and further flourish with the company.

“The TV thing is very appealing, and I think if we can bring the perspective that we have on the show to bigger TV opportunities, I think we can have a cool thing going. That’s sort of the next year or so – I’m working on taking this show and its perspective; it doesn’t have to be this show – and growing it to new audiences, and a lot of that has to do with TV and a new audience.”

Markazene cannot pinpoint an end destination for the Omaha Productions audio division and is excited to be on the journey as it continues to broaden its reach and expand its notoriety. Clark is part of a deep roster of talented industry professionals poised to achieve stellar outcomes as Omaha Productions looks forward to what is ahead.

“It’s such an exciting place to work and the people are amazing,” Markazene said. “That’s the best part of it, but I think specifically for audio, we are a little bit over a year-and-a-half in now and also very pleased with the growth [and] pleased with the talent that we have with the shows that have been going since launch.”

Omaha Productions aims to create content that uplifts and unifies people, and Clark is already contributing to that mission through his journalistic background, commitment to the craft and passion for the storytelling process. Since the Super Bowl, there have been editions of This is Football previewing the offseason and free agency, and Clark remains invested in the space while continuing to hone his craft.

“I wish I had a better fake laugh because I don’t fake laugh at all,” Clark said. “It’s a problem because I’d be so much better at hosting if I just had a glorious fake laugh, and I’m working on it. It’s my offseason project – that glorious fake laugh.”

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NHL Network Features ‘NHL Tonight’ and a Hat Trick of Other Top Shows For Hockey Fans

In addition to the flagship program NHL Tonight hosted ably by Jamison Coyle, the network offers an eclectic trio of shows with talented on-air personalities who face off every night.

John Molori



NHL Network

Hockey has become the neglected pup of the mainstream sports media kennel, but with exciting young talent, divisional battles, and sustained physical play that has been pretty much eliminated from football and basketball, it remains a great watch. Nowhere is the NHL better presented than on NHL Network.

In addition to the flagship program NHL Tonight hosted ably by Jamison Coyle or Tony Luftman and featuring analyst EJ Hradek, the network offers an eclectic trio of shows with talented on-air personalities who face off every night.

Top Shelf is a fun entry in the NHL Network lineup. The program showcases amazing shots, acrobatic plays, mind-boggling saves, and all-around uniqueness on the ice. It also provides a look at what’s new on social media including funny player reels and cool takes on the game. The show also specializes in some behind-the-scenes locker room footage. In a recent edition, they ran video of the St. Louis Blues humorously exchanging Valentine’s Day cards and hugs.

The Valentine’s Day theme continued with video of Carolina Hurricanes players offering some questionable dating advice. The guts of the program is counting down the best plays in the NHL from that week’s action. Top Shelf  offers viewers one-stop shopping to catch up on all the plays they may have missed but need to see.

The program is pretty much all video with no studio or on-screen hosts. The voice of Tony Luftman narrated the fast paced action moving from game to game and sequence to sequence. This particular episode highlighted another hat trick for Toronto star Auston Matthews, his sixth of the season.

Breakaway goals and crushing hits are the order of the day on Top Shelf. The video montages are backed by pulsating music and slick production values with quick cuts from one game to another. Voice overs on the action by NHL Network broadcasters such as E.J. Hradek and Bill Pidto add to the excitement.

If Top Shelf  doesn’t provide a fix for the NHL junkie, On the Fly might just do the trick. The program provides a recap of the night’s games with star takes, stats, graphics, and high octaneaction. On the Fly features a rotating roster of hosts including Luftman, Siera Santos, Jamie Hersch, Jackie Redmond, Alexa Landestoy, and Erika Wachter among others.

Kudos to the production team for a powerful opening sequence with in-your-face graphics of NHL teams’ logos and images of NHL cities and regions. It actually gets you pumped up for the show. The recent episode I caught was hosted by the sublime Santos, who has made an indelible mark not only at NHL Network, but MLB network as well.

Her stylish demeanor, strong voice, and edginess break through the screen. On the Fly lets  the games do the talking. Santos introduces the highlight, but then it is all action with actual game broadcaster sound. This is a cool way for fans to hear the local broadcasters for each team.

Santos provides excellent information and data leading into the highlights. Prefacing the Stars-Bruins matchup, she noted that the recent Bruins’ skid knocked them behind Florida in the tight East Division. The show also features postgame commentary from coaches and solid analysis. On this episode, Santos was joined by NHL Network personality Mike Kelly, an expert on hockey analytics and player evaluation. Santos and Kelly worked well together, reflecting on the highlights and providing pertinent statistics and historical perspectives.

There is no rest for the weary with On the Fly. The show often briskly moves from one game highlight to another with no studio chit chat. The pacing and content make On the Fly one of the best highlight shows in sports television. You better stay focused or you’re going to miss something.

Each show finishes with the Top Shelf plays of the night followed by Santos’ Top 3 Stars. On the Fly is a like a breakaway up ice – pure speed, flash, and excitement.

While On the Fly takes a look back, NHL Now provides a look ahead. The program gives you a front row seat to the latest hockey news and prepares viewers for an exciting night of NHL game action. Lauren Gardner or Jamie Hersch host the show alongside analyst Mike Rupp and they are joined by a former player analyzing and previewing the slate of games.

I caught a recent episode with host Lauren Gardner alongside analysts Mike Rupp and Scott Hartnell. The look of the show caught my eye. The hosts were casually dressed sitting in leather chairs with hockey bobble heads on tables between them – a real living room setup, like you’re just hanging out getting ready to watch a game.

Hartnell, a 17-year NHL veteran, does an excellent job commenting on the games, and his insight is unique while Gardner and Rupp are two of the strongest swimmers in the NHL Network talent pool. Rupp, an ex-player who scored the clinching goal for the New Jersey Devils in Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final, has developed into a truly engaging personality.

His gritty experience sets him apart. Rupp is a hockey guy in the truest sense of the word – not a lot of flash and dash, just on the mark insight. Lauren Gardner is one of the most engaging personalities on sports television today. Like Santos and Redmond, she’s an absolute television chameleon moving in and out of various sports with great turns on both NHL Network and MLB Network.

Gardner is total effervescence, but her enthusiasm is tempered with mad skills. More than a vibrant personality, she’s an excellent host who lets the analysts do their thing and interjects her opinion when appropriate. It’s next level hosting and Gardner’s got it. She lives up to her last name, planting the seeds that sow great conversation. Gardner, Redmond, Santos, Wachter, and Hersch are like NHL Network’s version of Madame Web – strong and talented women with powerful sports voices.

Telling graphics, quick-hitting highlights, and no holds barred commentary are the hallmarks of NHL Now, but the talent sets the tone of the show. Rupp and Hartnell are unafraid to ruffle feathers and give straight up commentary.

The Daily Rush segment of the program provides updated NHL news and headlines. Rupp was extremely candid saying that the Vancouver Canucks, currently leading the Pacific Division, are not for real. He cited their lack of playoff experience and stated that they have talent and are fun and entertaining, but not consistent.

NHL Now also features interviews which have become “players only” segments for an, uninterrupted, 15-20 minute chat. On this particular program, they queried Brody Roybal, who has played nine seasons with the US National Sled Hockey team. It’s just another way in which the NHL Network covers the entire world of hockey.

The Tape Room segment of the show featured Hartnell and Rupp offering locker room insight while analyzing game action from a technical and strategic standpoint. Like most of today’s sports shows, NHL Now also offers dialogue on betting lines and prop bets.

Gardner moved the discussion to the recent 2024 Stadium Series featuring Metropolitan Division foes the Devils, Flyers, Rangers, and Islanders. The talk centered on the series’ impact on the standings. It’s an interesting topic because these outdoor games have an exhibition-like atmosphere, but they actually count.

NHL Now expertly combines interviews and information in a chill atmosphere with highlights, straight talk, fun exchanges, and hard hitting action. It’s what every fan needs to get ready for an exhilarating night of hockey.

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Advertising Clients Need to Be Known Before They Are Needed

Should top-of-funnel (ToFu) marketing be a top priority or not?

Jeff Caves



Marketing and Sales Funnel Chart

Small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with advertising budgets that don’t allow for both digital and traditional broadcast advertising, like radio/TV, have to make a choice. Should top-of-funnel (ToFu) marketing be a top priority or not? ToFu marketing focuses on broad audiences and introduces them to your brand. The goal is to make a company known before they are needed. For example, if a homeowner has a leaky roof, who do they contact? Do they have a roofer they trust by memory, or must they enter ‘roofers near me’ into Google? A good roofer memory is likely because a ToFu strategy puts that roofer in the customers’ minds. Those customers respond to lower-funnel marketing tactics if they search in Google, yelp’s Top 10 roofers, or Angies List for a roofer. A ToFu strategy may still make a roofer jump off the Google page because the customer is familiar with that company. If they don’t know any company, those battles are won by whoever ranks first, has the lowest price, or has the quickest response time. The best roofers do not always win them. ToFu strategies lay the groundwork for future customer conversions. They also take time and money, but the results can be more sustainable. Here’s a closer look at the factors to consider:

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1. Cost Considerations: Traditional ToFu marketing channels, such as consistent monthly radio/television campaigns, print media, and prominent community events, can be outside an SMBs cash flow range. However, digital channels like content marketing, paid social media, email, and paid search can often be effective alternatives for SMBs. HubSpot’s State of Inbound report found that businesses prioritizing blogging are 13 times more likely to achieve a positive ROI than those not. And, if an SMB is a Business-to-Business (B2B) marketer, the Content Marketing Institute reports that 86% of B2B marketers use content marketing to get buzz and new customers.

2. ROI: SMBs should evaluate the potential ROI of TOFU marketing versus other marketing strategies. Some ToFu activities may not directly result in immediate sales, but they contribute to brand recognition and bring customer conversions in the long term.

Target Audience and Competition

1. Understanding the Audience: SMBs should assess whether their target audience is actively searching for their products or services or if there is a need to create awareness from scratch. If the target market is unaware of the brand or solution,  investing in ToFu marketing becomes critical. For example, if you are a breakfast/lunch restaurant with a great breakfast business but need a larger lunch crowd. The customers know you for pancakes, not paninis-ToFu could be for you! 

2. Competitors: SMBs should know if competitors invest heavily in ToFu activities. If competitors are doing ToFu marketing, it may be necessary for SMBs to put money there not to fall behind or be seen as a lesser brand.

 Think Long-Term

1. Brand Building: Early on establishing a strong brand presence can pay dividends in the long run. Even with limited resources, SMBs can leverage blogs, make social media posts, and participate in community events to build brand awareness and credibility. This is a great place to get started with learning how to push content out to get business and how to be involved in your community. The Content Marketing Institute reports that 86% of Business-to-Business (B2B) marketers use content marketing to generate brand awareness and attract new customers.

2. Customer Conversion: ToFu marketing helps fill the sales funnel with leads and pulls them through the bottom of the funnel. While immediate customer conversions may be limited, laying the groundwork for future conversions is vital for sustainable growth. According to a report by Nielsen, 59% of consumers prefer to buy products from brands they recognize. It can pay well to be known before needed.

Be Flexible

1. A/B Testing: Experiment with different ToFu strategies and measure their impact. Ensure the ‘test’ is at least 6-12 months to see if you can change customer behavior.

2. Adapt: While ToFu marketing may not always be a top priority, it’s important to stay on top of shifts in customer preferences and adjust strategies accordingly. Sales Reps who call on SMBs who know the market’s pulse or share local market intelligence have value in creating more customer conversions. Most SMBs don’t get to talk to 10-15 different business owners in their community weekly like they do.

While ToFu marketing is essential for building brand awareness and attracting new customers, SMBs must balance investing in ToFu opportunities and staying on top of other pressing priorities. By evaluating how to allocate budget, knowing the target audience, and using long-term marketing strategies, SMBs can become known before they are needed and influence why customers come to them.

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