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Marcellus Wiley Is Swinging For The Fences After ‘Speak For Yourself’

“I’ve been broadcasting for 25 years, and I’ve never swung for the fences… I think that was starting to starve me. Some of my muscles were atrophying in terms of what I really want to do globally.”

Brian Noe

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Marcellus Wiley

There’s a new commercial for FTX featuring Tom Brady. The concept is that Brady is always looking for ways to be better. He’s striving to be an improved version of himself with smarter ways to practice, recover and diet. If things can be better, why would you be satisfied with anything that’s second-rate? I don’t know if Marcellus Wiley will be the next pitchman for FTX, but he has the same mindset and approach while viewing his professional career.

Wiley, a former 10-year NFL defensive end, has been a great broadcaster for over two decades. The Compton, California native is a dynamic blend of intelligence and entertainment. In ways, he’s like a modern-day Todd Christensen. Wiley is a former player-turned-broadcaster, a scholar who graduated from Columbia that also possesses the ability to joke around on a locker-room level. I’m convinced that if Wiley sat down for five minutes with pretty much anybody, he’d be able to connect with them. Not everybody has that ability, but a smart person with personality and widespread interests does.

Dat Dude, a nickname affectionately given to Wiley by his former San Diego Charger teammates, talks about his professional goals and visions. He reveals why he’s no longer doing Speak For Yourself with former co-host Emmanuel Acho. Wiley also talks about big things that are brewing for him at FOX Sports, no longer wanting to sell cotton candy, and some great advice he received from Mike Golic. Enjoy!

Brian Noe: When and why did you decide that broadcasting was something that you wanted to pursue as a career?

Marcellus Wiley: The when was probably my fourth or fifth year. I actually had a show in Buffalo my rookie year. I’ve been broadcasting since I was in the NFL, day one. They would come to my house. We would do interviews, I would show them my life. I would cook, I would rap, I would DJ, I would do everything that I was normally doing, but a camera was there. I guess I was the first Kardashian because I had a reality show back in the ‘90s.

I didn’t make a decision to do it. I didn’t even think that was broadcasting. I thought it was just like, all right, y’all filming me live. It was about San Diego, second year, we didn’t make the playoffs again. They were starting the NFL Network. Like starting it, and I remember being a correspondent. It was the weirdest feeling ever. I’m not in the playoffs, but I’m still an active player. I’m doing this San Diego Chargers game. The Chargers lost and I’m interviewing LT (LaDainian Tomlinson). I remember when the game was over, the scrum of everyone running and trying to get an interview. I was so nervous. I didn’t run, I was like, I feel weird, like I should be playing. I should have on pads, but here I am with a microphone and a suit on. I’m like what happened to me?

I remember walking slower than everybody being over cool, really in fear, and LT finding me. I got the LT interview, and I want to say Peyton Manning somehow, some way, was like my second interview. That was easy. Everyone else bum-rushing him, bum-rushing him, and they’re giving me eye contact in the fifth quarter as they’re walking to the locker room, and just talking to me for real. I was like, whatever that feeling was in that moment, that was as close as I felt to being on the field running out the tunnel making plays. I think just because of that closeness in terms of energy, and translating to sport, probably planted the first seed in my head like yeah, when this is over, this is what I’m going to do.

BN: What’s the most fun you’ve had either in radio or TV along the way?

MW: Man, I am really trying to narrow down from a thousand and one different moments. I will start it off like this: I got in broadcasting and then I worked at ESPN. NFL Network didn’t want me because I wasn’t a Hall of Famer; I was like forget y’all. I’ll pay y’all back. Here I am at ESPN and I’m doing the car wash as they call it, all the shows, NFL Live. I remember Mike Golic came up to me the first day after doing Mike & Mike. Now I’m an active player just retired. I don’t know how big Mike & Mike is. I just think it’s a normal radio show. I’m like, why are y’all filming? It’s a radio show. Find out after I do that show — I co-hosted it with him — how big it was. Everyone was blowing me up like, dog, you did Mike & Mike and you just got there?

Mike Golic told me he said, man, keep your personality and keep telling stories. He says that’s your secret sauce. I was able to navigate a career where I was able to have personality in all of my broadcasting more than just analytics or just X’s and O’s. I was more I’s and you’s from day one. So I’m doing NFL Live and we’re talking about third-and-goal and fourth-and-goal, and I’m sitting here talking about the club, and stories, and I know that guy, and we hung out.

Seth Markman at the time, the boss of the show, came to me and he was like, Marcellus, you’re not long for this show, and that’s a good thing. What happened from there is SportsNation. I started doing SportsNation, which was so personality driven. It started to snowball from there. I carved out a lane before it was really carved for us in the industry.

All of that said my favorite moment? I don’t really have a favorite moment. I know when I feel the best. I feel the best when I’m with a co-host or a guest and we came here to talk one thing and we end up talking that, but we take it to so many different levels and peel back so many layers. We all do it, even if we’re in disagreement, with respect. That’s my favorite place to go is to bring all four corners of the room together, and talk through it and smile about it.

BN: What has been the most challenging show you’ve worked on?

MW: The most challenging. Ahh, man. Probably Speak For Yourself the last two years. Let me preface it by saying it’s because it switched from the first two years. I left ESPN with Jason Whitlock being a recruiter, coming to my back yard it felt like every day. It wasn’t that often, but he made me feel like a 5-star player. [Laughs] Recruiting me to come to FOX. He had this show structure and he had this show element and design and heart to do a show he wanted to do.

It was right up my alley because for the longest I’ve always been this balancing act. I’ve never been the football. I’ve never wrapped my entire identity around sports. It’s something that I did, but it wasn’t who I was. When the offer came to do a show that was deeper than sports or more than sports, oh, I was all-in. Then that shifted because Jason left. And he didn’t even tell me he was leaving too so you know, he’s still my boy, but hey, Jason, you already know how you got your boy. But that wasn’t a death blow.

Nick Khan, my super agent, friend, co-CEO of WWE, he also left. So I’m not even talking about the show; I’m talking about what’s going on while I’m doing this show. The reason I went to FOX to do a show is now gone, and my conductor, navigator of it all was now gone. But he planted the seed in me that really has blossomed of late. He was like, look man, at this point in my life, I’ve done amazing at what I’m doing, but there’s a certain point you got to stop swinging for singles and doubles and try to hit one over the fence. I was listening to that because he was really saying, I gotta get deeper into my passion, but also swing for it.

I’ve been broadcasting for 25 years, and I’ve never swung for the fences. Okay, you got this base hit. Okay, now I’m doing a show with Golic. All right, another base hit, I’m with Beadle. Then a base hit, I’m with Max. I’ve always kind of just been with great co-hosts who, at times, they swung for the fences in their respects. I always just sat there taking my base hits just rounding the bases.

When Acho came, one, the show completely switches in dynamic because they’re two different people. Duh. I’m doing the same show a different way and then it’s all of a sudden not the same show. I love doing it with Acho because I knew Acho from before. That’s my friend. He used to be quote-unquote, maybe a mentee, if you could call it that. He came to SportsNation one day and we just exchanged numbers and we used to talk all the time. I used to tell him how I was and he was telling me how it’s going. We just broke bread like that and became like my little bro, big bro, just because I’m way older than him. He was my boy. We had fun doing the show, but it was a different show.

I think that was starting to starve me. Some of my muscles were atrophying in terms of what I really want to do globally. I like it real. I like it raw. I like it deep. I want to bring the sociology of sports out. Our show was going in a direction and format that was going to be lighter. I have done fluffy long enough and I had done SportsNation. I’ve done fluff. I know how to sell cotton candy, but it was time to get to the meat and potatoes. No slight to my boy, Acho, but I was looking different at what I was doing than what he was doing. So, got to a point where the bosses and us, we started to talk through it. They gave me a great plan. They gave me a great consolation if you would.

I still have that muscle that needs to go back to the gym and get his reps in and doing that show wasn’t going to allow me to get those reps. Now the show has rebranded, has shifted to those places. I wish all those dudes luck, and Joy, my girl. I’ve known Joy since she was itty-bitty. I knew Joy before she could even drive, like back in the Miami Dolphin parking lots, Jason Taylor my homie days. I love them all. But I want to tap into my greatest passion and I haven’t been able to do that just yet.

BN: What does swinging for the fences look like for you? What do you want to do next?

MW: Well one, it’s not just commentating sports, it’s connecting with the people. I was going to be a school teacher, or a Dean of Students. That was like my life goal. But I just kept getting bigger, faster, stronger, so I ended up playing football. I wanted to just return home and be a teacher. That’s carved into me. I look at people in this world, all walks of life, and we all meet that moment where it’s a fork in the road. I just kind of want to be a life coach. I want to be a grander voice for those who are confronted with those forks in the road and help them go right, not left, go the right way and not the wrong way. That’s where I need to tap into.

Those are the opportunities that are being presented to me right now in terms of still being who I am in my sport thread. I’m still an athlete, I get it. I’m still a commentator, I love it. I’m still going to do a show on FOX Sports and it’s going to be sports based. It’s going to be football focused..

Swinging for the fences is me taking off the suit, getting from behind the desk, not talking about sports in a binary fashion, not being argumentative, not constantly trying to pit things against each other because it is a competition. But really weave through those nuances that we all sit back when we’re sipping a brew or we’re around our friends or we’re in the bar. There’s a different energy and spirit and there’s a different way that we consume the game than what is happening largely in broadcasting right now.

In broadcasting, we’re going Cowboys, we’re going Dak, we’re going NFC East and then we’re going LeBron and he sneezed. Then it’s going oh, Westbrook’s not happy. And it’s like, I know all these dudes. I know all these scenarios. I lived through this. How dare we now undermine them? How dare we now antagonize everything to kind of bring it to a lower common denominator instead of the love for this? I coach youth football. Every single parent would switch places with every single guy we demonize right now. It’s like you’re on a road to nowhere if we can’t start at the top and properly articulate it, and let people properly consume it. I’m ambitious, but since I’ve been through it, it’s not too far gone.

BN: I’m divorced. For a long time people would ask what happened. It’s like, ahh man, I get why you’re asking, but I’ve been asked that so many times and I just don’t want to talk about it. Is that how you feel with Speak For Yourself when people ask you what happened?

MW: Not completely. But everyone wants to know what happened and I do want to set this straight. FOX loved me. FOX loved Acho. FOX didn’t love what we were doing because that’s not what we were supposed to be doing. Y’all remember that. So FOX said let’s figure out the best alternatives for both. Speak was changing its format. I didn’t want it (to be) Speak. I didn’t want it (to be) Speak For Yourself because Whitlock was Speak For Yourself, as Colin Cowherd was Speak For Yourself with Whitlock. Let’s go all the way back. I wanted to do what I wanted to do.

Now the best version of that was an opportunity and offer to do First Things First. And I wanted to do First Things First, but first, there was conversation of it coming to L.A. Ultimately, it stayed in New York. I still had that opportunity, but as you’re divorced, I’m married with three little ones and a fourth one in New York, which got me on the edge. Boy, I was running that ball, open field, five, four, three, goal, and then no, I didn’t want to cross the goal line.

But my heart is with those guys on that show. I love that show. I love what that could have been and what may come. But I couldn’t do it. We then tried to, all right, land the plane differently, different versions, hybrid New York and L.A. Then I started to feel half pregnant as they say. I’m robbing myself, I’m robbing you, I’m not all-in. This is a trial, this is all new.

Now if they would’ve moved the show to L,A., done deal, I would’ve been the guy. That’s why they don’t have the football guy there constantly right now. It was going to be me. But we’re not there, so I’m going to do my show, which I need a name for — so anybody, everybody something with Dat Dude — I’m going to start it off twice a week and just ramp it up. It’s going to happen that way and meanwhile all these other opportunities — we’re going to have to do a Part 2 interview after everything settles over there because of legalities — I’ll have those other entities land and then I’ll be doing my show on FOX Sports. Then you’ll start to see a fuller expression of me and hopefully it’s going to be a better conversation around sports and life for you.

BN: Awesome, man. I’ll start brainstorming. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head. Dem Dudes? [Laughs]

MW: I’ve heard worse. I’ve heard better, but I’ve certainly heard worse. Hey look, if I’m stuck, I’m not judging anybody.

BN: I want to do a couple of rapid fire questions with you; just a couple of quick thoughts on each of these. Who’s the smartest host you’ve worked with in radio or TV?

MW: Oh, Max Kellerman. Not even close. I don’t know how his brain fits in that little head of his, but goodness, he’s like an almanac. He’s like a dictionary. He’s corrected me so many times on air as well. That’s how you know that’s my boy. He’s like, that’s not it. [Laughs] I love that. We went to the same school. It took him way longer to graduate than me. I don’t know how. Maybe he wanted to get like nine degrees, but he’s a genius.

BN: Which school did you both go to?

MW: Columbia. Yeah, we went to Columbia together. He was there before me and after me, but Max at that time was a rapper and in them streets. Different dude.

BN: Who’s the funniest host you’ve worked with?

MW: Oh, man. Oh, that’s so close. Kelvin Washington comes to mind. Kelvin Washington, I call him Wayne Brady light. Like he’s Wayne Brady, a different version. This dude is like the most talented cat I’ve ever seen. Impressions, comedy, it’s almost like he should be on every game show as the host. This dude is next-level hilarious. Every time I see K Dub, I’m cracking up.

BN: Who’s the host you enjoyed working with the most?

MW: Beadle’s so close, but man, she’s a firecracker too. One day Beadle coming in and you’re, aww, look out, mama mad. We used to always say mama mad, and then that wasn’t the day. Most fun? A lot of these are going to get Max. I don’t want to keep Max-ing it out, but let me think, most fun. Charissa is like the best hang. Charissa Thompson, it’s like, oh, we’re working? You forgot. I’ll probably go Charissa because your shoulders are always down with Charissa. She works the room and she just keeps it light.

BN: Last one, not so much rapid fire, but just the script for your next five, 10 years professionally. If you could write it, what would you want that script to look like?

MW: It would have to be full expression of who I am and all of my experiences and perspective. I am creating a structure, a machinery that I can now be in connection with the masses, with the people. What does that look like? I want to be Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, my version. Kevin Samuel, rest in peace, just these people who have these perspectives that enlighten, unify, even sometimes disrupt, but they’re in pursuit of the universal truth, and really trying to just display who they are for all in fullness. 

So for me, no more just athlete because I used to hate that growing up and I forgot it for the last 20 years. I became now just broadcaster. You’re getting fluffy off the cotton candy. You’re doing the same thing and it’s amazing, I’m not trying to slight it, but then there’s a part of you that’s starting to grow a little hungry, starving itself as I said before, starting to atrophy. I just want to feed that muscle as well.

The players, before they put the helmet on or after they take it off, I want to talk about that. The times that my family would drive to my games and tailgate in my living room before I left for the stadium. Those experiences where people would be like, what the hell? Yeah, my mama and my grandmama was drunk before kickoff at my house and offered me beer. Never took it. Should’ve, probably would have played better. But the point is, there’s a trillion different ways we can talk about sports, and I just felt that I had done a lot, if not all I could do in just that one vein. Now it’s time to expand it.

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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

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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

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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

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Marketing and Sales Funnel Chart
Courtesy: EComEngine.com

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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