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Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame Welcomes Class of 2022

“You look at the names that are in ahead of you and you think, ‘What am I doing on this list? Somebody made a mistake.’”

Derek Futterman

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Commentators, engineers, directors, producers, executives and other personnel from around the world in sports media gathered in New York on Tuesday night to celebrate the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame induction class of 2022.

Created by Sports Video Group, the mission of the Hall of Fame is to honor those who have made an indelible impact across the world of sports broadcasting, whether or not they are behind the microphone. In 2007, the museum inducted its first class with some of the honorees including former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, the founder of NFL Films Ed Sabol and legendary play-by-play announcer Howard Cosell.

Past and present inductees of the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame attended Tuesday night’s ceremony held at the New York Hilton Midtown and shared their thoughts on the event with Barrett Sports Media before the proceedings began. Chris Berman, who has worked in different capacities with ESPN since the year of the network’s launch in 1979, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017.

“You look at the names that are in ahead of you and you think, ‘What am I doing on this list? Somebody made a mistake,’” Berman expressed. “Tonight, I will look back at not my name, but the names of the people I, if not idolized, really respected and some after me.”

Berman’s unique on-air delivery and style helped grow his career and ESPN into the sports institution it has become today. By staying true to himself and accepting that not everyone would take a liking towards him, he has been able to appeal and draw a level of respect across key demographics.

While he has been on the network for many years, Troy Aikman is a rookie – hardly so, however, in the world of sports broadcasting. Working alongside Joe Buck throughout his entire sports broadcasting career, which began in the 2001-02 season with Fox Sports, he was on hand to celebrate his partner’s achievement.

“He’s the best to do it,” Aikman told Barrett Sports Media regarding his colleague Joe Buck. “I’ve had a front row seat watching him for the last 21 years. He’s incredible and it’s well-deserved [and] long, probably, overdue based on what he’s been able to accomplish.”

Aikman’s contract with Fox Sports expired following the 2021-22 season – leading him to negotiate with various other networks to bring him in as a football analyst. Once he signed with ESPN, Buck followed him shortly thereafter to continue their partnership on Monday Night Football.

“Once he went, it was kind of a next step for me and fortunately it worked out,” Buck told Barrett Sports Media. “We’re closer now probably than we’ve ever been; our families are close and that’s a big part of a happy work life.”

“The companies are obviously a little bit different, but other than that what we do in the booth is what we’ve always done,” Aikman added. “We have the same people up there. It’s been a pretty smooth transition for him and I.”

Working with Buck and Aikman for the first time is Lisa Salters, who is the longest-tenured sideline reporter in Monday Night Football history. Although their first season together is not yet complete, she feels a connection towards the duo and was excited to be present for Buck to receive this extraordinary pillar of honor and respect in sports media.

“I feel like I’ve been working with him for the last 20 years,” Salters told Barrett Sports Media. “It’s just so cool to think that somebody that you work with is that so highly regarded, which we knew already, but it’s just really cool and I’m happy for him.”

Buck expressed gratitude towards those at Fox Sports; in fact, the company honored him with a full-page advertisement in the event program. For 28 years, he called baseball and football games for the network, including many memorable World Series and Super Bowl finishes. Although the company and primary day of the week on which he calls primetime games differs, the goal of bringing viewers an informative, compelling and entertaining broadcast remains the same.

“It’s just different, philosophically, because when you’re at a network whether it’s CBS or Fox, you can kind of ride the hot team,” he said. “We’ve known our schedule since whenever that comes out… [and it is] broken weird. Some of the games have been kind of ‘Eh,’ but I’ve loved every minute of being [at ESPN].”

Buck grew up around the industry and observed the work ethic, preparation and commentating of longtime St. Louis Cardinals broadcaster – his father and Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame member Jack Buck. Joe attended this ceremony 11 years ago to accept the honor on behalf of his father, who passed away in 2002, and while he admires his father he has tried to craft his own voice in this industry.

“Don’t get into this business trying to sound like anybody else,” Buck said. “I got in trying not to sound like my dad. I think I still kind of sound like my dad in many ways. Forge your own path; do your work and let your personality come out and see what comes of it.”

Buck made it a point to visit his father as he was ailing for seven months in a St. Louis hospital – and while they spoke about broadcasting and sports media at large, the conversations gradually turned towards personal topics, including taking advantage of every day one is alive.

“When we got to his final weeks on this earth, our conversations were not about home run calls; they weren’t about critics; they weren’t about work. They were about our family,” Buck said in his induction speech. “….It was about me living my life because as he said, ‘When you get here laying in this bed, you realize it’s too late. Have fun.’”

Both current and incoming Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame members were on display at the 2022 Induction Ceremony Tuesday Photo Derek Futterman

Longtime sports broadcaster with ESPN and now voice of Sunday Night Football and primetime Olympics host for NBC Sports Mike Tirico was the event host, celebrating the institution’s 15th year of honoring those across the landscape of sports media. It also happened to be Tirico’s birthday and a night where many professionals he has worked with over throughout his career were being inducted into the Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame, making the day extra special.

“Personally, it’s a very special night for me,” Tirico said. “I’m proud to call these people not only friends but colleagues…. Week-in, week-out, you know the people in this room… are the stars and the MVPs of television.”

Tirico works directly with Drew Esocoff, longtime director of Sunday Night Football on NBC, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame Tuesday night as well. For many years, Esocoff and executive producer Fred Gaudelli were a tandem that helped lead the show to an unprecedented 11 straight seasons as primetime’s most-watched television program. Gaudelli, along with longtime play-by-play announcer Al Michaels, moved over to work on the inaugural season of Amazon Prime Video’s Thursday Night Football slate of games. As a result, NBC Sports leadership elevated Rob Hyland to the role of coordinating producer and Tirico into the play-by-play chair.

“In 2000, Howard Katz and Dan Ohlmeyer gave me the opportunity of a lifetime,” Esocoff reminisced in his induction speech. “They named me the director of ABC’s Monday Night Football. I would actually be the one to call for a tape to roll and the next words you would hear would be, ‘Are you ready for some football?’. Just getting to work with the Monday Night Football crew [was] amazing, and that year marked the beginning of an amazing run.”

In addition to directing a myriad of primetime football games, Esocoff also sits in the director’s chair for NBC broadcasts of the Triple Crown. He previously worked with ESPN as the director of several NBA Finals matchups and Monday Night Football featuring Michaels, Frank Gifford and Dan Dierdorf.

Salters had the opportunity to work with Esocoff during her first season doing football sideline reporting in 2005 and was honored to be among the large contingent honoring him at the ceremony. Aside from Esocoff, there were many prominent names in sports media present for the event including CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus, Fox Sports Senior Vice President of Talent and Production Development Jacob Ullman and NBC Sports analyst Cris Collinsworth.

“You’re around sports royalty; sports broadcasting royalty anyway,” she said. “You’re just kind of starstruck – you’re just like, ‘Oh my gosh. There’s such and such. There’s such and such.’”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame on Tuesday night for his leadership in the ongoing advancement of multiplatform league coverage. While he was unable to attend the ceremony in person because of league meetings taking place in Dallas, he submitted a pre-recorded message thanking those who paved the way to effectuate the league’s success.

“My predecessors – Pete Rozelle and Paul Tagliabue – gave the NFL a running head start in this business and impressed on all the importance of ensuring the game was strong and you could never be complacent,” Goodell said. “You always have to pursue innovation and excellence. Exciting, competitive games lead to appointment viewing.”

Manolo Romero, who recently retired as Olympic Broadcast Services chief, was honored with a spot in the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame thanks to his leadership in implementing new technology to present the Olympic Games to a worldwide audience. He expressed his gratitude in a pre-recorded message for the broadcasters that helped advance coverage.

“This award together with American broadcasters who shared with me their experience; their knowledge in the technical and creative fields,” Romero said in his message. “I’m indebted to all of them for their help. I think there are too many to name them here. Some of them are already in the Hall of Fame.”

Camera operator Deena Sheldon has worked in the industry for over four decades and during that time has worked many Super Bowls, Triple Crown races and Olympic Games. As a fixture on both ABC’s Monday Night Football and NBC’s Sunday Night Football, she is grateful for the professional relationships she fostered with Esocoff, Gaudelli, Madden, along with NBC Sports play-by-play announcer Bob Costas.

“My goal was to find the shot that the announcers were talking about in under three seconds or find them something interesting to talk about,” Sheldon said. “I love the sense of team in creating something together in the show behind the show on the headsets.”

Part of Sheldon’s job requires her to memorize, or at the very least quickly identify, the players, coaches and team personnel serving as a visual component in telling the story of the game. Through her work, she looks for patterns and tries to anticipate where the next big play may be located or how to best capture the shot to effectively complement the broadcasters’ evocation of imagery.

“I love what I do – all of it – except for the sleet and the downpours,” she said. “….I just love the process of getting ready and then to be able to react to the game and the intensity of a live event.”

Terry Adams was the vice president of IBC engineering for the Olympic Games at NBC and was honored to be among the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame Class of 2022. He spoke about the importance of education and making sure the progeny of the industry are able to maintain the standard set and subsequently exceed it.

“A new generation of smart and passionate individuals have begun to leave their impact on how we generate the stories that we all tell,” Adams said. “I think the future is in very good hands. SVG has always been a valuable education resource, and many of the people in this room tonight are involved in those efforts. I would challenge anyone who isn’t to make a concerted effort to do so. You may have to look hard but the opportunities are there.”

Darrell Wenhardt currently works as principal consultant at CBT West and has been in the broadcast industry for over five decades. Through his work, he has had major contributions related to design and equipment installation at major facilities hosting events such as the Olympic Games and the World Cup, and is also a critical part of the ongoing development for the new PGA Tour Digital Media Center.

As he received his place in the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame, he recognized that he worked with 36 inductees over his career and thanked them for their contributions, adding that something must have rubbed off on him.

“I’m so honored to receive this acknowledgement of my body of work, but mostly I’m humbled,” Wenhardt said. “To be chosen to stand [with] 132 past and current inductees is really quite amazing – and as I mentioned, very humbling.”

Ross Greenburg worked at ABC Sports as a non-staff, freelance employee to begin his sports broadcasting career after graduating from Brown University in 1977. While there, he learned the aspects of effective storytelling but recognized he needed to make a vertical movement in the industry. As a result, he wrote a letter to HBO resulting in his landing a job in the production department where he would help create, produce and oversee shows including Sports of the 20th Century and Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

Over the years, he worked hard to earn the role of president of HBO Sports – during which he launched On the Record with Bob Costas and, for his work, accumulated 54 Sports Emmy Awards. Following his departure from HBO in the summer of 2011, he has worked as the president of Ross Greenburg Productions, a venture that has helped create television programming for networks including ESPN, Fox, NBC and Showtime.

“We are all incredibly lucky to be in the form of entertainment that we all love with friendships and people who are so incredibly talented,” Greenburg said during his induction speech. “The people being honored tonight and many of the people in this room have given the American and worldwide audiences many, many memories of moments in sports history that will last a lifetime.”

Rounding out the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame Class of 2022 is football studio analyst Terry Bradshaw who has spent nearly four decades on television. Prior to joining CBS Sports as a live game analyst in 1984, Bradshaw had a storied career in professional football as the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

After working in the broadcast booth for several years, he became a studio analyst for The NFL Today and stood out among others as a captivating personality enamored with the game of football. Bradshaw’s liveliness and fervor for the game of football resulted in his being recruited by both NBC and Fox to join their coverage of the National Football League. Since 1994, he has been with Fox Sports on Fox NFL Sunday, working alongside analysts Michael Strahan, Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson, along with reporter Jay Glazer and studio host Curt Menefee.

“When I got the word, I was shocked because I had no idea of what I had done to deserve to be in the Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame,” Bradshaw told Barrett Sports Media. “I have yet to get an answer and I don’t think I’m going to get one tonight. I’m absolutely honored.”

Working in studio coverage, Bradshaw is grateful for all of the memories he has crafted with his colleagues over the years, several which he shared during his induction speech at Tuesday night’s ceremony. He never thought he would begin to work in broadcasting and was compelled to do so when he received a note from Brent Musburger, who traveled to his home in Grand Cayman, La. in a limousine, to hand Bradshaw a note with a phone number to call.

Five days later, he looked at the note as he was clearing out his pockets to do laundry and is thankful he decided to call the number Musburger had given him – as it led to his first contract in broadcasting, starting what has turned out to be an illustrious career influencing football coverage forever.

“I live each day to its fullest. I have more fun than anybody, and I truly am so honored tonight to be inducted into this Class of 2022. This is something; I have no idea why I’m in it – but I will take it and use it to my best benefit to make more money,” Bradshaw quipped to close out his speech.

Terry Adams, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Buck, Drew Esocoff, Roger Goodell, Ross Greenburg, Manolo Romero, Deena Sheldon, Darrell Wenhardt. They are the nine inductees within the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022 – pioneers at their craft who have made monumental contributions to sports media. Their legacies will live on in sports media history as the professionals of tomorrow aspire to build careers in the industry and continue to keep the craft of storytelling alive.

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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 Rodriguez 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, Ben Sosenko, Richelle Markazene, Kevin Clark, Anthony Rodriguez 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, 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 octane action. On the Fly features a rotating roster of hosts including Luftman, Siera Santos, Jamie Hersch, Jackie Redmond, 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. Regular hosts E.J. Hradek and Jackie Redmond are joined by a number of NHL Insiders 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. 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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