Radio is an unstable industry to earn a living. This is not breaking news. The interesting thing is that it’s just accepted. Similar to how people in Miami accept hurricanes or residents in Los Angeles accept earthquakes, most people that work in radio simply accept that they could be out of a job at seemingly any moment. Steak Shapiro has been a sports radio host in Atlanta for over 27 years. The cool part about Shapiro’s journey is that he didn’t just shrug his shoulders and accept random dismissals.
After he lost his initial gig in Atlanta back in 1996, Shapiro took an uncommon approach. He realized that it would be a lot harder to get fired if he owned a company instead. Yeah, makes a lot of sense. For over a quarter century, Shapiro has been part radio host, part business owner. Pretty cool. I picture radio employees that have been fired, raising a glass and saying, “Right on, Steak. Good for you, man.”
Shapiro talks about his weekday show at 92.9 The Game, and how rotating co-hosts keeps The Steakhouse fresh. He touches on the aftermath of a mini sparring session he had with Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett on Twitter. Shapiro also explains how much better his reality in Atlanta has been compared to his expectations and reveals the story behind his stage name. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: How are things going for you at The Game?
Steak Shapiro: It’s awesome, great station. Biggest station I’ve ever been on, 100,000-watt Audacy property. Really the king of the sports talk format in terms of that company. The two-hour show, they’ve afforded me to have a shift that really works given the other projects I’m involved with. I work with the people I asked to work with.
Sandra [Golden] and I are back together three days a week. Then I have Rusty Manzel on Wednesdays. He’s the number one recruiting guru in the Southeast. And then Drew Butler who’s a rising star in the media business. Five years in the NFL, played for Georgia, super creative. The five of us including my producer, Orin Romain, who worked for me back at The Zone years ago.
First time I’ve ever had my name in the show title, which is cool. It was always Mayhem in the AM, Mayhem in the PM, or other stuff. It could not be going better. It’s great hours, I don’t get up for morning drive anymore. It doesn’t take away from the company I run, Bread n’ Butter / Atlanta Eats. It’s the type of show that they want me to do — sports, food, business, entertainment. It’s built on the notion that sports is not the end all, be all. It’s super fun. It’s awesome. We’re crushing in terms of our ratings and numbers. But more importantly, it’s just a daily radio show is what I love to do. I’m very happy.
BN: How would you describe what it’s like to host the show with three different co-hosts on various days during the week?
SS: I just enjoy the collaboration part of radio. I like these three people so much. They’re like me, they’re funny, they’re entertaining. Every day, they’re excited because it’s their one day of the week or one of three days. I think a great radio show is built on the energy of the people in the room. I’m always excited. I may not be the most talented talk host in history, but nobody gets more excited to be doing sports talk and doing radio. I just enjoy all three of them.
I just change the format a little depending on who’s there. Sandra and I are like Kelly and Ryan, we’ve been together forever. We know each other like we’re work wives and husbands. Sandra and I have been together on and off for 20 years. Then Rusty and Drew are just great guys. It’s fun. Instead of making it challenging, it makes it easier because each person comes in completely fresh.
That’s their one two-hour shift to be on a 100,000-watt station that is the dominant station in Atlanta. When Rusty comes in, or Drew comes in, or Sandra comes in, they’re so fired up to be there. Radio can be a grind. Same people every day trying to make it fresh; it’s not a problem because it really is fresh with these guys. It’s what I enjoy, which is just being with different people on different days.
BN: What stage of your career did you think, man, I’ve got to have more stability professionally than just radio?
SS: I moved to Atlanta in 1995 to do mornings. I was fired in 1996 and I was like ‘Oh shit, that was my big break’. I was in my 20s. Next thing you know, I was out of a job because the Dickeys, David Dickey and their family, leased their station to Cox. We were essentially all fired by no fault of our own because somebody else took over the format, and they didn’t want edgy sports talk hosts. They wanted to kill the format.
I was engaged to be married to my first wife and I thought to myself, this is going to be my future. I’m going to have to move every few years. I’m always going to be chasing the next big market. I’m going to be beholden to new radio ownership. I’m going to be beholden to a new program director. I’m going to be beholden to my co-hosts or me doing something dumb on the air.
I started raising money and building a business model my second year in Atlanta. Remember we lost our job because the other folks that leased 680 back then, they didn’t want to do sports talk. That left an opening. I basically started on the entrepreneurial side right when I got fired the first time. I thought this is going to really suck; I didn’t grow up with parents in the business. I grew up in a pretty stable environment and I was like radio is opposite of stable. Radio is a friggin’ nightmare in terms of setting down your roots.
I was an owner and on the radio for 17 years straight. I figured the best way to not get fired, is to own the radio station. I say that facetiously in a way, but also like, you got to control your own destiny, so I was an owner. I was an on-air personality. I was head of marketing and programming for essentially 17 years, and I was able to raise my family in a great city.
Then when I sold the business to Lincoln Financial Media, I raised money immediately for a new business, Atlanta Eats / Bread n’ Butter. And for the right reason, because your co-host could get on-air and say the wrong thing, which is what happened to us. Then we were out of a job, or your boss can tell you during COVID, you make too much money, we don’t want to pay. I think he phrased it when he fired me and [John] Kincade, no more heritage radio contracts.
Here are situations by no fault of my own where I’m out of a job, and if I didn’t own a company that was my 9-to-5 really, then I would have had to move. I would’ve had to uproot my family. I haven’t been perfect with my career, but the one thing I’ll give myself credit for is I understood that ownership of a business would provide the stability I wanted, and that radio was never going to provide that stability.
BN: You’re the longest running radio and TV host in the city. With everything that you just described, what does that mean to you considering the instability of the industry and how you strategically positioned yourself?
SS: Well, I’m super proud of the opportunity I was given. When I was seven, eight years old, my dream was to be on the radio and talk about sports. I’ve done that with gaps in between, very small gaps, for 27 years. It also speaks to something you probably know now which is the Southeast was the place to come grow your career. The Atlanta’s, the Charlotte’s, the Nashville’s, the Orlando’s, the Tampa’s, phenomenal places if you’re aggressive about building a career. These are great markets to build stability. Listen, I’ve had a lot of bumps in the road, but I’ve hung in there.
At the end of the day, almost every on-air personality in the city of Atlanta, I hired in radio. Nick and Chris were hired by me, Chuck and Chernoff were hired by me, Kincade was hired by me, Mike Bell. I think I understood talent. All those guys have been on the air for 20 years, and every one of them was originally hired by myself at the other radio company. I think that says that Atlanta is a great market, that if you’re talented you can survive.
It also says that if you worked at The Zone, it was a pretty stable place. We never flipped formats. We never got bought by anybody. We stayed the course. We also were the originals of really building the format. Then 680 got back in the format when they saw how we were doing. Now you went from one sports station to two in the market, which is why everybody has been able to work in the same market for so long.
I’m very humble about it. I’ve had my ass kicked numerous times, as anybody who’s 56 years old. As Tom Brady said, I’m 46, I’ve got a lot of shit going on; I’m 56, I’ve had a lot of shit go on. But I’ve never had to leave Atlanta. I built a national name by never having to leave this town. And I’ve worked with everybody in this town in some way. It’s just Atlanta is a great town. I moved here, there were 1.5 million people. There’s now 7 million. We’re bigger than Boston, bigger than DC, we’re one of the biggest markets in America.
BN: You’ve been at The Zone, The Fan, and now The Game for multiple decades. When you think back to your initial move to Atlanta, what was in your head back then and how far away was it from the reality of what actually came to be?
SS: That’s a great question, nobody’s ever asked me that. My mindset was, the only way to get good at being on the radio was to be on the radio. You’ve got to find somewhere that you can be on the radio. You’re not going to get better being a producer, you’re not going to get better doing news, you’ve got to be a sports talk host. My only thought was just do a good show every day, promote yourself, be good to people and good things will happen.
I never thought I’d raise a family in Atlanta. I never thought I wouldn’t move market to market. I thought I was going to Philadelphia, to WIP. I thought I was going to go to WEEI and other stations. What happened was the farthest thing. To marry a girl eventually from this town, to have three kids, make my roots in Atlanta, and then to own a company; I had no desire to own a friggin’ radio company, media company.
I’m an on-air guy, I was an English major, I got a master’s in journalism, I didn’t know jack shit about owning a business, or being an entrepreneur. That part of my career is completely out of left field in terms of my dreams and in terms of what I envisioned. To now have owned a business in the city for 27 years, 17 at Big League Broadcasting, and now a decade of Bread n’ Butter Content Studio and Atlanta Eats, that is certainly the biggest surprise. Being in the same market, and being a staple of the city and an ambassador of Atlanta, never thought that would happen.
I never set foot in Atlanta, as a Boston guy through and through, your typical Masshole Boston sports fan, lived and breathed. I didn’t know shit about the SEC. I didn’t know about NASCAR. I didn’t know college football. Now those are like the back of my hand. I’ve been to more Georgia football games and SEC. I’ve covered more. I know more about Southeast sports history than Boston.
The most important lesson is just work hard every day, treat people well, try to get better and good things can happen. Anybody that comes through my office, I say, dude, just work hard, do a great show, opportunities happen. If you own a radio company, I never had a reason to leave. I was offered gigs at ESPN and back home in Boston. Why would I leave when I have stability? That’s the biggest surprise is being a business owner. It happened by chance. It happened because I got fired. Truly the expression one door closes, it just creates an opportunity that you never dreamed of. That’s happened to me numerous times.
BN: I wanted to get your thoughts on the Stetson Bennett thing. Now that it’s been over a month since your initial criticism and his response, what are your thoughts about that entire situation?
SS: First of all, what I said was what everybody other than Georgia sycophants were thinking, which is why is he behaving that way? Why isn’t he being more gracious? The only reason it went viral is because Stetson Bennett never ever posts, never does an interview. Obviously, someone said you’re getting a ton of shit, you need to address this. He decided to address it by writing a letter to me, which I thought was funny.
I love Stetson Bennett, his career. I have no problem with him. It wasn’t personal. It wasn’t aggressive. It’s like do better, be better. When you get on social media, and you get to 9 million views for one tweet, that tweet had 9 million views, we were in The New York Post, the LA Times. It was a sensational story because it was a quarterback of a national title team writing a letter to a radio talk host. The letter he wrote me was kind of a jumbled, funny letter calling me “Mr. Steak and Shake” and “Mr. Medium Rare”. If you read what I wrote about him, it really was fairly tame.
I’m not out to hurt people’s feelings, but I’m paid to give my opinion. But is it toxic out there? Yeah, the toxicity of going on the radio, you are putting your career on the line every single day that you are speaking extemporaneously for three hours. The wrong thing said in that three-hour window, and the wrong thing on social media, could cost you your gig. I’m not complaining about it. That’s just a fact.
You see it. Look what happened in Boston last week with Mazz. He didn’t lose his job, but it was a helluva shitstorm. I’m not going to comment on what he said, other than when you have to talk extemporaneously for three or four hours, you have to be super careful. And then at the same time, you’ve got to be funny, you’ve got to be knowledgeable, you’ve got to be edgy, you’ve got to be able to be more dynamic than some guy who’s just driving around town. You’re paid to be interesting. If you’re boring, you’re not there.
One thing I’ve never been is boring. Now, you may love me or think I’m overrated, but I’m not boring. But at the same time, you’re in the era where every day on the air and every tweet you write could cost you your current gig. It won’t cost you a career, but it could cost you the current job you’re in. I think everybody in my job now understands that and probably every writer, broadcaster, podcaster, interview subject, if it comes out the wrong way, then you’re in a vulnerable position.
BN: When you think about your future over the next five years — radio, businesses, projects — what do you want it to look like?
SS: This is a format that I’m actually fresh. I’m 56 years old. There are guys that do sports talk into their mid to late 60s, 70s. I’m right in a sweet spot for the format. I love doing my show. I want to grow my business into the biggest content agency in the Southeast. I want Bread n’ Butter Content Studio to be the biggest and brightest content agency around digital, storytelling, video content, unscripted. I love building companies, one day maybe sell the business. But I’m in the prime of my career in terms of owning a business. And I’m in the prime of my career in terms of being on the radio.
I don’t want to jinx myself and predict the future, but I’d like to see the content side of my business grow into one of the most influential. I want to be the highest rated sports radio show in Atlanta and in the Southeast. There’s nobody better at what I do in Atlanta. There’s a lot of people who are good at it, so I just need to keep doing well every day and then good things will happen.
And just be grateful. I mean shit, like you said, moving here I didn’t think it’d turn into one of the biggest markets in America. I didn’t think I’d own two companies. I didn’t think I’d get to be on the air for 25 years, have a Food Network show, do national TV, CNN, Fox News, all these things. Never dreamed of that. I don’t want to jinx myself, I’m very grateful. When you start not being grateful, or acting like an asshole, or acting like you deserve it, that’s when something bad is gonna happen. I don’t want that to happen. I try to be grateful with every person I come across in the business.
BN: Steak obviously isn’t your real name. What’s your actual name and how did Steak Shapiro come to be?
SS: So my real name is Stephen. I worked in Boston. I was at a sports talk radio station, WEEI, in the ‘90s. I was the producer, a really lousy one. The most famous sports talk guy in Boston history, Eddie Andelman, saw me in the office. He had just been to a steakhouse in Minnesota called Manny’s. The specialty of the house was steak shapiro at Manny’s. He started calling me Steak around the office.
I got my first chance to be on the air on a regular basis and I said, I can go as Stephen, which sounds like what my mother says to me when I’m in trouble, or now my wife, or I can come up with Steak, which sounds like a sports talk guy’s name. Now, I didn’t think I’d ever be in the food business; it’s actually even a better food name.
I owe it to the guy I listened to growing up. The reason I got in the business was Eddie Andelman because I listened to him every night when I went to bed. Maybe it was poetic justice that the guy that would give me my career name is the guy that made me want to be in the business. Eddie Andelman gave me the name in Boston back in the ‘90s.
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.”
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.”
Derek Futterman is a contributing editor and sports media reporter for Barrett Sports Media. Additionally, he has worked in a broad array of roles in multimedia production – including on live game broadcasts and audiovisual platforms – and in digital content development and management. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks, wrote for the Long Island Herald and served as lead sports producer at NY2C. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
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.
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.
John Molori is a weekly columnist for Barrett Sports Media. He has previously contributed to ESPNW, Patriots Football Weekly, Golf Content Network, Methuen Life Magazine, and wrote a syndicated Media Blitz column in the New England region, which was published by numerous outlets including The Boston Metro, Providence Journal, Lowell Sun, and the Eagle-Tribune. His career also includes fourteen years in television as a News and Sports Reporter, Host, Producer working for Continental Cablevision, MediaOne, and AT&T. He can be reached on Twitter @MoloriMedia.
Advertising Clients Need to Be Known Before They Are Needed
Should top-of-funnel (ToFu) marketing be a top priority or not?
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.
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.
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.
Jeff Caves is a sales columnist for BSM working in radio and digital sales for Cumulus Media in Dallas, Texas and Boise, Idaho. He is credited with helping launch, build, and develop Sports Radio The Ticket in Boise, into the market’s top sports radio station. During his 26 year stay at KTIK, Caves hosted drive time, programmed the station, and excelled as a top seller. You can reach him by email at [email protected] or find him on LinkedIn.