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Michael & Pele Bennett Became Friends By Accident

“I can’t say that I haven’t enjoyed my time in the NFL, but there are always things that you reflect on and in retrospect you’re like I wish they would change this or focus on that.”

Brian Noe

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NFL defensive end Michael Bennett and his wife Pele are not only life partners, they’re also co-hosts. The Bennetts are collaborating on a new podcast called Mouthpeace. It’s from Lemonada Media, in partnership with Westwood One. The conversation below is aimed at getting a better sense of who they are as a couple and individuals, while focusing on the challenges they face in fine-tuning a brand new podcast.

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Michael has played 11 seasons in the NFL. He would love to end his career with the Seattle Seahawks, but time will tell if that ends up happening or not. In the meantime, I asked Pele what life has been like as an NFL wife. Michael also touches on the toughest part about being an NFL player in relation to his marriage. It isn’t surprising that this conversation is filled with insight, humor, and interesting views, including why Michael refers to himself as a feminist. Enjoy.

Brian Noe: How would you describe each other?

Pele Bennett: I would say Michael is an amazing husband, a wonderful father, and tremendous athlete. He is a life partner, also my housewife, domesticated househusband — (laughs) — all of that.

Michael Bennett: Pele is very intuitive as far as being able to work with people and knowing how other people are feeling. She’s also spiritual. I think she’s very spiritual, being able to connect with people emotionally. People always come up to her and tell her their story. I’ll be like, ‘Damn, you just took all that in? I would have left.’ She’s compassionate too because I would just be like okay I got to go. She’s definitely somebody who listens. Sophisticated, and she’s emotional too.

I think she’s very passionate about things that she really cares about in a different way; she just has so much information about stuff that she’s passionate about. Especially when it comes to food. Sometimes I get really annoyed. I just want to be eating some sugar, eat a donut, and she wants to tell me about the calories and what it does. I’m just really like I don’t care at this point. I just really want this donut. I think she’s very passionate about things that she really cares about and I enjoy that. I enjoy the passion. It keeps me going. 

BN: You guys seem like you’re best friends. Have you always had a close connection once you got together? 

MB: Yeah, I think we’ve been together so long that I feel like we kind of became friends by accident at this point.

PB: But we weren’t friends before though when we were dating. We became friends while we were dating. 

MB: Yeah, but I just feel like people become friends — like good friends — you can be friends with somebody, but then you’re not really good friends with them. I feel like most people sleep with people and they don’t be their friend. I guess they just have a sexual friendship, but not really an emotional friendship. I think we have an emotional friendship. That’s good.

BN: When did you meet each other?

PB: We met back in high school. 

MB: But we didn’t have sex until we were married. 

PB: Correct.

BN: Is that true? 

MB: Nah, man. 

BN: (Laughs)

MB: We’d be like Ciara and Russell Wilson.

BN: I understand, Mike, that you’re a self-described feminist. What’s your definition of that?

MB: I have daughters. I have sisters. I have a mother. I feel it’s just caring about what’s going on with women and trying to be respectful to what women’s emotions are — not trying to control the narrative, but just being a listener. I think that’s important. To me that’s kind of what a male who respects women is; it’s just giving them their space and giving them their platform enough to say what they want to say and not directing what they’re saying or trying to be like, ‘You shouldn’t feel like this. You shouldn’t do that.’ That’s my perspective on it.

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Also being a male that’s in the position of power and understanding that you have influence to be able to help a woman have a stronger message and being able to uplift. I think the most important thing with that is practicing at home — as my wife will say — practice what you preach; also uplifting your family, your wife, your kids, your daughters, your sister, your mother. So trying to do both.

BN: What would you both say is the subject where your opinions differ the most?

MB: I don’t know — movies. I feel like her movie selection is not as good as mine. She likes foreign films. I don’t really like foreign films that much. I can’t really sit through a foreign film.

PB: But you like foreign films with subtitles.

MB: I like sports shows.

PB: You just are like a TV junkie though. I don’t like TV like that.

MB: But you like foreign movies though. I don’t like foreign movies. I don’t like the subtitles too much — unless it’s a sports theme and you’re watching something on Amazon about the soccer team or something in another country. I get interested in it because I just want to see how other athletes do things and how their world is different. And maybe books — probably just books and movies.PB: I’m sure there are a lot more. We just can’t think of anything right now. Now you just started an argument. (Laughs)

BN: What would you say is the number one non-sports subject that each of you are interested in the most?

MB: Mine is interior design.

PB: I’ll say food. Education. Recipes. All around food.

BN: How about the sports subject that each of you finds the most interesting? 

MB: Injuries.

PB: It kind of goes back to food for some reason. But I think it’s how it can improve performance — that part of looking at food as fuel or food as medicine in that type of way. I don’t think that you necessarily need that but there is a science to it.

BN: What is it about injuries that you’re interested in, Mike?

MB: I think when it comes to injuries we both have empathy for other players who experience it. I feel like we both see the human side of it even though in football or sports the person gets dehumanized and people forget about the whole family. I think we both kind of like gel in that. When somebody gets hurt we both want to know, ‘Oh, how are the kids doing? How’s the wife doing? How’s the player?’

PB: The ripple effect of an injury is so harsh.

BN: What has been the biggest challenge with the podcast so far?

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PB: I think talking to each other like normal but also just how your energy naturally comes off.

MB: I think also, I feel like people want to limit what we want to say. People don’t really want to hear us talk about some of the stuff that we really talk about. I think that’s going to be a roadblock I feel like.

BN: What’s a subject that you would like to talk about more?

MB: I think people really don’t want to hear about the lack of African-American coaches. Stuff like that. With race people are like, ‘Oh, the NFL is not racist, or doesn’t have racial issues with things that have happened within it.’ So when you start talking about the things like that, people just want to be like, ‘Oh, what about this stat,’ or whatever. Then you want to bring up the facts of how there hasn’t been much change at the top of the positions with GM’s — it’s full of African-American players but not enough African-Americans in authority — I think people get turned off by that type of rhetoric whenever you start mentioning that.

BN: I heard one of your podcasts and it was funny, Michael, you mentioned the NFL and then just groaned. What’s your opinion of the NFL?

MB: I can’t say that I haven’t enjoyed my time in the NFL, but there are always things that you reflect on and in retrospect you’re like I wish they would change this or focus on that. I just wish they would focus on long-term health for all players and benefits and what happens to players after they finish the game. Just focusing on the mental aspect of what players are going through after they finish the game and focusing on the families. Stuff like that is important and those are the things I wish they would fix. 

Also focusing on giving people true opportunities. Even in the media, say a white quarterback finishes in the NFL — Jay Cutler for example — he never really talked to the media but automatically gets a FOX job. But then a person who’s been talking to the media, he has to go through a whole boot camp and jump through all these other hoops to be seen as ready for air, where someone who has never been on air automatically gets a job. I just think there are so many barriers outside the sport, but it is what it is.

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BN: Pele, how did being the wife of an NFL player impact you and your relationship together?

PB: We were so young and we were kind of being thrown into a lifestyle. Then we got married later, but we were already together, I think it really tested our relationship. It also tested me as a person because how does my role fit into this lifestyle in general? Because we’re learning the lifestyle as we go, there’s going to be ups and downs. It is like a roller coaster and it’s also learning so much at the same time. Then how do you have all this adversity and still persevere through all of it. I think there were a lot of tests for me and just my character and how I can deal with different issues and overcome them.

I think that I learned a lot through 11 years now that we’ve been going through this. Then also building a family; I feel like there are so many learning lessons that came along with it and having three children also brought into this lifestyle. I always joke and say there’s so much stress and I always go more on the negative side, but there was more good than bad. I think a lot of experiences came through this — a lot of bonding and building. Having to depend on just your husband and to depend on your kids I think is a big thing for me because we’re put in so many different situations where we literally have to make these judgments so quickly. Having to go from state to state, from different teams, from different situations; I learned a lot throughout that. I think it’s definitely something that I can pass on to the kids besides just being in the NFL. It was so much learning outside of that.

BN: What is the toughest part about life in the NFL?

PB: I think mentally because obviously there are physical issues, but I think mentally; how do you mentally stay sane going through all these different challenges and then how do you stay sane going through your partnership with your husband because you’re both going through things individually, but then you also have to deal with all this shit together. So I think mentally you’re trying to just stay on top of that and stay ahead of that. That was really difficult for me. 

BN: What was the most difficult part for you in your relationship being an NFL player, Michael?

MB: The time away. I think that’s the thing that makes it hard. When you really love someone and you’ve been with somebody for so long, you kind f grasp the concept of time, and you kind of grasp the concept of death; you realize that every day is one less day that you have with them on Earth. I feel like that’s the hardest thing for me. Every time I think about that, I’m like, ‘Does something really matter enough for me to spend a day away from my family?’ I just struggle with that a lot like every single day honestly, but I’m getting over it.

BN: If you could pick any guest to appear on your podcast going forward who would you choose?

MB: Michelle Obama.

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PB: No I swear I was about to say Michelle Obama. Okay then I’ll say Oprah.

MB: Michelle and Barack. We’re not famous enough to get them now. Give us a couple of years.

BSM Writers

The Future Is Now, Embrace Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+

As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible.

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This week has been a reckoning for sports and its streaming future on Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+, ESPN+, and more.

Amazon announced that Thursday Night Football, which averaged 13 million viewers, generated the highest number of U.S. sign ups over a three hour period in the app’s history. More people in the United States subscribed to Prime during the September 15th broadcast than they did during Black Friday, Prime Day, and Cyber Monday. It was also “the most watched night of primetime in Prime Video’s history,” according to Amazon executive Jay Marine. The NFL and sports in general have the power to move mountains even for some of the nation’s biggest and most successful brands.

This leads us to the conversation happening surrounding Aaron Judge’s chase for history. Judge has been in pursuit of former major leaguer Roger Maris’ record for the most home runs hit during one season in American League history.

The sports world has turned its attention to the Yankees causing national rights holders such as ESPN, Fox, and TBS to pick up extra games in hopes that they capture the moment history is made. Apple TV+ also happened to have a Yankees game scheduled for Friday night against the Red Sox right in the middle of this chase for glory.

Baseball fans have been wildin’ out at the prospects of missing the grand moment when Judge passes Maris or even the moments afterwards as Judge chases home run number 70 and tries to truly create monumental history of his own. The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand has even reported there were talks between YES, MLB, and Apple to bring Michael Kay into Apple’s broadcast to call the game, allow YES Network to air its own production of the game, or allow YES Network to simulcast Apple TV+’s broadcast. In my opinion, all of this hysteria is extremely bogus.

As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible. Amazon brought in NBC to help with production of TNF and if you watch the flow of the broadcast, the graphics of the broadcast, NBC personalities like Michael Smith, Al Michaels, and Terry McAuliffe make appearances on the telecast – it is very clear that the network’s imprint is all over the show.

NBC’s experience in conducting the broadcast has made the viewing experience much more seamless. Apple has also used MLB Network and its personalities for assistance in ensuring there’s no major difference between what you see on air vs. what you’re streaming.

Amazon and Apple have also decided to not hide their games behind a paywall. Since the beginning of the season, all of Apple’s games have been available free of charge. No subscription has ever been required. As long as you have an Apple device and can download Apple TV+, you can watch their MLB package this season.

Guess what? Friday’s game against the Red Sox is also available for free on your iPhone, your laptop, or your TV simply by downloading the AppleTV app. Amazon will also simulcast all Thursday Night Football games on Twitch for free. It may be a little harder or confusing to find the free options, but they are out there and they are legal and, once again, they are free.

Apple has invested $85 million into baseball, money that will go towards your team becoming better hypothetically. They’ve invested money towards creating a new kind of streaming experience. Why in the hell would they offer YES Network this game for free? There’s no better way for them to drive subscriptions to their product than by offering fans a chance at watching history on their platform.

A moment like this are the main reason Apple paid for rights in the first place. When Apple sees what the NFL has done for Amazon in just one week and coincidentally has the ability to broadcast one of the biggest moments in baseball history – it would be a terrible business decision to let viewers watch it outside of the Apple ecosystem and lose the ability to gain new fans.

It’s time for sports fans to grow up and face reality. Streaming is here to stay. 

MLB Network is another option

If you don’t feel like going through the hassle of watching the Yankees take on the Red Sox for free on Apple TV+, MLB Network will also air all of Judge’s at bats live as they are happening. In case the moment doesn’t happen on Apple TV+ on Friday night, Judge’s next games will air in full on MLB Network (Saturday), ESPN (Sunday), MLB Network again (Monday), TBS (Tuesday) and MLB Network for a third time on Wednesday. All of MLB Network’s games will be simulcast of YES Network’s local New York broadcast. It wouldn’t shock me to see Fox pick up another game next Thursday if the pursuit still maintains national interest.

Quick bites

  • One of the weirdest things about the experience of streaming sports is that you lose the desire to channel surf. Is that a good thing or bad thing? Brandon Ross of LightShed Ventures wonders if the difficulty that comes with going from app to app will help Amazon keep viewers on TNF the entire time no matter what the score of the game is. If it does, Amazon needs to work on developing programming to surround the games or start replaying the games, pre and post shows so that when you fall asleep and wake up you’re still on the same stream on Prime Video or so that coming to Prime Video for sports becomes just as much of a habit for fans as tuning in to ESPN is.
  • CNN has announced the launch of a new morning show with Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins. Variety reports, “Two people familiar with plans for the show say it is likely to use big Warner Bros. properties — a visit from the cast of HBO’s Succession or sports analysis from TNT’s NBA crew — to lure eyeballs.” It’ll be interesting to see if Turner Sports becomes a cornerstone of this broadcast. Will the NBA start doing schedule releases during the show? Will a big Taylor Rooks interview debut on this show before it appears on B/R? Will the Stanley Cup or Final Four MVP do an interview on CNN’s show the morning after winning the title? Does the show do remote broadcasts from Turner’s biggest sports events throughout the year?
  • The Clippers are back on over the air television. They announced a deal with Nexstar to broadcast games on KTLA and other Nexstar owned affiliates in California. The team hasn’t reached a deal to air games on Bally Sports SoCal or Bally Sports Plus for the upcoming season. Could the Clippers pursue a solo route and start their own OTT service in time for the season? Are they talking to Apple, Amazon, or ESPN about a local streaming deal? Is Spectrum a possible destination? I think these are all possibilities but its likely that the Clippers end up back on Bally Sports since its the status quo. I just find it interesting that it has taken so long to solidify an agreement and that it wasn’t announced in conjunction with the KTLA deal. The Clippers are finally healthy this season, moving into a new arena soon, have the technology via Second Spectrum to produce immersive game casts. Maybe something is brewing?
  • ESPN’s Monday Night Football double box was a great concept. The execution sucked. Kudos to ESPN for adjusting on the fly once complaints began to lodge across social media. I think the double box works as a separate feed. ESPN2 should’ve been the home to the double box. SVP and Stanford Steve could’ve held a watch party from ESPN’s DC studio with special guests. The double box watch party on ESPN2 could’ve been interrupted whenever SVP was giving an update on games for ESPN and ABC. It would give ESPN2 a bit of a behind the scenes look at how the magic happens similarly to what MLB Tonight did last week. Credit to ESPN and the NFL for experimenting and continuing to try and give fans unique experiences.

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BSM Writers

ESPN Shows Foresight With Monday Night Football Doubleheader Timing

ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7 and then 10 on their primary channel.

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The Monday Night Football doubleheader was a little bit different this time around for ESPN.

First, it came in Week 2 instead of Week 1. And then, the games were staggered 75 minutes apart on two different channels, the Titans and Bills beginning on ESPN at 7:15 PM ET and the Vikings at the Eagles starting at 8:30 PM on ABC and ESPN+. This was a departure from the usual schedule in which the games kicked off at 7:00 PM ET and then 10:00 PM ET with the latter game on the West Coast.

ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7:00 PM and then 10:00 PM ET on their primary channel. That’s the typical approach, right? The NFL is the most valuable offering in all of sports and ESPN would have at least six consecutive hours of live programming without any other game to switch to.

Instead, they staggered the starts so the second game kicked off just before the first game reached halftime. They placed the games on two different channels, which risked cannibalizing their audience. Why? Well, it’s the same reason that ESPN was so excited about the last year’s Manningcast that it’s bringing it back for 10 weeks this season. ESPN is not just recognizing the reality of how their customers behave, but they’re embracing it.

Instead of hoping with everything they have that the customer stays in one place for the duration of the game, they’re recognizing the reality that they will leave and providing another product within their portfolio to be a destination when they do.

It’s the kind of experiment everyone in broadcasting should be investigating because, for all the talk about meeting the customer where they are, we still tend to be a little bit stubborn about adapting to what they do. 

Customers have more choices than ever when it comes to media consumption. First, cable networks softened the distribution advantages of broadcast networks, and now digital offerings have eroded the distribution advantages of cable networks. It’s not quite a free-for-all, but the battle for viewership is more intense, more wide open than ever because that viewer has so many options of not just when and where but how they will consume media.

Programmers have a choice in how to react to this. On the one hand, they can hold on tighter to the existing model and try to squeeze as much out of it as they can. If ESPN was thinking this way it would stack those two Monday night games one after the other just like it always has and hope like hell for a couple of close games to juice the ratings. Why would you make it impossible for your customer to watch both of these products you’ve paid so much to televise?

I’ve heard radio programmers and hosts recite take this same approach for more than 10 years now when it comes to making shows available on-demand. Why would you give your customers the option of consuming the product in a way that’s not as remunerative or in a way that is not measured?

That thinking is outdated and it is dangerous from an economic perspective because it means you’re trying to make the customer behave in your best interest by restricting their choices. And maybe that will work. Maybe they like that program enough that they’ll consume it in the way you’d prefer or maybe they decide that’s inconvenient or annoying or they decide to try something else and now this customer who would have listened to your product in an on-demand format is choosing to listen to someone else’s product entirely.

After all, you’re the only one that is restricting that customer’s choices because you’re the only one with a desire to keep your customer where he is. Everyone else is more than happy to give your customer something else. 

There’s a danger in holding on too tightly to the existing model because the tighter you squeeze, the more customers will slip through your fingers, and if you need a physical demonstration to complete this metaphor go grab a handful of sand and squeeze it hard.

Your business model is only as good as its ability to predict the behavior of your customers, and as soon as it stops doing that, you need to adjust that business model. Don’t just recognize the reality that customers today will exercise the freedom that all these media choices provide, embrace it.

Offer more products. Experiment with more ways to deliver those products. The more you attempt to dictate the terms of your customer’s engagement with your product, the more customers you’ll lose, and by accepting this you’ll open yourself to the reality that if your customer is going to leave your main offering, it’s better to have them hopping to another one of your products as opposed to leaving your network entirely.

Think in terms of depth of engagement, and breadth of experience. That’s clearly what ESPN is doing because conventional thinking would see the Manningcast as a program that competes with the main Monday Night Football broadcast, that cannibalizes it. ESPN sees it as a complimentary experience. An addition to the main broadcast, but it also has the benefit that if the customer feels compelled to jump away from the main broadcast – for whatever reason – it has another ESPN offering that they may land on.

I’ll be watching to see what ESPN decides going forward. The network will have three Monday Night Football doubleheaders beginning next year, and the game times have not been set. Will they line them up back-to-back as they had up until this year? If they do it will be a vote of confidence that its traditional programming approach that evening is still viable. But if they overlap those games going forward, it’s another sign that less is not more when it comes to giving your customers a choice in products.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: Sunday Ticket Has Problems, Marcellus Wiley Does Not

Demetri Ravanos

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On this episode of Media Noise, Demetri is joined by Brian Noe to talk about the wild year FS1’s Marcellus Wiley has had and by Garrett Searight to discuss the tumultuous present and bright future of NFL Sunday Ticket.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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