When Andrew Marchand set out on a career as a sports writer, there was always one aspect of the business that intrigued him – the business of sports media. During his college years and when he was just starting out as a sports writer, Marchand quickly developed an interest in that particular side of sports and it would turn out to be the bread and butter of his career.
“I just have a passion for it,” said Marchand, now a sports media writer for the New York Post. “That’s always fascinated me. I don’t think everyone necessarily would want to cover sports media but for me, there’s really nothing I’d prefer to cover more.”
During his career, Marchand has covered teams like the Yankees and Mets, but he has established himself as a go-to source for fans to get breaking news and trends when it comes to goings-on in the sports media. Whether it’s local sports radio wars, who is going to get a marquee play-by-play or analyst job, or what network or streaming service is going to land a television rights deal, Marchand is consistently in the know of what’s happening and it’s a subject that fans care a great deal about.
Sure, fans want to know what’s going on with their favorite players and teams but they also have a vested interest in who they are listening to on the radio and who they are watching on television.
“I think what sometimes has been lost through the years, kind of pre-internet, is just how much interest fans have in this,” said Marchand. “If you look at the business deals, they’re for billions of dollars. The NFL just did their contracts with the TV networks and Amazon as well that will add up to $110 billion so that’s huge business and that’s a big story.”
It’s a huge story and there are many people who pay close attention to anything and everything when it comes to sports media, especially the NFL.
Of the 100 highest-rated shows on television, 75 of them are NFL games. That’s a lot of eyeballs on what is inarguably the most popular sport in the United States. In addition to who is playing in the game, what’s at stake, any star players that are in action, and the popularity of sports gambling, sports fans are also dialed into who is calling the action.
There’s been a lot of NFL broadcaster news recently with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman moving from FOX to ESPN’s Monday Night Football and with Al Michaels teaming with Kirk Herbstreit to form the broadcasting combo for Amazon’s Thursday Night Football. Sports fans have big opinions on the sportscasters they watch and listen to, and Marchand has the platform to give people the information they’re looking for.
“Everyone has an opinion about ‘I like this guy’, ‘I like this woman’, ‘I don’t like this guy’, ‘I don’t like this woman,’ said Marchand. “So, they all have an opinion and everyone can have one.”
A lot of people grow up loving sports but they realize at a certain point that maybe we’re not going to get to play catcher for the New York Yankees, right wing for the New York Islanders, or tight end for the New York Jets…well, at least that’s what I was thinking when I was 8, 9, or 10 years old. I do remember watching a baseball game on television with my father and telling him that I wanted to be a sportscaster when I grew up.
Being a sports reporter is a bit more relatable to a lot of sports fans than being an athlete.
“Most of us know we can’t do anything Lebron (James) can do on a basketball court but could you be like Mike Breen or Ian Eagle?” said Marchand. “Maybe not at their skill level because as it turns out it’s much more difficult than people realize but it’s much more relatable that ‘I can do that’ and you have an opinion on it.”
And you know what they say about opinions right?
Everyone has one and it’s no different for Marchand covering sports media. There is a similarity between covering an athlete or a team to covering a sportscaster or sports talk show host in the sense that you’re reporting on the story and the fans have an interest in what’s going on.
With that reporting also comes the potential for writing something both positive and negative about the subject. An athlete may get upset about something that is written or said about them, but that is generally regarding performance on the field, court or rink.
A play-by-play announcer, reporter or host can get criticized or lauded simply because of an opinion.
“What I’m covering is subjective,” said Marchand. “In radio, there are ratings so that kind of means something but still you can have an opinion on a show. If you’re writing about a football broadcast, there’s no scoreboard at the end. I write opinion, but I really try to make my hay on reporting. My thing always is trying to report what you can’t see or hear so that to me is where the money is.”
So, what goes into being a good sportscaster?
When it comes to being a host, a host certainly has to be knowledgeable and likeable.
“A good talk show host…you want to hang with that person,” said Marchand. “It’s not about that they know more than anybody else because, by the nature of the job, they don’t. They can be well-read and they can be informed in cases but the idea that they’re in a studio and they know more than the people that are out there every day is just ludicrous.”
There is also an entertainment element of being a good sports talk show host, but with that also comes the potential for not being truthful with the audience. There’s a saying that ‘you can’t put lipstick on a pig’ and that could also apply for hosts who try to talk about a subject that they’re not knowledgeable about.
If you don’t know anything about hockey, it’s probably not a good idea to force an opinion because loyal sports fans can see right through you.
“I personally like it if they’re honest,” said Marchand. “I don’t really like people who fake it or say things that are just wrong just to try to get a rise. I’m not a fan of that. They don’t need to be larger than life.”
As far as play-by-play is concerned, it’s all about the announcer painting the picture on the radio or being the trusted voice that supplements the images on your television. There are really no shortcuts when it comes to being a solid play-by-play announcer because there’s a lot of work that goes into it.
“Number one is preparation,” said Marchand. “You have to know what you’re talking about. Number two, I would, say is a passion for what you’re talking about because the people who are watching or listening are choosing to watch.”
In addition to sports media deals and contracts, Marchand also spends a good deal of time covering the local sports radio battle in New York. WFAN, the first all-sports radio station in the United States that launched in 1987, competes with ESPN Radio New York, which made its debut in 2001. The ratings war between the two rival stations has been well-documented for more than two decades.
“It’s not the most read thing that I do by far, but it has become to where it has a life of its own,” said Marchand. “It’s not the most fun thing to cover just because the ratings and how they’re interpreted over the years have been looked upon differently which kind of made for a grey area.”
That grey area comes from a ratings system that is a bit complicated and, in many ways, controversial because now there is a combination of fans who listen on traditional radio and those who tune in via streaming. There always seems to be a disagreement as to the true rating and what should be included.
“(The system is) made for those of us who write about it in some respects to be a judge when we really don’t want to be and we didn’t even create the system,” said Marchand. “I would even argue that the system that we use isn’t necessarily the best. If I were the one creating it, I don’t think I would use 25-54-year-old males. I think you can argue that we’re leaving out a lot of people who should be included.”
So, Andrew, what’s the solution?
“It’s not my place to change the rules,” he says. “There’s always complaining on both sides and that’s part of the job. I don’t want to be the judge on this thing and what streaming is and what should count.”
Sports media is something that caught the attention of the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand a number of years ago. He’s made a career out of being a trusted reporter for fans, as well as many of us in the industry who also crave this information.
Peter Schwartz has been involved in New York sports media for over three decades. Along the way he has worked for notable brands such as WFAN, CBS Sports Radio, WCBS 880, ESPN New York, and FOX News Radio. He has also worked as a play by play announcer for the New Yok Riptide, New York Dragons, New York Hitmen, Varsity Media and the Long Island Sports Network. You can find him on Twitter @SchwartzSports or email him at DragonsRadio@aol.com.
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.
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.
- 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.
Jessie Karangu is a columnist for BSM and graduate of the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland but comes from Kenyan roots. Jessie has had a passion for sports media and the world of television since he was a child. His career has included stints with USA Today, Tegna, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Sightline Media. He can be found on Twitter @JMKTVShow.
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.
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.
Danny O’Neil is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously hosted morning and afternoon drive for 710 ESPN Seattle, and served as a reporter for the Seattle Times. He can be reached on Twitter @DannyOneil or by email at Danny@DannyOneil.com.
Media Noise: Sunday Ticket Has Problems, Marcellus Wiley Does Not
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.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.