The NFL made the inevitable official on Monday with the announcement of their own streaming service. NFL Plus will live within the NFL app and cost $4.99 per month. As has been previously reported, the app will include all live local regular season and postseason games as well as primetime games, live audio from all teams during games and programming from NFL Network and NFL Films.
The biggest jewel this app provides is access to all out-of-market preseason games across any device. This option was previously available on NFL GamePass but it costed almost $100 a year. Now, the price is closer to $40 a year (and for a limited time as the app launches – it will cost only $30 a year). For the average football super fan, this is a MAJOR savings plus. According to an analyst who spoke with Forbes, the NFL could soon begin to partner with its corporate sponsors to provide activations and incentives for their customers to subscribe to NFL+. Those incentives could include codes and limited time offers that make the streaming service more affordable in order to hit the ground running and gain the widest net of subscribers possible.
I’ve been clear in the past about my reservations towards this app. I think it’s a waste of money for the average viewer of the sport and doesn’t add much value compared to what is already available. But I have to give credit where it is due and salute the league for doing its best to make the app a bit more appealing despite how little inventory it has to share with potential viewers.
At the beginning of the month, I gave the NFL some suggestions about what to do in order to make this app more appealing. “If you’re going to force viewers to pay $5 to watch games on their phone, the least you could do is give fans access to speak with players and analysts before and after the games. Take NFL Network over the top so that we can wake up with Good Morning Football. Offer a way for fans to chat while games are being watched on the app. The ability to watch an All-22 feed of live games. A raw audio options of games. The ability to screencast. Even a live look at the highly paid booths who are calling the games.”
While it is possible for the league to implement these ideas in the future, the upcoming season is probably too close to launching for them to roll out these features this year. I still think there are some other ways for the league to improve the app right now to give it some extra value and make it worth paying $4.99.
- Unlimited press conferences – I’m sure when you think of hit series and critically acclaimed television the last thing you think of is the press conference. But there’s a lot of information and perspective you can learn about a player’s or coach’s mindset through the exchanges team officials have with the media. National sports networks rarely cover press conferences unless it is of utter importance. It is a much better business proposition to air debates and hot takes stuffed in with commercials. Many local regional sports networks don’t have news departments that cover NFL teams or other sports news and headlines due to the proliferation of sources available across the internet and beyond. Why not become that source and air unfiltered press conferences from all 32 teams about whatever they’re holding a presser about? It could be a coach talking about the game his team played yesterday, an owner talking about an upcoming community initiative, a GM talking about stadium upgrades or anything in-between. Be the best aggregator and source for all media availabilities that any team in the league provides. What would be cooler is if the NFL’s official social pages clipped bits of what was said during these pressers with a link to subscribe to the app and watch the press conference live or on demand. Imagine seeing a tweet from @NFL of Aaron Rodgers speaking live to the press after it was revealed that his version of “immunized” vs. an actual COVID vaccination were two different things with a direct link to watch on NFL Plus.
- Field Pass – In 2015, before the NFC Championship, Fox and NFL Media partnered up to provide a “field pass” before the game that was distributed on the internet platforms of both media companies including NFL Plus’ predecessor NFL Now. The feed provided the sights and sounds of pregame warmups, fans in the stands, coaches talking to players and everything else that happens on the field before an NFL game begins. All of the league partners have their cameras set up hours before a game starts. How cool would it be to feel like you’re on the field and in on the action before your team gets set to play? Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see how your favorite player gets warmed up and what workouts work best for them? If you don’t like pregame talking heads, this would be the best way to get ready for a game without actually buying a ticket to the event. Depending on how successful this feature is with app users, in future seasons maybe you have players mic’d up on a 10-second delay with all of the league partners promoting the feed during their pregame shows as a second screen experience option.
- Homify the game – I know I just made up a random word in “homify” and your probably wondering what I mean by it. I’m simply saying making a fan using NFL Plus to watch their live, local game feel even more at home than how they would feel watching the game on any other app. Provide an option to watch the in-stadium feed of the game. If I’m using NFL Plus to view a Ravens game, it would be super cool to have the option of hearing the PA announcer at M&T Bank Stadium using the sound system connected to my TV. Imagine as I’m watching the stadium feed, there’s a QR code that pops on the screen during breaks giving me the chance to buy tickets to the next game (NFL Media already has the technology to do this, Sports Business Journal reports a QR code linking to Ticketmaster will be displayed on Saturday during NFL Network’s coverage of Back Together Saturday). SoFi Stadium has even told SportTechie in the past that their broadcasts in stadium of Rams and Chargers games have more camera angles than what you would find on a nationally televised game. Who wouldn’t want to have access to that? Gil Moran, the NFL’s VP/strategy and business management, told SBJ’s John Ourand last week that he believes the local audio feeds will be the app’s most popular feature. Why not give viewers the option of watching CBS or Fox’s visual feed of a game while listening to the live audio for your home team’s radio game broadcast? It’s a practice sports fans have been doing on their own for decades and the technological feat of providing different audio feeds for a football game in an app is something Amazon has already successfully accomplished. Why couldn’t it be done here to “homify” the game?
- We’re talking about practice – Practice and scrimmages are rarely aired live on television or online for obvious reasons. Coaches don’t want their strategies leaked out for other teams to take notice of and use during a game. Totally understandable. But once in a while, when we do get the chance to see how teams practice – it is a really, cool and unique way to appreciate the game. To continue to appease fans and grow love for the game even more, each team in the league should broadcast at least one hour of raw audio and video of a practice or scrimmage that happens in their facilities each week. Even if it’s just with the practice squad guys, you’re increasing the amount of time people are spending watching football which increases the value of the game to the average viewer, to rightsholders and NFL Media as a whole. NFL Network has already convinced the Rams to give them access to their practice during coverage of Back Together Saturday. Teams that want to continue to spread their brand presence worldwide have to take advantage of opportunities to shine in the media and online beyond live games. European soccer teams such as Arsenal and Manchester United have built their own respective online brands by allowing their media teams to take fans inside of training sessions. Even if the access is slightly filtered, it’s still access you can’t get anywhere else that is super serving the fan. NFL Plus is not only competing with other sports streaming services or other streaming services as a whole. It is competing with the cable bundle, Fortnite, Roblox, the metaverse and so many other products aiming to capture consumer’s attention. The more you get viewers accustomed to watching football at all times, the better for your product.
The best thing about all of these options is that teams and league partners already have the feeds available to be used. The infrastructure is already in place. The only thing needed is to ingest all of this content into the app. It would take a little extra manpower, but it’s not something that couldn’t be put together right before the season starts or even sometime into the season. You’re not hiring any extra on-air talent and for most of these options there is no set time when these events would take place so you’re not cannabilizing NFL Network’s programming or even ESPN, FS1 or CBS Sports Network. Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reports Amazon is looking into sports talk programming with Embassy Row and these live, raw and behind the scenes feeds wouldn’t be necessarily competing with that either. In fact, you can use your league partners and their studio programming during the week as a way to promote NFL+ as something to watch on the go or in the background while they are watching hot takes on their television.
Moran mentioned to Ourand in his sports media newsletter that NFL Plus gives the league “the vehicle to invest in a lot of things and explore a lot of new things.” Well, it’s time to start the exploring and figure out what the future of watching America’s beloved pastime will be.
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.
Your Football Conversation Has To Be Different
I don’t know why any host would go with B- or C-material just for the sake of providing variety. That’s silly to me.
Rejoice! Ball is back, baby. Life is just better when football season is included; am I right? (That was a rhetorical question because I know I’m right in this case.) Like many people in this country, I’m all about the pigskin. Outside of my family and friends, there aren’t many things in life that I love more than BALL.
With all of that being established, a simple question still exists: is there such a thing as talking too much football on a sports radio show?
I think it isn’t as much what you’re talking about; it’s how you’re talking about it. For instance, it isn’t good enough to lazily say, “Ehh, we’ll start off by talking about the game last night.” Well, how are you going to talk about it? Do you have anything original, interesting or entertaining to say? Or are you just gonna start riffing like you’re in a jam band hoping to accidentally stumble onto something cool after six minutes of nothing?
Talking about football is like opening a new burger joint. Hang with me on this one. There are so many options — Burger King, McDonald’s, Five Guys, Wendy’s, In-N-Out, etc. — that you can’t expect to have great success if you open a run-of-the-mill burger joint of your own. Having an inferior product is going to produce an inferior result.
It comes down to whether a topic or angle will cause the show to stand out or blend in. Going knee-deep on a national show about the competition at left guard between two Buffalo Bills offensive lineman doesn’t stand out. You’ll get lost in the shuffle that way.
A show needs to constantly be entertaining and engaging. One way to check that box is with unique viewpoints. Don’t say what other shows are saying. Your burger joint (aka football conversation) needs to be different than the competition. Otherwise, why are you special?
Another way to stand out is with personality. It’s impossible to have unique angles with every single topic that’s presented. A lot of hosts recently pointed out that the Dallas Cowboys committed 17 penalties in their first preseason game against the Denver Broncos. But Stephen A. Smith said it differently than everybody else. That’s what it comes down to; either say things that other shows aren’t saying, or say them differently.
New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh made a comment recently that too much of anything is a bad thing. So back to the original question, is there such a thing as too much football talk on a sports radio show?
Variety is the spice of life, but quality is the spice of sports radio. If a show provides quality, listeners will keep coming back. It’s really that simple. Sure, hosts will hear “talk more this, talk more that” from time to time, but you know what’s funny about that? It means the listeners haven’t left. The show is providing enough quality for them to stick around. If the quality goes away, so will the audience.
It’s smart for hosts and programmers to think, “What’s our strongest stuff?” If that happens to be a bunch of football topics, great, roll with it. I don’t know why any host would go with B- or C-material just for the sake of providing variety. That’s silly to me.
Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick said something interesting last week while visiting Atlanta’s training camp. Vick was asked which team’s offense he’d like to run if he was still playing today. “The offense Tom Brady is running in Tampa,” Vick said. “Pass first.”
The answer stood out to me because throwing the ball isn’t what made Vick special with the Falcons. He was a decent passer and a dynamic runner. The run/pass blend made Vick a problem. I totally understand wanting to prove doubters wrong, but there are a lot of athletes that get away from what they do best while relying on something else that isn’t their specialty.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook is not an outside shooter. He’s brutal in that area. Yet Russ will keep firing threes at a 30% clip. Why? Attacking the rim and working the midrange is his game. You don’t see Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul bombing threes if they aren’t going in. He kills opponents with his midrange skills all day.
It’ll be interesting to see how Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa approaches this season. He’s received a steady diet of “can’t throw the deep ball.” Will he try to a fault to prove doubters wrong, or will he rely on what he does best? Beating defenders with timing and accuracy on shorter throws is where he finds the most success.
Working to improve your weaknesses makes sense, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of going away from your strengths. How is it any different in sports radio? If a host isn’t strong when it comes to talking basketball or baseball, it definitely makes sense to improve in those areas. But if that same host stands out by talking football, at some point it becomes like Westbrook jacking up threes if the host gets too far away from a bread-and-butter strength.
Former New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is the only player in the Baseball Hall of Fame that was unanimously elected. He relied on his cutter — a fastball that moved, a lot — about 85% of the time. Mo didn’t say, “Man, my four-seam fastball and changeup aren’t getting enough respect.” He rode that cutter all the way to Cooperstown and legendary status.
Rivera is a great example of how playing to your strengths is the best approach. He also shows that quality trumps variety every time. Let’s put it this way: if 85% of a sports radio show is football content, and the quality of that show is anywhere near Mo caliber, it’s destined to be a hit.
One of my buddies, Mike Zanchelli, has always been a hit with the ladies. I think he came out of the womb with at least 10 girls in the nursery showing interest in him. He had a simple dating philosophy: “Always. Leave them. Wanting. More.” That might work in dating, but I think it’s the opposite in sports radio. Most listeners don’t hear the entire show. If they’re in and out, wouldn’t you want them to hear your best stuff when they are tuned in?
That’s why I say screw variety. That’s why I wouldn’t worry about overserving your audience an all-you-can-eat BALL buffet. I think it’s much wiser to focus on producing a quality product regardless if it’s well rounded or not.
Brian Noe is a columnist for BSM and an on-air host heard nationwide each weekend on FOX Sports Radio. Previous roles include stops in Portland, OR, Albany, NY and Fresno, CA. You can follow him on Twitter @TheNoeShow or email him at email@example.com.
ESPN Has Gone From Playing Checkers to Chess In Two Years
Those decisions make the future ones with the Pac-12, the Big 12, NBA and UFC fascinating to watch but what’s clear is that this ESPN strategy is different.
In the days after the Big Ten news leaked regarding some of the details of their upcoming media deals, I was hankering for more information. I wanted more insight as to the “why”. Why did the Big Ten leave such a long-lasting and prosperous relationship with ESPN. I just couldn’t imagine it and it’s why I wrote about it last week.
It was in that pursuit of knowledge that I tuned into a podcast favorite of mine, The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast. The show’s hosts are deep into the weeds of sports media with John Ourand at the Sports Business Journal and Andrew Marchand at the New York Post. It was Ourand who was dropping dimes of news on the Big Ten deal last week. I wanted to hear him dive deeper, and he did on the podcast. But it was a throwaway line that got my wheels churning.
“This is about the third or fourth deal in a row that ESPN, the free-spending ESPN, to me has shown some financial discipline” Ourand said. “They are showing a bit of financial discipline that I hadn’t seen certainly when John Skipper was there and pre-dating John Skipper.”
I had to keep digging and folks, it’s true. ESPN is essentially Jimmy Pitaro in the above quote, the Chairman of ESPN. Since taking the role in 2018, he was put into an interesting position of being in the middle of a lot of big money media rights deals that would be coming due for renegotiation soon. The rights fees for EVERYTHING were going to balloon wildly. But in the last two years, he has comfortably kept the astronomical rates somewhat within shouting distance.
The big one, the NFL media rights deal agreed to last March, saw ESPN pay a very strong 30% increase for the rights. However, other networks involved had to pay “double” as Ourand so succinctly put it. He also personally negotiated with FOX to bring in Troy Aikman and Joe Buck to make their Monday Night Football booth easily more recognizable and the best in the sport. ESPN in that deal, that did NOT include doubled rates, got more games, better games, and more schedule flexibility. ABC gets two Super Bowls in the deal too. Simply put, Jimmy Pitaro set up ESPN to get a Super Bowl itself, but for now his network will take full advantage of the ABC network broadcast when the time comes (2026, 2030).
The recent Big Ten deal was massive because the conference spent forty years with ESPN and decided to reward that loyalty with a massively overpriced mid-tier package. ESPN balked at the idea. In their back pocket lies a lot of college football media rights deals with a lot of conferences including one that will be a massively profitable venture, the SEC package. ESPN takes over the CBS package of the “top” conference game. Yes, it paid $3 billion for it, but it’s a scant $300 million annually. Sure, that’s over 5X what CBS was paying annually but CBS signed that deal in 1996! I need not tell you all of the advancements in our world since Bob Dole was a presidential nominee. ESPN now gets to cherry-pick the best game from the best conference and put the game anywhere they damn well please to maximize exposure.
The F1 media rights extension is massive because of two things: one, they got it cheap before the sport littered your timeline on weekend mornings and two, when they re-signed with F1 this summer they paid way less than other streaming networks were reportedly willing to pay. The brand, the savvy worked again. ESPN takes a small risk for a potentially exploding sport and much like CBS did with the SEC for 25 years, can make massive margins.
I can keep going, and I will with one more. Sports betting. The niche is growing like my lawn minutes after the summer rainstorm. Pitaro has said publicly that sports betting “has become a must-have” and he’s full-frontal correct. ESPN is in an odd spot with their clear lineage to Disney, but it’s obvious something massive is going to come soon with ESPN reportedly looking for a deal in the $3 billion neighborhood.
Pitaro has been positioning this company from a position of strength. He pays big money for big properties, but knows when he’s getting taken advantage of and most importantly, isn’t afraid to pull his brand’s name out of the deep end.
ESPN may have an issue with dwindling subscribers, but that’s an everyone problem. The difference is ESPN is constantly trying to get you from one network ship you think is sinking into another network life raft. If you want to leave cable or satellite and go streaming, you can. ESPN+ is there to pick up the pieces. Or Sling (with an ESPN bundle). Or YouTube TV (ESPN is there too). Or a myriad of other ways. They are positioned so well right now to be where you think you want to go. Jimmy Pitaro and ESPN have been amazing at doing whatever they can to keep you paying them monthly.
The network has been aggressive with media rights deals but these newer ones have been diligently maneuvered by Pitaro. It was a choice to essentially back the SEC for the next decade, and to put more money into the potential of F1. The effort was a conscious one to keep a tight-lipped mission to bolster Monday Night Football’s booth. It was an understated strategy to reinvest in the NHL. Those decisions make the future ones with the Pac-12, the Big 12, NBA and UFC fascinating to watch but what’s clear is that this ESPN strategy is different. The old adage of “pigs get fed, hogs get slaughtered” may have applied to the network under different leadership, but these aren’t eating pigs. These are boars.
Arky Shea serves as BSM’s evening editor, a daily news writer, and a weekly media columnist. He has previously worked for Outkick, 97.7 The Zone, 740 Sports Radio, and 730 The Ump where he held roles as the station’s program director, afternoon host, and producer. To connect, find Arky on Twitter @ArkyShea.
The Producers Podcast – Big Baby Dave, Jomboy Media
Big Baby Dave has his hands in everything for Jomboy Media. He joins Brady Farkas to talk about how he brings a unique sound to each show he works with.
Brady Farkas is a sports radio professional with 5+ years of experience as a Program Director, On-Air Personality, Assistant Program Director and Producer in Burlington, VT and Albany, NY. He’s well versed in content creation, developing ideas to generate ratings and revenue, working in a team environment, and improving and growing digital content thru the use of social media, audio/video, and station websites. His primary goal is to host a daily sports talk program for a company/station that is dedicated to serving sports fans. You can find him on Twitter @WDEVRadioBrady and reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.