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Kyle Brandt Doesn’t Fear ‘Absurd’

“I watch and it doesn’t seem like the people on the show even like sports. They’re so mad about everything.”

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Kyle Brandt

In July of 2016, Kyle Brandt was living in Southern California ending a nine-year run as executive producer of The Jim Rome Show. A couple of weeks later, he was on camera in New York City as one of the hosts the NFL Network’s new morning show.

On August 1st, 2016, Good Morning Football premiered and six years later, the show is still going strong.

And earlier this month, Brandt was rewarded with a new long-term contract with NFL Media.

“I’m thrilled, flattered, honored, and excited,” said Brandt.  “I’m very proud of what I’ve done there and extremely honored to be rewarded for it. I say the same thing when an NFL player signs a big contract extension. Contracts are not rewards for what you’ve done. They’re investments for what you’re going to do and I look at it that way as well.”

The weekday edition of Good Morning Football, hosted by Brandt, Jamie Erdahl, Jason McCourty and Peter Schrager, airs Monday through Friday from 7:00 AM-10:00 AM Eastern and has been a huge hit for football fans to get their day started with a mix of football and fun.  After previous morning shows NFL AM and NFL HQ, the NFL Network went in a different direction with GMFB and it’s certainly paid off.

Especially for Brandt.

“The origin story is absurd,” said Brandt. “Marvel would not believe this story. They took a shot on us…a really risky one and the show could have went into the side of a mountain in two weeks. And now we’ve done it for over six years and it’s like the small little company that we built within the massive NFL thing. I’m so proud of it. It’s a place where you come in and you have complete creative freedom to say anything you want about anything in the NFL and that’s so rare.”

A native of the Chicago suburb of Hinsdale, Illinois, Brandt was a running back for Princeton University and then embarked on a career in broadcasting and entertainment. In addition to his sports experience over the years, Brandt has appeared on the NBC soap opera Days of Our Lives while also starting on the MTV reality show The Real World: Chicago

From an on-air sports broadcasting perspective, Brandt cut his teeth during his time with Jim Rome. 

The experience he attained in “The Jungle” was, as Brandt pointed out during our phone conversation, “massive”.

“It was like being a coach for nine years and then starting your playing career,” said Brandt. “It was being a world-class director for years and then being like you know what I think I’m going to become an actor. It was like going through a nine-year master class before taking the stage.” 

Brandt learned a lot about the business of sports broadcasting over those nine years working on the Rome show.  There were two things specifically that resonated with Brandt that he continues to follow to this day and they are both a big reason for his success.

“Work ethic and preparation,” Brandt said of Rome. “When I would work with Jim, he was easily at the part of his career that he could have started mailing things in. Why not? He was successful. You’re a made guy. You’re a hall of famer. I was always so impressed with it. I’m a prepare freak…almost obsessive neurotic preparer for something I could definitely wing…definitely and I just won’t do it.”

GMFB has carved out a niche among football fans because it’s unlike other sports television shows. While there has to be an “x’s and o’s” element when you’re doing a football show or any show in sports, what made Brandt and company successful for this long has been the ability to simply have fun in the mornings.

Yes, it’s a football show on a football network, but it’s also a morning show and that brings about a commitment to entertain the viewers.

“I see other shows sometimes,” said Brandt. “I watch and it doesn’t seem like the people on the show even like sports. They’re so mad about everything. You can’t wake up at 7:00 AM, pour your coffee, turn on the TV, and there’s someone with a furrowed brow screaming at someone across the table. There’s a place for that TV…I just don’t think it’s first thing in the morning. We get crazy sometimes and we get ridiculous sometimes. I will go to my grave saying sports are still fun.”

This season, there was a big change at GMFB for season seven and that was the exodus of original host Kay Adams after being part of the show for six years. Adams was replaced by former NFL on CBS sideline reporter Jamie Erdahl who will continue to have select assignments for CBS Sports.

Maybe change wasn’t the right word when it comes to GMFB.  It’s more like a seamless transition.

“People ask what’s the change like and I just say easy,” said Brandt. “Kay has a huge footprint on this show and is one of the founding members who started this with us. Jamie is a tenured, pedigreed sports media journalist who comes in prepared early and ready with thoughts and questions, production ideas, and with editorial suggestions every single day. We didn’t know what it was going to be like because we’ve never been through this before.  It’s just been so easy and such a pleasure to have Jamie.” 

GMFB is just one part of Brandt’s new deal with NFL Media. 

In addition to remaining with the morning show, Brandt will also be making appearances on the NFL’s digital and social content while also developing new content ideas for NFL Media. 

“I’m thrilled and it’s the same thing I would say about Good Morning Football,” said Brandt.  “They hand us this pallet and they say paint what you want. Creativity. What is in your head this morning about the Bengals? Go ahead and paint it. Whatever you want to do. They said do anything you want in the media group. Come up with ideas.  Paint your pictures. If you want to develop something, great.”

In addition to his NFL Media duties, Brandt signed a deal back in August with Omaha Productions for content on ESPN+. The new show Kyle Brandt’s Basement debuted on August 8th and features guest interviews and discussion of the ins and outs of the NFL.

Brandt and Omaha were initially connected when he auditioned last summer to do the ManningCast of ESPN’s Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli Manning.

There was an initial thought of having a third voice as part of the show.

“It went really well,” said Brandt. “It was the craziest acid trip moment of my career to be in a Zoom with Peyton and Eli watching a Ravens/Browns game talking football. They were so good and they didn’t need a third host no matter who it was. They said thanks for doing it but let’s look for something down the road.”

Well, down the road, Brandt would eventually receive a phone call from a private number in the Denver area code. Brandt answered the phone and said “hello”.

And then Brandt heard…“Kyle it’s Peyton Manning,” said Brandt as he recalled the phone call. 

“It’s so bizarre but they’ve been so supportive.  They came back to me and said we want to be in business with you and we think you should do this show that we have in mind and we’re going to do it in your basement.”

Kyle Brandt is a busy man these days. From producer/coach to on-air personality/player, Brandt’s career in sports continues to skyrocket.

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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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