It was during the 2017 NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans that I gained a new level of respect for Chris Broussard. He flew to The Big Easy for the NBA weekend, but we had a show to do for FOX Sports Radio on the same Saturday evening as the Slam Dunk Contest and 3-Point Shootout. Instead of attending the events in person, Chris made arrangements to use a studio in town to knock out the show. I mentioned to Chris that he has clout and could’ve easily blown off the show by taking the night off. He responded, “Hey, you gotta go to work, right?”
Amen to that. Although Chris had firmly established himself in the sports media world, he didn’t forget about the ingredients that made him successful in the first place. His determination and work ethic have always been apparent. Beyond that, Chris is genuinely a great dude. He is easy to get along with and has many other great attributes: smart, funny, talented, and a winning attitude. That combination is rare. Overvaluing Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is one of the only things I can actually call out Chris for. Other than that, he checks every box you could want. Hear him on FSR’s The Odd Couple with Rob Parker weekdays from 4-7pm PT. Read about his career path and astute sports radio views below. Enjoy.
Brian Noe: What do you enjoy most about being in sports radio now that you’re a full-time host?
Chris Broussard: Unlike television you get more room to express your views. I’ve been doing TV for almost 20 years on a national level. TV is great. I love it, but you’re limited in how long you get to speak, particularly in my case when I’m typically a guest or an analyst. I don’t have my own television show so I’m not on for hours at a time.
When I’m on as a guest on shows, you only have so long to speak. Whereas on radio having my own show — our show now is three hours, when you and I did it, it was four hours — you get a lot longer to share what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling. You can really get out all of the points you want to. That’s what I really appreciate about radio.
BN: When you went full-time as a sports radio host did you find yourself listening to more sports radio, not to copy people, but to get a feel for other styles?
CB: I had listened before I even started doing sports radio. I would listen to Colin a lot. I would listen to Mike and Mike in the Morning a lot, Stephen A Smith, just some of the better shows out there. You do pick up things when you’re in the business, but I haven’t consciously said I like that Colin Cowherd does this, so let me try to incorporate that. I’ve just been myself and I think that’s important.
Obviously you can learn things from different people. When I was a writer, I would read some of my favorite writers and study how they did different things and maybe try to incorporate it into my style and put my particular flavor on it. I’m not against that, but I have seen people try to copy something Colin does or something someone else does and it doesn’t work because it’s not natural.
I think the key to radio and television in the position that I’m in is being natural, being yourself, letting your own personality shine forth. Because you know, Brian, in this business there is a very big you-either-have-it-or-you-don’t factor. It’s not just technical. There are guys who are great technically; coming in and out of breaks they never make mistakes. All of that is perfect, but they may not have that it factor, that chemistry with the co-host, that energy on the air, that charisma, just something about their personality that people really are drawn to. I just try to be myself. Obviously Rob Parker and I have great chemistry. That really carries the day more so than trying to copy this guy or that guy.
BN: What do you love most about Rob and what drives you the crazy about him?
CB: (Laughs) Rob really is a great guy. You know him. He is the epitome of a people person. He’s very unselfish. At Christmas he bought just about everybody at FOX Sports Radio a gift. He bought me a really nice gift, a painting of the two of us for our show. He’s just a really great guy. I love that he’s a mentor to so many people in the business and he’s really helped a lot of people get into the business. Just him as a person, he’s just a great guy overall.
There’s nothing I don’t like about him. His takes are crazy a lot of times. Sometimes they’re on point. He’s actually had a really good year in terms of his predictions. As with anybody — I’ve debated Skip Bayless, Nick Wright, Shannon Sharpe, Stephen A. Smith — and sometimes, which I’m sure is the case with me as well, you’re critical of a guy for various reasons, but then when there’s a guy that you support, you overlook those same criticisms. If Rob is critical of Tom Brady and he’ll say well Brady didn’t throw a touchdown in the Super Bowl last year so he doesn’t get credit. He got carried, but yet he’s very supportive of Aaron Rodgers. So when the Packers win without Aaron Rodgers throwing a touchdown, he praises Aaron. I point out those contradictions and we have fun with it. You can always find little things like that in different guys when they debate. It’s my job to point that out and I do.
BN: (Laughs) You don’t have a problem doing that, right?
CB: (Laughs) Right, but we have a lot of fun. I’ll tell you the thing is that some of Rob’s takes are so out there, or I disagree with them so adamantly, that it makes for really great radio. You just go back and forth over a topic and you really debate with each other. It’s a lot of fun.
BN: Yeah, and it fits the name of the show and how you promote it and all of that.
CB: Very much so.
BN: If you start from the beginning — not just sports radio — how did you initially break into sports media and then work your way up?
CB: Well, like a lot of people I grew up as a humongous sports fan. Sports were essentially my life. I played football, basketball, and baseball throughout high school. I played basketball in college and was always a gifted writer. As an elementary school student I was able to write really well. I enjoyed English class. I used to even write rhymes, like raps and stuff like that. I just really tried to combine something I enjoyed, which was sports, with something that I was gifted at, which was writing. That’s really how I decided that I wanted to try to be a sports writer.
I had a summer internship at the Cleveland Plain Dealer after my junior year of college, which really was my breakthrough. They hired me the following year after I graduated from college. For the first nine months to a year, I was just sitting in the office answering telephones. Then they taught me how to work the computers. Every newspaper has a record page where it has all the transactions, statistics, and the standings. I learned how to do that. I was in the office for nine months to a year just doing that stuff every day from 3pm to 12 midnight.
Then I got promoted. I was writing virtually every day covering high school sports. I covered high school sports for three or four years. I left the Cleveland Plain Dealer and went to the Akron Beacon Journal. It was a smaller paper. It was there that I got my break and started covering the NBA, the Cleveland Cavaliers. From there my career kind of took off.
About three years after going to the Beacon Journal, I went to the New York Times and I started covering the Nets and the Knicks. Being in New York I got exposure to television. I did a little local television. Then I started doing some ESPN TV while I was still with the New York Times. I started doing television more and more.
When I went to ESPN I went to write for ESPN: The Magazine. It was a magazine contract with the understanding that I would do some television. I did more and more television and less writing to the point that when I left ESPN, I was hardly doing any writing. I was basically all television. Now at FOX Sports, I’m all television and radio. I don’t do any writing whatsoever.
BN: Do you miss the writing part of it?
CB: I think the best part about writing stories for ESPN: The Magazine was the time you got to spend with the athletes. When you write a magazine story on a player or a coach or whoever, you really spend a lot of time with them. Unlike newspapers, I would go and I would be with a guy for three days or longer. I went to Italy to do a story on Brandon Jennings when he was playing over there. I spent two weeks there and I was with him virtually every day, him and his family, eating dinner, hanging out. That time when you really get to know the athletes, that’s the best thing about it and that’s what I miss.
Also great trips, I got to go to Africa because of ESPN: The Magazine. I got to go to Europe. That travel and those experiences were great. That’s what you miss, but sitting down and actually writing a story, I don’t miss that. I was a perfectionist. Like a lot of writers I labored over every word. One of my colleagues, Tom Friend, at ESPN: The Magazine, I thought he put it perfectly. One time we were in a meeting and he said writing is painful. When you really take it seriously, writing is painful for a lot of us. That’s how I was. I really wanted to make everything great.
BN: Do you think the lack of diversity in sports radio is a problem?
CB: Yeah, I do think television has a solid amount of diversity though. You’ve got Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman with Molly Qerim as the host. So there is diversity there. You’ve got Shannon Sharpe, Skip Bayless, and Jenny Taft as the host. Wilbon and Kornheiser. Most of the sports talk television shows that we can think of — Speak For Yourself with Jason Whitlock and Marcellus Wiley, you’ve got Bomani Jones and Pablo Torre on High Noon — you can point to diversity on sports television. I think in front of the camera, television wise, the diversity is pretty good based on what I see on the national level.
Now locally it may not be where it needs to be. I’m not sure of that. I think behind the scenes you need to get more diversity. The people making some of the decisions, producers and things like that. I think television just from what I see is far ahead of radio. I don’t think there is nearly enough diversity in sports radio. Rob and I — and I may be wrong so I’m not going to say this definitively — but we may be the only two African-American hosts to have a national radio show.
I know there were the 2 Live Stews in Atlanta years ago, but they weren’t really a national show. It was more so local in Atlanta. I don’t know, again I may be missing someone, but I don’t know that there’s been two African-American co-hosts on a national radio show other than myself and Rob. I don’t think there are two that weren’t athletes. There may be one who was a broadcaster and one who is an ex-athlete. It shows you that there is not nearly enough diversity in radio.
I think in radio you do need more diversity because obviously the sports themselves are very diverse. Beyond that though the audiences are diverse. If you only have one group represented in radio or television, then you’re really only getting that one group’s perspective. For those reasons and even more I think it’s definitely important to have diversity.
BN: Do you approach your show thinking, hey man I’ve got to do a good job and bring it because I want the door to be open for the next black broadcaster? Is that ever on your mind?
CB: I wouldn’t say it’s on your mind like that. Obviously you recognize as an African American that if you do well that opens up the door for other African Americans to follow you. In that regard you’re conscious of it. It could be also some motivation that unfortunately people may be judging black people as a whole on how well Rob and I do. That can lead you to be a little extra motivated to do well, but certainly when you’re on the air you’re not thinking about that because you just have be in the moment and be focused on the sports.
To be honest you’re going to do your best when you’re just focused on what’s going on right then and there. We obviously appreciate and certainly want to reach the African American audience, but we want to reach everybody. We seem to have a very wide range of diverse listeners from white, to black, to Hispanic, various races and ethnicities. Even sometimes we get calls from women so I’m sure we have a decent number of women listening. While we are cognizant of that we certainly want to reach everybody and not just one racial group.
BN: If you were able to map out what you’ll be involved in professionally over the next five or 10 years, what do you think would make you the happiest?
CB: I would want a television show whether it was like The Odd Couple being simulcast or being put on television, or it was another show that I became a host of or a co-host of. It’s not going to kill me if I don’t get it. I’ve had a successful career. I’m doing well now. I’m happy and content with where I’m at. As far as the next step that I would like to get to, that would be it.
I would love for The Odd Couple to be treated like The Herd where it was a radio show on television. I would prefer that to doing The Odd Couple as a TV show and still doing it as a radio show. I would take that, don’t get me wrong, but I would prefer it be all in one kind of like The Herd is. Whether or not that happens who knows? But that would be ideal as the next step.
BN: When you wake up, what motivates you to do a great show? Is it that you just simply want to do a great show, or are you a competitive person where you want to prove people wrong who look at you only as a reporter or writer? How are you wired in terms of why you prepare to do good work?
CB: That’s a good question. You have your personal pride where you just want to do well. Doing well is obviously having the right information, having strong points and opinions that you can back up, and being entertaining. When you’re doing what you’re meant to do, I don’t believe you think about it too much. I think you just do it because if you’re thinking too much about it, it may not be what you’re meant to do.
Think about the great athletes, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Drew Brees or whoever it may be and how they can perform at their best when millions of people are watching and ready criticize them if they don’t do well. Just how you can keep your cool, how you can treat it like every other game in that situation. I think it’s because they’re meant to do that. You and I are looking at it like this is the biggest game of the year, and they’re looking at it like, man this is what I do. That’s kind of how it is with me.
I used to say this when I’d go speak to kids at colleges or wherever, when I wrote for the New York Times my average game story was about 900 words. If you had told me in college that this is what I was going to be doing, and it’s for the New York Times, and it’s going to be all over the country — because at that time before the internet was big, seeing your story in the airports all over the country was a huge deal — if you had told me I was going to do that, I may have said wow, there’s no way I’m doing that.
The pressure and the big games — I wrote about Michael Jordan’s last game. I was there at his first game as a Washington Wizard. I was at LeBron’s first game in the NBA. I wrote about that. If you had told me those things, I might have been like man, I don’t know that I can do that. But when I got in those situations you just do it. Fortunately I was able to do it well. I think when you’re doing what you’re meant to do; you don’t have to overthink it.
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.
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.