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The Mac Attack Isn’t Living In Mayberry

“I’m just grateful to still be here and I know what we have and what’s been established. If someone doesn’t think that’s good enough, that’s on them.”

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Some people say that sports talk radio is like hanging out with others at a bar. There aren’t many hosts around the country that I’d prefer to spend time with in a bar setting more than Chris “Mac” McClain and Travis “T-Bone” Hancock. They both have a great blend. They’re opinionated without being know-it-alls. They make you laugh but also point out things that make you think. Neither carries himself like, “Don’t you know who I am?” They present themselves as if to say, “Next round’s on us.”

Their friendship and radio partnership began way back in 2005. They’ve been the morning show on WNFZ in Charlotte for 13 years now. It’s interesting how two very different radio paths still led to their successful stint that has lasted nearly two decades. The duo talks about being the constant among so much change within the building. Mac and Bone also describe how the national media drives them crazy at times, how they aren’t hillbillies from Mayberry, and the art of bagging groceries. Enjoy! 

Brian Noe: Where are you guys originally from?

Chris McClain: I’m from York, Pennsylvania originally. Went to college at Towson in the Baltimore area. Bounced around in radio until I got here. I’ve been here now for, shoot, coming up on 18 years. Before that it was the normal radio thing, bouncing around. I got here in 2004, started off on the midday show and T-Bone came in as an intern a year or so after.

Travis Hancock: I’m from a small town in Connecticut called Brooklyn, Connecticut. I grew up listening to Mike and the Mad Dog with my dad. I certainly wanted to do it growing up. Then I ended up moving down here. I came to broadcasting school in May of 2004. In 2005, I was his intern and then two months later I was his producer and have been with him ever since. Now as a host. We’ve been in the city the same amount of years, he just got a year head start on me.

BN: Would you have ever thought you’d be together as long as you have in the same city?

CM: Hell no. I definitely wouldn’t have thought any place would have me this long. The radio business began for me in Jacksonville, Florida when the whole staff got fired one day because they switched from an all sports station. Somebody that I knew that I’d worked with in radio for years said welcome to radio. You now have officially started, you’ve been fired.

Since then I’ve been lucky to bounce a couple of times on my own but there’s no way, you know how the business is, there’s no way when you go somewhere you’re thinking oh man, I’m going to be blessed to be here for close to 20 years. Then T-Bone, I try to think about how many interns we’ve had. Some of them have actually gone on to do their own shows and really good stuff.

TH: Made a lot of money.

CM: [Laughs] And somehow Bone’s still dealing with me. We went through so many interns. He’s one of my best friends, to think we spend all this time together, to think that he ends up elevating to being the co-host of the show. He’s improved so much, grown up so much — this is kinda awkward — since we started.

TH: I wake up every day and feel more blessed by the day, as cliché as that sounds, because you get older and life happens. He moved around, he bounced around. I’ve had two jobs my whole life. I bagged groceries, went to broadcasting school, and I’ve been here ever since.

To go from intern in May to producer July 1 and to be around ever since, I skipped over so many things. I just got lucky. I’ve been blessed. The more we go along, the more grateful I am that this is not normal to have this bond for this long in one city. I never take it for granted. As I get older I really cherish it a lot more than I used to.

CM: Man, this shit is getting too sappy.

TH: It’s like a Bravo show.

BN: [Laughs] What would you say is your biggest flaw as a radio host?

CM: Probably just getting distracted in a segment. Terry Foxx, our boss, tells us about it all the time, that he can hear when he listens to me that there are eight thoughts popping into my head all at once and try to just stay on one topic. There might be another branch of this topic but don’t just all of a sudden end up back over here. That’s probably the thing because I’ve got just so many things I’m fired up about and I just want to get them all out.

I think in the past, Bone will probably admit this, like just caring too much about phone calls was an early thing for me. But Terry came in and he wanted to make it about us and our relationship on the air. I think that’s helped me as a host because I don’t think I’m so worried about I’m going to get this person mad, or I’ve got to get this person on my side. I think that’s helped me with that. Those are two things that I can admit about myself.

TH: I would say probably for me at times being too concise. I’m not long-winded naturally because my role for so long was that of a producer so I was in and out. I trained myself almost, hey one comment, you’re gone. He’s been talking to himself in a way for years. For me, I’m so used to giving the ball right back. I’m trying to learn how to wrap my mind around making the point longer. It’s not a bad thing to share it, but sometimes they want me to put a little bit more meat on the bone.

Also trying to balance out that I’ve certainly been viewed as a comedic character for a long time, a guy that chimes in with jokes. I sort of have to be more serious now in this role and not as antagonistic and just be down the middle on certain things. Adjusting from my role for 15 years as that other guy to this, it’s a little bit of an adjustment.

BN: Where are you guys with a PD because Terry Foxx is in Texas now, right?

CM: Yeah, I mean he’s still technically in charge. We’ll talk to him throughout the week, but we are in the process of hiring someone else. We’re in that transition. We’ve been dealing with a lot of transitions at FNZ.

TH: We didn’t have a PD from March of 2020 — we went through the whole pandemic without a PD.

CM: Right in the middle of the pandemic and no program director at that point.

TH: Highest ratings ever. [Laughs]

CM: Which is crazy about it. Then we get Terry in here and we’ve gone through an ownership change from Entercom to Radio One. It’s been a lot of uncertainty at the station and that’s one of the things, this team that we’ve got here, man, everybody’s done a great job. All of the shows, guys behind the scenes working their butts off despite the uncertainty.

You know how it is, Brian, in radio anything uncertain like that, we’re paranoid as radio folks anyway. Oh no, what’s going to happen? What did you hear? Then all of these different things, what’s this new boss going to think? And what about this new company? We’ve been through a lot of that stuff and I feel like everybody’s still been putting on good shows, staying focused, but it’s just been a challenge. I’ve realized everybody’s got similar stories in radio. It’s definitely a challenge.

BN: A lot has changed during your time in Charlotte [the station has been owned by CBS, Beasley, Entercom and now Radio One]. What’s it like for you guys to be the constant among so much change?

TH: You want to embrace it. I think also when there’s change whether it’s the ownership or GMs or PDs, because of our longevity and the fact that we don’t cause a lot of drama, the last person is going to tell the next guy hey, these are your guys that are the voices, your leaders, the guys who have been there through everything the last almost 20 years. The word trickles down that hey, these guys are going to do the right thing.

You embrace the fact that when there’s change, we’re going to be at the forefront of it. We’re going to do the best that we can and knowing that we’re respected by the new people most of the time, we’ll see if the next guy does or not, but you know what I mean. They went to us right away because of our longevity and as the guys who know what to do. You just learn to embrace it and adapt and keep rolling.

CM: I definitely feel lucky seeing how much has changed here, being able to be a part of all these different phases of WFNZ. I feel lucky because nothing is guaranteed in this business at all, much like life. I don’t want to do radio anywhere else either, man. That’s why if they don’t have me, it’s going to be an adjustment for me. I just love the city. It’s just perfect. I love the growth of the sports city, but it’s not the big, huge city that’s a little too crazy. It’s perfect for my family. I’m so glad it’s worked out this way for us, but it’s definitely been an entertaining ride as a station without a doubt.

TH: I wouldn’t know how to leave if I tried to leave. I wouldn’t even know what to do. I’d be like, we can leave here? I didn’t know that. I’ve been here the whole time.

CM: Go back to bagging groceries.

TH: That’s a possibility at some point though. For this article, I was the three-time employee of the month for that grocery store. So I did have success before radio.

CM: That’s big.

TH: Yeah.

BN: [Laughs] That’s good, man. I caught your rant about LaMelo Ball, Mac. Building off of that, what else annoys you about the national media and how they cover Charlotte sports?

CM: Man, we very rarely matter. I hate to sound like the small-town local yokel, but Charlotte just doesn’t bring eyeballs to those talking head shows. I understand what they’re doing. Just like we have to talk about the stuff that people here are going to care about, I understand that they have to play the hits: Lakers, the Cowboys, the Yankees and all that stuff. But yeah, you heard me on that one, just trying to take something.

We finally have a nice thing. We finally have a nice thing happening with the Hornets and we finally have this kid who looks like he’s going to be a superstar in two years and they want to snatch him away. That drives me crazy.

What else gets me? I get angry about the small-town thing a lot, don’t I? The lack of airtime even when we’re good. Only Cam Newton got us airtime. I felt even when we had good teams, except in 2015 when the team was just ridiculously good, but I feel like, Bone, there was a while there where we could be good and it didn’t matter. They only wanted to talk about Cam.

TH: It feels like a lot of the national narratives don’t seem to be accurate to what we know here. We’ll hear things that don’t make sense. Shannon Sharpe and Skip going in on Michael Jordan as the GM of the Hornets. He’s never been the GM of the team, he’s been the owner. Yes, he was a guy who was hands-on for a while, but he’s not anymore for the last four or five years. I know that Michael Jordan the name for those shows is of course the marquee. I get it. But you guys are talking about the Hornets with absolutely no knowledge of anything going on.

CM: You know what else gets me too? Now he’s got me. Now we’ve opened it up.

TH: You think we’re on the air here.

CM: The whole freaking thing like we’re hillbillies. Small-town hillbillies. I get it when you’re based up in New York or in Boston, I understand that you look at Charlotte a certain way. This has been one of the fastest-growing cities around in the country for years now in terms of people migrating here. A lot of people coming from the North, by the way, Brian. They want to live down here.

It’s now a media market. The media market size is 22nd so I feel like this thing is growing and it’s no longer Mayberry. We’ve been called Mayberry by so many national media personalities. I’m not insulted by it, there’s a lot of country around here. I grew up in the country actually, but it’s like come on, this is more than that.

TH: Mayberry is actually an hour away to be real about it. So we’re not Mayberry. We’re almost ready for Major League Baseball. NBA, NFL, and soccer is doing tremendous attendance-wise. If you give us one more year, we’re getting there. When you have baseball, basketball, soccer, all that we’re going to have, that’s a real sports city. I think sometimes we don’t feel respected as one of those cities yet. We’re coming, though.

BN: As far as the future goes, what ideally would you like your future to look like over the next five, 10 years? What would make you the happiest?

CM: Getting on FM was huge for us. That had been a goal for as long as we have been at the station. Every boss that has been in charge, everybody we’ve worked with, it’s always been a mission to get that FM signal. We’ve got to tip our cap to Terry Foxx, Marsha Landess, and everybody in charge here at Radio One.

None of the other companies we worked for, and it’s been many, have ever given us that stick. So to be on 92.7 now, that was always one of my goals is I want to be a part of it when we get it. I know it might sound crazy to a lot of people in sports radio, like y’all just got on FM in a city like Charlotte? We had an FM transmitter at one point but never had a full-blown FM. Now that that one’s off the list, I just want to keep getting better at doing what we’re doing.

TH: Yeah, just keep building on what we’ve established already. I think it’s important that when a TV show or radio show goes on for a long time, you’ve got to make sure it never gets stale. It’s why TV shows don’t last unless it’s The Simpsons or something. Sitcoms and all of that, they don’t last usually past 10 years or so. It’s important for us to never get stale, always be creating new things, new characters or new forms of who we are.

We’ve never gotten stale. I think it’s important that we always will be creative and knowing we can’t do the same stuff for 20 years and keep the same people. Always be moving, always be crafty. I think that’s important for us the next couple of years.

BN: With so many ownership changes and PD changes, have you guys gotten to a point now where you feel like hey, we’re established, we feel safe, or is it still like I don’t know, man, you never know?

CM: Yeah, I mean being in radio, man, I never feel totally safe. I think you feel like you should be maybe. [Laughs] You know what I mean?

TH: He’s got a different perspective because he’s been through that before. I don’t. I just keep going about my regular day. I’m not naive to that, but I also know that we’ve established something really great here and if they end it, they end it, but it takes away nothing we’ve already done and will continue to do.

CM: You know what it is, Brian, I’ve just seen, and I’m sure you’ve experienced the same sort of things personally and you’ve seen other people, I’ve seen so many rough days in buildings that I’ve worked in. I’ve seen 40 co-workers let go back at CBS SportsLine all at once. Luckily, I survived there. I saw the one I told you about earlier when it was AM 600 The Ball in Jacksonville. Man, we’ve got guys who are now all over the country. We had a really good team.

It was fun living in that city when I was young, but we had a change in ownership. Cox Broadcasting bought us out. Literally put Mickey Mouse, Disney on the air and fired the whole sports station in one day. I’ve experienced that. Then I was at XM Satellite Radio before the merger with Sirius. It was difficult trying to raise capital. I saw 100 people fired in one day and luckily I survived that one.

You see all that stuff so it’s hard to feel – you just know how the business is – it’s hard to ever feel like man, I can’t be that one day. But I know this, man, I try hard to not have that happen because this is where I want to be. This is the city I love. This is the sports town I love. So every day I’m motivated because I don’t want that to happen here.

TH: I don’t worry too much about it because I’m surprised we’re here at this point.

CM: It’s all gravy now?

TH: It’s like soccer extra time. We’re fine. Don’t worry about it. I’m just grateful to still be here and I know what we have and what’s been established. If someone doesn’t think that’s good enough, that’s on them. It doesn’t take away from the last 17 years of what we’ve done.

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Adam The Bull Is Giving Cleveland Something It’s Never Had Before

“It was only more recently that I was like why do I have to only be a radio guy?”

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After spending 22 years on the radio, Adam “The Bull” Gerstenhaber was ready for a new adventure.  In fact, the former co-host of Bull and Fox on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland did not have a new job lined up when he signed off from his 11-year radio home last month.

“I was already leaving without having a new project,” admitted Gerstenhaber during a recent phone interview with BSM.  “I left before I knew for sure I had a ‘next project’.”

Gerstenhaber was preparing for his final show with co-host Dustin Fox on April 1st when he was contacted by an executive producer for TEGNA, a company that was developing a Cleveland sports television show on YouTube.  The executive producer, who had just found out that Bull was a free agent, made it clear that he wanted Bull to be a part of the new project.

It all came together very quickly. 

“Let’s talk on Monday,” Gerstenhaber told the executive producer. “And within a week they signed me up.”

The Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show on YouTube featuring Gerstenhaber, former ESPN personality Jay Crawford, 92.3 The Fan’s Garrett Bush, and rotating hosts to make up a four-person round-table show, made its debut last Monday.  The show, which airs weekdays from 11am to 1pm, features passionate Cleveland sports talk, live guests, either in-studio or via Zoom, as well as interaction from the audience through social media.

“I’m very excited,” said Gerstenhaber.  “It’s a definite adjustment for me after 22 years on radio doing television.  For the last 11 years, I’ve been doing a radio show with just one other host and I was the lead guy doing most of the talking and now I’m on a show with three other people and it’s such an adjustment.  So far, I’m having a ball.”  

And so far, the reaction to the show has been very positive.

A big reason why is that it’s something that Cleveland didn’t have and really never had, unlike a city like New York, where there are local radio shows that are simulcast on regional sports channels. 

“There’s nothing like that in Cleveland,” said Gerstenhaber.  “And there was certainly nothing like this with a panel.  Cleveland is such a massive sports town and now people that don’t live in Cleveland that are maybe retired in Florida or Arizona, now they actually have a TV show that they can watch that’s Cleveland-centric.”

The new venture certainly represents a big change in what Bull has been used to in his radio career.  He’s enjoying the freedom of not having to follow a hard clock for this show. In fact, there have already been some occasions where the show has been able to go a little longer than scheduled because they have the flexibility to do that on YouTube.

Doing a show on YouTube gives the panel a great opportunity to go deep into topics and spend some quality time with guests.  And while there is no cursing on the show at the moment, there could be the potential for that down the road.

Don’t expect the show is going to become X-rated or anything like that, but the objective is to be able to capture the spirit and emotion of being a sports fan and host.

“It’s something we may do in the future,” said Gerstenhaber.  “Not curse just to curse but it gives us the option if we get fired up.  It is allowed because there’s no restrictions there.  The company doesn’t want us to do it at the moment.”  

There’s also been the shift for Gerstenhaber from being the “point guard” on his old radio show, driving the conversation and doing most of the talking, to now taking a step back and having Crawford distributing the ball on the television show.

For a guy called “The Bull”, that will take some getting used to. 

“Jay is a pro’s pro,” said Gerstenhaber.  “He’s the point guard for this but he’s also part of the conversation.  I’m not used to not being the point guard so I have to adjust to that.  I think it’s gone pretty well and the chemistry is pretty good and with time we’ll get used to the flow of it.”  

Gerstenhaber’s move from sports radio to an internet television show is a perfect example of how the industry is changing.  A good portion of the listening and viewing audience these days, especially those in the younger demographic, are not necessarily watching traditional television or listening to terrestrial radio.  For a lot of sports fans, watching and listening on a mobile device or a computer has become a very important way of life.

The desire to adapt, along with a shorter workday, was very enticing to him.

“It was only more recently that I was like why do I have to only be a radio guy?” wondered Gerstenhaber.  “There were things about my job that I was unhappy about.  I was doing a five-hour radio show.  It’s too long. That’s crazy.  Nobody should be doing a five-hour radio show at this point.” 

Broadcasting on the internet has arrived and it’s not just a couple of sports fans doing a show from their garage anymore.  The business has evolved to the point where the technology has provided more opportunities for those who have already enjoyed success in the industry and are looking for new challenges.

Kind of like Adam The Bull!

“I think years ago, probably like many people in the radio business, we looked at internet and podcasts as like whatever…those guys aren’t professionals…they’re amateurs,” said Gerstenhaber.  “But the game has changed.”

Gerstenhaber, Crawford and everyone associated with the “Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show” should not have much of a problem attracting the younger audience. That demographic is already accustomed to watching shows on YouTube and other streaming platforms.  The challenge now is to get the more mature audience on board. There are certainly some obstacles there.

I know this from experience with trying to explain to my mother in Florida how she can hear me on the radio and watch me on television simply by using her tablet.

Bull can certainly relate to that.

“My mother is still trying to figure out how to watch the show live,” said Gerstenhaber with a chuckle.  “The older fans struggle with that. A lot of my older fans here in Cleveland are like how do I watch it? For people that are under 40 and certainly people that under 30, watching a YouTube show is like okay I watch everything on my phone or device.  It’s such a divide and obviously as the years go by, that group will increase.” 

With the television show off and running, Gerstenhaber still has a passion for his roots and that’s the radio side of the business.  In the next couple of weeks, “The Bull” is set to announce the launch of two podcasts, one daily and one weekly, that will begin next month.  But he also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning to terrestrial radio at some point.

“I have not closed the door to radio,” said Gerstenhaber.  “I still love radio.  I would still, in the right set of circumstances, consider going back to radio but it would have to really be the perfect situation.  I’m excited about (the television show) and right now I don’t want to do anything else but I’m certainly going to remain open-minded to radio if a really excellent opportunity came up.”

The landscape of the broadcasting industry, particularly when it comes to sports, has certainly changed over the years and continues to evolve.  Adam Gerstenhaber certainly enjoyed a tremendous amount of success on the radio side, both in New York and in Cleveland, but now he has made the transition to something new with the YouTube television show and he’s committed to making it a success.

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BSM Writers

Why You Should Be Making Great TikTok Content

“We’re specially trained in the world of TSL (time spent listening), and the longer people view your content on TikTok, the more the app rewards you by shoving your content into more and more feeds.”

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It feels like there’s a new social media platform to pay attention to every other week. That makes it easy to overlook when one of them actually presents value to your brand. It wasn’t long ago that TikTok was primarily used by teenagers with the focus being silly dance trends filmed for video consumption with their friends and followers alike. Now, as the general public has become in tune with how this complicated app works, it’s grown far beyond that.

TikTok is now an app used by all types of demographics and unlike TikTok’s closely related cousins Instagram and Facebook, this app provides a certain type of nuance that I think people in our line of work can really excel in. 

Before I get into the nuts and bolts of how you can use TikTok to your advantage and how to make your videos catch on, I think it’s important to first mention why this matters for you. Now, if I’m being realistic, I’m sure there are some that have already stopped reading this or those that could scroll away fast enough when they saw the words TikTok. You might be thinking that this doesn’t fit your demo, or maybe that it’s a waste of time because productivity here won’t directly lead to an uptick in Nielsen ratings. But I’m not sure any social network directly leads to what we ultimately get judged on, and we aren’t always pumping out content directly to our core audience.

TikTok, like any other app you may use, is marketing. This is another free tool to let people out there know who you are and what you offer in this endless sea of content. And the beauty of TikTok is that it directly caters its algorithm to content creators just like us. Bottom line, if you are a personality in sports talk, there’s no reason you can’t be crushing it on TikTok right now. All it takes is a little direction, focus, consistency, and a plan. 

Unlike Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter where you can throw a photo up with a caption and be done for the day, TikTok’s whole model is built on creative videos that keep users engaged for longer periods of time. This approach works. According to Oberlo, a social media stat tracking site, people spend more time per day on TikTok than any other popular social media application. 38 minutes per day!

This is where this is good news for us in talk radio. We’re specially trained in the world of TSL (time spent listening), and the longer people view your content on TikTok, the more the app rewards you by shoving your content into more and more feeds. TikTok’s algorithm doesn’t care how many followers you have, your level of credibility, or the production on your video. All ir cares about is 1) Is your content good. and 2) Are people watching it. 3) How long are they watching it. The more people watch and the longer they watch creates a snowball effect. Your videos views will skyrocket, sometimes within hours. 

So, how do you create content that will catch on? It’s really not all that different than what you do every day. Create thought-provoking commentary that makes people think, argue, or stay till the end to get the info you teased up for them. I’ve found through my own trial and error that it’s best if you stay away from time-sensitive material, I’ve had more success the more evergreen my content is. That way, the shelf life expands beyond just that day or week. This is different for everyone and there’s no one-size-fits-all, but this is where I’ve seen the most success. 

Also, put yourself out there, don’t be afraid to say something that people are going to vehemently disagree with. Again, it’s not unlike what we do every day. It’s one thing to get someone to listen, it’s another to get them to engage. Once they hit you in the comment section, you’ve got them hooked. Comments breed more views and on and on. But don’t just let those sit there, even the smallest interaction back like a shoulder shrug emoji can go a long way in creating more play for your video. 

If you want to grow quickly, create a niche for yourself. The best content creators that I follow on TikTok all put out very similar content for most of their videos. This means, unlike Instagram where it’s great to show what a wildly interesting and eclectic person you are, TikTok users want to know what they’re getting the second your face pops up on that screen. So if you are the sports history guy, be the sports history guy all the time. If you are the top 5 list guy, be the top 5 list guy all the time, and on and on, you get the point. 

Other simple tricks

  • Splice small videos together. Don’t shoot one long video. 
  • 90 seconds to 2 minutes is a sweet spot amount of time. 
  • Add a soft layer of background instrumental music (this feature is found in the app when you are putting the finishing touches on your video) 
  • Label your video across the screen at the start and time it out so that it disappears seconds later. This way a user gets an idea of what the content is immediately and then can focus on you delivering your message thereafter.  
  • Research trending hashtags, they are far more important than whatever you caption your video. 
  • Use closed captions so that people can follow your video without sound. 

Finally, don’t be intimidated by it or snub your nose at it. Anything that helps your brand is worth doing and anything worth doing is worth doing well. 

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BSM Writers

Does Tom Brady’s Salary Make Sense For FOX In a Changing Media World?

“The risk here doesn’t have to do with Brady specifically, but rather the business of televising football games in general.”

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FOX is playing it too safe when it comes to adding Tom Brady.

That’s going to sound weird given the size of Brady’s broadcasting contract. Even if that deal isn’t worth as much as initially reported, it’s a hell of a lot of loot, especially considering Brady has remained steadfastly uninteresting for a solid 20 years now.

Let’s not pretend that is a detriment in the eyes of a television network, however. There’s a long line of famous athletes companies like FOX have happily paid millions without ever requiring them to be much more than consistently inoffensive and occasionally insightful. Yes, Brady is getting more money than those previous guys, but he’s also the most successful quarterback in NFL history.

The risk here doesn’t have to do with Brady specifically, but rather the business of televising football games in general. More specifically, the fact that the business of televising football games is changing, and while it may not be changing quite as rapidly as the rest of the sports-media industry, but it is changing. There’s an increasing number of choices available to viewers not only in the games that can be watched, but how they are consumed. Everything in the industry points to an increasingly fragmented audience and yet by signing Brady to be in the broadcast booth once he retires, FOX is paying a premium for a single component in a tried-and-true broadcasting formula will be more successful. 

Think of Brady’s hiring as a bet FOX made. A 10-year commitment in which it is doubling down on the status quo at a time of obvious change. FOX saw ESPN introduce the ManningCast last year, and instead of seeing the potential for a network to build different types of products, FOX decided, “Nah, we don’t want to do anything different or new.” Don’t let the price tag fool you. FOX went out and bought a really famous former player to put in a traditional broadcast booth to hope that the center holds..

Maybe it will. Maybe Brady is that interesting or he’s that famous and his presence is powerful enough to defy the trends within the industry. I’m not naive enough to think that value depends on the quality of someone’s content. The memoir of a former U.S. president will fetch a multi-million-dollar advance not because of the literary quality, but because of the size of the potential audience. It’s the same rationale behind FOX’s addition of Brady.

But don’t mistake an expensive addition from an innovative one. The ManningCast was an actual innovation. A totally different way of televising a football game, and while not everyone liked it, some people absolutely loved it. It’s not going to replace the regular Monday Night Football format, but it wasn’t supposed to. It’s an alternative or more likely a complement and ESPN was sufficiently encouraged to extend the ManningCast through 2024. It’s a different product. Another option it is offering its customers. You can choose to watch to the traditional broadcast format with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the booth or you can watch the Mannings or you can toggle between both. What’s FOX’s option for those audience members who prefer something like the ManningCast to the traditional broadcast?

It’s not just ESPN, either. Amazon offered viewers a choice of broadcasters, too, from a female announcing tandem of Hannah Storm and Andrea Kramer beginning in 2018 to the Scouts Feed with Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks in 2020.

So now, not only do viewers have an increasingly wide array of choices on which NFL games they can watch — thanks to Sunday Ticket — they in some instances have a choice of the announcing crew for that given game. Amid this economic environment, FOX not only decided that it was best to invest in a single product, but it decided to make that investment in a guy who had never done this particular job before nor shown much in the way of an aptitude for it.

Again, maybe Brady is the guy to pull it off. He’s certainly famous enough. His seven Super Bowl victories are unmatched and span two franchises, and while he’s denied most attempts to be anything approaching interesting in public over the past 20 years, perhaps that is changing. His increasingly amusing Twitter posts over the past 2 years could be a hint of the humor he’s going to bring to the broadcast booth. That Tampa Tom is his true personality, which remained under a gag order from the Sith Lord Bill Belichick, and now Brady will suddenly become football’s equivalent of Charles Barkley.

But that’s a hell of a needle to thread for anyone, even someone as famous as Brady, and it’s a really high bar for someone with no broadcasting experience. The upside for FOX is that its traditional approach holds. The downside, however, is that it is not only spending more money on a product with a declining market, but it is ignoring obvious trends within the industry as it does so.

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