NEWS - OCTOBER 2015
Jim Kelly's Emotional Journey
Yahoo Sports October 2015
The former Buffalo Bill and Pro Football Hall of Famer tells his story of how he's overcome multiple fights with cancer and why he still feels like he's the lucky one.
New platforms create broadcast opportunities for ex-athletes
Sports Business Journal October 19, 2015
As the media landscape has rapidly evolved in my 30 years of being in the sports industry, so has the transition for athletes entering the broadcast booth. Along with my 16W Marketing business partner Frank Vuono, I have the privilege to represent some of the most respected talent in broadcasting, including Phil Simms, Ron Darling, Howie Long, Cris Collinsworth, Boomer Esiason, Brian Griese, Bob Papa and others.
With the influx of media outlets and the many ways to stay involved in the game through media platforms once their playing days are over, more opportunities have become available for athletes. Nevertheless, there are only a limited amount of marquee seats available for former athletes interested in the sports media profession.
As I always advise athletes that are considering making this transition, it’s paramount that they remain both patient and realistic. This presents a unique challenge for these athletes who are so competitive and driven. In fact, I would venture to estimate that more than 95 percent of athletes looking to make the jump to broadcasting would not be able to immediately step into a high-profile, meaningful role on the national stage. However, most networks today have cable properties to provide talent the opportunity to develop their skills.
Another challenge for these athletes is the amount of preparation required to do the job at a high level. The amount of preparation required to keep an audience engaged in each broadcast is immense, and so underrated and misunderstood by those breaking into the business. From a preparation standpoint, the hours required for a retired athlete to excel in broadcasting can legitimately rival (and in some cases exceed) those hours of prep required during their playing days. For example, on their flights home from Sunday assignments, both Phil and Cris are already watching game film of the teams for their next week’s assignment.
Some examples of successful transition and preparation occurred when we began representing both Howie and Boomer toward the end of their respective playing careers. We put together a post-career game plan since they both expressed interest in television broadcasting.
That transition began with both taking on roles of feature reporters for the “NFL Diary” section of HBO’s weekly “Inside The NFL” series. Howie also could be seen weekly in the guest chair on “Up Close” with host Roy Firestone. This served as an internship for him to sharpen his skills and become increasingly more comfortable in front of the camera. Boomer served as a color analyst on the USA Network broadcast of the World League of American Football and was a guest analyst on ABC’s NFL playoff pregame and postgame shows during his time with the Bengals. Each of their early paths led to entry into the media world with high-profile roles: Howie as an analyst on the original “NFL on Fox” studio show and Boomer in the “Monday Night Football” broadcast booth.
With the explosion of digital platforms, the current era of athletes who are breaking into broadcasting have a wealth of options. Simply, the more digital platforms being created means more content needed, and more content means more jobs for analysts. A good example is 16W’s client Chris Simms. Chris has become the lead NFL analyst for Bleacher Report. As the result of the speed in which digital platforms release information, he is constantly looking at film to keep up with the NFL hour-by-hour as well as college football news. During the NFL season, Chris could be featured in more than 20 online video segments per day. Although his main focus continues to be in the digital space, he has simultaneously honed his television skills by working as an NFL game and studio analyst for CBS Sports/CBS Sports Network.
When I have the opportunity to speak to young sports industry professionals, they always inquire about what I think will be coming next. Here is what is on my radar:
The Next …
■ With the explosion of mobile technology, I am eager to see the next platforms created providing more opportunities for the next wave of broadcasters. For example, podcasts have been an invaluable tool for fans to consume content using their mobile devices, which is something that has only become available over the last few years.
The Point of Difference …
■ The athlete with the wherewithal to explore the play-by-play position (rather than the traditional color analyst) could be a perfect point of differentiation. It would take an individual with initiative and fortitude to be a success as a play-by-play announcer, since it is such a difficult skill. Some of the most prominent in this role have been the late Frank Gifford, Pat Summerall and Hot Rod Hundley — each more than 40 years ago when they first broke in.
Economics 101 …
■ With player salaries so high in today’s game, will superstar athletes making the transition be willing to take a $17 million to $18 million pay cut to enter the broadcasting world? This might end up being the most intriguing question when talking about the next era of broadcasters. Our veteran clients entered into broadcasting because even though they made a good amount of money during their playing days, they had to work to maintain the lifestyle they had while they were playing. Most of the players who are comparable to these guys on the field today make tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars and will have their choice of working or not.
I have been fortunate to work with some of the best in the sports broadcasting industry, but I have seen firsthand that (like anything else) it takes hard work, commitment, dedication and preparation to make it in the broadcasting booth.
Steve Rosner (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a co-founder and partner of 16W Marketing.