Monthly Archives: February 2012

Commentators tailor broadcast to Minnesota market

BY MATTHEW OSTROW

On the call on Fox Sports North for the Charlotte Bobcats v. the Minnesota Timberwolves game were Tom Hanneman and Jim Petersen.  Fox Sports North is a media outlet primarily shown in the Minnesota area, so I had to take that into account when listening to them.  With that said, I feel both commentators did a great job enhancing the fan experience.

Hanneman did the play-by-play and kept his words very concise.  He also did a good job not over-talking because the fans can see what is going on for themselves.  Hanneman brings a lot of excitement to the game and made me, as a fan, really believe he wanted the Timberwolves to win the game.  Along with his excitement, Hanneman uses some good catch phrases. For example, there were a couple times when rookies Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams would have great plays back-to-back and Hanneman said, “great pass by Rick Rubio, rise and shine rookies.”

Petersen did the color commentary and really showed his basketball expertise.  Petersen played in the NBA and is currently the assistant coach for the Minnesota Lynx.  Each time down the court he would explain what each player has been trying to improve on their last couple games. For example, after Wes Johnson drove to the basket and scored Petersen said, “That’s what Wes needs to do.”  While being a Timberwolves commentator, Petersen still showed equal praise to other players such as Kemba Walker when they made good plays.

Hanneman and Petersen did a god job making, what could have been a boring game, exciting.  The duo did a good job tailoring their commentary to their market which is Timberwolves fans. As a Timberwolves fan, the commentary duo of Petersen and Hanneman provided a great combination of informative commentary and entertainment which made it worth tuning into.

NBC’s talent and versatility lead to successful pre-game

By Chris Rambo

Perhaps nothing symbolizes the Super Bowl’s growth from simply a championship football game into the hype-driven colossus that we know today more than the network pre-game show.While all known tapes of the original Super Bowl I network broadcasts have since been wiped, something tells me that the two  pre-game shows (CBS and NBC each broadcasted the game) were nothing like the five-hour extravaganza NBC put forth Sunday. Covering that amount of time is no small feat and certainly requires many days of preparation and rehearsal, not to mention seamless coordination on game day. Fortunately, NBC has a deep reservoir of on-air talent to pull from, and it was their skillful deployment of that talent which made the pre-game show a success.

Every Super Bowl pre-game that I’ve watched seems to be a blend of the following:  non-football entertainment, informational/inspirational feature stories, x’s and o’s talk, and plenty (I do mean plenty) of network promotion. NBC more or less stuck to this format on Sunday.

Non-football entertainment/network promotion: I’m deciding to merge these two categories into one because that’s basically what NBC decided to do. Almost every one of their non-football segments featured a personality from an NBC Universal-owned network. First, there was The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantorie giving fans at home a feel for the conditions outside Lucas Oil Stadium while also hanging from an 800-foot zip line. Next up came Tom Colicchio, host of the Bravo reality show Top Chef, who appeared with two contestants from the show. The contestants competed to see who could whip up the best Super Bowl party snack, with Rodney Harrison and Tony Dungy serving as judges. They were followed by Bill and Giuliana Rancic from the Style Network, who offered fans a few last-minute pointers on how to host a good Super Bowl party. There was a live interview at the White House between Matt Lauer and President Obama, the remainder of which could be seen by tuning into the Today show Monday morning. Finally, Nick Cannon, host of NBC’s America’s Got Talent, was on hand throughout the afternoon to chat with various entertainment figures — all of whom had either a movie or upcoming NBC show to promote. While die-hard football junkies probably cringed at most of this stuff, it shouldn’t be judged too harshly. After all, plenty of non-football fans were surely tuned in, plus, NBC shelled out truckloads of money for the broadcast rights, so I think they were justified in turning some of the show into a glorified infomercial.

Feature stories: I thought NBC did a pretty good job on this front. With five hours to kill, there was no excuse for not covering every relevant angle, and the network made sure that America got to know a little bit about the players and coaches on each team. In an effort to conserve space, I won’t list every single player that was profiled, but I will say that my two favorite segments were on defensive-end Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants and punter Zoltan Mesko of the Patriots. Each story did a nice job at highlighting the inspirational elements of each player’s journey and the unusual way they were both introduced to the game. There were also scores of one-on-one interviews most notably with the quarterbacks, owners, and head coaches of both teams. Duties were doled out among Bob Costas, Al Michaels, Dan Patrick, Tony Dungy, and Rodney Harrison. While the interviewing skills of the first three have been well chronicled (they were all terrific as usual), I thought Dungy and Harrison also did a good job on their respective sit-downs with Tom Coughlin and Bill Belichick. While nothing earth-shattering was revealed in either case, viewers were treated to a side of the two coaches that is different from the way both men have at times been portrayed. The best package, however, was Peter King’s poignant segment on Steve Gleason, the ALS-stricken former special teams player for the Saints. Airing shortly before game time, the piece took a look at how some of Gleason’s former teammates have come to his aid, and the possible link that repeated head trauma could have on ALS. Overall, the features were all very solid. While many of the angles that NBC covered had already been explored by other networks and various newspapers, viewers who did not spend their spare time devouring information received a nice look at all the key participants.

X’s and O’s: I feel that this was the strongest part of NBC’s presentation. For most of the afternoon, the network grouped Bob Costas with Hines Ward and Aaron Rodgers, and Dan Patrick with Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison. Dungy and Harrison have done nice work all season while I thought Rodgers and Ward did a good job at adding perspective on the quarterback/receiver part of each team’s game plan as well as what emotions a player feels leading up to the big game. I thought the crew was at its best about halfway through the broadcast when Doug Flutie, Cris Collinsworth, and Rodney Harrison acted out a taped segment on the field about what has made Victor Cruz so effective this season. Back live, Dungy and Harrison then broke down both Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. They correctly predicted Nicks could have a huge game because of all the attention the Patriots were putting on Cruz. They then swung it down to Costas, Rodgers, and Ward, with the two players explaining  all of the dynamics that went into good quarterback/receiver chemistry. While there were other good examples, I felt this one best exemplified NBC’s coordinated use of its available talent. The analysts were able to explain a key subplot concisely after being skillfully led in by the two anchors.

Overall, I thought that NBC did a very competent job at delivering what most viewers have come to expect from a Super Bowl pre-game show. The network did well at plugging in Dungy, Harrison, Rodgers, and Ward to analyze all of the emotional and strategic aspects of a game like this, while Costas and Patrick are obviously two of the best facilitators in the business. NBC also did a nice job at confining most of the non-football stuff to the first-half of the show before trading in Cannon for Michaels and Collinsworth and devoting more time to game strategy. Honestly, I can’t recommend that anybody actually watch one of these pre-game shows from start to finish like I did, however, if you were periodically tuning in, then chances are that you ran into something pretty good to hold you over until kick-off.

Latest innovation ‘NBCee It’ shows Super Bowl’s big catch

By Adam Kuffner

NBC had the rights from the NFL to cover this year’s Super Bowl. Nothing jumped out about the telecast, but the overall broadcast flowed smoothly with the game. Al Michaels called the game with Cris Collinsworth alongside. Michelle Tafoya was the sideline reporter and she updated the audience on injuries throughout the game. Tafoya was also able to interview coaches during halftime, letting everyone know how each coach assessed the first half.

There were a few story lines talked about throughout the game. At the start of the game, Michaels talked about how this game was  “Act II” referring back to the first Super Bowl matchup between these two teams in Super Bowl XLII.  Throughout the broadcast, various people associated with the teams were shown watching the game from their respective suites including: Patriots Owner Robert Kraft, Giants President/CEO John Mara, Eli Manning’s family (most notably Archie), and Tom Brady’s supermodel wife Gisele Bundchen.

My favorite part of the broadcast was arguably the biggest play of the game when Eli Manning hit Mario Manningham down the sideline for a 38-yard gain on the Giants’ game-winning drive.  Immediately, the catch was challenged by Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick. NBC provided great replays of the amazing catch including one of its latest innovations NBCee It. This technology froze the camera shot, zoomed in, and moved the shot to give fans a perfect view of Manningham getting both feet in bounds to make the incredible catch! Michaels and Collingsworth acknowledged how amazing the play was, and NBCee It helped back up their proclamations.

The game came down-to-the-wire although the commentators didn’t sound very excited about the biggest game of the year being so close. However, there weren’t any major errors, and the overall production of Super Bowl XLVI lived up to the standards of a Super Bowl broadcast.

Analyzing Super Bowl XLVI: Halftime

By Dane Windisch

The Super Bowl is one of the great events in American culture and the media plays a crucial part in making the Super Bowl enjoyable for viewers. From the always popular commercials during the telecast to the debatable halftime performances, the Super Bowl has something unique for all viewers. NBC was the station televising the game this year and provided good halftime coverage. But, there was controversy involving the halftime show. Historically speaking, however, viewers should not have been surprised.

Before Madonna’s halftime performance, there was a quick recap of the first-half from Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison. Harrison, who was a former Super Bowl Champion with New England, gave comments on what New England did well in the first-half and what they need to do to improve in the second-half to come out with the victory. Dungy focused on New York’s first-half but more from the perspective of how Tom Coughlin, head coach for New York, should address his team at halftime to come back and beat New England. This was done perfectly by NBC by having two former Super Bowl Champions, one as a coach and one as a player, in Dungy and Harrison. These are two individuals who have been in that position before and are respected by viewers.

The popular Super Bowl halftime show was presented by Bridgestone and was headlined by Madonna, LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A, and Cee Lo Green. As always, there were positive and negative opinions from viewers. The part of the performance worth discussing is how NBC handled the quick obscene gesture from M.I.A., which was seen by millions. If you were watching the show on TV, you might remember during the performance the screen went blurry for a few seconds. This was because of the gesture that was spotted. This is the second time a controversial image was seen on TV by viewers. In 2004, there was an incident with Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. NBC did a poor job in this regard with the broadcast because, I believe, the show should have been delayed about five seconds in order to spot this sooner so viewers would not have seen the gesture from M.I.A. NBC apologized for the gesture, seen by millions, but it has still caused many advocacy groups to voice their opinions.

After the halftime show, there was a quick “keys to the second-half” by the analysts and Bob Costas talked about some important statistics regarding the recent meetings between New York and New England. Costas went into how the last three meetings between the teams have gone down to the final minutes and how he thinks the kickers might play a big part in the ending.

Super Game, Super Week

 By Dan Spehler

PRE-GAME: There were many highlights amidst NBC’s five hours of pre-game coverage, incorporating correspondents from many of NBC’s cable partners. We walked past the Giants hotel as NBC’s Peter King reported on the team’s pre-game activities.

One of the best moments came around 1:30 p.m. when the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore tried the zip-line live on TV – “zipping” right past the NBC stage in Super Bowl village. However, as we walked past the NBC pre-game stage, it was not easy to see what was actually going on – there was thick glass between the fans and the NBC team of Bob Costas and Aaron Rodgers, and no TV monitors showing the crowd what was on the air.

The ESPN pre-game stage had a much different feel. As you’ll see in the video I’ve posted, thousands of fans swarmed Pan Am Plaza where the ESPN Countdown crew broadcasted live. The ESPN gang even came outside to give their Super Bowl predictions, interacting with fans throughout (By the way, all of them picked the Giants, except Chris Berman).

ESPN and NBC talent could be seen all over town Super Bowl weekend, along with many other celebrities from the world of football and entertainment. There was a festive atmosphere in the lobbies of the ESPN hotel (Hyatt) and NBC hotel (Omni) on Saturday night, where we saw the likes of Evander Holyfield and Danny DeVito – even Subway Jared was there. On Sunday, we ran into NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on his way to the stadium.

The game itself drew a record TV audience (111.3 million viewers), and the atmosphere in Indianapolis was electric on game day. By kickoff, everyone had settled in for the national anthem – fans arrive early to the Super Bowl so they don’t miss a minute of the pre-game action.

HALFTIME: By now, we’ve all seen/ heard about this year’s halftime controversy. Rapper M.I.A. gave those 111 million viewers the middle finger during her halftime cameo with Madonna, forcing both NBC and the NFL to apologize, while M.I.A. herself has stayed mostly silent. I’m guessing the NFL will never ask her back for another Super Bowl performance. No doubt, this will remind many of the incident eight yeas ago, with Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction.” Madonna herself promised no wardrobe malfunctions during  the Super Bowl press conference on Thursday, and I can only imagine her displeasure with M.I.A. for injecting this bit of controversy into what was otherwise an impressive halftime production.

POST-GAME: People across Indy were cheering the Giants’ dramatic victory. The song “Empire State of Mind” could be heard in the stadium, and in bars across town. As always, the field was swarmed by the players’ family members, and thousands of reporters and photographers seeking post-game interviews.

Two interviews didn’t happen – including Bill Belichick, who was not seen on TV after the game. Typically, the losing coach will grant a post-game interview – but the Patriots coach has never been known for his accessibility.

Also, the Super Bowl MVP had been slated to appear on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” but for unknown reasons, Eli Manning did not appear on the show, which has been originating from Indy all week. Instead, three defensive players from the Giants took the stage to replace him.

As we left town, we saw thousands standing in line to be in the audience for Fallon’s show. My wife and I were in the audience for his Wednesday show – and it was a real treat. The appeal of the Super Bowl also helped Fallon produce his highest-rated show in history on Sunday night, which goes to show how the broadcasting network can parlay the Super Bowl broadcast into a broader promotional strategy.

My station is a CBS affiliate (we have the game next year), so we didn’t do nearly as much Super Bowl coverage as many of the NBC affiliates I saw in town from stations across the Midwest, and around the country. But it was still a thrill to be in my old home town for several days. Indy put on a great show, and it’s quite likely they’ll get the game again one day. By then, many of you sports management/ journalism students will be working in the field too – and I hope to see you there!

Editor’s Note: Dan Spehler is a BGSU alumnus who majored in broadcast journalism, and took part in Dick Maxwell’s NFL Sport Media & Management class. Spehler has worked since 1999 as an anchor/reporter at TV stations across Ohio & Indiana, including WTVG & WUPW in Toledo, WDTN in Dayton, and WRTV in Indianapolis. He currently works as a reporter/anchor at WKRC in Cincinnati.

Spehler checks in from Super Bowl Media Day Pt 2

By Dan Spehler

What an experience covering Media Day! Players and coaches from both teams are given one hour on the field with thousands of reporters from across the country, and around the world. It’s a bit of circus and, as always, reporters from outlets like Nickelodeon and Azteca made the event that much more interesting. 

As a reporter from Cincinnati, my main assignment during the Patriots session was getting an interview with former Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco – who is always at the center of attention. It wasn’t easy to find Chad at first – he’s not very tall and there were dozens of cameras surrounding him. We finally saw him, and after several minutes of elbowing our way into the crowd, we were able to get close enough to put our microphone and camera into the cesspool of news crews. Even Chad was a bit overwhelmed by all the attention, and somewhat subdued by the many questions about his lackluster statistical performance this season.

During the Giants session, we spoke with two players from Ohio – tight end Jake Ballard (Springboro) and line-backer Greg Jones (Cincinnati Moeller). Both were excited to be playing in the Super Bowl so close to home, and both are inviting scores of friends and family to the game.

Be sure to watch our clip from Media Day, and I’ll be back to post our wrap-up from Super Bowl week in a few days!

Spehler checks in from Super Bowl Media Day

BY DAN SPEHLER

What an experience covering Media Day! Players and coaches from both teams are given one hour on the field with thousands of reporters from across the country, and around the world. It’s a bit of circus and, as always, reporters from outlets like Nickelodeon and Azteca made the event that much more interesting.

As a reporter from Cincinnati, my main assignment during the Patriots session was getting an interview with former Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco – who is always at the center of attention. It wasn’t easy to find Chad at first – he’s not very tall and there were dozens of cameras surrounding him. We finally saw him, and after several minutes of elbowing our way into the crowd, we were able to get close enough to put our microphone and camera into the cesspool of news crews. Even Chad was a bit overwhelmed by all the attention, and somewhat subdued by the many questions about his lackluster statistical performance this season.

During the Giants session, we spoke with two players from Ohio – tight end Jake Ballard (Springboro) and line-backer Greg Jones (Cincinnati Moeller). Both were excited to be playing in the Super Bowl so close to home, and both are inviting scores of friends and family to the game.

Be sure to watch our clip from Media Day, and I’ll be back to post our wrap-up from Super Bowl week in a few days!