Whether baseball purists like it or not, football has become our nation's newest pasttime. Fans across the United States are continuously thirsty for all the latest news and tidbits concerning college football and the NFL which means that there is a nonstop overdrive of media coverage.
Beginning in a couple of weeks, there will be some new, innovative ways to consume coverage and analysis of the amateurs and the pros. Here are my top 10 favorites and a list of outlets and places to watch for. These outlets are ranked based on their potential to break news and/or ability to provide unique analysis of the game.
10. CBS Sports Network's "That Other Pregame Show" - Based on the descriptions of this new show, it seems as though CBSSN is taking a page from Fox Sports 1's playbook and trying to bring the fun out of NFL pregame shows (even though there is an argument to be made that none of the NFL pregame shows in existent are all that serious).
It's a playbook that a lot of CBS' local sports radio shows such as "The Junkies" and "Boomer and Carton" also use. No talent has been named for the show but reports out there suggest that we should expect a mixture of NFL Today personalities and new faces.
If I were CBSSN, I would put some of their best local sports talk show hosts on the panel to give them prominence and have them interview different castmembers from "NFL Today", the booths at CBS NFL sites and writers from CBSSports.com each week so that the show is truly different from all the other shows who have ex-jocks.
9. NFLPA Google Hangouts - The NFL Players Association has recently begun utilizing the only tool which is keeping Google+ alive, Google Hangout. The video chats have become a great tool for players to give a behind the scenes look of what it's like to be an NFL player and it also gives them a chance to answer questions from ordinary bloggers who don't typically get access to NFL players because of the NFL's restriction on blogs getting press passes.
These chats, available on https://plus.google.com/+nflpa, could play a big role in breaking some news in the future in case there are football players involved in the A-Rod Biogenesis scandal or any other scandal, who get suspended and need a place to voice their thoughts. The NFLPA could also voice their response on these hangouts and take questions from fans about the incident via the hangout.
Believe it or not, the NFLPA has a mini media empire which includes a football news site ProPlayerInsiders.com, a national online radio show "Kevin and Rock", UStream capabilities and a YouTube network of 2 channels with close to 5,000 subscribers. The only problem, which they may need to work on, is converging all of those brands together with the hangouts to form one cohesive brand which football fans rely on.
8. Ross Tucker - Ross Tucker is a known entity for many podcast lovers who have listened to him over the years and now more than ever, Tucker is expanding his brand to become a new preeminent voice for football. Formerly a co-host of one of the top football podcasts on ESPN, the ex-Redskin is now solo podcasting for Sports USA, a sports play-by-play radio network which is slowly growing it's podcast network to also include Joe Namath, college football writer Dave Miller and Joe Morgan.
The brand new solo podcast is already one of the top sports podcasts on ITunes and his luck doesn't stop there. Tucker is also a new NFL columnist for Sporting News. He will contribute videos and articles which will be distributed on Sporting News' website as well as AOL Sports (which still gets a decent number of pageviews). His columns, videos and podcast will also focus on college football during big game weekends.
7. Yahoo!/NBC Fantasy Football Live - Yahoo! and NBCSN have teamed up together to form a new telecast/webcast which fills fans in on who to start and who to bench on their fantasy squads just before kickoff on Thursday nights. The neat thing about this is that the show utilizes analysis from two of the most premier fantasy football destinations online, Rotoworld and Yahoo! Fantasy.
The first half of the show is telecast live on NBCSN at 6:30pm followed by a 15 minute post show on Yahoo! It's a nice niche which no other network has given that most fantasy shows air on Sunday mornings despite the fact that in the middle of the season, the week starts on Thursday nights instead of Sunday morning.
6. Peter King's The MMQB - This new site features Peter King, who now has his own destination for all the latest columns, videos and podcasts he creates throughout the NFL season. The site has already broken news, giving the public Tom Brady's first reaction to hearing about the Aaron Hernandez story, but King says not to expect much news breaking to happen for the site. The MMQB features some new, young writers who plan to give new, different perspective about football that haven't really been written before and I can guarantee it'll be a fun read.
5. Campus Insiders - The great Bonnie Bernstien (Terp alum!) is back and better than ever with a new venture which will serve as the first online college sports network. Campus Insiders plans to give insight on all the latest going on in college football and eventually college basketball using beat writers, insiders and analysts from IMG College, which is a marketing firm that also operates many university's radio networks and online webpages. The site will also feature in depth interviews with different coaches and players which you might not see on television because of the time constraints which exist.
There will also be live shows and telecasts which will break down watercooler talk from the past weekend in college football and actual live games which aren't on TV from the West Coast Conference and the Mountain West conference. There could be a conflict of interest in covering certain teams such as Oregon (which has it's own channel within the network) fairly due to close business relationships, but so far based on the content which has been produced and featured on the site, that shouldn't be a big issue.
The most interesting part about this new venture? It's produced at Harpo Studios, a place where TV magic has happened in the past and will probably happen in the future with this new network!
4. Fox Sports 1 - America's new sports network is about to become a force to be reckoned with when it comes to covering college and professional football. FS1 will become a premier broadcaster of great college football from the Pac-12 and the Big 12, and they will be the home for ESPN's College Gameday rival starring Erin Andrews, Eddie George and Clay Davis. The studio show will have an panel of ex-jocks analyzing the games of the day while different contributors, such as Davis, who represent other corners of the nation which Fox doesn't usually cover will also provide insider analysis of games not being seen on the network.
Jay Glazer will also finally have a cable home to go to for his take on football together with two of his best friends, Curt Menefee and Brian Urlacher. The show, Fox Football Daily, will give Jay a platform to go in-depth on any news that he breaks and provide fans with the minute details which can't be explained in a tweet or web column.
3. ESPN's NFL Insiders - When it comes to breaking NFL news, there's Jay Glazer, Adam Schefter, Chris Mortensen...........and then there's everyone else. Unfortunately, Glazer is on another network but Schefter and Mortensen will finally get their own daily platform through a new show on ESPN at 3pm, besides random hits on SportsCenter to give their analysis and breakdown the headlines happening in the National Football League and possibly college football, if it affects the NFL draft.
I love the idea for this new show because it's different!! The studio is built like a roundtable and the show calls for no ex-players being allowed to appear on the show. Players aren't the only people in the world who can solidly analyze the way a game is going to play out and I think the insiders will do a great job of showing why they are just as important.
2. Turner aggressively covering the NFL - Turner is slowly but surely getting back into the football game. A new television show based on the NFL and hosted by Rachel Nichols will be prominently featured on CNN. This marks some history in the making because for the first time, a female anchor will be the star of her own show which is football-based. There is no word on if this will be a weekly highlights show or a monthly interview show or what it is at all, but it seems like a great way to get in to the football media pie.
Bleacher Report is also in the process of hiring NFL writer/insider Mike Freeman to add his two cents to the website. This move legitimizes Bleacher Report from being a website where random people can contribute to being a hybrid of a serious news organization which breaks sports news/community blogger network. Turner needs to work on building Bleacher Report with the same identity as Turner Sports (maybe have Rachel write a blog for the site) because none of Turner's regulars write for B/R and none of B/R's writers are featured on TV.
Could these power moves eventually lead to Turner trying to vie for early season Thursday Night Football rights?
1. Paul Finebaum to ESPN - One of the biggest pickups, if not the biggest media free agency pickup this season was Paul Finebaum without a doubt. He's a trendsetter (as old as he is) when it comes to what the conversation is in the South during football season. The move to bring him to ESPN Radio was big for ESPN because 1. You kept him away from the new rival sports radio networks starting up aka NBC/CBS, 2. You kept him away from possibly starting a rival college football website with a digital partner, 3. You showed that you still care about the product you produce on radio despite the big focus on TV, 4. You legitimized the SEC Network, which was perceived before as just being a mouthpiece for the conference.
Finebaum's radio simulcast on the SEC Network is not going to be a ratings winner, I guarantee it. Dan Patrick's show doesn't do well at all ratings wise on NBCSN. But what Dan's show does and what Finebaum's show in the future will do, is serve as a nerve center for cultural impact. Neither show may have major ratings but there's a lot of influential and impactful people who wake to Dan's show and who will come home from work and watch Paul's show that will depend on them for information, entertainment and an understanding of what the pulse is in the sports world.
It's going to be interesting to see if Finebaum can transform his impact in the South to a national impact with the added audience he's going to receive with new affiliates on radio nationwide and a TV simulcast which will be available nationally (depending on carriage agreements made). Watch out for Finebaum this season and especially in 2014 when the SEC Network launches.
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR
1. OCNN - Chad Ochocinco's site recently got a scoop speaking with Geno Smith for the first time since he announced he wasn't attending Mark Sanchez's impromptu camp for the Jets out in California. The scoop generated some buzz for the site, which also gained some fame after Jadeveon Clowney Instagrammed a picture of a tweet from the site reporting on how Clowney was considering joining Roc Nation when he gets drafted. It seems like this site is becoming a preferred choice for players to talk to. They just need to work on how they produce their videos (which aren't really professionally done like a legit media outlet) and they need more original content. (Alot of their stories were pulled from Black Sports Online)
2. Dan Pompei - The newest addition to the Pro Football Hall of Fame recently announced his resignation from the Chicago Tribune. The critically acclaimed NFL writer has been known for dishing mini-scoops and giving inside details as to what is going behind closed doors at NFL teams across the nation and specifically with the Bears. In my opinion, he has a similar writing style to Peter King which I adore. Could we seem him get picked by the Chicago Sun-Times to continue his Bears beat or will he gain more national notoriety by getting picked up full time by the National Football Post or moving to Yahoo!, Fox or NBC? Stay tuned.
3. Lee Corso's last year? - A fan favorite for his many antics and his big heart, could this be the last year for Corso's analysis? Corso, as we all know, has been dealing with health issues ever since his stroke. Could he be going for his last ride this year or get forced out as Desmond Howard and David Pollack's airtime continues to grow on College Gameday? I have no insight on this but it's definitely something to speculate on in the future. Similar to John Madden, Corso seems like a guy who would like to go out in the sunset eventually and although he's still a perennial analyst, you've got to admit that watching him the last couple years has been a little tough compared to when he was in his prime.