SBJ/May 7-13, 2012/Media

NFL a.m.? League network eyes morning show

NFL Network is considering launching a live morning studio show this summer and has begun the process of identifying possible hosts and reporters.

Marc Watts is the new director of media talent for NFL Media.
Photo by: PRO SPORTS COMMUNICATIONS
The network hired Marc Watts to fill a new position as director of media talent for NFL Media. Watts, who started April 23, said his first order of business is to find “four fresh faces” that could be used for such a show.

Specific plans for the morning show have not been finalized, including its name or its time slot. But NFL executives said they hope to get the early morning show ready as soon as July to coincide with the beginning of training camp.

“We’re looking to get on during earlier dayparts when all this breaking news is happening,” NFL Network executive producer Eric Weinberger said last Wednesday, the same day New Orleans Saints player suspensions were announced in the morning. “Mornings are going to become a big daypart for us.”

Currently, NFL Network shows library footage or re-airs programming in the morning.

The network is making an effort to increase the number of live hours in other time slots, too. Weinberger said the network is considering starting its in-season Sunday pregame coverage earlier and is looking to add live hours to prime time, too.

“The demand for NFL content is extraordinary,” Weinberger said, pointing to NFL draft viewership, which drew 8.1 million total viewers to ESPN and NFL Network on the event’s first day this year.

The network’s live studio programming generally runs from 5 to 8 p.m. on weekdays during the season, but other networks have showed the benefits of going live in the morning. ESPN now runs “SportsCenter” throughout the morning, and Golf Channel has found success with its morning news show, “Morning Drive.”

The moves are not necessarily ratings grabs. Rather, they allow the networks to react to breaking news more quickly. Last week, for example, the channel was repeating a recap of the NFL draft when the Saints’ suspensions were announced. After a few minutes, it broke into the program to cover the suspensions. With a morning program, the channel would have been able to cover the announcement as it happened.

“It would allow us to be much more nimble,” Weinberger said.

The NFL hired Watts to recruit and coach on-air talent for the channel. In addition to recruiting new faces to the channel, Watts said he will train NFL.com and print reporters to be better on TV.

“Typically with print reporters, I have to teach them how to speak in an active voice,” Watts said. “I’ve been brought in to improve how they present themselves. If they want to work on television, I can make them better.”

Watts was an on-air reporter and anchor for CNN in the 1990s. He later became an agent, representing broadcasters including CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux and Roland Martin.

“We have a talent roster that has grown so big that we need a professional to help us on-air,” Weinberger said. “Marc does that.”

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