Media Mailbag: NFL Live Review; Measuring Media Success; Cable News Transition

Another great week of questions for the weekly Outkick Media Mailbag. Thank you for your support and questions.

Here we go:

"With NFL Live dropping 50k viewers, how much does that equate to in ad revenue, like per CPM? Btw, Mina Kimes seems nice enough, but she seems to be good at studying and repeating what others have said rather than have an intuitive understanding of the game. Marcus Spears was downright embarrassing at times, and Dan O feels out of place."

"Is this new NFL Live not hitting for anyone else? Laura Rutledge isn't into NFL content. Should have stayed on CFB."

I got a few NFL Live questions this week. So, I just picked the first two I saw.

It's too early to know about the show's ad revenue.

The first day's ratings were bad: 158,000 for an ESPN show at 4 p.m. is inexcusable. As expected, the numbers did increase the next two days as they didn't compete with the NBA playoffs. (Thursday's numbers are not yet available.)

Monday-Wednesday, the revamped NFL Live has averaged 217,000 viewers. Given the promotion and resources, that's disappointing.

We will see what it draws during the football season. 

As for the quality, Dan Orlovsky is not out of place; the topic-selection is. Especially Wednesday when the show reacted to the Milwaukee Bucks' boycott. Like most good football analysts, a social topic pertaining to the NBA is not Orlovsky's wheelhouse. Orlovsky will be strong on the show.

Spears is off to a solid start. He's fun, knowledgeable, and comes at the game from a unique perspective.

The second writer brings up Laura Rutledge — it's a valid concern. ESPN didn't go with an NFL host to host its daily NFL show. This is akin to the problems with Sam Ponder on NFL Countdown. Ponder doesn't move the conversation forward. And, thus far, Rutledge isn't either. 

With that said, hosting is the most important role and, early on, the hardest to do well. It has only been four days.

Mina Kimes is the wild card. NFL Live uses her as an analyst. A role historically set aside for former players. I don't agree that she is repeating what others say. It comes down to if her style of breaking down football is entertaining to the audience.

ESPN is trying to bring Kimes' social media popularity to television. If it works, it will be the first time. See Bomani Jones, Katie Nolan, and Bill Simmons for examples.

All in all, ESPN should have added an insider/reporter to the desk.

I go back to my original question: why make this change? NFL Live had viewers. ESPN chose to disrupt a successful show to get buzz online.

"Once again, congrats on all the content generated from Outkick! Mailbag question: When evaluating the success/potential of a new radio show, podcast, etc, at what point does the actual ratings matter as opposed to a percentage of growth increase on a quarterly basis? With all these new radio shows just starting, seems like we get different points/metrics of analysis and it can be confusing! Love your work as always!"

I love this question. You are right, there are different metrics. It goes back to the old question that's never been answered consistently: what is success?

It's actually simple: success is money.

Anyone who has read me knows I value ratings. In the media, it is the only way to measure impact. On TV, money comes from ads and sub fees. Both of which are results of viewership.

However, it doesn't merely come down to putting averages in an Excel spreadsheet and sorting largest to smallest. Growth matters. Sales teams take growth to exclusive sponsors to show they have a rising product. The shiny new object is undefeated.

You mention radio, it's no different. Historically, radio listenership told all. Thus, the massive contracts inked by Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern, and Sean Hannity. Now, radio ratings are a factor. The amount it does varies from company to company, show to show.

If a network has lucrative digital deals, a radio show's streams and downloads are invaluable. Look at the Herd: it's on Fox Sports Radio, iHeartRadio, FS1, and its clips are distributed across all social media platforms. Does one medium matter most? Yes, whichever one is most lucrative.

Media is no different than real estate, sports, retail, and the food industry. Money is success.

"Bobby. Couple of things. Will Cain (said this elsewhere on this board) is going to absolutely kill it on Fox. Questions: Do you think this was a good move for his career? I obviously do. Is there anyone in sports media right now who could blow up big on cable news?"

*The writer is referring to the Outkick VIP message board. Sign up for that, it's great.

I discussed Will Cain's move in a previous mailbag.

Your second question is interesting. Here's the issue: most in sports media are on the left. Far-left. Woke, some would accurately say. It's hard to be a liberal media star. There are too many vying for the title. The available market share is minimal. Rachel Maddow, to her credit, is the exception.

Think about it, how many sports talents are good at talking politics? That's been the issue dating back to 2016.

I would lean toward a sports host who could transition to an anchor role on Fox News. Sage Steele comes to mind.

"If you could have a beer with anyone in sports media, who would it be?"

Ha. If I'm picking to have a beer with someone, they aren't working in sports media. I know Calc professors more likable.

(Half joking.)

To interview Bobby Burack, contact him on Twitter @burackbobby_.

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Bobby Burack is a writer for OutKick where he reports and analyzes the latest topics in media, culture, sports, and politics.. Burack has become a prominent voice in media and has been featured on several shows across OutKick and industry related podcasts and radio stations.