On GameDay, TV Still Rules

I’m really sick of self-proclaimed 140 character “experts” telling us the traditional media is “dead.” One of many examples to the contrary is my visit to Ann Arbor, Michigan on Saturday morning.

The University of Michigan Campus was transformed into an outdoor live TV studio as the barnstorming mega pre-game show (and cultural phenomenon) “ESPN College GameDay” broadcast live the morning of the Michigan-Notre Dame football game. My elementary school-age daughter had been asking for years if she could be in the audience if GameDay ever came to Ann Arbor (yes, we’re related – no DNA test required). So, we woke up early and headed that way with the hopes of maybe getting close to the action. Because we arrived just as the weather cleared, we ended up in the front row on the side of the set, next to students, some of whom arrived at 2am and waited, in pouring rain, for the 9am-Noon broadcast.

In time, the crowd grew to thousands, all there to be a part of the iconic broadcast. The average age in the crowd was probably 20 – all part of the Social Media generation, the kids who grew up online. But, being a part of a national TV broadcast was still a “big deal” to them. Of course, most of them were tweeting and Facebooking as the show went along (I was too). But GameDay’s ratings and the celebrity status of its hosts prove that, even for Millenials, no medium says “big event” like television.

Speaking of the hosts, as a broadcaster at my core, I got a real kick out of watching them in action. More impressive was veteran host Chris Fowler, who, remarkably, anchors a fast-paced show without a Teleprompter. He does use index cards, but moderates the shows debates, moves from segment to segment and even provides knowledge of his own, all unscripted. He seems to really enjoy his role and had some fun interacting with the crowd during commercial breaks.

When we got home from Ann Arbor, we went straight to the DVR. Less than a minute into the recorded show, we pressed “pause.” There we were – on TV. Even for my daughter, who has only known a multi-platform world, seeing herself on a national TV show was a one-of-a-kind thrill.