Bleacher Report Creates Weekly Simms & Lefkoe Video Series for NFL Season
The shows will combine game insights, player conversations, sports betting
Today, Bleacher Report is debuting the team of Chris Simms and Adam Lefkoe in a video series for the upcoming NFL season, blending game insights, personal conversations with players, and the now fully legal world of sports betting. Although Bleacher Report already hosts the duo’s audio podcast, the video series, titled Simms & Lefkoe: The Show, combines studio and field segments and will be available on a variety of platforms every Wednesday.
Bleacher Report sees a perfect pairing in Simms and Lefkoe and plans to showcase fun segments that fans can’t get from traditional football commentary shows. Simms — a former pro quarterback with the Buccaneers, Titans, and Broncos — provides knowledge of how the game is played, and Lefkoe, a former sports anchor, brings interviewing skills and humor. Part of each show will be shot at a 1,500-sq.-ft. studio in Bleacher Report’s Midtown Manhattan headquarters, interviewing whichever football names are passing through town; some of the show will be shot in the field. Field segments already recorded include riding around New York City in a double-decker bus with Jets’ rookie quarterback Sam Darnold as a welcome to town. The show will also feature recurring segments called “Best Football Friends” and “Untold Stories.”
Following a Supreme Court decision earlier this year, Delaware and New Jersey have joined Nevada in offering legal sports betting, with several additional states planning to do the same. That creates a new opportunity for a sports show. Although the Simms & Lefkoe podcast will offer betting tips in its Friday installments, the video series will take a reality-show–style approach to turn betting into entertainment.
“Our goal for our audience isn’t to target the hardcore better with simple predictions and picks,” explains Bleacher Report SVP, Content, Joe Yanarella. “We’re doing it through the lens of entertainment and kind of socializing and normalizing it. Some of our segments are going to have a fan having the opportunity to place a bet with Adam Lefkoe’s money and have people invested emotionally in that segment. So they want to watch the game and see if this fan won money. Come along for the ride almost, like a show similar to American Idol where they have an emotional investment.”
Legal betting has the potential to change how fans experience games, Yanarella believes, making viewing a more interactive experience and leading to partnerships between leagues and casinos. It could also drive up ratings and bring in new viewers. With that kind of change taking place, he adds, it makes sense to join in.
The show’s NYC studio includes four cameras, two on Cartoni tripods, one on a Varizoom jib, and the fourth a Steadicam for standing shots with movement. For the production team, it was a no-brainer to go with Sony cameras, since Bleacher Report has a long and strong relationship with Sony. The team chose Sony CineAlta PMW-F5 cameras for the studio, which are more often used in field production, to match the look of studio and field segments.
The production team is shooting in 1080p resolution at 23.94 fps and integrating that workflow in the control room. That’s rare and required a lot of tinkering in the background to ensure that everything stays in sync, but it gives the show a cinematic style and lets the team go live to tape, if needed.
The program feed is recorded directly to Bleacher Report’s NAS in-house server via Softron MovieRecorder software. That workflow lets editors begin working on segments even while they’re being taped, which is critical in meeting the show’s 24-hour or less turnaround time.
Fans can find the program on the Bleacher Report app, as well as on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and other platforms. Some channels, notably YouTube and IGTV, will get the full program; others will have curated segments. The show is following the model created by late-night talk shows, highlighting fun segments that can be watched and shared quickly. Yanarella expects most viewing to be done on mobile devices and is open to shooting some segments both horizontally and vertically in the future.
Simms & Lefkoe: The Show will run through the Super Bowl, although there might be additional one-shot episodes until the NFL Draft. Yahoo has signed on as the sponsor for the first four episodes. The team at Bleacher Report believes it has a hit on its hands.
“I think Chris Simms is a potential star. He has grown up in the Bleacher Report family. His pedigree as a former NFL quarterback, a former coach who was in the Patriots’ system, gives him a sense of perspective,” Yanarella says. “When you see him interact with players, it’s on a player-to-player peer basis. And Adam Lefkoe is such a great partner to that as an interviewer and entertainer. They have great chemistry together.”