TV veteran Brad McNamara on covering NRL for radio

This year was McNamara’s first time producing the coverage of NRL for radio

Brad McNamara has been in the media industry for nearly two decades and has worked on many State of Origin broadcasts. However, this year was his first time producing the coverage of NRL for radio.

McNamara joined Southern Cross Austereo’s Triple M network in the newly created role of executive producer for NRL and cricket in late 2016. He was previously the EP for Nine’s cricket coverage for nine years, and had been working with the network for nearly 18.

During his tenure at Nine, McNamara got many opportunities to be on the ground in the middle of all the action during an Origin match.

Brad McNamara

“Sports broadcasting on TV is very different from sports broadcasting on radio from the simple fact that one is an audiovisual medium and one is purely an audio medium,” McNamara told Mediaweek the day before the first of the three State of Origin games was due to take place at the Suncorp Stadium.

“In some regards, TV is harder than radio and in some regards radio is harder than TV. For example, from a commentary point of view, you would think commentating on radio would be easy, but it’s not. I always say to our guys, ‘You are speaking to blind people. They can’t see the action you are talking about so you have to be better in the way you describe things. Use your words to place people at the venue.’”

From a competition perspective, covering Origin on Nine would seem like a easier task than it is on radio. This is because on TV Nine has held exclusive broadcast rights to the game for some time. Meanwhile, in radio this year, the game will be broadcast on Macquarie Media’s 2GB, ABC Grandstand and the Triple M network.

McNamara said, “The first rule of broadcasting is to know who is listening or watching. You need to make sure you are appealing to those people and appealing to the advertisers that invest in these shows.

“The coverage that we mount would be a lot different from the ABC’s, which has a much broader demographic. They can’t pull off the Triple M attitude.

“With 2GB, they have an older demographic so they would cater more to that.

“We like to say Triple M rocks footy. So it’s that rock’n’roll attitude, I suppose. [Laughs] It’s casual, irreverent, and fun-loving. Our commentators like to take the mickey out of each other a fair bit.”

Triple M has a big team of commentators on its roster compared to 2GB and ABC Grandstand. A lot of the team are former players. This is one the station’s biggest drawcards, McNamara said.

“It’s very hard to describe the rugby played at the State of Origin unless you have been out there in the middle of it all,” McNamara said. “The strength of our team is that plenty of talents have played a lot of State of Origin. They can give great insights into what it is actually like to be out in the middle and to run into ANZ Stadium or Suncorp Stadium. People like to hear that sort of thing.”

McNamara sees Triple M’s coverage of big sporting events like Origin or The Ashes as the opportunity to attract new listeners.

“It’s a bit like the Melbourne Cup. You get a lot of people watching the Melbourne Cup who aren’t normally horseracing fans because it is such a great event. Origin is one of those events, especially in rugby league, where a world of people will watch and listen to it because it’s such a great event. They are not necessarily fans of the game. Our job is to hopefully grab a percentage of those people who don’t normally listen to rugby league. Hopefully, they’ll come back after Origin and keep listening.”

During his time at Nine, McNamara was on the ground during the Origin matches working as a sideline producer. While he wasn’t on the actual field this time round, he still had a good view of the game from the commentary box as he supervised Triple M’s coverage.

Producing footy v cricket

McNamara was the executive producer of Triple M’s first foray into test cricket last summer.

Following a two-year deal with Cricket Australia, Triple M will broadcast the 2017/2018 Ashes Series.

“The Triple M rugby league is in its 10th year. So it is pretty established and the format has been tried and tested,” McNamara said. “With the cricket, we had to build the broadcast from scratch. It had never been done on an FM station before, particularly on Triple M.

“We also identified the tone of the coverage and what we wanted it to stand for.”

How a child helped McNamara get into media

Before joining the media industry, McNamara used to play cricket for the NSW Blues. “I got my start in the media by mistake really,” he said. “I was looking after the son of then-head of sports at Nine, Gary Burns, not knowing who he was at the end of a training session. I got to know Gary through his son. I then got offered an opportunity at Nine to come on in a liaison type of role between the players, Cricket Australia and the coverage. With that, I was afforded the opportunity to learn more about sports production.”

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