So what is the best way to become a broadcast TV analyst? One school of thought is to go to college and major in broadcast journalism.
That’s typically the worst way.
The current March Madness NCAA Basketball Tournament has brought recent attention to the slew of former Duke Basketball players who are highly visible and successful on-air analysts: Jay Bilas, Grant Hill, Jim Spanarkel, Mike Gminski, and Jay Williams.
What do they all have in common? Nobody majored in broadcast journalism or communications (Duke didn’t offer those degrees and as far as I know, still doesn’t).
Additionally, they are all smart people who studied hard in serious academic subjects and leveraged expertise and exposure they gained as Duke Basketball players. They also focused on their goals for a long time.
Case in Point: College broadcast analyst Jay Bilas. He has a political science degree and a law degree from Duke. So did he just luck/fall into broadcasting?
No. It was planned. Though Bilas and I did not travel in the same social circles at Duke (Hint: he had a great one, I didn’t have one) I vividly remember going out on a triple date with him in roughly 1982, when he was a freshman and I was a sophomore. The three women at our dinner table focused exclusively on Jay, asking him questions the entire evening. When one woman asked him what his career aspirations were, everyone expected him to say “pro basketball player.” Instead, he told us he wanted to be a broadcaster. And he was planning and plotting and thinking about it. It didn’t happen overnight, but his long-term goal certainly was reached and it paid off.
That’s how you get to be an analyst.
So how do you get to be a basketball analyst if you aren’t 6’7″ and a former college or pro basketball star? Seth Davis, another Duke grad, is also a college basketball analyst, and yet never played college ball for Coach K. But Davis has a rich, famous and well-connected father in Lanny Davis, the former White House counsel and omnipresent cable TV fixture.
So if you want to be a college basketball analyst and you aren’t a star basketball player or have rich and famous parents, the odds are highly stacked against you.
My single biggest piece of advice who wants to be an analyst, for any sport or area of endeavor is this:
- Become a true expert in your field. Eat, drink and sleep the subject. Be able to make observations that casual fans or followers can’t make.
- Speak out on the issues in your field. Blog, write columns, and do YouTube videos on a regular basis covering everything in your niche.
- Create audio and video commentary for your own podcast and YouTube channels regularly, at least once a week or more. This will refine your on-camera speaking skills.
- Make yourself available for interviews to the news media for free as an expert. (Everyone forgets this, but all of the Duke former players who became analysts gave 1000s of news interviews to the media before they every became paid members of the media.)
- Make friends with people in the media and badger them until they give you a paying job.
If you follow the tips above, you still most likely won’t be an analyst for next year’s NCAA College Basketball Tournament, but those are the tactics that will help you become an analyst for your particular field, whether it is badminton on ESPN Ch 57 or stock picking on CNBC or fashion commentary on E!
If you’d like to improve your on-camera media skills to increase your chances of being a TV analyst, call TJ Walker at Media Training Worldwide 212.764.4955 to book a media training session.