The MLF NOW! live stream crew from left to right: on-the-water reporter Rob Newell, color analyst JT Kenney, analyst Marty Stone, social media reporter Natalie Dillon and play-by-play announcer Chad McKee. (Photo: Phoenix Moore)
By Joel Shangle - January 7, 2019
TULSA, Okla. – When the 2019 Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour kicks off Jan. 29 in Kissimmee, Florida, the eyes of fishing fans around the world will be glued to their computers and smart phones, courtesy of the MLF NOW! live stream.
What they’ll see will remind them of a live, network “gameday” broadcast, with 10 cameras covering the on-the-water competition and a team of experts and personalities highlighting the action from the MLF NOW! on-site broadcast set.
MLF Vice President for Broadcast Production Randy White confirmed on Monday that MLF regulars Marty Stone, JT Kenney and Rob Newell will be joined by veteran college-football play-by-play announcer Chad McKee and social media personality Natalie Dillon when the first MLF NOW!
“I really like the dynamics of this group,” White said. “I think we have a great mix of personalities and knowledge. When we were building this team, we were looking for people who had different strengths, and everybody on this crew has their own attributes that will really enhance the whole experience for our livestream viewers.”
New levels of live coverage
The organization’s inaugural 80-angler event on the Kissimmee Chain (Jan. 29 to Feb. 3) will produce over 40 hours of live-streamed content, the first of nine Bass Pro Tour events in 2019 that will supply more than 350 hours of combined live coverage on MajorLeagueFishing.com.
MLF NOW!’s live streaming broadcast of the Bass Pro Tour will feature 10 cameras/cameramen shooting on board competitor’s boats throughout all six rounds of each event. White anticipates that each day’s on-the-water live stream will run 5 to 5 ½ hours, a factor that contributed heavily to his preference for a five-person talent crew instead of the smaller lineup he employed during made-for-TV Major League Fishing Cup and Select events.
“At first, we looked at a team of three on the set, but realized pretty quickly that five live hours a day is a lot of time for a host, one analyst and one reporter to cover,” White said. “It made a lot of sense to bring in some different personalities to help move the story forward.”
Stone, Kenney will be a powerhouse duo
Stone is a familiar face and voice to longtime MLF fans: he’s served as an analyst for every broadcast of Major League Fishing Cup events on the Outdoor Channel and CBS Sports since the show debuted in 2011. His fishing resume is just as impressive: 20 Top 10s in 237 B.A.S.S. and FLW events, including victories at the Harris Chain of Lakes and Lake Wheeler.
Kenney, a former MLF Select pro with over $1.5 million in earnings and 45 Top 10s in a 17-year career on the FLW Tour, was originally committed to competing on the Bass Pro Tour, but opted instead to serve as the second color analyst for the MLF NOW! Live Stream.
“You can give Marty and JT literally anything to talk about and they can go for five hours,” White said. “With those two, we have guys with excellent knowledge of the sport, and two totally different personalities. I think they’re going to feed off each other really well.”
McKee brings big-time play-by-play experience
Fans of NCAA football will likely recognize McKee’s dulcet voice on the MLF NOW! live stream play-by-play. The Oklahoma native has performed basketball and football play-by-play duties for ESPNU, also serving as host of the network’s “This Week in the Big 12” studio show. In addition to his call of MLF NOW!, McKee will continue as the host of football programming on the University of Oklahoma’s Sooner Sports TV.
“Chad is a broadcasting pro, has done a lot of live TV, and was a guy who we really wanted from the very beginning (of MLF),” White admitted. “He was doing the Big 12 studio show and the schedule just never worked out, but he was the first guy that came to mind when we started to look at a bigger picture and live streaming.”
Newell: MLF’s fountain of knowledge
Newell’s face and byline are extremely familiar to bass heads: he’s written thousands of articles for FLW and Bassmaster, and was a regular on FLW Live. More importantly to White, though, is the Florida native’s encyclopedic knowledge of Major League Fishing and familiarity with an MLF-style “gameday,” which he’ll apply to the livestream as an on-the-water reporter.
“Rob has been on the water just about every day of every MLF event since Day 1,” White said. “There’s not another person on the planet who’s witnessed more of this kind of competition than Rob Newell. As far as being able to look at what’s happening on the water, nobody knows our game inside and out like Rob does.”
Dillon will manage social media desk
White insists that real-time audience interaction will be a key element of the MLF NOW! live stream, and Dillon – a Minnesota native who White and MLF Senior Producer Dean
“We found Natalie via her social channels, and it became very apparent early on that she was very well-spoken and comfortable in the fishing environment,” White said. “We were looking for somebody out of that world of YouTube for our social interaction. She’s a musky enthusiast, but she clearly knows her way around a bass rod, too.”