Sports TV News
Massaro Finds His Niche As Nascar Broadcaster
When Mike Massaro graduated from Emerson College in 1992, he wanted to be a local sports anchor.
That never materialized, but a family’s love of motor sports sent him in a different direction.
This week, with NASCAR closing in on crowning its 2015 Sprint Cup Series champion, Massaro will be on pit road at Phoenix International Raceway Sunday holding a microphone for NBC Sports as one of the most recognizable faces in NASCAR broadcasting.
Massaro, of Ellington, works for NBC Sports as a pit reporter for their coverage of Sprint Cup Series and XFINITY Series events. He also serves as a studio host and feature contributor for NBC’s NASCAR Across America.
“I had a career path that I was thinking about when I got out of school, but it was not racing,” Massaro, 45, said. “In my mind’s eye, I wanted to be a local sports anchor. The guy that did the two- or three-minute sportscast on the local news every night. That was I wanted to do, or thought I wanted to do.”
Massaro’s father, Tom, had been involved as a crew member for years helping local modified racing teams at the short tracks of Connecticut and the Northeast. So Mike was around tracks as a kid growing up in Manchester.
“I got out of school and it was so difficult to find a job,” Massaro said. “My dad, in his speech to me, said, ‘Look, you’re trying to do this mainstream sportscasting, but you know stuff that others don’t that might help get an advantage. You know racing, you’ve been around it your whole life. Why don’t you pursue that?’ He said it worked for Jack Arute Jr., it worked for [Windsor native and longtime Fox broadcaster] Mike Joy; they started at Stafford and went on to big things in television.
“My dad, he talked in a manner that really convinced me that maybe it was a good idea.”
After a year spent bartending after college, Massaro approached Jack Arute Jr., the son of then Stafford Motor Speedway owner Jack Arute Sr.
At that point Jack Arute Jr. was considered one of the most recognizable names in motor sports broadcasting for his longtime work covering IndyCar racing and NASCAR.
“I walked up to Jack right after the driver’s meeting at the Spring Sizzler and I told him I had just graduated from Emerson College and that I wanted to become a sportscaster and I’d love to volunteer at Stafford as an announcer. Jack didn’t even hesitate one breath. He said ‘Can you start Friday?’ I was kind of blown away by that. I started that next Friday and I remember being as nervous as I’ve ever been in my life driving to the track that night, and I was probably that nervous for the rest of the season.”
Said Jack Arute Jr.: “When he showed up, I looked at it and related it the same way to when I called [legendary motor sports broadcaster] Ken Squier out of the blue to start my broadcasting career. I think it’s easy to say that guys like me and Mike, we always wanted to remember that someone helped us and we had an obligation to help someone in the next generation.”
After volunteering for a year at Stafford, Massaro became the track’s public relations coordinator in 1995. In 1996 he got his first opportunity working national NASCAR radio broadcasts for the Motor Racing Network.
In June 1999 Massaro moved to Charlotte, N.C., for his first full-time opportunity in television, working as a reporter for Inside NASCAR on the old The Nashville Network.
“While I was working for [the Motor Racing Network] I became friendly with [Rhode Island native and longtime NASCAR broadcaster] Allen Bestwick. He had been working in television in Charlotte for quite some time. He asked me to send a video reel to a production company in Charlotte that was producing a show for TNN called Inside NASCAR.
“I put together this really rough tape. I didn’t hear anything from anybody for while. One day I came home from work and there was a message from a producer in Charlotte saying they saw my tape and they liked it and they needed a reporter. I called them back and he asked me if I could start the next week. I lived in Connecticut at the time. I didn’t want to say no. I said yes. I’d been married to my wife [Kristin] a couple years and we were living in an apartment. I looked at my wife and she knew what I wanted to do, and she said ‘Why not just go?’ I packed up my little Acura Integra, I threw as many clothes in there as I possibly could and I moved down to Charlotte by myself and lived in Allen Bestwick’s house for a week before I found my own apartment.
“I lived down there for a month and a half by myself before my wife moved down. That’s how it started on that show, Inside NASCAR. Later in 1999, as a product of Allen’s recommendation, I got my first pit reporting job, with NBC. I was doing NBC’s first Sprint Cup race, which was a Winston Cup race then [at Homestead-Miami Speedway]. I was on their first broadcast and that’s how I met a lot of the NBC people.”
But a full-time opportunity with NBC Sports would have to wait.
As NBC prepared for its first full year covering NASCAR in 2001, it stocked its broadcast lineup with personalities from across the networks already covering the sport. That led to Massaro’s landing at ESPN.
“NBC hired a lot of the ESPN people and ESPN had a lot of holes to fill and they called on me to be a reporter for RPM2Night,” Massaro said. “So I started with that, also doing reports for SportsCenter.”
Massaro remained at ESPN until late last year. At ESPN, Massaro worked in all facets of the network’s NASCAR coverage, from being a reporter to pit reporting and show hosting. After last season, ESPN no longer was a NASCAR event broadcasting partner. NBC returned to the sport, and Massaro joined the coverage.
“The NBC opportunity was incredible,” Massaro said. “To be back on pit road, to be a full-time pit reporter, was something that I had wanted to do for a long, long time. At ESPN I wasn’t a full-time pit reporter. I was kind of a part-time pit reporter, part-time host and jack of all trades for the last five years. What NBC offered me was an incredible opportunity to do what I really wanted to do, which was be on pit road and be part of the varsity team. They’ve allowed me to do that.
Read the rest of the article at the Hartford Courant where it was originally published
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Sports TV News
JJ Redick: ESPN Sells The NBA As ‘Only 5 or 6 Teams Matter’
“To me, this could be the best thing possible for the NBA and its fans because we have not done a good job of selling the rest of the NBA.”
Following the Los Angeles Lakers’ elimination from the NBA Playoffs, the matchup between the Association’s two most accomplished clubs – the Lakers and Boston Celtics – is no longer a possibility. On Tuesday morning’s edition of First Take on ESPN, JJ Redick suggested how it would be a seminal occurrence for the NBA to have teams from smaller media markets square off for the championship, familiarizing basketball and sports fans at large with new teams and players.
“We somehow have sold the NBA as a league where only five or six teams matter and a league where only five or six players matter,” Redick said on the program. “To me, this could be a watershed moment for the NBA. To me, this could be the best thing possible for the NBA and its fans because we have not done a good job of selling the rest of the NBA.”
Redick pointed out how after Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, the talking points were focused on the Lakers and what the team needed to do to have a legitimate chance to win the series. He reminded people that Nuggets center and two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokić had his third consecutive triple-double, posting an unparalleled statline of 34 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists.
“We don’t do a good job of selling what the NBA is, which is 30 teams, 450 players [and] multiple superstars,” Redick said. “The fact that people are now being like, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize Nikola Jokić was good’…. Well, let’s put him on TV more!”
Stephen A. Smith told Redick that the NBA has not established its games akin to “events” as much as the National Football League. Smith expressed how he has seen pastors change the time of their Sunday sermons in order to ensure they were home to watch professional football games. While football is very much a team sport, Smith offered Redick his perspective that basketball is “built on superstars.”
“The NBA became what it is because it gravitated to individuality,” Smith said. “Even though the Boston Celtics were a great team and the Lakers ultimately were a great team, they sold Magic and Bird. Michael Jordan comes along – they sold Michael Jordan, and obviously, all the names that we don’t need to get into followed. They sold the individual.”
Smith addressed Redick and accentuated the incredible feats of Jokić, but part of what has made him one of sports media’s most prominent personalities is by having a shrewd perception of his audience. ESPN and other major sports networks are fully aware that Los Angeles supersedes Denver in terms of media consumers, and that the Lakers are recognized as an international brand.
“I’m not where I am today if it were not for the NBA,” Smith said. “Basketball has done wonders for my life, and I’m incredibly grateful and thankful, and the NBA will always be promoted on this show. Please understand in the same breath, we also have to pay attention to what the audience wants to hear too.”
Sports TV News
Diamond Sports Group In Danger of Losing Padres TV Rights
“The company has a grace period to deliver the payment that runs through May 30.”
Diamond Sports Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March after failing to make a scheduled debt payment to its creditors. At the time, the company had more than $8 billion in debt and was commencing a process of restructuring. Yet the company stated its Ballys-branded regional sports networks would continue to operate as usual. Major League Baseball decided to take action though and establish a plan to broadcast games locally if the company missed a rights payment.
Now, it is looking that is exactly what will happen. Diamond missed a payment to the San Diego Padres last week, meaning the team’s media rights could soon be the property of Major League Baseball. The company has a grace period to deliver the payment that runs through May 30. If it were to miss the payment, it would mark the first time it will relinquish a contract in this way.
“Despite Diamond’s economic situation, there is every expectation that they will continue televising all games they are committed to during the bankruptcy process,” Major League Baseball said in a statement. “Major League Baseball is ready to produce and distribute games to fans in their local markets in the event that Diamond or any other regional sports network is unable to do so as required by their agreement with our club.”
The company’s current contract with the San Diego Padres has nine years and approximately $540 million remaining with an escalator clause built into the deal. This means that the final year of the deal would cost Diamond Sports Group more than $70 million in rights fees, and while the team is in the top five for television deliveries, the entity perhaps may not view it as sustainable. The momentum headed in this direction was first reported by John Ourand of Sports Business Journal.
The company has also pushed Major League Baseball teams to agree to deals to stream the games in order to recoup lost cable revenue. By being granted the rights to stream games directly to consumers, Diamond Sports Group has vowed to pay the rights fees it owes to nine MLB teams. The company currently has the streaming rights for just five of the 14 major league clubs on its regional sports networks.
Some industry experts believe Diamond Sports Group is utilizing this stalemate to be able to exit media rights deals that are losing the company money. For example, the Diamondbacks’ media rights contract garners an annual payment of about $68 million while amassing the second-lowest local television ratings of any Major League Baseball team.
On May 31, a bankruptcy judge will establish how much money Diamond Sports Group owes its clubs for media rights fees while in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and whether it can continue broadcasting games at this time. The Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland Guardians and Minnesota Twins filed emergency motions urging the judge to coerce Diamond Sports Group to make their payments. If the company is unable to distribute payments, the emergency motion calls for teams to issue default notices to the regional sports networks, which could permit the termination of media rights contracts.
Sports TV News
Devin McCourty Joining Football Night in America on NBC
“I’m very grateful for this opportunity from NBC Sports to learn from great individuals, chase new goals and provide viewers with my thoughts on the biggest games every week.”
NBC Sports has enhanced its roster of football analysts with the signing of Devin McCourty. He will join the cast of Football Night in America leading up to each week’s broadcast of Sunday Night Football.
McCourty is a three-time Super Bowl champion and played his entire 13-year career as a defensive back with the New England Patriots, and has the record for most career playoff games started by a defensive player.
“It’s rare when you have the opportunity to add a three-time Super Bowl-winner to your team, and we’re excited to welcome Devin McCourty to Football Night following an incredible NFL career,” said Sam Flood, executive producer and president of production at NBC Sports. “Devin is a leader in every sense of the word, both on and off the field, and his dynamic personality and passion for the game will be a great addition to the show.”
McCourty’s twin brother, Jason, currently works on the cast of NFL Network’s Good Morning Football, and the two co-hosted a podcast together while playing called Double Coverage. Devin was a guest host on Good Morning Football earlier in the season and also contributed to pregame coverage on The NFL Today and NFL Draft content for CBS Sports.
“I’m excited to be a rookie on the best team in America again,” McCourty said in a statement. “I’m very grateful for this opportunity from NBC Sports to learn from great individuals, chase new goals and provide viewers with my thoughts on the biggest games every week.”