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ESPN Ithaca Is Trying To Keep Things Normal

“I’ve always been a student of business. It’s interesting to see the similarities and differences in every one of our businesses and how we all make it work.”

Brandon Contes

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We regularly hear about large media companies combating the COVID-19 pandemic with adjustments to their programming and operations. ESPN’s salary reductions, national layoffs by Entercom, furloughed employees for DAZN and others have all made mainstream news, but smaller media companies and businesses are equally impacted. 

Privately owned radio stations might not be dealt the hand of reducing a seven-figure salary, but those mom and pop media companies still represent a chunk of the broadcast industry.

WPIE in upstate New York has been a privately owned sports radio station for well over a decade. Purchased by Todd Mallinson’s Taughannock Media, now Vizella Media in 2010, ESPN Ithaca fills an important role in the community.

Todd Mallinson

The station relies on the ability to provide play-by-play for local high school sports and they rely on other small businesses for support. Like many of those small businesses, ESPN Ithaca is feeling the negative impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, yet they continue working to serve their local community.  

Brandon Contes: We see in the mainstream media what’s happening with large media companies, but don’t hear as much about the challenges for locally owned stations. Have you seen a significant impact in the number of advertisers, sponsors and clients you have with ESPN Ithaca? 

Todd Mallinson: Yes, we’ve lost some clients. Most of them are in a suspended mode while others just haven’t renewed a schedule. But we’ve worked diligently to get most of our advertisers to change their message, to be more on point and resonate better with our audience. 

BC: How are small businesses in the area doing? If you drive around Ithaca, are a lot of restaurants and food establishments open for takeout?

TM: The roads just seem different, which I’m sure is no different here than anywhere else. Traffic is way down. There are restaurants that are making it work and the ones that are more successful are the ones that already had takeout and pick up as a regular part of their business model. It’s the ones that weren’t setup for it that are more challenged. But we’re supporting every one of our existing businesses and getting the word out to remind people to patronize their local favorite restaurants to help them get through this period of time. 

BC: Are most of your clients locally owned businesses? 

TM: Yes, most are locally owned. And we typically deal with the principal decision maker, there are some car dealers that have certainly ratcheted down spending. Some are maintaining a schedule with us, but until the sales end of things become essential and people can regularly engage, I don’t think we’ll see them come back. 

Cornell supports local small business COVID-19 fund | Cornell ...

BC: With the clients you have lost, are there ways you look to try and maintain a good relationship with them so once we do come out of the pandemic, they’re looking to invest part of their advertising budget with you?

TM: Absolutely. It’s a fine balance in sales that we’re running right now. We want to be supportive and be a sounding board for customers. We truly are in this together and I’ve always been a student of business. It’s interesting to see the similarities and differences in every one of our businesses and how we all make it work. Listening to clients and addressing needs, some have been proactive with updating messages, others have been dealing with things that are, in their mindset, a greater priority. We try to be there and encourage them to update messages and I think we’ve done a really good job with that. 

BC: What about the sports awards dinner that ESPN Ithaca hosts every June for high school athletes – Night of Champions. Has that been canceled or postponed? 

TM: We’re in the planning stages of doing something virtually. The fall season was completed, the winter season was all but completed for those teams that were at least halfway into the state tournaments and we’ll be recognizing those two seasons. Obviously, the spring season is in the balance and at this point I don’t foresee it happening. I’m not predicting that, it’s just my gut feeling. The New York State High School Athletic Association is having a meeting the last Monday or Tuesday of this month to make that decision, but I ultimately think it’s going to come down from the governor’s office.

BC: Is the awards dinner more about being a source of income, or used as a way to promote the station and local sports? 

TM: For us, we’re in the community quite a bit with the amount of high school and collegiate sports that we cover locally, whether it’s play by play or reporting. It’s our signature event in terms of recognizing and gathering about 200 top athletes and coaches and families across the 15 school districts. It’s been very well received by our community and this is going into our seventh year. 

BC: How has programming been impacted by the lack of live sports, especially considering ESPN Ithaca carries the amount of local play-by-play that you do. 

TM: It’s challenging, but ESPN has done a really good, proactive job with #SeniorNight and we jumped right on that locally. It was a perfect dovetail for us with the colleges and high schools here. Secondarily, Hometown Heroes is something else that the network spearheaded and we’ve embraced. We’re getting the word out about stories of first responders and people on the front lines of health and essential businesses that are truly essential. 

We have a newspaper we’ve been publishing for four years called Tompkins Weekly and that’s been a nice balance for us, bringing on some content in the afternoon that we traditionally wouldn’t. We’ve had the mayor on, the Chamber of Commerce president on, the head of Infectious Disease Control at the local hospital, and others to give some insight. So we’re sprinkling in information that we want to get across. We’re running a tremendous amount of public service messaging from a variety of different sources, but the main focus is social distancing. I think it was Dr. Fauci, who two weeks ago said you should act like you have the disease, and that stuck with me. We’ve had to adapt, we’re a pretty small staff of eight or nine and we’re keeping just one or two people in the office at a time, everyone else is working from home. 

BC: The station still has a daily local hour? 

TM: Yes, Between The Lines from 5 – 6pm, and that’s been our lifeline to the community. We’ve balanced entertainment and information during that one hour. The host, Nick Karski has done a really good job, who incidentally has been self-quarantined. His girlfriend is a doctor and she came down with symptoms of COVID-19, so they’ve both been self-quarantined for the last two weeks. We’re expecting they’ll be released from quarantine Wednesday (April 15). 

BC: Nick’s still been hosting the show while quarantined? 

Nick Karski appears on 98.5 The Sports Hub's Hardcore ...

TM: He’s been doing it remotely with the Comrex app that allows him to call in from his phone and it sounds pretty clear, it’s definitely come in handy. We have our producer back in the studio helping to record the interviews and get the show on-air. 

BC: You mentioned highlighting local workers and different things you’ve aired to help the community, do those things happen only during the one-hour local show or throughout the day?

TM: We’re sprinkling it throughout the day. The demand on inventory has certainly lightened due to some of the postponements of schedules and lack of play by play, so with that we’re running public service announcements and voice liners throughout the day, 24/7. 

BC: With losing clients and the lack of play-by-play opportunities, have you had to layoff any employees? 

TM: We have not. There’s Small Business Administration aid available, we’ve applied for the EIDL grant and we’ve also applied for the Paycheck Protection Plan. That seems to be a very fluid situations with things changing a little bit here and there. We applied about 10 days ago, but because things changed, we had to refile parts of the application, so we officially went on file last Wednesday (April 8). We haven’t heard anything, we’re expecting to be approved for PPP and the EIDL, but nothing as of this point.

We’ve maintained the same payroll throughout, but it’s getting very concerning because cash flow is becoming tight, businesses have pulled back and there’s concern that some of that business going forward won’t be there. With everybody looking at cash flow, the concern is that some advertising invoices won’t be paid as routinely as they have been. 

BC: How long can you operate as currently constituted with the economic shutdown, lost advertising dollars and no sports. 

TM: If we don’t receive the PPP approval by the end of this month, things will certainly need to change with staffing.

BC: You mentioned eight or nine employees, does that include the newspaper?

TM: Correct, that’s included with the newspaper. 

BC: Is the newspaper operating normally?

Tompkins Weekly - Home | Facebook

TM: It is operating as normal. We’ve seen a significant uptick to our online content, but less distribution to businesses that we would normally sell to, either because they’re not currently open or their traffic is significantly down.

BC: Have you seen more traffic to your radio station website and podcasts with less people in their car right now?  

TM: The website is down a little bit. Our social is up, and that’s largely due to a great job with #SeniorNight locally and from promoting a lot of the interviews that we’ve been doing. We see a significant amount of traffic to our websites during the school year because of pictures. We partner with local photographers that go to the games we’re calling and set up a photo gallery on the site. Typically, there are about 25-50 photos available for people to see and potentially purchase on our website. So without play-by-play and local sports it’s lowered traffic to the site.

BC: What about if some clients are unable to afford terrestrial ad space, have you moved any of them to the website or a podcast? 

TM: There’s been a couple that we’ve moved over, but mostly they’ve either maintained the course with an updated message or they’re in suspension mode if they’re not an essential business and closed. 

BC: What kind of podcasts does the station carry? 

TM: The podcasts that we’re producing at the moment are the interviews from Between The Lines, sometimes they’re extended versions that don’t completely air on BTL. For the one-hour show, our focus is getting virtually everything we do on-air. We’ve maintained our sports reporting seven days a week, like we always have. We continue to interact with athletes and coaches in the area either about the season they’ve missed or the record-breaking seasons they had because Cornell men’s and women’s hockey ranked #1 in the country and both of them saw their season unfortunately end early.  

Take Me Out to the (Backyard) Ball Game - The New York Times

BC: Have you picked up any classic rebroadcast offerings?

TM: Yea, we’re running a number of features through Westwood One and ESPN. We ran the Best of Masters last weekend, we’ve also had some of the Westwood NFL coverage. We’re an MRN affiliate, we usually do very little NASCAR, but with Yankee baseball completely parked, we’re able to carry some of the Best of MRN. 

BC: How are you communicating with your staff right now?

TM: We connect on a regular basis virtually through Zoom or FaceTime as a team and individually. I want to compliment my staff for rallying together in these uncharted times and staying as focused as best they can. They’ve done a great job engaging with our customers and doing a little hand holding.

BSM Writers

Beyond The Mask: Henrik Lundqvist Embraced 2nd Career in Sports Media

“It’s not a coincidence you see a lot of goalies working [on] panels and analyzing the game because that’s a huge part of playing in goal.”

Derek Futterman

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Plucking the strings of an acoustic guitar, Henrik Lundqvist found himself beneath the bright lights once again, poised to put on a worthy performance. Just as he aimed to stop pucks from going in the net as the star goaltender of the New York Rangers for 15 seasons, Lundqvist sought to captivate viewers as half of a musical duo featuring former NHL forward Paul Bissonnette.

Their performance of “Good Riddance” by Green Day was in tribute to Rick Tocchet, a former NHL on TNT studio analyst who recently departed the network to serve as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks.

Lundqvist serves as a studio analyst for TNT’s coverage of the NHL, breaking down players and teams throughout the broadcast and bringing his own unique style to the set. His pursuit of a post-playing career in sports media was no guarantee from the moment he retired in August 2021; in fact, he never intended to stop playing the game and competing for a Stanley Cup championship at that time.

During the 2019-20 season, Lundqvist had lost playing time to young goaltenders Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev, and by the year’s end, his deal was bought out by the team. In an effort to continue playing, Lundqvist signed a contract with the Washington Capitals – marking the first time in his NHL career that he would not step between the pipes for the Rangers.

Lundqvist never played a game for the team though, as it was discovered in a medical exam that he would need open-heart surgery to replace his aortic valve while also having an aortic root and ascending aortic replacement. Less than two months after the successful five-hour operation, he was back on the ice rehabbing and attempting to make a full recovery – but a few months in, he began to feel unexpected chest pain. Following a medical checkup, Lundqvist was told he had inflammation around his heart. It was a significant setback that required him to step off the ice, take off his goaltender equipment and rest for several months.

After discussions with his family and friends, Lundqvist determined that the risk of taking the ice outweighed the rewards and officially stepped away from the game. Rather than conjuring hypothetical scenarios wherein he did not experience the misfortune and played for the Capitals, Lundqvist looked to the future amid the ongoing global pandemic and thought about how he could best enjoy his retirement.

“I was just mentally in a very good place,” Lundqvist said. “I didn’t have a choice; I guess that makes it easier sometimes when the decision is made because you can’t go back-and-forth – ‘Should I?’ ‘Should I not?’ Yeah, I wanted to play but it was just not meant to be for me.”

Before any definitive resolution on his future endeavors was made though, the Rangers announced that the team would retire Lundqvist’s No. 30 in a pregame ceremony during the 2021-22 season, making him just the 11th player bestowed that honor in franchise history. As a five-time NHL All-Star selection, 2011 Vezina Trophy winner, and holder of numerous franchise records, Lundqvist had the accolades to merit this profound distinction.

Moreover, he was an important component in growing the game of hockey and contributing to the greater community, serving as the official spokesperson for the Garden of Dreams Foundation and founder of the Henrik Lundqvist Foundation. He also was a two-time recipient of the organization’s prestigious Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, honoring the player “who goes above and beyond the call of duty.”

Throughout the night, attendees regaled Lundqvist with chants of “Hen-rik!” and were treated to flashbacks of some of his memorable career moments. The night was of monumental importance for Lundqvist, during which he expressed his gratitude to the Rangers’ organization, former teammates and fans. Then, Lundqvist — referred to as “The King” — promptly took his place among team legends beneath the concave ceiling of “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”

“When I look back at my career, I know, to me, it was all about preparation; how I practiced and how I prepared for each game at practice,” Lundqvist said. “There’s no regrets, and I hope people, when they think about how I played, [know] that it was 100% heart and commitment to the game.”

Before this ceremony though, Lundqvist and Rangers owner James Dolan had held several meetings with one another. The purpose of these conversations was to determine the best way for Lundqvist to remain involved with the team, its fans, and the community. In the end, he was named as a lead studio analyst on MSG Networks’ broadcasts of New York Rangers hockey before the start of the 2021-22 season: the start of his foray in sports media.

This past summer, Lundqvist negotiated a new deal with Madison Square Garden Sports and Madison Square Garden Entertainment in which he maintained his in-studio responsibilities while increasing involvement in other areas of its sports and entertainment ventures. In this new role, Lundqvist supports the business operations for both companies, assisting in digital content development, alumni relations, and partner and sponsor activities.

When Lundqvist is not in the studio or the office, he can often be found at Madison Square Garden taking in New York Rangers hockey, New York Knicks basketball, or one of the arena’s renowned musical performances. Usually, when he is in attendance, he is shown on the arena’s center-hung video board as an “NYC Celebrity” and receives a thunderous ovation from the crowd.

“The network is just part of it, but it feels great to come there,” Lundqvist said of Madison Square Garden. “Every time I go there – to see the people that I’ve known for so long – but also I love that place; I love The Garden. I think the energy [and] the variety of things that happen there is something I really appreciate. It feels really good to be a part of that.”

Sitting alongside former teammate and studio analyst Steve Valiqutte and sportscaster John Giannone, Lundqvist appears in the MSG Networks studios, located across the street from the arena, for select New York Rangers games. From the onset, he brought his allure and expertise to the set and appealed to viewers – so much so that national networks quickly began to take notice.

“I enjoy watching hockey [and] talking hockey, but the main thing to me is the team; the people that you work with,” Lundqvist said. “The guys on the panel [and the] crew behind. I really enjoy that part of it and having a lot of fun off-camera.”

One month later, Lundqvist was on his first national broadcast for the NHL on TNT where he and Bissonnette famously performed a cover of “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica that went viral on social media. It had been known that Lundqvist was a musician, famously performing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in his Rangers uniform to celebrate the end of the 2012-13 NHL lockout.

In fact, during his retirement ceremony, the Rangers gifted him with a custom-made guitar painted by David Gunnarsson, the same artist who used to paint Lundqvist’s goalie masks.

Aside from occasional music performances, Lundqvist brings an esoteric base of knowledge to the NHL on TNT panel as its only goaltender. Whether it be through player breakdowns, interviews, or dialogue with other analysts, Lundqvist has a perspective to which few professional hockey players can relate. There are various goaltenders among local studio panels surrounding live hockey game broadcasts, and Lundqvist is in a unique situation with MSG Networks in that he and Valiquette are both former goaltenders. Yet on Turner Sports’ national coverage, he is the only voice speaking to this different part of the game.

“It’s not a coincidence you see a lot of goalies working [on] panels and analyzing the game because that’s a huge part of playing in goal,” Lundqvist explained. “Yes, you need to stop the puck, but a huge part of being a goalie is analyzing what’s going on. We can never really dictate the play so you need to analyze what’s happening right in front of you.”

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In broadcasting at both the local and national level, Lundqvist is cognizant of the differences in each network’s studio programs. Lundqvist says appearing on the MSG Networks studio panel is more about being direct with the viewer, whereas the NHL on TNT views its panel as being conversational in nature. With Turner Sports, Lundqvist also asks his colleagues about the different teams around the league since he is most familiar with the Rangers both as a former player and studio analyst.

“I’m closer to the Rangers; I see more of what’s going on,” Lundqvist stated. “When you work [national] games, maybe you focus in on teams on the West Coast or [part] of the league you don’t see as often. You try to talk to the other guys on the panel and the crew and figure out things that are interesting about those teams.”

Hockey is a team sport, and Lundqvist felt grateful to play with his teammates and face his competitors over the years. Now as an analyst though, it is his job to analyze their games and critique them when necessary; however, he does not try to be excessively critical.

Lundqvist knows the trials and tribulations associated with the sport and can relate to scenarios many players face on a nightly basis. Therefore, he thinks about his own experience before giving an opinion, especially a critique, instantiating it with comprehensible, recondite knowledge and/or by recounting a similar situation.

“I’d much rather give them positive feedback obviously because I know it is a tough game,” Lundqvist said, “and sometimes it might look like an easy mistake, but if you can give the viewer a better explanation of why he did that, they might have a different view of that mistake.”

Now metaphorically being beyond the goalie mask, Lundqvist’s vision of the game has evidently shifted. He discerns just how intense the schedule is and the rapid pace of the game, axioms he was aware of while playing but inherently avoided thinking about. He has implemented his refined viewpoint of the game accordingly into his analysis, simultaneously utilizing the mindset and savvy he cultivated on the ice. It is, quite simply, a balancing act.

“I think people can be pretty quick to jump on guys and critique them,” Lundqvist said. “That’s where maybe you take an extra look and try to understand why it happened and give those reasons. I think that’s where it helps if you played the game [for] a long time and just love the game [because] you have a pretty good understanding of why guys react a certain way.”

The challenge tacitly embedded in the jobs of most studio analysts – Lundqvist’s included – is in presenting the information to the audience in a manner through which it learns without being confused. It is a delicate craft that takes time and genuine understanding to master, especially related to promulgating hockey analytics as Valiquette does on MSG Networks and within his company, Clear Sight Analytics.

“There’s a lot of educated viewers out there, but there’s also a lot of people that maybe don’t watch as much hockey,” Lundqvist said, “so you want to find that middle ground where you kind of educate both sides.”

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By broadcasting both locally and nationally in addition to working in a specially-designed business operations role, Lundqvist is staying around the rink in his retirement while facilitating the growth of hockey. Despite the profusion of young talent, dynamic action and jaw-dropping plays, viewership of the sport on ESPN and TNT’s linear channels has dropped 22% from last season, according to a report by Sports Business Journal.

For Lundqvist though, he does not feel much has changed from playing regarding his responsibility to advance the reach and appeal of the sport. He played professionally for 20 years, beginning his career in his home country of Sweden, primarily in the Swedish Elite League (SEL). In the 2004-05 season, his final campaign before arriving in New York City, Lundqvist had won the award for most valuable player. Furthermore, he was recognized as the best goalie and best player, leading Frölunda HC to its second Elitserien championship in three seasons.

His NHL debut came five years after he was selected in the seventh round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Rangers but unlike many rookies over the years, he came polished and prepared to embrace the lights of Broadway. Following an injury to starting goaltender Kevin Weekes, Lundqvist was inserted into the starting lineup and, from that moment on, virtually never came out.

By the end of his first year, he had been named to the NHL All-Rookie Team and was a Vezina Trophy finalist for best goaltender. Additionally, he remains the only goaltender to begin his NHL career with seven consecutive 30-plus win seasons.

“I think the league is doing a great job of growing the game,” Lundqvist said. “In the end, it comes down to the product and right now, it’s a great product. I feel really good about, the best way I can, to promote the game [by] talking about it, but… it feels like I’ve been doing that for 20 years.”

One means through which Lundqvist attempts to grow the game is within the studio demos he performs with the NHL on TNT, displaying different facets of the game in a technical manner. The show also embraces the characteristics of their analysts and implements them in lighthearted segments, such as zamboni races, putting competitions, Swedish lessons and, of course, musical performances.

“I’m huge on mindset and the pressure,” Lundqvist said. “I love to talk about that type of stuff and give the viewer a better understanding of what goes through their heads. In terms of personality, I don’t know if I can say [that] I’m a serious guy because I love to have fun and laugh and do fun things.”

Lundqvist thoroughly enjoys what he is doing both locally and nationally, and he ensures he surrounds himself with people he wants to be around. There are plenty of other broadcast opportunities for former hockey players, such as moving into the booth as a color commentator or between the benches as a rinkside reporter. At this moment though, he is more focused on being immersed in his current roles, performing them to the best of his ability while ensuring he allocates time to spend with friends and family.

“I see myself more as an analyst in the studio more than traveling around and being in the rink,” he said. “I think that’s another thing with the schedule; it works really well with my schedule to have one or two commitments with the networks, but then I have other things going on in my life that I commit to.”

Plenty of comparisons can be drawn between playing professional hockey and covering the sport from the studio in terms of preparation and synergy. Yet the end result is not as clearly defined since “winning” in television is quantifiably defined as generating ratings and revenue. Undoubtedly, Lundqvist is focused on doing what he can to bolster hockey’s popularity; however, he also wants to enjoy this new phase of his career being around the game he loves.

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“In sports, you win or you lose,” Lundqvist explained. “With TV, you want to be yourself [and] you want to get your point out – but at the same time, if you do it at the same time you’re having a good time, I feel like that’s good TV.”

Once their careers conclude, many athletes think about pursuing a post-playing career and oftentimes end up taking on a role in sports broadcasting. On MSG Networks alone, there are plenty of former players who take part in studio coverage on live game broadcasts, such as Martin Biron of the Buffalo Sabres, Bryce Salvador of the New Jersey Devils, and Matt Martin of the New York Islanders. At the national level, Turner Sports employs Paul Bissonnette, Anson Carter, and Wayne Gretzky for its studio broadcasts, while ESPN’s top studio crew includes Mark Messier and Chris Chelios.

All of these former professional hockey players had an obligation to regularly speak with media members, answering questions about games and the season at large. Lundqvist maintained a professional relationship with journalists and beat reporters, and he most enjoyed taking questions when the team was doing well. Regardless of what the end result of a game was though, he had a responsibility to divulge his thoughts and, in turn, be subject to criticism and/or negative feedback.

His stellar career and persona all came from emanating a passion for the game – and it continues to manifest itself beyond the television screen. Listening to those passionate about the game discuss it usually engenders euphony and lucidity to viewers, analogous to the sound of the puck hitting the pads or entering the glove. It is a timbre Lundqvist created 27,076 times throughout his NHL career (regular season and playoffs) in preventing goals, and one he now aims to explain en masse.

“The reason why I kept going to the rink and put all the hours in was because I really enjoyed it,” Lundqvist said. “If you decide to go into media or whatever it might be, I think the bottom line is [that] you have to enjoy it and make sure you have good people around you.”

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BSM Writers

Should the NBA Nationalize Local TV Rights Like MLS?

The NBA’s upcoming rights negotiations will be this transformational idea’s first testing grounds.

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Diamond Sports has been anything but a diamond in the sports world. As subscribers leave cable and satellite for streaming services, companies are dropping RSNs nationwide because they are too expensive to carry. This has caused an impending bankruptcy for the company, which owns the local rights to dozens of sports teams nationwide. It is also putting the NBA, NHL, and MLB at major financial risk. 

In the short term, it is known that teams will still broadcast on their RSNs even if they aren’t getting the paychecks they were promised in previous rights deals. This will affect teams’ ability to pay players and could even create an unfair advantage among the haves of the sports world like the Yankees and Lakers and the have-nots. The NFL doesn’t face the same problems that the other leagues are facing because its rights have been nationalized.

With the NFL’s continued television dominance, college conferences also bundling up games together for more money, and the MLS guaranteeing themselves television revenue after packaging local and national rights together, could we see the other leagues follow suit? It is an option that is much easier said than done but it seems like we are moving closer to it becoming reality. 

The NBA’s upcoming rights negotiations will be this transformational idea’s first testing grounds.

The biggest problem the NBA and other leagues would face are that the local rights to all of its teams don’t expire at the same time. If the league were to sign a deal that included giving all local rights to a streamer, the amount which the league was getting paid would be very unique year after year. It would be crazy for a streamer to pay a huge chunk of money to the NBA all at once if the number of teams they have local rights to changes every year.

It would also be insane to pay an astronomical amount if the streamer is only getting the local rights to small-market teams like the Cavs and the Pistons. A major market team like the Lakers doesn’t renew their local rights until 2032. We’re still in 2023. How does that affect the league’s operating costs? 

The NBA would also have to figure out whether teams whose rights don’t expire yet deserve to be included in the pot of money garnered from selling local rights to a streamer. Whether they are or they aren’t, does it put each team at different competitive advantages and/or disadvantages when trying to acquire free agents or front-office personnel?

One of the most interesting puzzles to figure out is what influence a league owner like Washington’s Ted Leonsis has in this potential measure when all is said and done. Leonsis just acquired complete control of the regional sports network — currently named NBC Sports Washington — that broadcasts Wizards and Capitals games for millions of dollars, although the exact amount remains undisclosed.

What does Leonsis do with his network if his team’s games can no longer air there? Can his team opt out of participating in a potential league offering? Or if the games continue to air on his network but are simulcasted locally on the streamer that wins local rights on a national scale, does the streamer have the ability to pay less money for rights?

If so, does that make the deal as lucrative for the NBA? And what does that mean for retransmission fees that cable companies like Comcast pay to Leonsis and other RSNs they’re still carrying?

The league will face a similar problem with the Lakers, Bulls, Knicks and other franchises that either wholly own or partially own a part of the RSNs where they broadcast their games. 

I don’t have the answers to any of these questions which is why they are written here in this column. Unfortunately for the leagues, they don’t have the answers either. But if the NBA figures out a way to nationalize their product even more and make streaming games more appealing by ending local blackouts, it’ll benefit the game more than it hurts the game. 

NBA, NHL, and MLB games are still some of the highest-rated programs locally in many markets when you look at how they rate vs. other cable and broadcast offerings. But at this point, the ability to charge everyone for a program that only ten percent of subscribers are watching is a losing business proponent.

The leagues should start from scratch and sell a mass package of games for maximum profit. It gives fans a more centralized location to watch their favorite teams and puts the leagues on a much more steady path than where they could be headed sooner rather than later.

Diamond in the rough to sparkling jewel of light? Only time will tell.

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BSM Writers

Do You Have Affirmations Of Gratitude?

“We are told to be grateful for what we have and remember it could be worse. That feels like a really low bar, right?”

Jeff Caves

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Having gratitude for your life is all the rage. If you, like me, have trouble starting your day with positive affirmations and maintaining a positive outlook about your job, read on! 

We are told to be grateful for what we have and remember it could be worse. That feels like a really low bar, right? Here is another version. Try a few affirmations of gratitude instead.

“I HAVE A JOB.”

With interest rates rising, inflation increasing, and spending down; corporations are laying people off. PayPal laid off 7% of its entire workforce. Amazon let 18,000 go. Alphabet (Google) said goodbye to 12,000 jobs. Radio sales managers need to hire people like you – experienced sellers with a track record of bringing home the bacon. 

I AM A PROBLEM SOLVER.”

You solve a problem for your company when it comes to revenue. You know people, and you sell advertising better than anything they can come up with…so far. 

Yes, they are trying to replace you, but Zoom Info reports iHeart’s self-serve spot buying service,  AdBuilder, is doing under 5 million in business. You have time to solidify your value. Be happy you are the rainmaker. 

I WORK IN THE PEOPLE BUSINESS.”

Sports talk radio is the ultimate companion to millions of listeners. They aren’t robots, and your stations improve their lives by talking about what they care about 24/7. Celebrate selling access to callers, Twitter followers and FANS who go to games. You also get to work with local celebrities that everybody knows but you know best. We all need a connection to other people and want to be seen and heard. 

“I GET TO CHANGE HOW I FEEL ABOUT MYSELF.”

In this job, you determine your value, feelings about your work, and who you work with. You get to set a strategy and talk to the businesspeople you want to help and do business with. It’s like running your own business with a tremendous support staff. Try to do it independently, and you will appreciate accounting, traffic, production, and sales assistance. Those wins produce deposits in your bank account.  

I HAVE COMPETITION!”

That format competitor across the street does things differently and sometimes better than you or tries to imitate you and looks terrible. They motivate you to beat them to a new account or put a moat around your best clients so they can’t be touched. They keep you sharp and willing to try new things. Good competition schemes to take money from your station, and your management needs you to protect them. And they also provide a place for you to work one day. The FTC wants to eliminate non-competes so you can walk across the street this year.  

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