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How Does The NBA Let This Happen To Fans?

“Carriage disputes are between two big businesses. Let suits fight suits over money. Fans being helpless is outdated.”

Seth Everett

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Altitude TV

Thursday night’s NBA playoff series between the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail-Blazers was not seen by thousands of fans because of an ongoing carriage dispute between Altitude TV and Comcast/Dish subscribers in the Denver metro area.

The game aired on NBA TV but was blacked out in Denver.

Denver Nuggets 120, Portland Trail Blazers 115: Three takeaways | Denver  Nuggets
Courtesy: NBA.com

In short, thousands of people could not see Nikola Jokic put up a double-double in the Nuggets’ 120-115 Game 3 victory and there wasn’t a darn thing they could do about it.

The details of the dispute between Altitude are irrelevant for this conversation. Despite having smartphones, smart TVs, and/or a computer, there is not a legal way to see the game. (Yes, there are ways to get a VPN, mask your location, and bypass the blackout – it’s not illegal but it can violate terms of service.)

The playoffs should not be hard to view. There needs to be an a la carte option.

“The legal constraints supersede the technology,” said Tom Richardson, SVP of Strategy at Mercury Intermedia & digital media professor in Columbia University’s Sports Management Graduate Program. “This is sports after all. Does that surprise you?”

Some regional sports networks make deals with streaming services such as Hulu Live or YouTube TV. Marquee Sports Network in Chicago has a streaming deal with FUBO TV but not any others. Therefore, fans are at the mercy of the TV service they have signed up for. A digital one is easy to cancel if need be while Dish or Comcast requires a contract that is difficult to break out of.

In Los Angeles, the Dodgers played over a season without their Sportsnet LA network available on DirecTV. The Clippers stream their games on some services but not others.

SNY airs on Hulu Live. The YES Network and MSG TV do not. This is bigger than that.

If this is about streaming TV, the customer has an option. The key problem is for the over 65% of US households that still have cable.

The NBA needs to either a) make sure its playoffs games are all nationally televised or b) offer a paid option for fans to purchase coverage of this game.

On the surface, that seems unfair. This is the playoffs. There needs to be that option to see the games. It’s worth shared revenue between the regional network and the NBA. Currently, the contracts are not constituted to allow for such an option. Still, there should be a playoff exception, and it should be part of future agreements with RSNs.

I’m not suggesting these games should be streamed for free. On a recent Twitch show, I said that if 75,000 Nuggets fans were without the game, approximately 20,000 fans would pay $19.99 for Nuggets-Blazers Game 3.

“It’s so easy just to stream the game,” Richardson added. “Why not? Well, contracts simply don’t allow it. That’s why they are going to be beholden, as is any club to their media deals, which have been comprised of a lot of different kinds of restrictions.”

For the most part, the NHL airs its games nationally. There have been playoff games aired on CNBC as well as NBCSN and the main NBC. Why? Because it is the playoffs, and that is the best content the sport has to offer.

“Media distribution and the platforms are going to continue to evolve,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told me recently on my Sports with Friends podcast. (I wrote about my entire chat here.) “There need to be opportunities to get within the game because the number of distribution platforms has never been greater.”

Carriage disputes will continue to happen. The Dodgers upset a lot of fans when Sportsnet LA was not on DirecTV. In 2021, look at all the technology options, and stop making fans so helpless.

If the price for the game was even higher, wouldn’t a sports bar benefit from paying $50+ to show the game? Bars opening across the country is supposed to be a good thing. Instead, a bar cannot show a game and has no control. It’s almost like we get all the way back from this pandemic only to see the players and owners at a labor impasse as the country opens fully.  Wait – that’s baseball.

Richardson spoke about how ESPN+ is doing a great job offering Bundesliga to fans across the USA. That spoke to the point of this column.  As rights deals continue, make sure fans have the OPTION to see the game.

“You would think that in light of the challenges to all these, um, leads and media companies, they would want to foster, um, a media environment that is workable for all parties and interests, especially fans.”

Altitude goes dark in Denver | Colorado Hockey Now
Courtesy: ColoradoHockeyNow.com

Carriage disputes are between two big businesses. Let suits fight suits over money. Fans being helpless is outdated.  

We have the technology. We can rebuild it.

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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