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ESPN New York 98.7 Begins Building For 2023 With Lineup Changes, Renewed Focus

“We’re going to give it all we have – 100% like we always do – but this is a great opportunity for us as a station and [for] these shows.”

Derek Futterman

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Earlier this year in the first quarter, Good Karma Brands began operating 98.7 ESPN New York under a local marketing agreement as part of a larger transaction which resulted in the conglomerate acquiring ownership of ESPN New York 1050, ESPN LA 710 and ESPN 1000 in Chicago. As part of the agreement — which was made official in the first quarter of 2022 — all the newly owned stations continue to operate as ESPN affiliates and air network content, along with other local programming.

As it seeks to better appeal to New York sports fans, 98.7 ESPN New York recently announced a new lineup emphasizing local programming set to take effect on Jan. 3, 2023. On weekdays between 6 a.m. and midnight, the station will carry 16 hours of live and local programming – including the expansion of the DiPietro & Rothenberg morning show to four hours, the shift of Bart & Hahn to a local program, and ceasing airing ESPN Radio’s national morning show Keyshawn, JWill & Max featuring Keyshawn Johnson, Jay Williams, and Max Kellerman.

“We’re always looking for ways to better serve the sports fans and the listeners,” said Ryan Hurley, program director of 98.7 ESPN New York. “The media world is changing all the time. With the changes that we made… we’re committed to bringing significantly more local programming and content throughout the day in the lineup.”

Since the launch of 98.7 ESPN New York, the station has often lost in key sectors in ratings books compared to its direct competitor in the format, Audacy-owned and operated WFAN. Often heralded for its plethora of local programming, WFAN has been a staple of New York radio since its launch in 1987, featuring prominent hosts such as Mike Francesa, Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo, Don Imus and Boomer Esiason over the years. Its emphasis on local programming, along with its live game broadcasts of the New York Yankees, New York Giants, and New Jersey Devils and influx of original podcasts have rendered it a trusted, reliable source keeping the voice of the fan in mind.

Contrarily, 98.7 ESPN New York’s The Michael Kay Show gives listeners live and local coverage with broadcasters who are indelible figures in local New York sports. In fact, the show recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, continuing its run as the longest-lasting sports talk radio show in the market. Yet it has often fallen short to WFAN’s afternoon programming, most recently Carton and Roberts, in the ratings despite beating the station in last fall’s book – perhaps because of the lack of additional local programming surrounding it.

“It gives us a little bit more of a chance to show what we have and get into the nitty-gritty of New York sports a little more than we have been maybe,” Hurley said. “There have been some big national stories that deserve focus, but maybe not so much here in New York, that we focus on. Certain national stories that take precedence and are big [are] definitely worth covering – but I don’t know about how in-depth on a certain level depending on where you are.”

Live and local programming in the New York metropolitan area is essential to attracting sports fans amid a media landscape where there are profusely more options than solely radio to discover appealing content. As a result, radio seeks to utilize its nascent ability to connect with listeners to differentiate oneself from digital outlets, regional sports networks and other forms of information and entertainment.

“New York is certainly a different animal,” Hurley expressed. “The amount of different teams that are represented here in the tristate and how many teams there are. Sports fans are craving that New York flavor throughout the day. That’s exactly what we want to deliver to them and that’s exactly what prompted these changes.”

Vinny DiMarco is the New York market manager for Good Karma Brands, meaning he has oversight of both ESPN New York 1050 and 98.7 ESPN New York. He had previously been working at ESPN as the senior director of sales of its audio partnerships division and helped facilitate a digital sales agreement with Good Karma Brands in 2015. The agreement was also extended as part of the transaction reportedly worth $15 million, and the partnership remains stable and strong.

Many people who worked with 98.7 ESPN New York are now with Good Karma Brands, fostering a mutual familiarity and respect between parties. Aside from DiMarco, Hurley works with various other executives at Good Karma Brands, including Founder and Chief Executive Officer Craig Karmazin, President Steve Politziner, Vice President of Content Evan Cohen and Executive Vice President Debbie Brown.

“The synergy between the two entities has been something that’s been existing for a long time in this industry,” Hurley said. “So far with the change that was made, the partnership has been excellent, the input’s great [and] there’s been a lot of people on that side we already do work with and have worked with.”

Scott McCarthy serves as vice president of business operation and strategy for ESPN Audio and was an integral part of this change. His leadership and expertise in the audio space helped guide all of whom were involved in the decision-making process as the broadcast outlet seeks to position itself for years to come.

“He has really helped and championed a lot of this stuff for 98.7 and has overseen a lot between local and network,” Hurley said of McCarthy. “He has been a real driving force in helping get things moving and helping behind the scenes.”

Hurley has worked with ESPN New York for nearly two decades, and the broadcast outlet has always had active discussions pertaining to how to best improve its standing in the marketplace. At this current predicament, 98.7 ESPN New York believes it is the right moment to go all-in on its commitment to providing local coverage of New York sports.

“This isn’t about, necessarily, the talent [that] is still on our air at the moment,” Hurley explained. “These are all talents that are good and established… broadcasters as well – and professionals that have done great work in their careers. It’s more about being able to deliver that New York content on a more consistent basis. We have that opportunity so this was the time that it presented itself and this is the time we took. We’re excited about it and are thrilled at the opportunity that was given to us here.”

Weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m., Rick DiPietro and Dave Rothenberg will go head-to-head with WFAN’s Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti in the sports talk radio morning drive slot. The show has been broadcasting from 5 to 8 a.m. since its launch in January 2021, coinciding with WFAN’s The Warm Up Show featuring Al Dukes and Jerry Reco and two hours of Boomer & Gio. Now extended to four hours and in a new time slot, it seeks to pose stronger competition to Boomer & Gio, which was the number one morning show in all of New York City radio in the summer ratings book.

“What’s coming out of that room every morning has been entertaining [and] a lot of fun, and you’re getting incredible sports opinions and knowledge from two guys that have just worked so hard,” Hurley said. “….It’s just a great listen [and] a good way to start your morning off and we’re excited about it.”

Mike Greenberg’s nationally-syndicated show #Greeny will continue to broadcast in the 10 a.m. to noon slot, and it helps that he is from New York and an avid fan of the New York Jets. Yet over the summer months, Greenberg was rarely present to host his show, leading Pat McAfee to question his whereabouts in late August. Today, Greenberg is back to a regular hosting schedule and has recently had the shifts he missed covered by the national afternoon drive duo of Chris Canty and Chris Carlin.

Bart Scott and Alan Hahn continue to broadcast their show from noon to 3 p.m., but the duo will now be broadcast exclusively at the local level and thus more centered around New York sports storylines and topics. At the national level, ESPN Radio will pair Jason Fitz and Harry Douglas, both of whom have worked together on digital shows, to discuss the world of sports at large. In the ratings, Bart & Hahn has not fared well compared to WFAN’s Tiki and Tierney. However, both Scott and Hahn are beloved voices in the marketplace and also appear on television for SNY and MSG Networks, respectively, giving them a chance to effectively battle to gain larger shares of average quarter-hour persons.

“These are two guys that have been here at 98.7,” Hurley said. “….To be able to have their show and allow their show to fully focus on the New York market and our teams and our storylines [is] a big win for the fans.”

Remaining in the afternoon drive slot from 3 to 7 p.m. is The Michael Kay Show featuring Michael Kay, Don La Greca, and Peter Rosenberg. In the ratings, the show has been struggling to keep up with WFAN over the last year but still has a base of loyal and passionate fans, as evinced by the turnout at its 20th anniversary live broadcast.

As the play-by-play voice of New York Yankees baseball on YES Network and one-half of the KayRod Cast duo during select games on ESPN, Kay is renowned in the marketplace and is one of the original voices of 98.7 ESPN New York.

La Greca, whose voice was the first over the station, has been a mainstay on The Michael Kay Show since its launch in 2002 and continues to contribute to the station with his original hockey podcast Game Misconduct and play-by-play announcing and studio hosting within New York Rangers live game broadcasts.

Rounding out the trio is Rosenberg who brings his background as a music radio host and wrestling personality to the air; in fact, he is a co-host on HOT 97’s Ebro in the Morning on weekdays, pushing the envelope by actively broadcasting in two different radio formats.

“They are going to anchor that afternoon drive as they always have and it definitely helps having that credibility and the byplay between shows,” Hurley said. “The guys are all actually very tight and familiar with each other throughout the dayparts. It’s huge.”

Following the departure of Chris Carlin from the nighttime 7 to 10 p.m. slot to host afternoon drive with Chris Canty on ESPN Radio’s national network, 98.7 ESPN New York began an extensive search process to find its next host. While WFAN recently hired Keith McPherson — a podcast personality with no previous major market radio experience — to host from 7 p.m. to midnight, 98.7 ESPN New York opted for someone who had been within its walls for several years in promoting Dan Graca.

In 2003, Graca joined ESPN New York as an intern and was hired as a part-time employee just one year later, initially screening calls for The Michael Kay Show. For the last 12 years, Graca has worked with SiriusXM on Mad Dog Sports Radio, but came back to the station in 2018 on weekends to host New York Jets pregame and postgame shows.

Throughout his career in sports media, Graca has also worked in news at both WBBR Bloomberg 1130 and 1010 WINS in New York along with contributing and hosting on SNY. He returned to 98.7 ESPN New York in August to take over hosting duties on the station’s nighttime show.

“It was a tough search because there were a lot of great candidates that we spoke with,” Hurley said. “….We spoke to a lot of people but Dan has been a voice and has a tie to 98.7 and 1050 obviously for years. When it came down to it, it was a great choice that we made and he’s been doing great work for us.”

Larry Hardesty and Gordon Damer will continue on Hardesty & Damer from 10 p.m. to midnight, concluding the day of local programming. Yet there are times when these nighttime shows are preempted so the station can honor its media rights agreements and carry live game broadcasts. As the flagship home of live game broadcasts for New York Knicks basketball, New York Rangers hockey and New York Jets football and an affiliate of New York Islanders hockey, ESPN New York provides extensive coverage of these teams within and surrounding the live game broadcasts for fans to consume.

“It’s a conduit for us directly to the listeners with their favorite teams and obviously it’s providing entertainment content,” Hurley said. “[It is] not only just the actual games themselves, but the ancillary programming that comes with that and the relationships that are built with these teams is very important.”

While radio pundits and industry insiders will surely look at the Nielsen ratings to determine the success of this new, largely hyperlocal lineup, Hurley will deduce its effectiveness in other ways both quantitatively and qualitatively. In this method, he aims to divulge a more complete view of how the station is performing compared to its competitors in all sectors of media.

“Seeing the reaction from fans and listeners is what’s most important and just the feeling inside the building and studios as well,” he said. “It’s about the content – always – and you know when that’s off. You just know; you know when that’s off and it’s not working. We don’t feel that at all. We feel we have some excellent, excellent shows on our air and listeners and fans let us know that every day in how they consume and the feedback that we get.”

Keeping listeners captivated and absorbed in the programming is effectuated through the means in which content is delivered. The dynamic nature of production and distribution requires media outlets like 98.7 ESPN New York to actively evaluate its own practices and adapt to changes in the marketplace. At the same time, Hurley, as a program director, is responsible for recruiting and evaluating talent and his thoughts on the progeny of today’s generation of sports radio relates to more than just knowing a surfeit of facts or communicating a deluge of opinions about sports.

“Obviously sports knowledge is important here but it’s about entertaining here as well,” Hurley said. “The main focus of what you want to do is you want to make people feel like they’re missing out on being with people they want to be with. Every day, you want to become part of their routine and it’s important the talent can be entertaining and have that hook.”

Once the Times Square New Year’s Ball drops and signals the playing of the iconic “Auld Lang Syne,” 98.7 ESPN New York will nearly be set to unveil its new local lineup. Perhaps you could call it the station’s “New Year’s Resolution” to better serve its listeners as it affirms a commitment to live and local content. Nevertheless, the station will usher in the New Year looking to grow its audience and subsequently improve its standing in the marketplace.

“We’re here for the fan and the listeners and the New York sports hardcore consumer,” Hurley siad. “….We’re going to give it all we have – 100% like we always do – but this is a great opportunity for us as a station and [for] these shows.”

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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Barrett Media Writers

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