As Rick Brace takes over as president of Rogers Media, he will have the undivided attention of both those who work for him and those he works for.
The trepidation of the people who work for him was evident over the past week when everyone contacted declined to speak about him on the record. While new bosses often mean change among the employees, this is especially so at Rogers Communications Inc., where turnover is practically part of the culture.
And since Brace, who took up his new position on Monday, spent most of his 40-year career at TSN, the rival network to Rogers’s Sportsnet, more than a few staffers are worried about changes, especially since he has a reputation as a hard-nosed, no-nonsense boss.
While one person who spoke to Brace about his new job came away convinced that he does not plan any major changes, at least not right away, this could not be confirmed. Brace himself declined to be interviewed.
Any worries among the people like Rogers chief executive officer Guy Laurence, who hired Brace to replace Keith Pelley (who left to become commissioner and CEO of the European Tour, a professional golf circuit), are confined to the performance of Rogers Media’s holdings such as the Toronto Blue Jays and, in particular, Sportsnet.
Rogers placed a huge bet on the NHL with its $5.2-billion, 12-year broadcast contract with the league. Despite Laurence’s claim of a 10-per-cent profit on the deal itself in its first year, poor ratings, because of the collapse of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are expected to be in rebuilding mode for several years, do not bode well for the future.
While Brace is well versed in running sports properties, he is also considered an expert in advertising sales and the business side of television. The latter skills probably appealed to Laurence, as Rogers Media lost $32-million on revenue of $464-million in its last quarter, partly because of hockey-related expenses as well as the continuing trend of viewers moving away from television to other forms of media.
But this is the first time in his career that Brace will lead such a large and important business unit. While he has been the president of the TSN and CTV networks, much of his career was as the second-in-command to a division CEO.
The appointment was something of a surprise, as Brace faded from prominence in broadcasting after BCE Inc. became the majority owner of CTV and TSN in 2011. BCE brought in a new slate of executives and Brace wound up as head of specialty channels and CTV production for Bell Media before leaving the company in 2013.
“He’s the right guy at the right time for Rogers,” said Ivan Fecan, who was president and CEO of TSN’s former owner CTVglobemedia and appointed Brace president of TSN in 1998. “They made a big investment and now they need to make it work.”
First, though, industry watchers are curious to see how Brace’s relationship works with his most important department head, Scott Moore, Rogers’s president of Sportsnet and NHL. Canadian television sports broadcasting is a small world and while Moore and Brace were both at the CBC early in their careers, their last direct contact was seven years ago in a nasty fight over the rights to Hockey Night In Canada’s storied theme song.
The relationship between the CBC and the theme’s composer, Dolores Claman, was long strained and it fell apart when the rights to the song came up for negotiation in 2008. Moore, who was executive director of CBC Sports at the time, offered Claman $1-million to buy the theme outright. She demanded at least $2.5-million and talks stalled.
That is when Brace, who was president of CTV by then, entered the picture along with Fecan. They offered Claman the sort of money she wanted and the famous theme song went from the CBC’s Hockey Night In Canada to TSN in perpetuity. It was front-page news across Canada.
While Moore could not be blamed for the loss of the song, it was still his painful duty to explain to the media what happened. There were also harsh words between him and Brace. Moore accused Brace and Fecan of interfering in the CBC’s negotiations with Claman.
“Their move capitalized on a lot of publicity and had the added benefit of making a competitor look bad,” Moore wrote in a blog post on CBC.ca. “I hope it ends up being worth the money for them at the end of the day.”
Brace called Moore’s accusation “ludicrous” and insisted that CTV did not talk to Claman until the CBC said it was withdrawing from the negotiations. “They made a decision. They announced it to the world. And they walked away,” he told The Globe and Mail.
Fecan just laughed when he was asked how the contretemps would affect the working relationship between Brace and Moore.
“It’s all good sports,” he said. “It’s a small broadcasting community in the sports area. Everybody knows each other. You’re colleagues one day, competitors the next, and vice versa.
“I have no idea either [how they will get along], but I think they’re both grown-up people.”
Credit to The Globe and Mail who originally published this article
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Ray Didinger Thought NFL Films Aas Joking When Approached About Upcoming Special
“I’ve always contended that NFL Films could make anything interesting, and they actually managed to do that with me. So that’s the ultimate proof of it.”
Philadelphia media icon Ray Didinger has a career story worth telling, and that’s why NFL Films will be focusing on it for an upcoming edition of NFL Films Presents…
Didinger, who worked for more than two decades at NFL Films working his way up to the role of senior producer, told Dom Giordano on 1210 WPHT on Tuesday that he was actually surprised when producer Chris Barlow approached him with the idea.
“When NFL Films told me they wanted to do this, I thought they were joking,” Didinger said. “When (Barlow) sent me the email and said we want to do a show about you (and Tommy McDonald), I thought he was just pulling my leg.”
Didinger stated that he was fortunate to have the chance to have his story told. He’s looking forward to fans being able to check out the show, which airs at 12:30 a.m. on Friday on FS1.
“It really turned out well,” he said. “I saw the rough cut of it, and it’s really neat.”
“NFL Films, they are the state of the art in sports cinematography there’s no question about that,” he added. “I’ve always contended that NFL Films could make anything interesting, and they actually managed to do that with me. So that’s the ultimate proof of it.”
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He works full-time as a multimedia specialist at the Virginia State Corporation Commission, while also putting in part-time work for News Radio WRVA and 910 The Fan in Richmond. Additionally, you can find Jordan contributing coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly and ABC 8News. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.
Kay Adams: Pat McAfee Has Built ‘The Dream’
“it’s interesting because he’s built himself to such a place that he does not need anyone and that is the dream.”
Many in sports media respect what former NFL punter Pat McAfee has accomplished in his media endeavors. You can add FanDuel TV host Kay Adams to that list.
“I’m just blown away by the success and by the leverage he has,” Adams said on the My Other Passion podcast. “It is uncanny, it is aspirational, and it is self-made, so it is a beautiful thing. I — of course — watch what he does. I don’t want to be just like him but I do think he is so disruptive.
“He has such a chip on his shoulder. It drives him but I almost wish I could see it relieved a little bit. He’s thriving, he’s happy, and I think the thing that sticks out to me about him is that he’s truly grateful. Truly is grateful for everything he has, his opportunities. He’s worked his ass off for it.”
Adams pointed to McAfee’s recent spat with the NFL over use of the league’s logos as an indicator of not only his success but his influence in the sports landscape.
“He is true to himself but he mostly leads with gratitude, which I think is the epitome of success. But he’s out there show you what can be done. He’s the first, but will he be the last to have that sort of platform? That sort of swing? What he does with the NFL the other week, I’m paying attention to that.
“Because I want to see: is the NFL going to bend the knee to Pat McAfee? Does the NFL care what he says? But it’s interesting because he’s built himself to such a place that he does not need anyone and that is the dream.”
The NFL did eventually “bend the knee” and reversed course on limiting McAfee’s use of league trademarks.
John Skipper: Bob Iger’s Return Won’t Effect ESPN
“If you’re going to win the streaming wars, you’re going to have to have sports.”
There have been many questions about what Bob Iger’s return to Disney will mean for ESPN, but former ESPN President John Skipper believes it won’t change much.
Skipper pointed to Iger’s relationships with powerbrokers in the sports world as a positive, and also believes that the “streaming wars” will be won by those who hold the rights to live sports.
“As a moat, to get the pay-TV fees and to get people to pay more money to subscribe,” Skipper pointed to Sportico as the reason for ESPN to still have an agreement with the NBA for linear TV. He later added “If you’re going to win the streaming wars, you’re going to have to have sports.”
Skipper also said the network used to invest in constant studio programming but said that’s no longer a necessity.
“We did that type of programming because the economics were different at the time,” Skipper said.