Sportsnet and the Toronto Blue Jays surprised many people earlier this year when they announced their decision to play the 2021 Major League Baseball season without a dedicated radio team, instead simulcasting their TV broadcast.
In their attempts to explain the simulcast, they’ve highlighted how much of a challenge the task actually is. Bearing the brunt of that task is veteran play-by-play voice Dan Shulman. Despite his exceptional abilities and resume as a broadcaster, serving two audiences simultaneously is a different venture.
Speaking with Sean Fitz-Gerald of The Athletic, Shulman noted the differences between baseball on radio and television are significant, citing two areas specifically.
“One is, on radio, obviously you’re providing a lot more information more often — the score, the count, the inning, the baserunners, the outs. You need that when you’re listening on radio. On television, what we call the ‘bug’ — the scoreboard at the bottom — does that work for you. So you don’t really need to do it much at all,” Shulman told Fitz-Gerald.
“The second one is the whole “painting the picture” aspect of radio,” Shulman continued while stating he had not yet called a game that serves both platforms at the time of the interview. “So what I can say now is, I’m going to try to find the best balance I can to please both audiences. It can’t be entirely a TV call, and it can’t be entirely a radio call. It’s got to be a mix, and I want the radio listeners to know that I am going to try to keep them involved more by giving them the information they need more often than I normally would.”
Last month, Fitz-Gerald spoke to Sportsnet VP Rob Corte, who also noted Shulman’s need to find balance while speaking to different audiences at the same time. Corte declined to look beyond this season in terms of potentially returning to separate broadcasts to better service the radio and TV audiences individually. All parties are willing to acknowledge the difference in calling a game on radio and TV, but there’s still a wait-and-see approach as to how it will come together.
Chael Sonnen Agrees To New Deal With ESPN
Sonnen has worked with ESPN as an MMA analyst since 2015.
Chael Sonnen has a been a big part of ESPN’s dive into MMA over the past decade and he’s not leaving anytime soon. The former UFC title contender has agreed to a multi-year contract extension with ESPN. Sonnen’s role will largely remain the same, with him covering UFC fight weekends and co-hosting Ariel & the Bad Guy on ESPN+.
“To quote the late, great, Glenn Frey ‘So much has happened; but nothing has changed.’ After so many wonderful experiences, I’m glad to say I am STILL with the Worldwide Leader in Sports, ESPN. Just re-signed. Here’s to the future with ESPN,” Sonnen said in a press release.
The former-NCAA All-American wrestler has been with ESPN since 2015 and his role expanded to fight coverage in 2019 once the company obtained the UFC’s full broadcast rights. Prior to ESPN, Sonnen was a UFC analyst for FOX Sports and a coach on “The Ultimate Fighter: Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen,” which aired on FX, and “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil: Team Wanderlei vs. Team Sonnen.”
“We are thrilled that Chael will be with us for years to come,” ESPN Vice President of Production Glen Jacobs said. “Even as an analyst, he still has the biggest arm and the greatest charm. Without doubt, Chael remains undefeated and undisputed and helps make ESPN the place to be for UFC fans.”
Sonnen reached two title fights in his UFC career. Once in the Middleweight division against Anderson “Spider” Silva and another in the Light Heavyweight division versus Jon “Bones” Jones. He lost both fights but finished his MMA career with a 30-17-1 record.
“There’s not a lot of ways to participate,” Sonnen said. “You always have to stay humble and very grateful to have a way. Aside from getting in the ring and taking and trading the punches and the kicks. There’s not a lot of ways to get to be a part of it, and ESPN has definitely found a way and allowed me to contribute.”
Fans can catch Sonnen and Ariel Helwani on Ariel & the Bad Guy, airing on ESPN+.
Kendrick Perkins Signs ESPN Extension
Perkins has worked with ESPN since retiring from the NBA following the 2018-19 season.
Kendrick Perkins has a new deal. Carry On.
The retired NBA player turned media star signed a multi-year extension to remain with ESPN as an NBA analyst. Perkins has been working with ESPN since retiring from his 14-year NBA career in 2019. He is a frequent guest on “The Jump,” “First Take,” “Get Up,” and “Hoop Streams,” a streaming show airing on social media before marquee NBA games.
“I’m really happy about it, because I really enjoy it, and I don’t think a lot of people expected me to do this when my career ended,” Perkins said to Boston.com. “At first when I started doing TV stuff, people were like, ‘Man, Perk, he’s so country, he talks slow,’ and things of that nature. But now people know who I am now, the individual, and they know what they’re going to get from me.”
Perkins will continue wearing the analyst hat for ESPN and NBC Sports Boston on their Celtics coverage. The former-Celtic has had to juggle his time since retiring two years ago.
“My schedule works out well,” said Perkins, “The majority of the shows I do for ESPN are throughout the day on weekdays. So I’m able to do the Boston job because it’s mostly in the evening time. The only time the Celtics have an afternoon game is really on the weekends, so I’m able to do that too because most of the time I don’t have anything to do [for ESPN]. And if I do have something for ESPN on the weekend, it’s usually early in the morning ‘SportsCenter’ or the late evening ‘SportsCenter,’ so it’s pretty easy to manage the two.”
Fans on Twitter have come to know Perkins by his signature “Carry On” sign-off for all of his tweets. The sports media career of the big fella from Beaumont, Texas is ready to do just that.
NBC To Either Sell RSNs Or Move Them to Peacock
NBC Sports Philadelphia planned to stream games on Peacock but that idea was shuttered.
NBCUniversal might not be in it for the long haul with their regional sports networks. Sources told The Wall Street Journal that the company is “exploring” a move of their RSNs to Peacock or selling off the portfolio.
The teams playing on these networks could be the first bidders to pounce as NBC tries to figure out their next move.
Streaming was in the company’s plans starting this spring with NBC Sports Philadelphia scheduled to test out the strategy. They scrapped those plans before baseball season over fears that it would alter NBCUniversal’s company-wide streaming strategy.
The media giant has already confirmed it is shuttering its national NBC Sports Network at the end of this year. The shutdown is the latest move showing their hesitance around the future of RSNs. The avenue has been a money machine for a long time because of the high fees cable providers agreed to with networks. As more people cut the cord and splice their media purchasing, those fees get harder to justify.
According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, regional sports networks collectively had 145.8 million subscribers last year, down 23% from 190.2 million in 2014.
A potential buyer other than the teams playing on the networks is Sinclair Broadcast Group. They own the Bally Sports family of networks after signing a licensing deal with the gaming company this year. Sinclair plans on rolling out streaming-only subscriptions for 19 of their networks beginning in 2022.
The plan NBCUniversal was implementing involved airing games on both the RSNs and their entertainment streaming service Peacock. Phillies fans could’ve been able to watch games on Peacock and regular TV, now that plan is off the table. Sources tell The Wall Street Journal that NBC Sports Philadelphia may lose profitability as early as next year. The battle for media attention continues in a rapidly changing landscape.