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.
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.”
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.
Media Noise – Episode 44
This week’s episode is all about the NFL. Demetri explains why the league embracing kids is long overdue, Andy Masur stops by to breakdown the first Manningcast, and Ryan Maguire explains why some sports radio stations are missing a golden opportunity to shine on Sundays.
Interviews Thrive On Podcasts In A Way They Can’t On Radio
“Opportunities that a podcast creates open doors to audio that is simply superior to live radio.”
Live radio vs. podcasts seems to be a heavyweight fight that isn’t ending anytime soon. Podcasts are growing so much that companies that do radio are also now offering podcasts. This column is hardly about that fight.
Instead, this is about how a podcast interview is a better way to get the best out of the guest than anything live on a radio station. This is not about downloads or clicks or sponsors. Solely about the content that is being produced.
A podcast makes the guest more comfortable and is more intimate than a live radio show. Especially in sports.
Since 2015, I have hosted and produced 656 podcasts (yes it was fun to count them) and hosted many radio shows. My current shows are called Sports with Friends, Hall of Justice, and Techstream. That last one I host with tech expert Shelly Palmer.
On radio, there is a myriad of things the host has to do besides focus on the guest.
First, there are the IDs. Program directors have always told me ID the guest every chance I get. “We are talking with Eli Manning on WFAN,” is heard 7 times during an eight-minute segment.
On a podcast, the name of the guest is on the player or app that is playing the podcast. “Episode 1. Eli Manning, New York Giants” scrolls across smartphones, car radios, or other devices constantly. Never interrupt the guest with an ID.
Then, there’s the fact that it is recorded and not live. I have a standard preamble that I say to any guest before any record light turns on.
“I will push,” I explain. “I will see where the conversation takes us, but I do tend to push. However, I’m on your side. This isn’t some expose’. If something comes up that you don’t like your answer, tell me. I’ll take it out. If there’s something that I say that is bad or wrong, tell me, I’ll take it out. This is a conversation, not an interview.”
In 656 podcasts, only one player, Bryce Harper (then of the Washington Nationals) asked me to take something out of a podcast.
We were doing Episode 54 of Sports with Friends when the subject of Dusty Baker came up. He had just been hired to manage the Nationals. I mentioned in passing that Dusty had given the eulogy at my best friend Darryl Hamilton’s funeral.
Bryce was so intrigued that he recalled the comments I had made and asked if we could pause. We then spoke for a good 10 minutes about the kind of person Dusty was. Why Darryl held him in such regard. It was a really inciteful chat. Never was on the podcast.
Still, guests do relax when told that the editing option exists. They let their guard down. The host of a podcast can ask deeper questions.
“Who was the first person you called when you found out you were traded?”
“Have you seen a life for you after football?”
“How much do you hate a certain player?”
All questions, that if asked live, could seriously backfire. So not only does the guest have a guard up, but the interviewer also has to play it relatively safe, when they are not IDing the guest for the umpteenth time.
Time constraints also don’t exist in a podcast where they are beholden on live radio. The guest is just about to tell you they did cocaine during the World Series, and you are up against the clock.
I have hosted shows over the years where the guest was phenomenal, but I screwed up the PPM clock. That was the takeaway. The clock is important on a live medium that needs to get that quarter-hour.
I try to keep my podcasts short. You wouldn’t see it from looking at the lengths of my episodes. Still, I feel that if someone wants to talk and dive into a topic and it goes a little long, I will never cut the guy off.
Ken Griffey Jr. spoke for 45 minutes with a cigar and his feet up on the phone by his pool. He was telling jokes and stories. I wouldn’t have stopped that if a train was coming. When I hosted Mariner content at KJR in Seattle, our interviews usually last 5 minutes.
Jon Morosi broke down the future of clubhouse access and how he traveled during Covid. Then he told an amazing story of his wife working in the medical field and how that impacted all of his family. Shannon Drayer of 710 KIRO got so in-depth in her arduous journey from being a coffee barista to the Mariners on-field reporter. It was split into two episodes.
Former porn star Lisa Ann talked about her decision to quit the business. Even Jason Barrett himself was Episode 173 of Sports with Friends.
(When in the past has Jason Barrett been in the same paragraph as a porn star? Note to Demetri: please leave it in.)
The radio industry is seen to be cutting costs wherever it can. Mid-market stations are not doing night shows anymore, instead offering nationally syndicated programming.
Weekends are another avenue that perplexes me. Talent that is not deemed good enough to be on during the week is often given weekend shifts. Also, some Monday-Friday hosts add a weekend shift to their duties. Here’s a theory: play podcasts. Format them to hit your PPM time marks.
They don’t have to be my podcasts, but in the crowded podcast space, surely there are sports talk podcasts that are intimate, deep, and fun. Since we live in a data-driven age, let’s see how a radio station fares playing high-quality podcasts or portions of them, vs. weekend hosts.
Program directors often worry about the outdated nature of a podcast. That sells the podcaster short. As someone who has been in the podcast space since 2003, I know how to make them timeless, and companies make shows often enough, that rarely would they be outdated.
Quality shines through the speakers. The spoken-word audio format is continually evolving. Opportunities that a podcast creates open doors to audio that is simply superior to live radio.
The podcast industry is continually evolving. Radio needs to evolve as well. Then, it can be a fair fight.
National Voices Can Work For Local Clients
“Distance, like absence, can make the heart grow fonder.”
Selling personalities is one of the hottest trends in media today. Sure, most of the buzz is around social media influencers, but radio has long had a relationship with its audience based on personal connections between host and listener. And nobody has a better relationship with their audience than a sports radio host.
I am sure you are leveraging your local hosts by now. Live spots, testimonials, remotes, and promotions are all great tricks of the trade, as well as sponsored social media posts. But does your station carry syndicated shows? I am sure you do either from 7 pm-12 am Monday-Friday or on weekends.
In 2018, The Ticket in Boise, Idaho brought CBS Sports Radio host Damon Amendolara and his co-host, Shaun Morash, to town for a Boise State football game. Damon had just switched to mornings from evenings, and his show aired in Boise from 4 am-8 am Monday – Friday. His ratings were decent, but nothing that stood out considering the daypart. It was thought to be risky to sell him into sandwich shops, pizza places, appearances at local legend hangouts, and so forth.
Boise State head football coach and QB Bryan Harsin and Brett Rypien did a live shot on the show from the on-campus bookstore. At dark thirty. It all worked. DA and Morash were hits! Everywhere they went, lines and crowds awaited them and they hit spots in a two-county area. The few days of appearances worked so well that DA is back in Boise three years later, this time for a week. Now, DA is doing his show from resort hotels 2.5 hours away, taking riverboat adventure fishing trips in Hell’s Canyon, craft beer tours for his sidekick Andrew Bogusch and hosting college football viewing parties at brewpubs. Every station that carries syndicated shows probably has a DA success story waiting to happen.
Start by listening to the shows, know the benchmarks and quirks of the national personalities or call the affiliate rep and ask. Does the talent discuss their love of beer, BBQ, pizza, whatever? If they do, then go ahead and sell them to a local client. The national talent can do the spot and endorse your client. If it’s a product, send one to them. Figure out how to get them a pizza. If it’s a service, do a zoom call with the client and let them start a relationship. Include some social media elements with video. The video can be used in social media and can sit on the client’s website. Yours too!
If you want to bring the talent to town, do it for a big game, local event, or 4th of July parade, and the sponsors will follow. Run a promo during the talent’s daypart asking local sponsors to text in to reserve their promotional spot. Have the talent cut liners asking the same thing. Take the NFL Sunday morning host and sell a promo to a sports bar where the host zooms in to a table or room full of listeners, and they watch a portion of a game together. Or sell the same idea to a national chain and do an on-air contest for a listener to have a home watch party with the zoomed-in host complete with food and beverages from your sponsors sent to both locations. How about sending your #1 BBQ joint that handles mail orders and sends some food for the talent? They can videotape themselves reheating the BBQ and make some great Facebook and Instagram videos.
Distance, like absence, can make the heart grow fonder. Try selling a nationally syndicated host inside your market. I promise you’ll like it.