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Jon Rothstein Is Living The Dream

“That to me is what I felt I always wanted to do at the highest level is to be on the desk in the studio,” said Rothstein.  “I love waking up on a studio day and compiling information to add to our coverage.  It’s the gas in the engine.

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Jon Rothstein

Growing up in New York, Jon Rothstein was extremely passionate about college basketball.  The reality was that New York wasn’t the biggest college hoops town, but Jon is someone with a tremendous work ethic and found that college basketball was his vehicle to search for more information.

He just couldn’t get enough of it.

“It was always something that I found to be very magnetic,” said Rothstein, a college basketball insider, sideline reporter and studio analyst for CBS Sports since 2010.  

For Rothstein, the road to becoming one of the marquee analysts and insiders in college basketball began on September 15th, 2004 when he won a “Dream Job” contest on 1050 ESPN Radio in New York (now 98.7 ESPN Radio). Couple that with a writing background covering high school basketball and recruiting, Rothstein was off and running with what has now been a career spanning two decades.

It seems like it was just yesterday when he was getting started, but Rothstein doesn’t spend too much time looking back because he’s mind is always on the present and the future.

“It’s definitely been a blur,” said Rothstein.  “I probably don’t do enough of that because I’m so focused on the next day, the next task and the next assignment.  I try to wake up every day with a mindset that my contract isn’t going to be renewed and I have to prove myself for those 24 hours.”  

Rothstein was building up his resume and his Rolodex during his time with ESPN Radio.  He was busy with a number of different gigs and then came an opportunity to join MSG Network in New York as a college basketball analyst in 2007.  

He had a busy schedule in New York with a number of tasks on his plate and then he had a decision to make in 2010.

Rothstein was offered a sports talk opportunity with the ESPN Radio station in Los Angeles but then there was also an offer to join CBS Sports.

At the end of the day, his love for college basketball brought him to CBS.

“The opportunities that I was always getting in terms of advanced assignments was always related to college basketball and that’s what I was most passionate about,” said Rothstein.  “I was hopeful that by joining CBS, the home of the NCAA Tournament, that things would evolve over time into a bigger and more pronounced role”.

Rothstein has been a big part of the CBS college basketball coverage on television over the years and also still finds time to stay busy with other gigs like writing for CollegeHoopsToday.com and hosting a podcast for Compass Media.  Last year, Rothstein signed a content partnership with FanDuel and he also serves as a college basketball correspondent for WFAN Radio in New York and CBS Sports Radio.

It’s been a very productive 18 years in the business for Rothstein, but the landscape of how college basketball has certainly changed with the advent of podcasts and social media.  There’s also a ton of games on television all season including network, regional cable and streaming so there’s always something to cover and that doesn’t just mean in-season.

“The big difference now versus years ago when I started covering college basketball is that it’s become a sport that is always relevant inside the college basketball world 365 days a year,” said Rothstein.  

“The transfer portal has changed things with the immediate eligibility and we’re still seeing more and more the opportunity to have unpredictable storylines.  I think you’re always kind of looking for that next storyline that a lot of people aren’t looking for”.

Throughout his journey, Rothstein has been very cognizant and appreciative of some help he’s had from a number of people in the business.

There are two in-particular that have been there for Rothstein with knowledge and guidance when he’s really needed it.

“Frank Isola, who is obviously a long time Knicks beat writer and now is doing a host of things…has been very helpful to me just in terms of understanding the nuances of the business from a news perspective.”

“At CBS, getting the opportunity to work with Ian Eagle has just been an incredible treat and he’s been somebody who has been there for guidance and counsel when I’ve had questions about the business or how to handle certain situations.”

If you follow Rothstein on social media, you know that he never stops working.  He’s always busy reporting breaking news and sharing his insight on everything happening with college basketball.  It may only be July, but it’s never really too early to start thinking about the 2022-23 college basketball season.

Rothstein already has his crystal ball out in terms of a potential Final Four.

“North Carolina brings back everybody of significance aside from Brady Manek who was a huge key to their run to the national title game,” said Rothstein.  “They’re my preseason number one.  Gonzaga is right behind them at two.  I think Creighton and Houston have a chance to have some of the best seasons that they’re programs have had.”

Jon Rothstein has been living out his dream since 2004.  You’ll be hard-pressed to find too many people, especially in the New York area, that are as passionate about college basketball as he is.  He’s used that passion to carve out a niche in the business and he’s at home where he set out to be and that’s in a studio role where he excels for CBS.  

“That to me is what I felt I always wanted to do at the highest level is to be on the desk in the studio,” said Rothstein.  “I love waking up on a studio day and compiling information to add to our coverage.  It’s the gas in the engine.”

And Rothstein still has plenty of gas left in his tank.  

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Jim Boeheim Made a Career Out of Treating Media Poorly, But Now Wants In on the Action

You have now become what you once despised and loathed. Maybe you didn’t understand the impact or importance of the relationship when you played or coached, but now you’re one of us. It borders on hypocrisy.

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Jim Boeheim
Courtesy: Codie Yan, The NewsHouse

For the first time in nearly half a century, former Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim is starting a new job. After 47 seasons with the Orange, Boeheim began his broadcasting career earlier this week, after agreeing to a deal with ESPN, ACC Network, and Westwood One.

On the surface, it’s great news for basketball fans, who now get to hear what a coach who won over 1,000 games has to say. For others, especially those in the media, welcoming in this new voice comes with a little trepidation. Why?

I’m not sure that Jim Boeheim has the same assessment about how he treated the media. He felt like defending himself was necessary, but it went past that on many occasions. It’s hard for some in the business to understand why companies bring in people that treated their own reporters like crap in the past.

I know that Boeheim isn’t the only former coach or player who didn’t treat the media with respect and now becomes a member himself. Now, he’ll debate, I’m sure as others have, that they aren’t the media just because they’re on television or radio now. Here’s the thing: You are. You have now become what you once despised and loathed. Maybe you didn’t understand the impact or importance of the relationship when you played or coached, but now you’re one of us. It borders on hypocrisy. It makes me wonder how he decided to join ESPN following a long coaching career.

Former NFL receiver Randy Moss joined the ranks back in 2013. Moss had a mercurial relationship with the Minnesota media over his career. Some of it was not on him, but nonetheless, he was quick to distance himself from the moniker of “media member”.

He told Sports Illustrated, “I don’t like that term. I am not part of the media. That’s not my label, and I don’t want it to start now. I love the game of football, and this is just a new way for me to be part of the game.”

I get it, but when your paycheck comes from a media company, well, you’re the media. Maybe not in the same respect that a reporter or anchor is, but still the media.

Jim Boeheim surely had his issues with the media through several memorable run-ins over the years. He called out journalists for their questions. He’s questioned their integrity and seemed to enjoy belittling reporters when he had the opportunity. That’s fine, it’s his prerogative, and perhaps some stories run deeper than the surface level with the reporters. I don’t claim to know that. Maybe the parties came to an understanding after the press conference was over. Great. But again, why does it have to come to what it did with Boeheim?

Of the many clashes with the press, one in particular came in 2013 when Andy Katz, then of ESPN, tried to ask a question following a Syracuse loss to Connecticut. Katz asked what the UConn series meant to him, and Jim Boeheim refused to answer the question saying, “I’ll answer anybody’s question but yours.” Instead, he went all in on his feelings about Katz. Calling Katz “an idiot and really being a disloyal person.”

Katz later said he believed Boeheim’s feelings stemmed from Katz’s reporting on Bernie Fine, the former coach at Syracuse who was accused of sexual abuse by two former ball boys on ESPN’s Outside the Lines and was terminated.

There were many other ‘dust-ups’ with veteran reporters, but Boeheim seemed to save his worst venom for student journalists who are learning the ropes. Young aspiring journalists seemed to be better than a postgame spread for a hungry coach.

Just last season, student reporter Sam Corcoran asked Boeheim for the status of Benny Williams after the sophomore was absent from the game against Virginia. Media members had been told that Boeheim would address Williams’ absence after the game. When Boeheim did not discuss Williams in his opening statement, Corcoran asked, “Coach, what’s the status on Benny Williams?”

Boeheim immediately lost his cool.

“Is that your question?” Boeheim said. “Is that the most important question you have?”

The coach followed it up by telling Corcoran his attitude, “isn’t really good either.”

Come on. Syracuse is a ‘media school.’ This is where students go to learn and Jim Boeheim knows that. It didn’t stop another run-in with a student came after the team lost by four points to North Carolina and student reporter John Eads asked the coach why he thought the team couldn’t close out tight games. Instead of answering the question, Boeheim responded with, “We’re done,” and exited the press conference.

Other things have shown Boeheim’s distaste for the media. It has been inferred, though not proven, that he had a hand in the firing of Syracuse radio personality Brent Axe in March. Axe worked for Galaxy Media, a company that Boeheim is a partner in station ownership. Axe was let go because the President and CEO Ed Levine did not like the way Axe covered the Orange.

I’ve been in enough press conference settings and around many coaches who have suffered through bad seasons or bad games. Every once in a while, there’s a tipping point and things go sideways. But at the same time, I watched Michael Jordan answer questions, night after night, that were much worse than those, with class and dignity. Not trying to embarrass the questioner, of course not knowing that individual’s story or experience level.

We have a job to do. So does he. Look, I’m not intending to just pick on Jim Boeheim here. He’s the focus because he’s the latest that has clashed with the media in a previous life, only to become a member of the club. There are hundreds of these cases.

The late Bobby Knight was a nightmare for reporters over his time at Indiana. He often told reporters he hated the media. Knight was once quoted as saying, “All of us learn to write in the second grade,” he said of the media. “Most of us go on to greater things.” Knight made a good analyst though due to his personality. You never knew what he might say, so it was always ‘tune-in worthy’. But still, a man who made it known how much he despised media, joined the ranks.

Deion Sanders was one of the few to play in both the NFL and MLB as a pro. When he was playing for the Braves and Falcons at the same time, it was football season, and this meant that it was also the postseason in the major leagues. The Falcons had a regular-season game scheduled on the same day as the Braves’ playoff game. Sanders opted to play in the football game and received criticism from broadcaster Tim McCarver. As a response, Sanders tossed cold ice water all over McCarver. Sanders was a high-profile media star that critiqued many a player. There are and were many others as well.

Media training as these players and coaches are coming up the ranks would help this situation. Understanding the role of the media in the success of the league’s each is playing/coaching in, would provide some good perspective. Everybody has a bad day, but many of these individuals were repeat offenders and now are trying to extend their careers in a field they loathed.

I’m not rooting against Jim Boeheim. I wish him the best in his new line of work. His insight and experience level could enhance the broadcasts he does. That’s not in debate. It just makes me a little weary and causes me to shake my head in derision, every time someone that showed such disrespect to the profession, becomes one of us.

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Rod Lakin Sees the Power of 94WIP on Display Every Day

“It’s crazy. WIP, I’ve never in my career seen a station so ingrained with the community.”

Brian Noe

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A photo of Rod Lakin and the 94WIP logo

Think about your biggest change in life. When did it occur and how big of a change was it? Was it relocating for school or work? Did it involve something more serious like death or divorce? We all experience major changes in life. How we respond to those changes reveals a lot about us as individuals. For 94WIP program director Rod Lakin, one of the biggest changes he’s ever experienced was moving from sunny Phoenix to the City of Brotherly Love. That’s like going from the chill vibes of a Phish concert, to being thrown straight into the mosh pit at a Lamb of God show.

Lakin didn’t just change addresses and get used to less sun. Immediately after beginning his new gig, Angelo Cataldi, an iconic host in Philly for 30 years, revealed his plans to retire. The major change box was officially checked for both Lakin and WIP.

Since that time, Rod Lakin and WIP have pivoted beautifully. The lineup is strong. The ratings are great. Life is good. We always talk about quarterbacks being cool under fire. Can you imagine if a program director like Lakin panicked during challenging times? WIP wouldn’t be where it is today if that were the case.

In the conversation below, Rod Lakin talks about the challenges he experienced while relocating across the country. He reveals the time he was most nervous as a PD. Lakin also shares excellent stories about Bryce Harper and a multitasking police officer. Only in Philly. Enjoy!

Brian Noe: How long did it take for you to feel comfortable in a new market over there in Philly?

Rod Lakin: I was out here on my own for the first few months. My family was back in Phoenix. That gave me a good chance to get to know all the people here and get a good understanding of the market and the way it worked. I think probably by the end of the year. I felt pretty good, like I was in a good place in terms of just understanding the way the city worked and the station. It took me a few months.

BN: I would think going from Phoenix to Philly is a huge change. Would you say it was as great as you expected it to be?

RL: Oh, definitely as great. My timing was good just because in Phoenix, the last summer I was there, the Suns were in the NBA Finals against the Bucks. It was just crazy. You’ve got to remember too, that was coming out of the pandemic. People were in the stands for the first time. It was the first time there were large-scale crowds again. The energy for that series was just completely nuts.

I remember thinking at the time, “I just love this, and this is what you want to be doing every day”. And then you come out to Philadelphia, and it is every day. These fans just get into it whether it’s Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, or anything else, they live and die by their teams.

BN: You were in Phoenix when the Suns came so close against the Bucks. You were also in Philly when the Eagles came so close to beating the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. When you think about those two outcomes, which was the bigger disappointment?

RL: Oh, man, that’s tough. That’s tough because the Suns have never won a championship before. For people that grew up in Phoenix, it’s like their first love because that was really the first professional sports team in Phoenix. But the Eagles one, that was crushing. Just to come so close. I went to the game. It was fun for me just to be back in my hometown, and then see the Eagles in the Super Bowl. It was the first time I had been to a Super Bowl. It was soul-crushing. So I don’t know, I’m not going to pick. I’m just going to say they were both equally bad.

BN: How about the challenge of losing Angelo Cataldi and not missing a beat? How has that been for you and the station?

RL: I mean, it’s been great. The new morning show has done a great job and that’s a huge task. We talked about it when we made the change, I knew Angelo was an institution out here, but I don’t even think I could really grasp how big he was until we made the announcement. Then we had the final show. What he meant to the city over the last 30 years, it’s just incredible.

So, yeah, to have a morning show come in with those kind of expectations and filling those kind of shoes, and to have the success that we’ve had, I think has been great. I think it’s gone better than any of us had a right to expect. It’s been nice.

BN: When Angelo moved on from doing a daily show, did you think about him being a guest once a week or having some type of presence on the station?

RL: Yeah, sure. Yeah, you have to think about all of that. But, ultimately, it comes down to the person too. Angelo, when he retired, was writing a book, which is out now. LOUD, it’s a great book. It’s on AngeloCataldi.com, or on Amazon bookstores. It’s really good book. He wanted to dive headfirst into his book. That was really where he was at the time.

Then for us, we wanted to place all energy in the new show. So yeah, we had discussed a couple of different options, whether it’s calling in or just having a semi-regular role at the station. But at the end of the day, he wanted to do his book and we wanted to get started on the new chapter for WIP. We’ve had him on, he’s been back promoting his book for the last month or so. We’ve had him on all the shows. It’s been great to hear his voice again.

BN: What convinced you that the current lineup was the best for the brand moving forward?

RL: Well, with Joe [DeCamara] and Jon [Ritchie], I knew that they already had a really good existing show. I felt like the pieces were in place to make it go to the next level. They have a good sense of humor. It was really about getting that show to the next level, adding complementary pieces because that had been a big part of Angelo’s show as well with contributors. Just putting it all together and making sure that we’re supporting it fully.

For middays, to have an opportunity to bring someone like Hugh Douglas back to Philadelphia was great. Joe Giglio, who has been doing evenings at WIP for a number of years, was ready to take that next step. Then putting them together and seeing that instant chemistry, it really worked.

I didn’t tell them, but Hugh came into town because he was inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame almost about a year ago, I had him come in studio with Joe when he was doing his evening show. It was a tryout for me. They didn’t know about it. I could tell they had really good chemistry from the beginning. And then [Jon] Marks & [Ike] Reese in the afternoon, have been doing great all along.

I just knew that the pieces seemed to fit the culture, too. Hugh being somebody that everybody knew and worked at WIP previously. That was a really like, turnkey option for me too. I think it’s been great.

BN: How would you describe what it’s like to hear chemistry? What does that sound like to you?

RL: Yeah, it’s hard to say. It’s not anything you can really describe fully, you just kind of have to have an instinct for it. I guess the best way I could put it is, if you put somebody on the show and it sounds like they’re just being interviewed, as opposed to you putting somebody on the show and it sounds like they’re having a conversation. That really is the big difference, I think. And with Hugh, like I was saying before when he came in last year, when he and Joe did that hour together, it was supposed to be an interview. But really, it turned into a conversation.

BN: How do you think working for Arizona Sports and Bonneville prepared you for WIP and Audacy?

RL: Well, first of all, my old job in Arizona, it was just great because on the partnership level, they had all the teams. That really taught me early on the importance of these partnerships. Coming out here to WIP, we have two great partners with the Eagles and the Phillies, I had a lot of muscle memory on situations I dealt with in Arizona. That taught me a lot. And just the great leaders that I had there. Scott Sutherland and Ryan Hatch were mentors and they helped prepare me for future success.

I often fall back on lessons that they taught me, especially getting out here in the beginning, they were really good resources to talk to and help me. It’s a big change. Until I moved out to Philadelphia about two and a half years ago, I lived in Arizona. [Laughs] I never lived anyplace else. So it was a big shock for me.

BN: Working with all of those professional franchises in Phoenix and Philadelphia, what’s the most nervous you’ve been as a programmer?

RL: The last example I can think of, and it was here, I came in to make the announcement for the new morning show, and I had to sit across from Angelo as he interviewed me about the change and all of that. I was just so intimidated. He’s just this larger-than-life guy. I wanted to make sure that I was conveying to the city of Philadelphia why I thought this is the right choice. He made me take a phone call from a fan. I had to actually act like a host, take this guy’s call, and ask him questions and all that. That’s probably the most nerve-wracking thing I can remember recently.

BN: I can just imagine Angelo. Did he try to make you nervous on purpose?

RL: It’s a whole story. At one point, he had a program director that he brought on the air to take calls, and it didn’t go very well. I think the program director told one of the callers to go to hell or something.

BN: [Laughs]

RL: So it was kind of like a bit, he wanted me to do it. Obviously, I wasn’t going to do that. But I remember when the guy called in, he introduced the caller, and I don’t even know what I said. I remember Angelo just like motioning to me like, “Alright, keep going, ask him another question, keep this thing moving”. I was like “Oh my God.” It was very purposeful on his part. For sure.

BN: Can you think of a funny bit or anything over the years that one of your hosts did that you thought was hilarious?

RL: Funny bit. I’m sure there are many. There are stories I could think of that are probably not appropriate to talk to you about.

BN: [Laughs] What is the most inappropriate yet still appropriate phone call you’ve heard over the years? Meaning the guy wasn’t cussing, you didn’t have to dump it, but you were like, wow, this is pretty wild right now?

RL: Well, recently, before the Dallas/Eagles game, we had a caller on the midday show. He was just going on this epic anti-Cowboys rant and how much this rivalry means and how much he hates the Cowboys. Then all of a sudden you hear this little sound. It’s like a police siren. It was a police officer who’s pulling somebody over as he was talking and making this big Cowboys rant.

BN: Oh, that’s great. Man, you know you’re in a hardcore sports town when that’s the case.

RL: Seriously. Yeah, and we had Jason Kelce on the morning show. He calls in on Wednesdays. He said that Nick Sirianni, the Eagles coach, played the clip of that on WIP to the team before the Dallas game just to get them fired up.

BN: Oh, wow. How big of a compliment is that to your station?

RL: Yeah, it’s awesome. We’ve had a few, like Bryce Harper. We have this great caller Chuck from Mt. Airy who calls in on some of the shows. He was talking about Bryce Harper. Then Bryce Harper hit a home run that night and then in the postgame talked about how he hit it for Chuck.

It’s crazy. WIP, I’ve never in my career seen a station so ingrained with the community. To have one of the biggest stars in baseball listen to WIP first of all, which he does, and then make a point in the postgame show to say that he hit a home run for one of our callers, I don’t think that happens anyplace else.

BN: How about for you personally, just future goals? Do you think long-term or the next day?

RL: Yeah, next day. You go through a situation like I went through where you move cross-country to the huge powerhouse, sports radio brand. Then, a week later, the guy that’s been doing morning drive for the last 30 years says he’s going to retire. That’s enough. Just the expectations of living up to my predecessors here and making sure we’re putting out a quality product for the audience. Especially right now with the Eagles and the Phillies having such great seasons.

We have these great market conditions. For me, every day is just how do you execute the opportunity? That’s what I focus on.

BN: When you started off your sports radio career, if someone would’ve told you, “Look, man, this is the way it’s going to go. You’re going to be in Phoenix programming a great station. Then you’re going to go to Philly and you’re going to be programming WIP.” If someone had told you that, what would have been your reaction?

RL: I would have been really surprised. [Laughs] I didn’t really know early on in my career whether or not I was going to pursue something on air or behind the scenes. Certainly, the idea of being a program director was not on my radar at that time. It was only until I became an executive producer in Phoenix, and I got to know a lot of the great program directors around the country that I really started thinking about that as being a viable career path for me.

So yeah, I would’ve been pretty stunned if you told me I’d be in Philadelphia right now talking Eagles and Phillies with you, and moving my family across the country. That would not have been something I would’ve expected, but I’m happy.

BN: I’m glad you’re happy. It’s funny, man, because if I were in your shoes, I would be like, man, how are they going to treat me? How are they going to react? Are they going to be like, this guy is from Phoenix? What are we doing? It sounds like you didn’t feel like that at all.

RL: I mean, I didn’t. I’m sure there were people that were thinking that. I know I would’ve if I were here. But everybody from the beginning was very receptive to what I had to say. It wasn’t like I was coming in saying, all right, here we go, let me show you how we did things in Arizona. I came in to listen and just to align and enhance the brand here. I think we’ve landed in a good place.

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Does Mark Cuban See a Bubble That is About to Burst in Sports Media?

“The now-former Shark Tank star has a good track record of identifying the ideal time to bail.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Mark Cuban sees a bubble ready to burst
Mark Cuban image courtesy Sports Illustrated

America’s top professional and college sports leagues have been living on easy street for the last ten years. Whenever their broadcast rights come up for negotiations, the NFL, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, the SEC and the Big Ten have been able to count on a line of bidders eager to get in on the action. 

That party may be close to over though. Amin Elhassan of Meadowlark Media said last week that Mark Cuban may be the first to see it and that is why he is ready to sell off his majority stake in the Dallas Mavericks.

“That whole streaming money that everyone’s been talking about for years, like, ‘oh, when this next TV deal is up, it doesn’t even matter if Disney and Turner aren’t ponying up.’ ‘Oh, Amazon and Netflix are going to come in and just dump billions of dollars,’” he told co-host Charlotte Wilder on their Oddball podcast. “That’s not been the case. So I think Mark Cuban’s looking and he’s saying, ‘oh, this is the bubble and the bubble is about to burst.’”

He then pointed out that everyone in the NBA should be concerned if Cuban is the one with that vision. The now-former Shark Tank star has a good track record of identifying the ideal time to bail.

“He founded this thing called Broadcast.com,” Elhassan explained. “They pioneered the technology that allows people to stream video on the Internet. The reason why you’re able to watch anything on your phone, tablet or computer is because Mark Cuban and the company that he founded. He founded it and he sold it and within a few months, the dot com bubble crashed and that he made out like a bandit and everybody else was like Pets.com. ‘Ahhhh! We broke!’ So I definitely to me, it feels like the ship be sinking and ‘let me get off before everyone starts to figure it out and clamor.’”

Now, it should be noted that Cuban was recently asked about keeping the Mavericks a family business and passing control of the franchise down to his kids one day. 

“I wouldn’t put them through it,” he said on a recent edition of All the Smoke. He then went on to explain that team owners need to court investments from real estate developers. 

“That’s where the money is going be coming from potentially,” citing expensive real estate deals like the ones to get new areas for the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers.

It’s very possible that Cuban doesn’t see the single majority shareholder model as a viable way to own and run a team anymore. It’s also possible he just wants to enjoy being rich and not have as many responsibilities. It was on that same episode of All the Smoke that the 65-year-old revealed his time on ABC’s reality show Shark Tank is coming to an end.

But this is a sports media site. We pour over rights deals and potential deals looking for justification or game changing strategy. Let’s dive into the idea that Cuban sees a bubble that is about to burst.

If Amin Elhassan is right, and that is indeed how Cuban feels, he is not alone. 97.1 The Ticket’s Mike Valenti said the same thing earlier this year, although his prediction was less about the demand diminishing and more about customer dissatisfaction with the product.

Valenti’s point is that leagues’ rights will not hold their value if the streamers and networks they sell to make it hard for fans to see the games. The NFL is putting playoff games behind a paywall. Regular season action in Major League Baseball, the NHL, and college sports are already there.

Puck News founder and former editor of The Hollywood Reporter Matthew Belloni disagrees. He told me that the willingness to allow some big games to be streaming exclusives actually makes a league’s rights more valuable to media companies in 2023.

“There’s a big push in the entire streaming industry right now to raise profits, even at the expense of growing subscriber numbers and usage,” he told me via email. “Using premium sports, the top driver of subscription and engagement, to increase profitability, makes perfect sense. All these games *should* be behind a paywall. Thats where they will benefit their broadcaster most, even if the leagues might want greater accessibility.”

Cuban and other owners are yet to settle on new broadcast deals for the NBA. Commissioner Adam Silver may have been overly optimistic in insisting that the league could triple its current revenue in its next TV rights deals, but he and team owners have been willing and eager to look at new revenue streams and more modern broadcast deals in order to help them get there.

Still, it’s hard not to think about two outlets when it comes to the NBA on TV – ESPN and TNT. Maybe other networks will get involved in the bidding, but at this point, it is hard to picture a world where those outlets and ABC are not airing NBA games.

Do Disney’s plans for the future of ESPN inch us closer to a bubble bursting for media rights deals? If the network will be a streaming product by 2025, will Bob Iger and Jimmy Pitaro be more conservative with what they are willing to spend money on and how much they are willing to pay?

I asked Belloni if he expected the company’s projections for what ESPN can generate as a streaming product are more likely to make it less agressive with the NBA and other rights deals in the short term.

“It’s not a question of aggressive vs frugal, it’s what does Disney need to compete in sports,” he said. “Iger has said he wants ESPN to be available on streaming by 2025, which isn’t that far away.”

He added that it doesn’t mean that competition stops. Other networks and streamers want in on the NBA. There are major commitments to the NFL, the SEC and others that Disney has to honor as well. Iger and Pitaro are not going to let those get away. They have to sustain the brand’s value no matter what form the network takes.

“Renewing top tier rights like the NBA will be key to that push because ESPN will be an expensive product, but he also should expect less revenue in the short term because making ESPN available digitally will exacerbate cord cutting,” Belloni said. “Hence why he is looking for a deep-pocketed partner to invest in ESPN and help defray the costs of those rights packages.”

Amin Elhassan is an incredibly smart guy. He didn’t simply see Cuban’s sale announced and jumped to the conclusion that a rights bubble is about to burst and he did a great job of explaining that.

He did leave out the part about who is buying Cuban’s stake in the Mavericks and what she plans to do with it. 

Miriam Adelson is a Republican mega donor and widow of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who’s Las Vegas Sands Corporation built three resorts in Las Vegas and seven other properties across Asia. 

Sports gambling has become a right versus left issue in Texas, with Republicans coming down on the side of “ain’t gonna happen.” Adelson’s investment in the Mavericks is said to include plans for an entertainment and casino complex near Dallas.

Mark Cuban may be “down to Earth for a billionaire,” but he is still a billionaire obsessed with his public image. Remember how furious he was with Draymond Green in 2017 when the Warriors’ star said that the term “team owner” invoked the unpleasant idea of one person owning another? Cuban is not completely abandoning the team. He will continue to run basketball operations in Dallas. If he really saw a rights bubble that was about to burst, it seems more likely that he would want to put as much distance as possible between himself and the perceived failure. 

This deal is not about Cuban’s projections for sports media’s future. It is about Miriam Adelson recognizing an opportunity to wield political influence and add a few billion to her net worth.

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