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Mike Conti Is Full Speed Ahead at 92.9 The Game

Conti immediately recognized the importance of versatility in media and willingly adapted his career to attain his goal of working in a major market.

Derek Futterman

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Mike Conti was drawn towards sports radio from early in his youth listening to broadcasts of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, and while he never definitively had a thought that he wanted to work in the industry, the impression the spoken word made on him led him in that direction.

That, and realizing he was probably not good enough to play sports at a competitive level – so it is safe to say he wanted to stay involved in some way or another. Talking about the action, he surmised, had the potential to forge a viable career path, whether that be during play itself or in the sports talk radio format; therefore, he focused his time at Penn State University to help him achieve that goal.

“I was one of those kids who used to listen to the game on the transistor radio under the pillow,” Conti said. “That was me – like so many other people who got passionate about this industry I think listening to games growing up.”

Play-by-play was always an appealing option for Conti, and it is an aspect of sports radio he has had the ability to work in multiple capacities both at the collegiate and professional level.

But before he got there, he began his career working at Triad Broadcasting in Savannah for nearly three years as news director and assistant operations manager, and also assisted on the programming side of things. In this role, Conti received his first exposure to the management side of media, a section of the industry he continued to grow in soon thereafter – but it is not why he desired to work in media.

It is safe to say he was doing everything he wanted from the time he began pursuing his dream to work in sports radio – which included some play-by-play duties and hosting a daily talk show. Yet he felt unfulfilled and wanting more, and knew that his job at the time would not allow him to grow much further in sports media, or media as a whole for that matter.

“I loved everything I was doing as [a] part of [being] the program director of a sports radio station, but I felt like I hit a growth ceiling,” said Conti. “My goal was to work in a major market, and then I had to kind of assess what I needed to do to work in a major market.”

Conti immediately recognized the importance of versatility in media and willingly adapted his career to attain his goal of working in a major market. One of the primary sacrifices he made to eventually land a job in Atlanta, where he still works today, is by taking an opportunity to work in news radio in New Orleans. This was no usual start to a job though, as he was moving to a city that had recently been devastated by Hurricane Katrina, a tropical cyclone that killed over 1,800 people and caused over $125 billion in damage.

“That was a very, very intense two years in New Orleans where the flow of news and information never really stopped, and it was very, very challenging to keep up with it,” Conti said. “I also felt like kind of on a human level I was called to do that in a way; I felt like it was my responsibility as a young broadcaster to try to do what I could to help that city get back on its feet.”

As a news anchor and reporter at WWL radio, Conti refined his craft by keeping residents informed on daily newscasts, a task that helped him advance his standing in the industry. Sports did not completely elude him throughout his two-year stretch in “The Big Easy” though, as he began contributing to the New Orleans Saints Radio Network as a reporter and served as the play-by-play announcer on sister station WKBU-FM for the New Orleans VooDoo, a local arena football team.

WWL was the source for residents of New Orleans to receive relevant and accurate news and information amid the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, inculcating an obligation of ethical reporting and integrity among staff. The station served as an essential resource to the area during this strenuous and exasperating stretch of time, and by default, experienced much success in each ratings book. Moreover, Conti won a National Edward R. Murrow Award for his contributions to the coverage, a valuable reminder to the impact terrestrial radio can have especially during moments of profound difficulty.

Today, while he understands that attaining a genuine measurement of a station’s audience and reach potential has been disrupted by a global pandemic, he nonetheless assesses it in the same way as he did over a decade ago despite the method seeming entropic at the surface.

“My test is when I stop at a traffic light, I want to know what’s on the radio on the car to my left and the car to my right,” said Conti. “….I’ll never forget working [in New Orleans]… and stopping anywhere where people were in a car, and there was a very good chance you could hear WWL playing on at least one of the cars you were stopped with.”

Due to the prevalence of broadcast entities augmenting their presences on multiple platforms of dissemination, a common criticism of ratings over the years is that they are representative of just one sector of consumption. Conti concurs with that sentiment, which is why he utilizes other data including streaming metrics and social media analytics to formulate a more authentic evaluation of the station during each quarter.

“I think we can use the data from Nielsen to look at general trends, but I never want to overreact to a good book or a bad book,” Conti said. “I think it’s more handy to kind of gauge the overall direction of the radio station over really a 12-month trend as opposed to just going from month-to-month and even week-to-week. You can drive yourself crazy looking at that data you get every week because it can be very, very tempting to overreact to it.”

Conti worked in New Orleans until July 2008 before landing a job with Clear Channel Communications in Atlanta and continued to contribute to both sports and news content for WGST-AM 640, including serving as the station’s assistant news director. Additionally, he was the station’s lead morning news anchor and won the Associated Press’ Georgia radio news anchor of the year award.

Then in 2012, Conti officially transitioned from news radio to join a brand-new station on its launch day: 92.9 The Game in Atlanta. Here, Conti finally focused exclusively on sports radio, but still found ways to display his stellar versatility by taking on a variety of different roles – sometimes simultaneously. Through it all, he gained an understanding of time management, an important aspect of most managerial jobs and something he thrived in when he was named managing editor of the station.

Over the years at the station, Conti has contributed to talk shows, delivered sports updates, and hosted studio coverage, including pregame, halftime, and postgame shows, on radio broadcasts for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. Additionally, he has worked as the play-by-play voice of MLS’ Atlanta United FC and was on the call for the team’s first championship in 2018, which was also, at the time, the first professional sports championship in the area since the Atlanta Braves won the World Series in 1995.

“Someone tweeted at me the next day and said: ‘Do you realize only you and Skip Caray have called an Atlanta sports championship on the radio live?’” recalled Conti. “That just absolutely gave me goosebumps as someone who grew up admiring Skip Caray.”

Of course, hosting pregame, halftime, and postgame shows for the Falcons meant that Conti was in the building when the team was en route to winning its first-ever Super Bowl championship leading 28-3 at halftime. As is well known though, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots staged the largest comeback in Super Bowl history to capture the Vince Lombardi Trophy, infamously defeating the Falcons 34-28. When the game concluded, the next voice that was heard on Atlanta sports radio was that of Conti’s, and it was a moment of his career that he remembers because of the stress and profound trouble he had describing what had just happened.

“I will just never ever forget sitting in that broadcast booth trying to find the words to do that postgame show and trying to find the words to kind of put everything in perspective [to] try to wrap your head around what had just occurred,” said Conti. “It was certainly one of the most devastating moments in Atlanta sports history, and unfortunately I had to be the person on the postgame show to explain it.”

This past June, Conti was named as the new brand manager of 92.9 The Game, a new, multifaceted job for him that has required him to allocate time to ensure the radio station continues to maintain its sound and is at the forefront of innovation. Additionally, he works closely with sponsors, partner teams, and other entities to confirm a return on investment and the cultivation of revenue-generating opportunities. In sum, his job is to ensure the station is on an upward trajectory, both in its content and in its position in the marketplace.

“I’m very, very passionate about the brand, and I know very well what has succeeded and what has failed for us a brand,” said Conti. “Now, it’s just trying to build off the foundation that’s existed for the last 10 years [and] try to make it a little bit better.”

While it may not seem obvious, there are some areas of intersection between being a brand manager and having a broadcast role. In fact, Conti’s experience broadcasting on both radio in Savannah, New Orleans, and Atlanta, along with serving as a freelance play-by-play announcer on television with the Pennsylvania Cable Network, has prepared him for this moment.

“If you’re part of a show unit with a co-host, an executive producer, and an engineer, you have to collaborate on a daily basis with your team,” Conti explained. “So much of being a brand manager is that collaboration with your larger team. [It’s] not necessarily cramming down the type of content that you want to hear [or] the types of non-traditional events you want to be doing, but listening to your team and trying as a large group to find some solutions to do the best radio that we possibly can.”

The job of a brand manager, according to Conti, has been demanding thus far and has presented a challenge to him in trying to continue his broadcast presence while also being an effective manager. Always being one to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously, Conti had to face the looming decision of selecting his primary focus in the industry – and he chose management.

“At some point, you have to pick a lane, and I think that’s been the career crossroads that I’ve been at in the last year – I’ve got to pick my lane,” Conti stated. “The lane I chose, although I’m very passionate about play-by-play and want to continue to do it; the lane I chose was management, and I am pleased I was given an opportunity by Audacy and my market manager here in Atlanta to pick that lane.”

Working directly with Rick Caffrey, who serves as the senior vice president and market manager for Audacy in Atlanta, has not been a difficult transition according to Conti, largely because they are both Atlanta sports fans and P1 listeners of the radio station. Their meetings, while they usually run long, are generally productive; in fact, just 30 minutes of conversation one day came up with an effective campaign involving military listeners. He looks forward to continuing to pioneer new ideas with Caffrey as sports media continues to evolve at a rapid pace.

“I always tell my team: ‘I’m not here to tell you what to do. I’m here to help you get what you need to do the best radio you can do every day,’” Conti said. “From a market manager standpoint, Rick [Caffrey] is very much the same way with me. He’s not necessarily telling me what to do; he is my resource to make sure I get what I need from the company to execute what I want to execute.”

Conti affirms that he has a talented staff on hand; however, he is always looking for chances to improve the current product. That is why he recently hired a new Atlanta Braves reporter for the station, along with several weekend hosts to improve that content. Additionally, he and Caffrey created a new mid-morning sports and entertainment talk show called The Front Row on 92.9 The Game featuring Steak Shapiro and Sandra Golden.

“Fortunately for me, I don’t need to sit into show meetings and provide feedback and advice for what our shows need to be doing,” said Conti. “My bigger goal is to just make sure we’re constantly evolving and not settling for doing the same thing every day…. You’re either going to get better or you’re going to get worse – you’re never going to stay the same – and I want to make sure that we’re always getting better.”

Working in news radio, even though his goal was to always remain in sports, was representative of augmenting his versatility and taking advantage of any opportunity he could to advance his standing in the industry. Today, he looks back on that time and recognizes that there are many similarities between the two formats, and having that duality in perspective has helped him understand the totality of the industry as a brand manager.

“As is the case in the news business, we have a responsibility in sports radio to make sure that we’re informing our audience in a responsible way and that we aren’t necessarily going on the radio and saying things because we know our audience wants to hear it,” Conti said. “I think there are some journalistic principles that are very, very important to implement in sports radio.”

Whether it is news or sports radio, the proximity to current events embedded within content in the spoken word format unquestionably gives it somewhat of an advantage when put up against other radio formats. The challenge for Conti and other radio executives comes in making that content available on-demand and accessible wherever and whenever the consumer desires to hear it. Technologic innovation helps in making that goal a reality; however, it requires collaboration from all parties to produce it, including on-air talent, engineers, and programmers among others.

The concept of abandoning terrestrial radio altogether and moving to an exclusive digital platform is something Conti and many others do not see as a viable option right now. After all, terrestrial radio has provided and continues to provide the foundation for much of the listening audience, and even though podcasts and other digital means of consumption are growing in their popularity, they are primarily complimenting the existing content on AM/FM rather than replacing it entirely. That, of course, could change as time goes on though but for now, Audacy is providing 92.9 The Game and its other sports radio stations with necessary resources, combined with “time, effort, and energy” to ensure the haste distribution of content.

“Over the next decade, there’s going to be a continual transition from in-car listening to on-phone and in-app listening, and that’s something we have to embrace,” said Conti. “Quite honestly – from a programming standpoint, there are a lot of advantages to that because for one, we’re going to get much more reliable audience measurement off of that.”

Something else that could shift in the industry over the next decade is the number of on-air talent that can simultaneously and effectively balance a broadcast and management career as some jobs become more conflated in scope. Conti, having achieved this throughout his career, knows that broadcasters would serve as “good coaches in that program director/brand manager role.” The one issue could be that there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

“I would love to see more on-air talent try to embrace that opportunity,” Conti said, “but I don’t know if it’s sustainable to do a four-hour air shift and all the show prep that entails, and fulfill all the commitments that come with being a brand manager at a top-10 market station.”

He’s just 41 years old with a wealth of experience in sports media, and while Mike Conti’s career is far from over, he is grateful for the various chances he has had to work in different sectors of radio. As a former member of the Alumni Society Board of Directors at Penn State University’s Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, he hopes to embolden aspiring broadcasters through his adaptability and versatility, both facets of his career and truths of the industry he tells young professionals when he meets with them.

“I’ve gotten to do so much and experience so much in my first two decades working in this industry,” Conti said. “If someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Tomorrow, you can’t do this anymore,’ I would have a smile on my face because I feel like I’ve been so blessed and so fortunate to have the experiences that I’ve had over the last couple of decades.”

Mike Conti chose his lane, and now it’s full speed ahead as 92.9 The Game looks to push its previous momentum and accelerate into the digital age of media.

“We were very, very lucky for a long time to have a lot of ratings success here in the Atlanta market, and to uphold that is very, very challenging,” Conti said. “It requires a lot of hard work and a lot of creativity, and that’s what I’m basically trying to bring to the position.”

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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