Disney has a strong relationship with the NBA. ESPN carries the bulk of the company’s inventory with the league while the Finals air on ESPN. Doris Burke likes it that way, but she isn’t counting on it staying the same forever.
The league will hear pitches from potential suitors this summer as negotiations begin for the league’s next media rights deal. The price tag to carry the games is expected to climb significantly. Not only is the league hoping to triple its rights revenue but the involvement of big tech companies that want NBA games on their streaming platforms are expected to push the dollar amounts discussed to new heights.
Burke said the timing of these negotiations isn’t great for herself and her co-workers.
“The New York Post recently came out with a story sort of documenting that we can expect layoffs,” she told Owen Poindexter on the Front Office Sports Today podcast. “We can expect layoffs from coworkers. You can expect that from fellow announcers. I’ve lived through it once, and you know, it’s not good.”
ESPN has dedicated significant air time to the NBA. Games and studio programming are a centerpiece, but NBA content being rolled into other shows matters too.
The significance of that isn’t lost on Doris Burke. She said it gives her a lot of hope as the NBA gets set to meet with Disney.
“Business is business,” she said. “You’re hoping and pulling for us to do the right things to get the contract renewed, but I’ll say this to you. In light of all the business implications for Disney and us, I’m optimistic we get it. But until we sign that contract, I take nothing for granted. Absolutely nothing.”
In addition to Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery, which are the league’s current rights holders, NBC, Apple, and Amazon have all expressed a desire to land some amount of NBA games during these negotiations. It is expected that, at the very least, a third, streaming-exclusive package of games will be made available to bidders.
Henrik Lundqvist ‘Felt the Energy’ During Stanley Cup with NHL on TNT
“We’re not playing, but you can definitely feel that energy in the building.”
The NHL on TNT is entering its third season on the air since inking a seven-year media rights contract with the National Hockey League, bringing fans all of the action from a sport burgeoning in popularity. Warner Bros. Discovery is coming off its first broadcast of the Stanley Cup Final, the first that was exclusive to cable television in 29 years. It will now look to pair its game offerings with the Bleacher Report-branded sports tier on the Max streaming service in an effort to expand its audience and make the contests more accessible to fans.
The network will showcase a preseason doubleheader on Thursday, Oct. 5 before the start of the regular season, marking the return of the acclaimed studio team. Wayne Gretzky, Anson Carter, Paul Bissonnette and Henrik Lundqvist, all of whom recently signed multi-year contract extensions with Warner Bros. Discovery Sports, will join host Liam McHugh for pregame, intermission and postgame coverage for featured games. Following a year where the cast culminated the program from Las Vegas, Nev. for the Stanley Cup Final between the Vegas Golden Knights and Florida Panthers, they aim to utilize the energy evinced from the experience to propel the show to new heights this year.
“For me, first time doing it in-arena – I’ve been doing that for two years during regular season and a few games in the playoffs from the studio,” Lundqvist said. “To get an opportunity to do the show from the arena and get the atmosphere, that was awesome. We’re not playing, but you can definitely feel that energy in the building, and that’s something I’ll remember going forward.”
Lundqvist joined the NHL on TNT throughout last season on a more regular basis, balancing the role with duties at Madison Square Garden both in a business operations role and as a studio analyst with MSG Networks. Bringing the perspective of a goaltender to the air is an invaluable facet of the panel that is very much a deficiency on other regional sports networks around the league. Furthermore, it allows host Liam McHugh to better utilize the studio analysts, accentuating their strengths to set them up for success.
“I think that’s kind of what makes this group special,” McHugh said. “We all want to hear what each other has to say. We’re interested in the stories, and if someone says something stupid, everyone else on this panel lets them know about it.”
While the panel was in Las Vegas for the Stanley Cup, Lundqvist revealed that it had production meetings on a daily basis to devise a plan to combat the high noise level within T-Mobile Arena. With amplitudes potentially at risk of peaking, it was essential that the entire team ensure that they would be able to produce a broadcast that was easily understood and discernible to the viewing audience. Throughout the night, there is always constant communication between employees in the production niche and the on-air talent in front of the camera.
“[It is] trying to explain and make hockey entertaining for an American audience,” Bissonnette said. “Oftentimes we’ll be behind there in the back of the set and if something happens, we’re saying, ‘Hey should we demo this?’…. I think you guys can see how it comes to light with not only the help of the other guys on the panel, but the people behind the scenes as well.”
Being within the championship atmosphere, McHugh found value in being able to call on players who have experience competing for hockey’s ultimate prize. Even if it involved consistent battles against the noise, conversations with these analysts were heard loud and clear.
“It’s so great to have Gretzy and Hank in an atmosphere where the Stanley Cup is on the line and you have guys with experience who have been in that situation,” McHugh said. “I think what we’ve all learned is [to] lean on the guys who have been there.”
In addition to his role with the NHL on TNT, Bissonnette is the host of the extolled Spittin’ Chiclets podcast and frequently contributes to the game of hockey through a variety of other mediums. There is a contrast in his style between both platforms, underscored by neglecting to pester New York Rangers fans while representing TNT as he does on the podcast, but he is still evolving and considers himself fortunate to be among versatile, adept personalities.
“I think from year one to year two, we continued to continue bringing the things we felt we were strong in and added a lot of new components as well,” Bissonnette expressed. “It’s been a blast; it’s been a great learning experience.”
The studio broadcast drew inspiration from Inside the NBA, the heralded National Basketball Association program with Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny “The Jet” Smith and Charles Barkley that has become a fixture among NBA fans. Viewers have observed a strong, palpable chemistry among this group, who look forward to an exciting 2023-24 season and preparing for another Stanley Cup broadcast in the year afterwards. Through their camaraderie and congeniality that complements the traditional live game broadcast coverage, the studio team is poised to continue their improvement over the life of the broadcast deal and continue disseminating their insight and expertise to a national audience.
“I’m just having a blast with this crew, and to me, that’s what it comes down to,” Lundqvist said. “I love being connected to the game, but in the end, it’s about the crew and having fun every time we see each other.”
Derek Futterman is a contributing editor and sports media reporter for Barrett Sports Media. Additionally, he has worked in a broad array of roles in multimedia production – including on live game broadcasts and audiovisual platforms – and in digital content development and management. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks, wrote for the Long Island Herald and served as lead sports producer at NY2C. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
Joe Buck: I’m Not Looking Up Taylor Swift Lyrics for Cute References
Taylor Swift has taken over the NFL world with her reported romance with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. Despite the attention, ESPN’s Joe Buck says he won’t be referencing her on a broadcast anytime soon.
During an appearance on The Michael Kay Show Monday, Buck was asked if he had done any homework on the pop star with the intention of working in references during future broadcasts.
“I would not be the guy looking up lyrics trying to cutely add something in for a tip of the cap to all the Swifties out there. So no, I’m glad to just do a football game. I’m kind of glad to do football tonight,” Buck said as ESPN New York 98.7’s Peter Rosenberg said, “I love you for that”.
“I don’t even think you’d have to look up because I know you’re cool enough that you probably know some of her songs,” replied Kay.
“I’m not cool enough,” Joe Buck joked, “but I do have two daughters in their 20s both living in the great city of New York who went to both the New York Taylor Swift concert and one of them followed her to Kansas City, which from what I’m told it was the genesis of this whirlwind romance with one Travis Kelce.”
Swift was in attendance at Sunday Night Football between the New York Jets and Chiefs. The broadcast was the most-watched Sunday television program since Super Bowl LVII, garnering 27 million viewers.
MLB.TV Sees Record Numbers in 2023
MLB.TV had nine of its top-10 most-watched days in its 21-year history in 2023.
When MLB.TV was launched in the summer of 2002, the product revolutionized the way people consume the game of baseball, especially for people out of the home marketplaces of their favorite teams. The app has engendered people to become immersed in fandom across the country, a cable television subscription notwithstanding, and has been one of the most successful streaming packages on the market.
In the 2023 season, Major League Baseball reports that there were 12.7 billion minutes of action watched on the platform, up 9% from last year. Furthermore, the outlet has experienced a 14% increase in users, along with a concurrent 17% increase in the games watched. These changes are attributable to the remodeled portal, and likely the rules changes that have hastened play and grown offensive output.
MLB had a 24-minute decrease in the average length of a standard, nine-inning contest and a 7% increase in runs per game, leading fans to come to the ballpark in droves.
The out-of-market streaming service further backed the trend that baseball is on somewhat of a resurgence, with fans ages 18-24 watching 16% more games in 2023 than last season. MLB.TV had nine of its top-10 most-watched days in its 21-year history in 2023, including the top five of all-time. Overall, the number of games watched from start to finish rose by 17%, evidence of the sport being able to more effectively capture the attention of consumers.
Major League Baseball’s postseason coverage begins on Tuesday afternoon with Wild Card round matchups in both the American League and National League on ABC/ESPN.