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The New York Times Eliminates Its Sports Desk

The New York Times Company purchased The Athletic for $550 million in the first fiscal quarter of 2022 in an all-cash deal.

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The New York Times
Courtesy: Brookfield Properties

One of the nation’s largest newspapers is set to change the way it covers sports and could set a blueprint going forward in order to cut costs. The Athletic, which recently eliminated 20 positions within the company, recently refined its sports coverage to focus on storytelling and quality over quantity. On Sunday, 28 members of The New York Times sports department sent a letter to executive editor Joseph Kahn and The New York Times Company chairman A.G. Sulzberger wherein they asked if their jobs were in jeopardy.

The New York Times Company purchased The Athletic for $550 million in the first fiscal quarter of 2022 in an all-cash deal. Initially, terms of the deal outlined the separate operation of the digital sports publication from the existing sports section at The New York Times newspaper. As the newspaper business continues to change with emphasis placed upon digital means of dissemination, the venerable national outlet is now terminating the existence of its own sports department entirely.

The current sports staff, which includes nearly 35 journalists and editors, will not be losing their jobs; instead, they will be transitioned to work in other areas at the granular publication. Furthermore, other reporting niches will create beats focused on topics within the larger scope of sports, such as the business genre tackling money and power in sports. There are currently no layoffs planned at the company; rather, this is a restructuring of ongoing roles.

“We intend to utilize The Athletic — which has among the largest sports newsrooms in the world — to provide Times readers with a greater abundance of sports coverage than ever before,” the company stated. “Under our plan, the digital homepage, newsletters, social feeds, the sports landing page and the print section will draw from even more of the approximately 150 stories The Athletic produces each day chronicling leagues, teams and players across the United States and around the globe.”

Readers of the newspaper will now receive coverage from The Athletic staff, who also receive complementary online access to the platform as part of their subscription. The vertical has yet to finish a quarter with an operating profit and lost $7.8 million in the first quarter of the year. In fact, The Athletic laid off 4% of its newsroom last month in a drastic shift in its coverage plans, favoring quality over quantity. Nonetheless, subscriptions have risen to over three million users, up by nearly two million since the acquisition amid sustained growth.

In an email to staff on Monday titled “Our Plans for Sports Journalism,” Sulzberger and chief executive officer of The New York Times Company, Meredith Kopit Levien, conveyed their desire to become “a global leader” in the field. Kahn and executives at the company met with the sports department in an exchange with belligerent undertones. Members of the sports vertical wanted to know why leadership had waited to impart its decision, a query Kahn felt was “unfair” since the company reassigned staff members instead of firing them outright.

The eradication of its own sports desk in favor of coverage from writers in a non-unionized newsroom with an emphasis on digital platforms is indicative of the dynamism in today’s media market. Moreover, it has the potential to redefine sports journalism and endanger the posterity of the industry. The New York Times Guild intends to fight the resolution with, in its own words, “every tool we have.”

Times leadership is attempting to outsource union jobs on our sports desk to a non-union Times subsidiary under the preposterous argument that The Times can ‘subcontract’ its sports coverage to itself,” The New York Times Guild said in a statement. “Management gave the Guild virtually no notice of this change. Many members learned of the company’s decision in a Times news alert that popped up on our phones minutes into a meeting called to inform sports staff of our department’s dissolution.”

The move to eradicate the newspaper’s sports department comes just one day after the Los Angeles Times announced a reimagined sports section to its newspaper, doubling down on its commitment to impactful sports journalism. Readers will be immersed in a similar feel to a magazine, better suited to showcase sportswriting and sports photography.

As a result, box scores, standings and traditional game stories are going by the wayside for more in-depth reporting, opinion columns and profiles. The publication will offer traditional features of sports reporting on its digital platforms instead, contrasting with the approach The New York Times has decided to take.

“Our essential subscription strategy is working, even at a moment of considerable pressure on our industry,” The New York Times Company stated. “By finding new ways to serve readers and their passions, we’ve been able to continue to grow as a company and to add nearly 1,000 journalism jobs in recent years, half of which have been in the Times newsroom and half in The Athletic and Wirecutter newsrooms.”

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NASCAR to Continue ‘Radioactive’ on YouTube

“We get to listen in to the conversations between drivers, crew chiefs and spotters and it would always get interesting.”

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Graphic for the Radioactive segment from NASCAR Race Hub on FS1
Screengrab: NASCAR Race Hub

NASCAR Race Hub, the daily studio show which debuted in October 2009 and just came to an end on June 11 will have part of its show live on. The very popular ‘Radioactive’ segment the show would do weekly will now become a feature on the NASCAR YouTube channel and run on FOX’s social and digital channels according to a report from Adam Stern of Sports Business Journal.

The segment would typically last four to six minutes and would feature the best audio from the team in-car radios.

On the final episode of Race Hub, host Shannon Spake introduced the final on-air ‘Radioactive’ by saying, “One of the staples of Hub happened every single Tuesday, a little segment we like to call ‘Radioactive.’ We get to listen in to the conversations between drivers, crew chiefs and spotters and it would always get interesting.”

In a story posted by On3’s Nick Geddes, he includes a quote from Denny Hamlin from his podcast about the end of Race Hub:

“… Let’s just say, my intuition says it’s going to get replaced with something, whether it be NASCAR or one of the new partners or something, but I don’t love getting off of FS1 for an hour a week. I don’t love it, but it’s not our decision. What I understood too, that was a real money-loss for FOX. They spent quite a bit of money, per year, putting that on. It was a net negative. So yeah, everyone’s got a business to run.”

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Dan Le Batard: TNT Sports Will Try and Talk Charles Barkley Out of Retirement

“He’s tired of being emotional about this, and he just went emotion from the hip.”

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Dan Le Batard
Courtesy: Derek Futterman, Barrett Sports Media

Charles Barkley, studio analyst for TNT Sports and former NBA Hall of Fame forward, announced that he would be retiring from television after 25 years on the air upon the conclusion of the 2024-25 NBA season. The topic was a subject of discussion on Monday’s edition of The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, an announcement that Le Batard conveyed that Barkley made in his own way with different people than the group with whom he normally broadcasts.

Barkley has made several media appearances outside of his Warner Bros. Discovery obligations pertaining to the future of NBA media rights with TNT, during which he has spoken candidly about his sentiments on the negotiations. Within those interviews, Barkley revealed that he has an opt-out in his 10-year contract should the company lose NBA rights and also criticized executives with the company after not closing a deal within its exclusive 90-day negotiating window as an incumbent rightsholder.

“It was really an unusual place for him in the middle of the night after a game to just tell everybody, ‘And I’ve decided to retire,’ and then TNT’s statement is, ‘We’re going to discuss all of this with Charles. He just caught us off guard,’ and Charles can say whatever that he wants, but they’re going to try to talk him out of this,” Dan Le Batard explained, “and at the very least, that’s not the way they wanted him to do it, and of course, Charles Barkley doesn’t care how you want him to do it.”

The NBA is reportedly in the process of formalizing new media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company (ESPN/ABC), NBCUniversal, and Amazon’s Prime Video. If Warner Bros. Discovery is unable to reach a deal with the NBA, it would mark the end of NBA live game broadcasts on Turner-owned properties, which have been telecasting the games since the 1984-85 campaign. Stugotz is not sure if Barkley will follow through on his retirement announcement and concurred that it was an atypical setting to deliver the career decision.

“I think Barkley is emotional right now – I think they’re all emotional – they should be,” Weiner said. “I’m not certain that Charles Barkley, because he’s going to have so many offers and so many opportunities be it at Turner or ESPN or elsewhere, I’m not certain if he’s just caught up in the emotion or he’s actually going to go through with it.”

There had been rumors several years ago of Barkley joining LIV Golf and potentially leaving Warner Bros. Discovery; however, that did not materialize into any kind of deal. Barkley ended the conversations with the golf tour and affirmed that he would be staying with the Turner Sports division for the remainder of his broadcast career. While he was making his retirement announcement, he revealed that he had spoken to other networks and did not want to be contacted for interviews on the matter.

“The amount of pressure that Barkley must feel to keep the whole thing together as it falls apart because he’s the centerpiece of the whole thing and if they lose the rights and Ernie doesn’t want to leave and the show gets ruined, he doesn’t want to do it in some distorted form,” Le Batard said. “I do believe Stugotz’s analysis is right. He’s tired of being emotional about this, and he just went emotion from the hip.”

Show producer Mike Ryan offered the possibility that Barkley could be creating significant leverage by announcing his retirement at this time. With a year to go until the expiration of the existing NBA media rights contract, he will effectively have a year-long farewell, but he has spoken about retirement in the past and ended up re-signing with the network. The possibility of Warner Bros. Discovery landing an NBA package of some kind is also said to still exist, leading Ryan to ask Le Batard if he thinks Barkley would reconsider his decision if it came to fruition.

“I don’t know because I think predicting his behavior can be very difficult because it hasn’t been hinting at retirement,” Dan Le Batard said. “He has been talking publicly and privately about actually retiring at the age of 60, and he did surprise me when he signed another contract at the age of 60 because of how he’s been talking about that for a while. He does want to slow down the amount of obligations that he has, but he hasn’t been able to do it for whatever the reasons.”

Dan Le Batard said the rationale of Barkley deciding not to slow down in television spanned beyond fiscal compensation. At the moment, Barkley seems to be trying to create public leverage, according to Le Batard, when, with his new contract, he could be doing it privately and still have such leverage.

Producer Billy Gil also mentioned that ego could be involved and finds it difficult to believe Barkley would just disappear from television and no longer express his opinions.

“Billy, you think he’s not going to have other options to do whatever the hell he wants the moment he walks?,” Dan Le Batard asked. “….He could create whatever job that he wishes to create on his own time. He’s got maximum freedom.”

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iHeartMedia Announces Lineup of Original Podcasts for Women’s Sports Audio Network

“We’re committed to championing incredible athletes and building further awareness until women’s sports reaches the kind of nationwide and international prominence it has always deserved.”

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iHeartMedia; Deep Blue Sports + Entertainment
Courtesy: iHeartMedia, Deep Blue Sports + Entertainment

iHeartMedia and Deep Blue Sports + Entertainment have announced the lineup of original podcast shows that will be part of the launch of the Women’s Sports Audio Network.

The audio platform is dedicated exclusively to women’s sports and will feature top athletes and personalities as part of the venture. Capital One, e.l.f. Cosmetics and e.l.f. SKIN have also joined as the founding partners of the free, ad-supported network, which will be available across iHeartMedia broadcast, digital, and podcasting platforms.

In addition to the new shows, the Women’s Sports Audio Network will introduce “Women’s Sports Reports” on iHeartMedia radio stations nationwide. The seminal moment will provide more equitable media coverage to women’s sports with demand and interest at an all-time high level. Women’s sports is projected to become a $1 billion industry in 2024, indicative of a 300% increase over three years; however, women’s sports is estimated to receive only 15% of media coverage, according to a report from The Collective.

iHeartMedia will begin this endeavor live at the Cannes Lions Festival in France where Deep Blue Sports + Entertainment will host the Women’s Sports House in partnership with Axios.

“We’re committed to championing incredible athletes and building further awareness until women’s sports reaches the kind of nationwide and international prominence it has always deserved,” Gayle Troberman, chief marketing officer of iHeartMedia, said in a statement. “It’s humbling and inspiring that the first-ever, dedicated women’s sports reports will start airing with the massive reach of iHeart’s broadcast radio platform and the full-on power of collaboration between world class athletes, incredible journalists, podcasters and the fans. This is a pivotal moment for women’s sports to get heard.”

“Women’s sports aren’t just having a moment, it is the moment. And yet women’s sports content continues to be difficult to find and difficult to buy,” Laura Correnti, founder and chief executive officer of Deep Blue Sports + Entertainment, said in a statement. “The Women’s Sports Audio Network aims to change that — providing an accessible platform for every fan, from the most casual to biggest of super fans, to be educated and entertained while expanding the aperture of investment opportunities for brands to reach and engage with a dialed-in women’s sports community.”

The Women’s Sports Audio Network will include a new program titled Good Game with Sarah Spain, a weekday show covering stories around women’s sports. Spain will cover breaking news and conduct interviews, and she will also be regularly joined by a roster of guests to discuss the forthcoming games and engage in debate.

“Women’s sports have no shortage of show-stopping moments to unpack, and that’s especially true this summer – from the ongoing NWSL and WNBA seasons to the excitement at the upcoming Paris Olympic games,” Spain said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to breaking it all down on ‘Good Game’ with elite athletes and expert voices across a range of sports. Whether we’re spilling tea or talking ‘Ts’, we’re gonna give fans both loyal and new everything they need to keep up with the wild world of women’s sports.”

Four-time WNBA champion and three-time Olympic gold medalist Sheryl Swoopes will host a show focused on difficult conversations pertaining to a variety of topics, including basketball, motherhood, retirement, and mental health. Additionally, professional golfer and media personality Tisha Alyn will host a podcast where she talks about women’s golf and other areas such as fitness, entrepreneurship, lifestyle and LGBTQ culture.

WNBA insider Khristina Williams will talk about the biggest stories in women’s basketball on a weekly podcast and interview those involved in the sport as well. Other programs announced by the Women’s Sports Audio Network include shows hosted by Madison Packer and Anya Packer, Rennae Stubbs and Caitlin Thompson, and a program dedicated to League One Volleyball. The launch dates for these shows on the Women’s Sports Audio Network and more talent will be announced in the future.

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