When Authentic Brands Group terminated the licensing agreement with The Arena Group that allowed the company to publish Sports Illustrated in print and digital form, there was subsequent fallout that resulted in staff members losing their jobs. The Arena Group, after it received a notice of termination including a $45 million fee, told Sports Illustrated employees that it would be laying off staff members working on the brand.
Some employees lost their jobs immediately and others were given 90 days’ notice, but both scenarios concerned the Sports Illustrated Guild. The entity reaffirmed its commitment to fighting for fair treatment of its members and to maintain the standard the publication has established over the years.
While the future of the publication is somewhat ambiguous, there is an ostensible consensus that the publication is on a precipitous decline. The news has elicited discussions on various sports talk programs of late with broadcasters providing their opinions on the matter and sharing their memories of the venerated sports magazine. Chad Finn, sports media columnist for the Boston Globe, penned an article about the changing nature of the outlet, the title of which was articulated on Wednesday morning by 98.5 The Sports Hub co-host Fred Toucher. From there, the discussion began on the relevance of Sports Illustrated in the 21st-century media ecosystem.
“I don’t even know what Sports Illustrated does anymore,” co-host Rob ‘Hardy’ Poole said. “We were talking about this the other day – the day of the layoffs. Do they print anything anymore?”
Toucher used to work for CNN/SI, the ephemeral 24-hour sports news network created by Time Warner through combining two of its brands. As a result, he has collected many editions of Sports Illustrated with iconic covers spanning different athletes and sports leagues.
“We got free Sports Illustrateds on Thursdays,” Toucher reminisced. “It was awesome. They just had a big-ass pile of Sports Illustrateds; you could take one. I remember thinking it was cool.”
Thinking back on his time with the company, Toucher feels that he can name the covers off the top of his head. At the same time, he offered a pragmatic sentiment when discussing the resolution of what has occurred with the publication over the ensuing years. Just what will happen to Sports Illustrated remains to be seen, and it indeed serves as a sense of nostalgia for many previous readers. There are people who want the publication to persist through the changing state of media while others are indifferent towards the ultimate outcome.
“…I don’t care at all that they’re not making it anymore, and I don’t think I’m being cool,” Toucher said. “That faded away so grandly. When was the last time – outside of an airport, literally – that you bought a Sports Illustrated; that you had a Sports Illustrated? They stopped delivering it to my house; I don’t even think I had a conversation with them. It just was something that ended up happening.”
“I mean, picking up and looking at a Sports Illustrated, no,” Poole added. “I stopped long before they stopped publishing them.”
Christian Fauria: I See the NFL “Icing Out” Broadcasting Partners
“If I’m the league, does it make more financial sense by selling off a game here, a game here, to five different partners and really trying to fleece them…making it realy competitive, and having them overpay. Or, to farm it out ourselves, like to really own everything ourselves.”
Former NFL player Christian Fauria said on his WEEI show, Gresh & Fauria, that he believes the NFL will soon own and control their own television and streaming rights . Fauria and his partner, Andy Gresh were discussing the recent reports of Amazon Prime Video paying $120 million (or $150 million depending on which report you read) to stream one exclusive playoff game.
“It’s just one game and it’s $120 million dollars,” Gresh said. “I just go back to, this is where it’s going. At what point is the NFL tapped domestically?…I just wonder how do you extract more from the domestic marketplace? How do you find a way to squeeze more blood out of the rock? There are no more TV networks to go to. The streaming services are what they are, but at the end of the day, isn’t owning it yourself and going to pay-per-view the only real remaining revenue stream for the NFL here in America?”
Fauria said he sees the NFL potentially going all in. “If I’m the league, does it make more financial sense by selling off a game here, a game here, to five different partners and really trying to fleece them…making it realy competitive, and having them overpay. Or, to farm it out ourselves, like to really own everything ourselves. One platform that we own, that we regulate that we control and we can reach a world-wide audience and they all go to one particular [place]…one platform that everyone goes to and they pay a fee. Eventually, I see them icing out all their partners.”
Gresh took a different point of view, noting how desperate the networks will be to keep the NFL programming and all that would be involved if the NFL took over all of the broadcasting responsibilities. “I don’t think it’s going to get that deep because then the NFL would start to get in to paying production costs, flying people around, hiring crews. If the NFL just housed it on their own, they are then just incurring the expense that they have had the luxury of having someone else incur, on top of paying them a ton of money. To me, the only carve out can only be the Super Bowl and these sort of standalone deals.”
Fauria then added how he can not only see the NFL taking it all on themselves, mainly due to the owner’s greed, but added he can also see the addition of at least two more teams which would create more inventory for the league to sell. Gresh didn’t disagree about adding more teams, his belief, however is that adding the teams will continue to drive the price up for the broadcasting partners and the NFL may try different things with single games like the exclusively-streamed playoff game.
KFC on WFAN: What Makes Barstool Sports Successful is the “Reality TV Aspect”
“Anybody that has success in entertainment and sports…I think there is going to be that desire to see behind the curtain and we just kind of opened the curtain willingly.”
Kevin Clancy, better known as ‘KFC’ from Barstool Sports, filled in for Boomer Esiason on WFAN this morning with Gregg Giannatti. The two hosts discussed the feuding going on between members of the 1990’s Chicago Bulls as some players, most notably Scottie Pippen, are disputing some of what was said in The Last Dance back in 2020.
They compared the situation to some of what they face at their offices, noting they spend a lot of time with their co-workers, who aren’t members of their family or in most cases their best friends and drama can sometimes ensue. “Barstool has taken that office drama to a level that no one else has achieved,” Giannotti said to KFC. “When we do stuff like that here [at WFAN], it’s very rarely serious. The drama that you guys have, it’s real and it’s out there and that’s got to be a really difficult thing to deal with if you’re not prepared for it.”
“We usually refer to it as “being in the mud,” Clancy responded. “And there’s only certain people that can really live in the mud…It’s part of what made Barstool successful, is that reality TV aspect of it in that it is kind of like a team, and there is internal drama like clubhouse drama, locker room drama and the way we usually handle that is let’s do it out there and on the air.”
KFC talked about being a fan of WFAN and seeing it from the outside looking in. He said as a listener you could sense who was not a fan of certain people. He used the example of the feuds which would take place between Mike Francesa and Craig Carton and then the subsequent feuds Giannotti found himself in with “The Pope” when he took over for Carton.
“Anybody that has success in entertainment and sports…I think there is going to be that desire to see behind the curtain and we just kind of opened the curtain willingly,” KFC said about Barstool Sports. “We will probably fight each other more than anything, but then when there’s an outside problem, we close ranks and we are like, let’s handle business.”
Gow Media Parts Ways With Sports Map Radio Program Director Craig Larson
“With Larson exiting, Gow Media will make another change, tapping into its partnership with VSiN to satisfy its Sports Map Radio affiliate stations.”
It’s been a tough week in Houston for Gow Media. First, the company made cuts to ESPN 97.5, parting ways with the midday team of Joshua Beard, Michael Connor and Andrew Carlson. Then yesterday, the company informed longtime network program director Craig Larson that he too was unfortunately a budget cut casualty.
Larson had been with Gow Media since the company acquired the Sporting News Radio network in 2010. He started with Sporting News Radio as a producer in Illinois, moving next to Los Angeles to take on programming duties for the network before relocating to Houston to lead the outlet following David Gow’s acquisition of the brand.
During the fourteen years that Larson managed the network, it’s gone through a few changes. Gow elected to change the identity from Sporting News Radio to Yahoo Sports Radio in 2011. That was followed by rebrands to SB Nation Radio and its current name, Sports Map Radio.
With Larson exiting, Gow Media will tap into its partnership with VSiN to satisfy its Sports Map Radio affiliate stations. The two groups have already been working together. This just gives the sports betting network an even bigger push. It also helps Gow stand out better in a crowded national sports radio marketplace.
As for Larson, this is his first trip to free agency in nearly a quarter century. When reached by BSM, he acknowledged that his time with the company had come to an end. He added, ‘It was an amazing 14 years in Houston. I’m proud of the work we put in, and there’s no better person in the world to work for than David Gow.’
Those interested in chatting with Larson about future possibilities can reach him at [email protected].