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What If The Streaming War Was Sports?

“The next stage of the streaming wars will probably have a lot to do with the rights to live sporting events, but for now the power still rests with the traditional network powers.”

Jack Ferris

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The great streaming wars are upon us – and the casualty is our spare time.  I’ll admit I didn’t realize how bad I wanted to watch 1994’s Blank Check until Disney+ gave me the option Tuesday night.  

Image result for disney plus

At the moment – the main weapon in the war is intellectual property (IP), and Disney is loaded with ammunition.  It’s the newest player to the game but with Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and Disney Channel Original bangers the likes of Brink! and Luck of the Irish – it’s easy to see how the service received 10 million subscribers almost overnight.  

In a notable counteroffensive this week, Netflix (60M domestic subscribers) announced a partnership with Nickelodeon IP and gained valuable territory on the battleground of millennial nostalgia in the process.  

Of course, the arrival of Disney+ means one more password and one more monthly payment to factor into the budget.

If you count the money I’m saving by using my sister’s old roommate’s ex boyfriend’s login information on a handful of premium network subscriptions (he’s cool with it) I’d be paying close to $90 a month for all my television.

Disney+, AppleTV+, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Go, Showtime Anytime, Starz – do the math and you’re probably pretty close to $90 yourself.

In a matter of years, if not months, how we consume sports could look a lot different.  The NFL is seemingly very close to closing a “Sunday Ticket-type” deal with a streaming giant that would dramatically shift the landscape of the sports world.  Hulu has spent what appears to be several small fortunes getting athletes to tell us “Hulu has live sports.”  A company like Apple certainly has enough cash to bid for an NBA rights deal against ESPN or Turner.  What’s stopping Netflix from doing the same?

The next stage of the streaming wars will probably have a lot to do with the rights to live sporting events, but for now the power still rests with the traditional network powers.  Skynet is not yet self-aware, so let’s not stress out too hard.  We’ll save doomsday scenarios for another article.

Image result for skynet self aware

For now, let’s play a game.

If we watch as much live sports as we do television and movies – it’s fair to put the same value on our live sports consumption, in this case let’s say $90.  

If I had $90 and it was up to me to assign a cost to each of the sports media giants in a streaming war of sports, this is how it’d look.  

ESPN

Platforms: ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNews, ESPN Classic, SEC Network, ACC Network. ESPN+

What Disney+ is to the intellectual property race, ESPN is to the sports content war.  The appropriately named World Wide Leader has their fingers in every pie. 

Give me the NBA Finals, the College Football Playoffs, and the best games from each sport all season long.  College basketball games almost every night through the winter from just about every conference you can name – with a special emphasis on the SEC and ACC.  They’re on the grounds for two of golf’s four majors and three of the four tennis grand slams.  And oh by the way, they own Monday Night Football and are probably a few years away from getting in the Super Bowl rotation. 

Even in the dog days of summer – you can find the Little League World Series or wall-to-wall NBA free agency coverage on an ESPN platform.  It’s truly a must own for any sports fan, and it’s price point in my budget reflects that.

MONTHLY BUDGET: $20

FOX 

Platforms: FOX, FS1, FS2, BIG TEN

Like ESPN on a slightly smaller scale, a FOX subscription offers me a little bit of everything.  I’d get a huge slice of the NFL Sunday pie and the best PAC-12 and Big Ten games each Fall Saturday has to offer.  It would also prove invaluable during October as I get my cherished Joe Buck time during the MLB Playoffs.  It would dominate my house during the US Open thanks to the network’s agreement with the USGA, and I would gladly pay double the price if it was a World Cup year.  I’m not a huge WWE or NASCAR guy – but I’ll take it if it’s all part of the bundle.

MONTHLY BUDGET: $15

CBS

Platforms: CBS, CBS Sports

Kind of a “meat and potatoes” situation here.  CBS only has a few things to offer – but man are they crucial things.  Imagine your sports calendar without Jim Nantz.  See?  It’s not possible.  No self-respecting sports fan can live without the CBS jingle during the month of March.  Honestly, I would pay just for the NCAA tournament, but I’m not gonna turn down a little icing on my cake.  I’ll take the lion’s share of the Sunday AFC games as well as the Masters in April.  Sprinkle in a little Brad Nessler with the best SEC football game of the week and I’m a happy man.

MONTHLY BUDGET: $15

Regional Sports Networks

Platforms: YES, Fox Sports RSNs, NBC RSNs, etc.

The Regional Sports Network is commonly forgotten by first time cord cutters.  You don’t realize how much you need the option of watching your local NBA, MLB, or NHL team on some idle Tuesday until you don’t have it. 

Again, we’re sticking to sports for this game. I recognize Disney+ has changed everything now that you can fill those idle Tuesdays with Cool Runnings or Homeward Bound.  Stick with me. 

Losing your RSN means losing track of the storylines in your hometown teams, and that’s just not an option for sports fans.  The RSN bill has to get paid.

MONTHLY BUDGET: $11

League Networks

Platforms: NFL Network, MLB Network, NHL Network, NBA TV

Not a ton in the way of live events for this bunch.  Wall-to-wall NFL combine coverage would be nice in April, and the MLB, NHL and NBA Networks always have sneaky playoff games, but for the most part I’m getting studio shows and documentaries here. 

Truthfully, there is one reason the League Networks rank this high on the list and that’s Redzone.  Assuming this package gives me Redzone 17 Sundays out of the year, I’ll happily pay a monthly fee.

Monthly Budget: $9

NBC

Platforms: NBC, NBC Sports, Golf Channel 

I’ll be honest – there’s not a ton for me here.  I love me some Sunday Night Football with Al and Chris, but the rest of the week you don’t really have my attention. 

I could see Notre Dame football and NHL diehards clearing some space in the budget, but it just doesn’t make a lot of sense of me to overextend here.  I don’t wake up early enough to be a Premiere League guy, and I’d rather get off the couch than watch a cycling event.  I am, of course, open to renegotiate as we get closer to the Olympics.

MONTHLY BUDGET: $9

Turner

Platforms: TNT, TBS, TruTV, B/R Live

If valuing Turner over NBC Sports seems like a surprise, I’d challenge you to consider your own viewing habits.  Yes, Turner gets a little nod for supplementing CBS’s NCAA Tournament coverage in March (and I’ll give them $1 for their MLB stock) but TNT is on my TV on and off all winter long and it’s a must have for NBA fans during the postseason. I also don’t hate Rizzoli & Isles reruns.

MONTHLY BUDGET: $11

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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