photo credit: the Sun
by mike in boston / @mikeinboston / hatemailaccount at gmail
Good morning readers. I am going to kick some things to next week since the world of sports is once again firing out interesting stories at a rapid pace. First let me thank Ryan Walsh of Sportsnet for going above and beyond in participating in our Q&A last week. On behalf of Jonah and the TSM readership, we wish Ryan the best working on the new show. Second, let me also welcome back Nelson Millman to the FAN. I did a long interview with Nelson last year, and I’m really happy he’s back at the helm at the FAN, even if just for a short while.
With those pleasantries out of the way, let’s get to work …
It’s Always Sunny in Arizona
After a brief hiatus the creative minds behind the popular sitcom that is the Arizona Coyotes are back. This season looks like it will continue to deliver the high quality comedy viewers in the US and Canada have come to expect from this franchise.
The new season’s arc will focus on the legality of ending a 15 year lease agreement after only its 2nd year. Long time fans of the show were saddened to see much beloved character “Mayor Scruggs” depart last season, but by the looks of it, new character “Mayor Jerry Weiers” is going to be a great replacement. He shocked audiences by threatening to remove hecklers from the room when the vote to end the agreement was taking place. He was also was on the receiving end of a very entertaining albeit slightly misinformed rant by local fan “Ronda Pearson”. Who know if she will turn into a bigger character as things unfold? Fans are also holding out hope that Judge Redfield T Baum might make a cameo at some point. Welcome back gang.
The media coverage of this story has been varied. As news that a vote to cancel the deal broke, several outlets were quick out of the gate. Seattle wants an NHL team and the local news covered what this vote might mean for the great state of Washington. In Arizona, the local news went into phenomenal detail about the Coyotes’ financial situation. In the centre of the hockey universe most of the major players chimed in as well, though Dave Shoalts was oddly silent. Perhaps he’s still in recovery from binge-watching the Coyotes over the last 5 years.
Among the Toronto media, Elliotte Friedman’s report stood out. In a piece entitled “Coyotes crisis rears ugly head at terrible time” Friedman takes an oddly pro-team stance for a story whose complicated legal details were just beginning to come to light. He writes about the owners being “blindsided” by the city’s actions. He also notes that he’s not a lawyer but asserts that the Coyotes will mount a vigorous defense. He quotes an anonymous Coyote but doesn’t get a quote from anyone else. The piece lacks the kind of balance needed to cancel the pro-team slant. Rick Westhead of TSN had a more neutral and much more in-depth story prior to the vote.
The most strange part of the piece is how Elliotte goes out of his way to say “two weeks before the draft and the start of the free-agency period, the timing is terrible.” This is how the piece ends, without any elaboration on what might have been a better time, or what bad consequences will result from this particular timing. It’s just a piece of personal opinion that is not explained at all.
I’m not quite sure why Elliotte cares about the timing for the league. As a reporter your job is to cover what is in front of you. We have been told explicitly by Gary and by Rogers execs that the partnership was going to focus on the stars of the game as opposed to business and legal issues, but we’ve also been told that there is full editorial independence for Rogers media members from this mandate. What to believe? You want to give people the benefit of the doubt. The same strange sympathy for the NHL was expressed by Sportsnet’s John Shannon
Two Personal thoughts on Coyotes v Glendale situation:
1. What a shame this story needs to unfold during a great Stanley Cup Final.
— John Shannon (@JShannonhl) June 11, 2015
From the audience’s standpoint this sends a confusing message. Are you a journalist or a fan of the NHL? I’m not sure you can do both at the same time. Recall that when Strombo was brought on he explicitly said he was going to approach coverage as a fan – a comment that elicited much discussion. We can discuss Strombo’s fan-first performance at a later time.
Shannon continued by offering some advice for Glendale and the Coyotes ownership
2. Even if you have issues with a business partner, is making such a disagreement this public creating irreparable damage for both sides?
— John Shannon (@JShannonhl) June 11, 2015
Again, I can understand how John Shannon the fan wants this all to go away so we can get back to celebrating the game. But since the Coyotes are in an unusual financial arrangement with the Glendale taxpayers, transparency is also something to be celebrated. Damien Cox had a much more rational take on this whole mess:
Owners of Arizona Coyotes need to seize this opportunity and relocate. What's done is done. But no more bleeding Glendale. It's not right.
— Damien Cox (@DamoSpin) June 11, 2015
The vote passed and the Coyotes are now without a lease agreement. Here’s a quick rundown of some interesting writing on what comes next:
– the one and only Mike Sunnucks gives us his perspective.
– TSN Drive’s Dave Naylor lays out why this is not like other public-private partnerships.
– The Post’s Scott Stinson does a nice job with some balanced opinion.
Over to you: Should reporters be expressing their sadness when stories like these break?
The Network PR Wars
We’ve chronicled the statistically flawed mess that is the current radio ratings system at length on this site. Imagine if your job performance was a blank canvas on which you could paint whatever suited your tastes. That’s radio. It appears that things on the TV side are just as interpretively open. In depressingly typical fashion, both networks sent out word through their PR departments, trumpeting their seat atop the throne of #1 sports network in Canada. Media members leapt to twitter to bask in the glory of being part of the winning side.
Around the same time the Globe featured a long interview with Rogers CEO Guy Laurence. According to Laurence, Rogers’ hostile take-over of national hockey coverage in Canada has yielded a 10% profit margin. The piece also covers his relationship with Bettman. “The NHL has become one of Rogers’ closest allies. Mr. Laurence and Mr. Bettman have forged a tight relationship and stay in regular contact. They have seen eye to eye on plans to develop new digital technologies and bring a “stars-first philosophy” to Rogers’ coverage of the league, “so it’s not about escrows and strikes and fights and all this kind of stuff,” Mr. Laurence said.”
This last point is underlined by Gary: “I think with less of that talk, that’s one of the reasons ratings are up,” Mr. Bettman said. “I think a lot of people found it annoying.”
The Globe’s piece also mentions how fans are moving to online consumption as opposed to plunking down in front of the TV for hours on end. This is the topic I want to put on the table today. In the PR war to declare victory one main question emerges, at least to my mind: setting aside live sports action, how many of you are brand loyal to one station or the other? What can they do to capture your all important eye balls?
To put the question more specifically, do you actually care who talks over the highlights you watch? Do you tune in to watch specific personalities tell you about the games from last night? Here’s my background hunch: few people care, and the relevance of these kinds of shows is only going to diminish further. I could totally be wrong about this, but with 24/7 internet connections and Twitter you’re almost never in a position where you need to tune in to know the score. Once you know the score, highlight shows are way less interesting.
What about sports talk shows, like Landsberg or bits like what Cabbie does, or TSN’s Reporters? Here is there is a real opportunity to build a brand loyal audience because it doesn’t depend on time-sensitive info like scores. Here it matters much more what other content you’re bringing to the table. American shows like PTI are a model. I suppose this is the market Tim&Sid’s new show might be going for.
Over to you: this is an invitation to reflect on how your TV consumption has evolved over, say, the last 10 years. How have your habits changed? Other than the games, what sports content do you enjoy watching?
On the topic of publicity and public-private arena financing, Vice continues to deliver great journalism. Here’s a very long read about how many of these deals are done with little to no public consultation. Calgary’s mayor is featured as one of the few politicians bucking that trend.
Bruce Arthur has a nice profile of China’s CCTV colour commentator for their broadcast of the Stanley Cup.
TSN has a very well designed micro-site for their soccer coverage. For the life of me I can’t figure out why there isn’t a big link to it off their front page. I especially enjoy reading Gareth Wheeler’s observations on the main story lines. As a casual fan this is exactly what I want to know.
Low Hanging Fruit
- Bell fired president Kevin Crull for poor judgment. New Crull Mary Ann Turcke seems to have many of the same gifts in that department.
- Speaking of dumb executive behaviour, Dean Blundell’s boss Sportsnet president Scott Moore tweeted a picture of strip club last week. I would have thought in the wake of FHRITP these kinds of people would be on their best behaviour. Guess not. [Tweet deleted minutes after I linked to it; thankfully the internet doesn’t forget]
- Bob spoke about taking on Brady&Walker’s producer Jeff Azzopardi: “He’s happy to be on a show that people actually listen to.” Ouch. In that same vein, has there been a cross-over show yet? How many times had Tim and/or Sid been on PTS’ first segment or a roundtable by now? Bob couldn’t get enough of them.
- Worst take of the week goes to Zaun Cherry. A woman in Boston was almost killed by a broken bat and Zaun’s comment on people getting hit by bats and balls at games: “they deserve it.”
- I can’t quite explain it but I’m enjoying listening to Arash Madani on PTS much more than before. He’s saying interesting things and not getting drawn in to dumb debates or painful attempts at humour.
thanks for reading and commenting,
until next time …
mike (not really in boston)