Is Sports Media Content Going In-House? Whats New In Vancouver?

By TSM

Happy Weekend!

I was hoping to get this written before embarking on the coast to coast flight, however as the old adage goes, man plans and God laughs. So, I am writing this from 35,000 feet somewhere east of Vancouver but west of Toronto.

Lots to talk about so, here we go:

I didn’t see much written about it or mentioned publically anywhere but Damien Cox had a VERY interesting article in the Toronto Star about all things Las Vegas Golden Knights. Damien’s main thesis was that GM GM needs to grow his new toy properly and resist the temptation in the expansion draft to be a competitor early at the cost of building a strong foundation.

While they may or not be of interest to you directly, this quote from the article certainly grabbed my attention and based on the feedback I received directly it caused a lot of pause in the industry, especially in the USA:

“The hockey media industry has changed significantly in the past five years, with the league (NHL.com) and teams now controlling a significant slice of the reports and commentary about major NHL events. Vegas has hired a seasoned Canadian journalist to spearhead the production of information and stories the Golden Knights want to generate for the Vegas community and beyond. The Dallas Stars have, too.”

Damien continues:

“All this comes while hockey media jobs across the continent are drying up, with many unemployed journalists going to work for NHL.com. What that means is less independent reporting, many fewer critical pieces, and more public relations-style information packaged to look like journalism. The growth of an intriguing online sports media organization — The Athletic — in Chicago, Toronto and now Detroit is the only noteworthy increase in independent reporting and subscription-based journalism.

That’s all a bit depressing, but it’s reality. Factor it into what you read, hear and see. Factor it into reports this week about the new Vegas franchise.”

One thing that’s been said almost exclusively, save for the words of Dean Blundell, about Rogers and TSN for that matter, is that the powers that be at both outlets leave their employees alone when it comes to criticism of the “owned” teams.

While many of us do believe that our outlets have their homers on staff (“get out ball!”), I don’t think there is a general concern of ownership influence on content. Don’t get me wrong, Sportsnet especially is guilty of click bait and has on too many occasions had stories written that were done strictly with the idea of generating an audience. That, however, is much different than what Damien is writing about here.

With the obliteration of the traditional sports media, outlets are we driving towards leagues and teams owning the voice?

Many insiders who reached out to me this week believe that’s inevitable.
Would Rick Westhead’s investigative articles on concussions or lawsuits involving junior players get written if he wrote for NHL.com, for example?

The leagues and teams are the only ones in sports these days who have the audience (in some cases even that is diminishing, but compared to traditional outlets leagues/teams ae winning the share of audience battle). In the cord cutting world where clicks and eyeballs are gold, clearly, the ESPN’s, newspapers and the Yahoo’s are flailing.

Just this week Bell slashed yet another market’s sports reporters completely. Yes, this is just another sign of the media apocalypse. Have you been watching what’s been going on at Yahoo Canada, Yahoo Sports and ESPN in general?

What, pres tel happens to the traditional insider (not from a trade and transaction standpoint but from real investigative journalism) when the keyboard is owned by those who’d rather not have the story ever written?

This is a very slippery slope indeed. Kudos to Damien for calling it out. This is happening in real time and it’s going to be happening more and more over the next couple of months. The outgoing head of the CRTC recently pronounced print dead.

While this in of itself isn’t news to anyone who follows this site, the fact that the head of a governmental agency focused on media announced it IS news.

My point is not to re-hash this, again and again, however, the National Post just fully exorcised its Monday print edition. The other 5 days should go the same way and the outlet should go digital only and compete with the likes of the Huffington Post.

With the Sun and Star in despair of varying magnitudes can their fate be far behind? In five years would anyone be surprised if only the Globe and Mail were distributing a print edition in Canada?

While we all hope that those who have lost their jobs recently are re-employed soon, should we be concerned about who owns the voice of those willing to re-employ them? I think Damien is right for recognizing this and it’s something we all should watch, carefully.

Speaking of modern outlets, remember for years how I’ve been daring the NHL to buy Twitter? Well, it seems that others, way smarter than I agree that is someone in the world of media, news or sports that should purchase Twitter.
Richard Greenfield had this response to the question of what may happen with Twitter in the coming months:

I think anybody who is in news, sports and information. I mean, we were looking at the TV before this started and you think about all the world politics and news and information, sport. I mean, clearly, sports talk radio plays out on Twitter every single day.

If you’re a sports fan, you’re following the beat reporters, you’re part of that discussion. So I think it’s companies that are highly vested in news and information, so whether that’s Disney, maybe it’s Comcast with NBC, maybe that’s AT&T, DirecTV, CNN, the whole complex.

Can you imagine if Twitter were to go MySpace on us and disappear? It has become an integral way for news and sports especially, to be delivered these days. Someone smart who is trying to either establish, grow or at the very least maintain relevance should buy Twitter. The rest of the Greenfield piece on Twitter and why he is bullish on it can be read here.

Still, on the topic of controlling the voice, I wonder why John Shannon felt compelled to write his most recent story on the possibility of Seattle joining the NHL:

It would appear, on this topic, he’s making it seem like he has something going with the NHL and he doesn’t; the expansion process is over, and at this point, there is nothing to suggest a new expansion window will open soon.
Adding high profile names like David Bonderman (a minority owner of the Boston Celtics) and Bonderman’s friend, movie mogul Jerry Bruckheimer (a hockey die-hard who kicked tires in Las Vegas 10 years ago) to the project, just fuelled the perception that hockey was a sure thing.

As someone who admittedly hopes that the league does come to Seattle, I found it interesting. To the general Sportsnet audience I can only imagine it’s a complete yawn. So…. Why write the article in the first place? Was it again, a piece of click bait or was there a greater purpose behind it?

Industry insiders wonder if it was an attempt for Shannon to get/remain in the Bettman good books. The most interesting theory I received from those in the know was that it was little more than Shannon continuing to try to grow his profile in the hopes of landing a role with the yet to launch Vancouver Sports Radio outlet for Rogers.

With all due respect to the BC Lions, Vancouver is a one trick pony. It’s Canucks hockey all the time. Yes, there are fans of the other sports, but with no home team in any other league, it’s primarily a hockey market. A new NHL team in Seattle would be a huge boost to Vancouver and a presence in the market who can speak intelligently about the business side of sports who understands the landscape would be appealing. At least the theory goes.

Anyone else notice Shannon has been on his cell phone a LOT on the air these days (see the above image)?

Speaking of Vancouver radio, lots going on as they head to a rumored Labour Day launch for the new Rogers all sports radio station.

First, as we told you first on Twitter they have hired a Program Director for the new station. Craig Macewen is now in the role:

First hired as a reporter in 2000, he was named Pacific bureau chief in 2004. After ten years in the role, which also saw him also working as a TV play-by-play man for Whitecaps telecasts as well other work as a reporter, MacEwen was let go in August 2014, the same day as Don Taylor, who had previously hosted Sportsnet Central’s Vancouver-based nightly edition while also being a drivetime host for TSN 1040. Taylor remains at TSN radio.Since Nov. 2016, MacEwen’s been director of marketing and communications for Volleyball B.C.

Perhaps I am the only one who thinks it a tad odd, but in the Rogers radio org, Macewen, I am told is reporting to current Fan 590 PD Dave Cadeau. At least for now. The only reason I thought it odd is that from all accounts there is a very strong desire to not have the station look or feel anything like the Fan Toronto. I don’t know, but if I was trying to be UN-Toronto I don’t think I’d involved the Toronto PD in my programming decisions.

Numerous bird dogs saw the FAN PD roaming the halls and streets of Vancouver recently as they attempt to hire up the new station.

Question for you, is Hockey Central at noon un-Toronto enough to be a national show or do they need their own version?

If you say it’s a national hockey show (and I do, BTW) then the question is do you air it at 9 am PST when it’s airing live OR are you tape delaying it at usual 12 pm slot?

Similarly, if McCown refers to the “network hour” of Prime Time Sports are you going to run that hour of radio in Vancouver too? If so, same question, live or tape delayed?

Back on the talent side, the rumors are aplenty:

I’ve written this too many times, but I will say it again, I’m hiring Andrew Walker to host mornings in Vancouver if run the station. It’s getting him out of the dead spot he’s currently in and puts him in an ideal slot in Vancouver at a meaningful time. To entice him, give him access to Cable Box 1 (Rogers corporate jet) to go see the Blue Jays whenever and wherever he wants.

Apparently, I am not the only one hearing these rumours:

Latest buzz rumour has Sportsnet’s Andrew Walker coming to Vancouver, possibly to anchor a morning show.

Walker was tied to Vancouver sports radio in another go around, before ending up in Toronto, where he kind of looks stuck in that 1-4 time slot.

If this is true, they’re not getting Walker to Van on the cheap.

Word is Sportsnet is getting ready to spend, and invest.

They seem to believe the sports radio market has 120,000 listeners and rather than trying to expand that (there’s a huge number of younger listeners who feel left out), they’re hoping to dominate it

And that’s not all…

There’s been at least one defection from the TSN radio side. Satiar Shah is said to have defected from Bell to greener pastures on Rogers radio. I haven’t seen anything official but this recently ran:

Satiar Shah, the producer for TSN 1040’s Bro Jake Show, has left the station and is heading to Sportsnet 650, which is slated to start up in time for the hockey season.

Who else you ask?

Well I am told that Rogers made a very hard play for long time sports personality Matthew Sekeres and David Pratt but they were unsuccessful. A partial list under consideration for roles include:

Jody Vance
James Cybulski
David Pratt
Brad Fay
Tom Plasteris(PD role)
John Shannon
Andrew Walker
Craig MacEwan
Rob Fai
Matthew Sekeres
Scott Rintoul
Perry Solkowski
Mike Whittingham(was in on PD role)
Don Taylor
Satiar Shah

Finally, with the NHL Expansion Draft, new jersey launch and Entry Draft behind us and Free Agency just ahead of us are you going to be buying any new jerseys? A friend at IceJerseys.com wants to know which jersey you are buying and why? PSA, they have em all and great customer service too!

Happy rest of the weekend!

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