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Patrick Johnston: Sports media battles to keep fans' attention during COVID-19 shutdown – The Journal Pioneer

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There is something we know about people hanging close to home during the COVID-19 pandemic, waiting for some semblance of normalcy to return: they are reading news stories like never before.

Still, that low hum that sports leagues are emitting about their odds of returning to arenas and fields in the coming months when it’s safe to do so is a response to the knowledge that people are searching for live action. And there are bills to be paid.

Viewers are conditioned to watch games at a particular time and then many follow that up with a search for further information, be that in reading a story on a website —or in a newspaper — watching more TV or listening to radio and podcasts.

But with the live portion cut out these days, that instinctual connection to seek further analysis is muted. And that means the outlets that cover sports are in a fight to keep readers and viewers interested.

Underneath it all is a question: are we at an inflection point? Could COVID-19 force a change in how sports media operates?

“So much programming relies on what happened today, yesterday, that news, that game analysis. It’s a big sea change to shift the programming when you don’t have the daily games. What it does is it exposes the creativity of broadcasters,” Rob Gray, a longtime broadcast and communications executive, said Tuesday.

The media ecosystem that has already sprung up around

The Last Dance

, the documentary focused on Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, airing on ESPN in the U.S. and Netflix globally, is one example of this creativity.

“There are innovations happening everywhere. Look at TSN’s

Bardown

, they’re doing quick breakdowns on Instagram,” Gray said.

On the radio and in podcasts, it means finding new things to talk about — and hoping those topics are able to at least retain the listeners who aren’t going to be hearing what they’ve been conditioned to hear.

“Right now radio seems to be getting by, even if there’s not a lot of sports to talk about, though the NFL is providing some food in the (Tom) Brady move and the draft. But they’re going to be starving for material,” said Aziz Rajwani, a lecturer at the University of B.C.’s Sauder School of Business.

“They’re going to have to talk about movies, other things. It’s about entertaining. Hosts who are really good at communicating, those ones will do well.”

The new economic reality can’t be ignored either, he said: there’s a recession likely coming.

“While listeners are trying to get food back on the table, they’re reading about all these contracts, how are they going to relate at all,” Rajwani wondered. “Here’s a guy making 22 bucks an hour, here’s a guy making $22 million. Ten years ago I thought people were going to turn away, but they didn’t.”

The number of listeners are undoubtedly down. The decline of the portable radio and home radio means that most conventional radio listeners are travelling in cars.

“People aren’t in their cars right now. That’s where sports radio is tuned in. The less people travel, the less they’re in their cars,” he added.

In an industry that has fuelled itself forever on selling advertising — ratings dictate ad rates — that’s an essential challenge.

Advertisers, Gray suggested, are mostly still waiting to see what happens in the novel coronavirus era.

“There’s no timeline on (COVID-19 ending), that’s the most challenging thing for advertisers,” he said. “There’s lots of advertisers who aren’t doing anything because they’re trying to figure things out, but there have been some really good campaigns to keep themselves top of mind, saying ‘we’re going to be there to help you.’

“I think that’s very smart. There’s a real opportunity for advertisers to be part of the community. That message is there to get out.”

Fans without sports to watch may find their viewing habits shifting. They may become more comfortable watching streaming services like Netflix and Amazon. Those services eschew the old advertising-focused funding models, instead asking viewers to pay direct for their specific choices.

Online streaming of sports has mostly been about giving fans everything they want — and perhaps more — in viewing options. Amazon has shown a smattering of sports in the U.S. and holds soccer rights in the U.K., while in Canada DAZN has streaming rights to all of the NFL — which is also still available on traditional cable after DAZN’s botched launch in 2017 —  the UEFA Champions League and English Premier League soccer.

Having soccer packaged almost all in one place has been the story in Canada for many years, with Sportsnet and TSN showing far more English soccer to Canadians than fans were able to watch in the U.K.

It’s become almost canonical that the next NHL US TV contract will be big, because it will include streaming rights, something that wasn’t a factor in the previous deals signed in the U.S. and Canada.

In its own way, the NHL mimics the U.K.’s splintered rights packages, since local games are still divvied up by team regions. And fans have become used to paying extra for non-local market games.

With the long-term viewing trend seeing more and more fans ditching cable for streaming services anyway, the current situation could just accelerate that shift.

“You wonder if the league makes more money in the five different packages, like it is in the U.K.,” Gray said.

The longer sports is on the sidelines, the longer listeners and viewers will have to change their habits. That could be trouble for “old-school” media, if it isn’t already.


pjohnston@postmedia.com


twitter.com/risingaction




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The Media Kitchen wins Pillway, launches first campaign – Media In Canada

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The Media Kitchen wins Pillway, launches first campaign

A primarily digital campaign will target older adults and caregivers as the online pharmacy looks to grow its base.

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A primarily digital campaign will target older adults and caregivers as the online pharmacy looks to grow its base.

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#BlackOutTuesday spreads across social media in protest against George Floyd killing – CBC.ca

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Major broadcasters, music streaming companies and more are joining with celebrities and music labels in halting or altering their regular operations Tuesday to express solidarity with U.S. and international protests against the killing of George Floyd in police custody.

ViacomCBS Inc. said it would be on “on pause” for #BlackOutTuesday to reflect on recent events and to shift focus from “building business to building community.”

On Monday, the company had its channels — including CBS News, MTV and Comedy Central — transmit eight minutes and 46 seconds of breathing sounds with the words “I can’t breathe,” denouncing the incident last week that sparked mass protests across United States and abroad, including in Canada, the U.K. and Australia.

A Minneapolis police officer was arrested last week on third-degree murder and manslaughter charges for his role in the death of the 46-year-old Floyd.

Streaming giant Spotify Technology said it would feature an eight minute and 46 second track of silence in select podcasts and playlists on Tuesday, while also halting social media publications. Apple Music said it would use the day to reflect and plan actions to support black artists, creators and communities.

Hitting pause on music industry 

On Monday, a host of record labels announced they would mark Tuesday by suspending business, delaying new music releases, and pledging support for racial justice organizations fighting inequality.

The initiative originated with #TheShowMustBePaused, an effort led by record industry executives Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang calling for an intentional disruption of the work week to protest against the deaths of black people in police custody.

They also issued a call to action, with suggestions that ranged from supporting the family of Floyd to learning about racial justice to joining grassroots anti-racism campaigns and protests.

“Our mission is to hold the industry at large — including major corporations and their partners who benefit from the efforts, struggles and successes of Black people — accountable,” the organizers said in a statement.

“This is not just a 24-hour initiative. We are and will be in this fight for the long haul.”

Social media participation

Dozens of artists and sports stars have spoken out against Floyd’s death and the racism they say lay behind it as the protests spread. Multiple musicians, including Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande and Jay-Z have spoken out in response to the death and subsequent demonstrations, some of which have turned violent.

On Tuesday, celebrities such as Rihanna, Katy Perry, Britney Spears and Kylie Jenner all went dark on social media to acknowledge Floyd’s death. 

NBA stars including LeBron James and Steph Curry posted an empty black photo on their Instagram pages. The league’s official page posted the same photo with the hashtag “#NBATogether.”

Pushback on social posts

However, there has been pushback against some of these attempts at solidarity via social media.

Many people have been posting dark squares with the hashtags #BLM and #BlackLivesMatter.

Black activists have pointed out that including those tags drown out the existing posts, which share information about current protests, important resources and documentation of violence. 

In other cases, social media commenters are challenging the sincerity of both companies and individuals who have created “in solidarity” posts, questioning whether their real-life actions, choices and decisions reflect the same anti-racist sentiment they are currently expressing online.

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Media firms, celebrities join #BlackOutTuesday protests – The Globe and Mail

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A #BlackOutTuesday Instagram post displayed on a phone on June 2, 2020 in Wallington, England.

Mark Trowbridge/Getty Images

Major broadcasters, celebrities and music streaming companies including Apple Music and Spotify turned off or made changes to their services on Tuesday to mark their solidarity with protests against the killing of George Floyd.

ViacomCBS Inc said it will be on “on pause” for #BlackOutTuesday to reflect on recent events and to shift focus from “building business to building community.”

The company on Monday had its channels, including CBS News, MTV and Comedy Central, transmit 8 minutes and 46 seconds of breathing sounds with the words “I can’t breathe,” denouncing the incident last week that sparked protests across America.

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A Minneapolis police officer was arrested last week on third-degree murder and manslaughter charges for his role in the death of the 46-year-old Floyd.

Celebrities including Rihanna, Katy Perry, Britney Spears and Kylie Jenner all went dark on social media to acknowledge Floyd’s death.

NBA stars including LeBron James and Steph Curry posted an empty black photo on their Instagram pages. The league’s official page posted the same photo with the hashtag “#NBATogether.”

Streaming giant Spotify Technology said it would feature an 8 minute and 46 second long track of silence in select podcasts and playlists on Tuesday, while also halting social media publications.

Apple Music said it would use the day to reflect and plan actions to support black artists, creators and communities.

Dozens of artists and sports stars have spoken out against Floyd’s death and the racism they say lay behind it as the protests spread through U.S. cities.

Leading record labels said they would mark Tuesday by suspending business and working with communities to fight racial inequality.

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“Watching my people get murdered and lynched day after day pushed me to a heavy place in my heart!,” Rihanna wrote on Instagram.

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