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



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


, 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.


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Social media helps solve mystery of lost camera found in Kelowna’s Mill Creek –



Brianna Irawan, 13, was extremely happy after finding out on Thursday that her prized underwater camera that had been lost for almost a year had been found in Kelowna’s Mill Creek.

The Williams Lake teen was visiting relatives in Kelowna last year when she lost the camera while jumping into the waterfalls at Mill Creek Regional Park.

“We were on Mill Creek, jumping into the water and I put my camera underneath my clothes,” Irawan told Global News on Friday.

“When I jumped, I forgot about my camera, so I walked back up and then I picked up my clothes and I forgot my camera was underneath and it fell into the water.”

Social media helps solve mystery of lost camera found in Kelowna’s Mill Creek

Social media helps solve mystery of lost camera found in Kelowna’s Mill Creek

READ MORE: Kelowna man finds digital camera in Mill Creek for second time

She went back the creek several times over the next few days, but eventually had to write her camera off to the river gods.

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The Fujifilm XP model wasn’t seen again until almost a year later when Calvin Van Buskirk found it caught up in some debris downstream.

“What makes it even more interesting is we found a GoPro there last year. You guys [Global News] were able to get the images and the videos off it within hours it found its way back to its rightful owner,” Van Buskirk said.

Construction crew makes unusual find near Kelowna

Construction crew makes unusual find near Kelowna

It took less than 24 hours for images retrieved from the camera to make their way around social media and back to their owner.

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Kyla Irawan, Brianna’s mother, sent a message to Global News on Thursday afternoon through Facebook to say the photos had come from her daughter.

On Friday, Global News returned the camera — still in working order — to Brianna’s uncle, Travis Whiting, who is also Kelowna’s fire chief.

‘This is the craziest thing,’: Lost GoPro owner reunited with camera

‘This is the craziest thing,’: Lost GoPro owner reunited with camera

The Irawans shared a message of gratitude with Van Buskirk.

“Thank you, Calvin, we totally appreciate your honesty,” said Kyla Irawan.

“Thank you for putting it on Global so I can give my daughter the opportunity to have all those memories back.”

For her part, Brianna said she can’t wait to see her FujiFilm XP model again.

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“Soon as I get it, I’m going to transfer the photos” to a computer, she said.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Former UBC basketball assistant coach criticized for social media activity – The Province



Long-time assistant men’s basketball coach Vern Knopp will no longer work next to head coach Kevin Hanson.

The University of B.C. is distancing itself from former assistant men’s basketball coach Vern Knopp following questions about some of his activity on social media.

A Twitter account called Muted Madness pointed out on Thursday that Knopp had hit the like button on a video posted by conservative comedians the Hodge Twins on June 3 that claims the Black Lives Matter movement is a “leftist lie.”

A number of other Twitter users echoed the criticism of Knopp, who served as head coach Kevin Hanson’s volunteer assistant for the past two decades.

Later on Thursday, he shared a comment on his account, which is set to private: “So I never knew some likes to conservative posts would cause this shit storm? However my LIKES are those of mine and have nothing to do with UBC! I had told Coach Hanson months ago that I wasn’t returning to UBC but I just not (sic) made it public, only to my family.”

Reached via direct message on Friday, Knopp said he’d told Hanson about his decision in May as well as some parents on the team, but declined to make further comment.

Later on Thursday, Kavie Toor, UBC Athletics’ managing director, distanced the university from Knopp.

“Vern Knopp’s personal opinions, beliefs and social media endorsements do not represent the ideals and values of the UBC Thunderbirds. Vern Knopp is no longer a member of the Thunderbrids men’s basketball coaching staff,” he tweeted.

On Friday, the university’s athletics department declined to comment further.

The Alma Mater Society, a UBC students’ union, expressed support for the university’s position.

“The AMS is committed to supporting students from the Black community at this time, and we are actively working to develop programming to help combat anti-Black racism at UBC. The sentiments expressed by Mr. Knopp have absolutely no place at UBC, and society in general,” they said in a statement.

“We are encouraged to see that UBC Athletics and Recreation has taken a zero-tolerance approach to this issue.”

On Tuesday, the department shared a message on Twitter from university president Santa Ono.

“As Thunderbirds we join all of UBC in condemning racism in all forms. We are committed to an inclusive and respectful environment where we listen, learn and continue to grow together,” the department said in a tweet.

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Saskatoon police Cst. placed on leave in connection with 'concerning' social media posts – CKOM News Talk Sports



The Saskatoon Police Service has placed a constable on administrative leave regarding concerning posts on their personal social media account.

On Friday morning, police say they were notified about private posts that a member is accused of making on his personal social media account.

Police say the posts were harmful and offensive to the gender and sexually diverse community.

As a result, the member was immediately placed on administrative leave and an investigation was initiated regarding his conduct.

In a release, Chief of Police Troy Cooper said, “The relationship we have with the gender and sexually diverse community is incredibly important to the Saskatoon Police Service. I was to assure the public that we take these complaints seriously. We have acted swiftly to address the issue and a thorough investigation will occur.”

The 12-year member will remain on administrative leave while an investigation takes place.

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