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Volume 26 No. 210

Media

Altitude Sports filed a lawsuit against Comcast for "violation of state and federal antitrust laws" in relation to the months-long negotiations to bring Avalanche and Nuggets games back to TV in Colorado, according to a front-page piece by Kyle Fredrickson of the DENVER POST. The 45-page complaint alleges Comcast "'wants to extinguish competition from Altitude' through stalled-out negotiations with financial terms that 'make no economic sense unless Comcast’s aim is to use its monopsony power to eliminate Altitude so that Comcast will control sports programming' in Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming." A source said that Comcast's latest proposal to Altitude for broadcasting rights to Nuggets and Avalanche games "represented a 50-percent cut from the previously agreed-upon contract." Comcast also would "remove Altitude from an 'expanded basic package' to a 'sports tier' -- decreasing the percentage of subscribers reached from 70-85% down to 15-20%." The "lack of a middle ground sets the stage for a potentially lengthy court battle as the Altitude blackout on Comcast continues." Comcast "continues to charge its Denver market subscribers of Altitude a 'regional sports fee' -- although Comcast did reduce the monthly charge by $1.25." Altitude "reached a multi-year carriage rights agreement with DirecTV last month with undisclosed terms" (DENVER POST, 11/19). In Philadelphia, Christian Hetrick notes Comcast "called Altitude's lawsuit 'meritless.'" The company said that Altitude has "several distribution alternatives in an 'intensely competitive market' where Comcast has no competitive" RSNs (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/19).

OTHER CONCERN: THE ATHLETIC's Ryan Clark noted the lawsuit also has a "subsection titled 'Professional Hockey in the Denver DMA' stating Comcast has control of the NHL through one of its subsidiaries" in NBCSN. The document "states NBCSN has the rights to televise nearly 100 regular-season games while providing other features like, 'Wednesday Night Hockey.'" NBCSN, as mentioned in the document, will "broadcast the 'maximum number'" of Avalanche games this season. Altitude also "states Comcast is a partial owner in the NHL Network which owns and operates NHL TV and 'therefore has partial ownership and control, and a share of the profits, of the NHL TV product'" (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/18).

Cherry had been with Sportsnet for 38 years before being fired earlier this month
Photo: DON CHERRY
Cherry had been with Sportsnet for 38 years before being fired earlier this month
Photo: DON CHERRY
Cherry had been with Sportsnet for 38 years before being fired earlier this month
Photo: DON CHERRY

Don Cherry launched his new “Grapevine” podcast this morning, and he offered to try and “explain” the comments he made that led to his firing from Sportsnet earlier this month. He reiterated he would not offer an apology for his comments on immigrants but said he was “going to smooth it over.” Cherry said Sportsnet officials "made conditions that made it impossible for me to do it." Cherry: "I just couldn’t do it, and you bite the bullet. I don’t know what else to say. I said what I said, I still say it.” He noted he evidently said “something that upset Sportsnet, and they canned me and I’m now unemployed, except for doing this beautiful podcast.” Cherry said no one from Sportsnet spoke to him following his dismissal. He said, “I never got a letter, I never got anything. … They knew it was over.” Cherry: “Happy to be there for 38 years and if (I’ve) got to go, I’m glad to be going out with my shield. ... One door closes, another door opens up. This is fun for me” (“Grapevine,” SPOTIFY.com, 11/19).

CONFERENCE COMMUNICATION: The CP's Gregory Strong wrote Sportsnet President Bart Yabsley's scheduled appearance on a roundtable yesterday "looked like a great get" for the PrimeTime Sports Management Conference in Toronto, but Yabsley "was not in attendance." Former Sportsnet President Scott Moore did appear on a panel, but "declined to discuss specifics on Cherry's departure." Moore said, "The events of the last 10 days or so have been really unfortunate for Don and for Rogers. It's not the way anybody wanted for Don's career to come to an end." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman also "did not weigh in on the developments" during a keynote interview at the conference. But he said Sportsnet's Ron MacLean "obviously made his feelings clear and spoke from the heart" during "HNIC" this past weekend. Meanwhile, Moore "felt MacLean had 'been caught in the crossfire,' adding that it would be 'totally unfair' for him to take any of the blame" (CP, 11/18).

The Maven Founder & CEO James Heckman and new SI CEO Ross Levinsohn appeared together at Recode's Code Media event and discussed the acquisition of SI by The Maven, with Levinsohn saying, "I'm working every day really hard to transform the greatest brand that I grew up with." Heckman said SI has a "great brand, great reporters, unbelievable tradition, but they were in the wrong business model; they were still operating in the early 1990s in terms of print, trying to get out news." Heckman added The Maven saw an "opportunity that if we take the talent of those journalists, we take the brand of SI and instead of a one-portal model," the publication has "already rolled out one hundred channels under the SI brand." Heckman: "In 30 days, we're up four million users, because consumers don't go to portals anymore." Heckman said SI is "bringing in specialists" in niche sports and activities, which is the "model of the future." Levinsohn: "The narrative that came out when we took over was, 'They're firing all the journalists and replacing them with bloggers.' ... The focus was on the 50 or so we didn't hire when we took over the company. No one's writing we put 84 in business." Heckman: "We didn't lay anybody off. Meredith -- I'm just going to be blunt -- gave up on the property. They asked us to take the property sooner than we were ready, and so we agreed to do it. But we bought the brand Sports Illustrated. We didn't buy the company" (VOX.com, 11/18).

Dan Orlovsky's wife Tiffany once came across a notebook from when he was 10 years old, in which he wrote he wanted to broadcast games for ESPN when he grew up. Several years and a dozen seasons in the NFL later, Orlovsky (@DanOrlovsky7) is living out his childhood dream. Despite his resume, Orlovsky had to find another way -- social media -- to get his foot in the door, and has built a reputation for providing insight via short clips on Twitter. His foray -- almost two years ago during a Dolphins-Panthers "MNF" game -- wasn't planned. He noticed how Panthers QB Cam Newton had changed a play at the line of scrimmage -- the end result was a touchdown. He said, "My wife was like, 'Why don't you make a video of it and put it on the internet.' Initially I was like, 'That's a stupid idea.' I didn't really have social media back then. ... I had maybe 1,000 followers on Twitter, 100 on Instagram." Shortly thereafter, Orlovsky posted the 2-minute clip. Orlovsky: "I woke up the next morning and it had gotten pretty good reception. In that moment I said, 'That's my in. That's something.'"

SOCIAL SNAPSHOT
Must-follow: I love following Adam Schefter because you can appreciate the amount of time and attention to detail he puts into his work. Daniel Jeremiah, because he is strictly the eyes of a scout. Todd Blackledge is constantly a positive reinforcement guy. I like following (Pat) McAfee strictly to laugh. He is a nut.
Favorite app: GrubHub because I order so much food, but I don’t use apps that much. I’m old school -- pen and paper.

Average time per day on social media: I don’t spend a lot of time on it, but during the season, I look at social media 50 times a day during the season, sometimes for like 18 seconds.

What made him stand out:
This goes back to me being a 15-year-old high school sophomore. I was 6-foot-5, 180 pounds, had a size 15 shoe and ran a 6.2 (40-yard dash). If I was ever going to become something in football, it had to be in the details. Finding out how to think -- the same in college. At UConn, if we were going to beat teams more talented than us, I had to figure out details and tells of defenses that we could attack. A lot of that was prepping for the moment, for the career. Then eyes: I think my eyes are a little bit different. I think differently to begin with; I try to look at things differently when I'm watching tape and try to see things that tell a story.

Using social media to his advantage:
For a while, I thought people wanted more of that stuff, that people wanted to know more about why things were happening. Because of technology and because of how many games are on and the ability to watch a game, people don't need you to tell them what's happening. They see it for themselves. But no one knows why it's happening. I always thought people want to know why because they are obsessed with football. When it happened, I knew I was onto something. I didn't know exactly the steps of social media. I just knew that was a big deal. People really want that stuff. That's when I got NFL Game Pass to gain access to some tape.

Social posts complementing studio work:
I look at them as being very much the same. That is the world we live in, where it is paramount to have a presence in that stuff and paramount to remain vigilant in how you use it. From Day One, social media was a weapon. That's all I ever looked at it as. It was my own ESPN. Before I ever had the opportunity to work there, I had ESPN -- my Twitter. I still look at it like that. It is a weapon and if it is used the right way, it can be a massive advantage to you and the people you work for. I'm very conscious of how I use it and when I use it. The television is the most important piece, but I don't have to do much work for the social media stuff. The stuff that gets done on television, I'll clip and post it on Twitter.

Dealing with the haters:
I don't care if they think they know more than me. That's like me saying I know more about their work than them. There's no chance. If they feel that way, congratulations. I don't ever get upset with passionate fans and fans who say crazy stuff to me. I have a job because of those people. Passionate fans and even the ones that cross lines are what makes sports.

Disconnecting:
I have very specific times when I disconnect: 3:30 in the afternoon on weekdays when my kids come home from school. We have a cabinet in our kitchen, I put the phone on the top shelf, it goes there for 30 minutes and I'm just hanging out with the kids. Then I'll go back to work for another hour or so, then from 6:00 to 8:00, I put my phone away in that same cabinet. At the same time, during football season, there is not a ton of time to disconnect. When I go on a lunch date with my wife on Thursdays, my phone stays at home. I have to be strategic with it.

If you know anyone who should be featured for their use of social media, send their name to us at jperez@sportsbusinessdaily.com.