There IS Life After Rupert. Here’s Still More Proof.

Just about two years ago, this site was launched with a mission and intent that was described as follows: DOUBLE OVERTIME will focus on the passion, the news, the urgency, the irony and the heartbreak of sports.  As I described in that first entry, this arose as an extension of a journey I began with our sister site, www.leblanguage.net , and as a natural outgrowth of my decades of experience as a media professional and even more as a sports junkie.  Naturally, sports media coverage needed to be a part of this space, as it effectively is the intersection of those two worlds.

I know I’m not the first, nor the best, to dive into that space; indeed, nary a day and certainly not a week goes by where I don’t expose myself to those who do it way better.  One of my favorite and most anticipated indulgences to that end has been the NEW YORK POST’s MARCHAND AND OURAND SPORTS MEDIA PODCAST, which featured one savvy New Yorker and one savvy Marylander talking in depth about a world I had the privilege of being a small part of during my tenure at FOX.  I felt a particular kinship with Marchand, who like I was during my FX and FOX Cable Nets tenure was on his second tour of duty with the company, having returned in 2018 to specifically cover sports media after an earlier tenure as a reporter who covered the Mets beat during their final days at Shea Stadium, and then spent the interim as a Yankees reporter for ESPN during the first days of the new Yankee Stadium and a run of consecutive post-season appearances that wrapped with their surprising run to the seventh game of the ALCS led by rookie phenom Aaron Judge.  So yeah, he and I have shared a lot of experiences, and I know he’s been paid much better than I have been for it.

But it was clear that the days of that podcast were numbered when it was announced in December that Ourand was moving on to the potentially greener pastures of Matthew Belloni’s PUCK.  Given the hyperniche it expliots and the struggles that his previous employer, FRONT OFFICE SPORTS has had, his move was understandable.  Marchand publicly kept a poker face as he promised “news” of the show’s future , bringing in “guest hosts” like Joe Buck and Chris Russo for the brief post-Ourand period.  Brief, because last week this nugget dropped, courtesy of THE BIG LEAD’s Kyle Koster:

Everybody wants to cover sports media but the real white whale is covering those who cover sports media and this morning brings seismic news for the niche audience that cares about this type of thing. Two-time TBL Sports Media Reporter of the Year Andrew Marchand has announced that he is leaving the New York Post and joining The Athletic.  Marchand…has consistently been among the league leaders — if not far ahead of the pack — in terms of finding scoops. His opinions matter to a lot of decision-makers even if we don’t agree with him all the time. 

And this morning, Marchand authored his first piece for the ATHLETIC where he showed some definitively non-Post like personal insights which reinforces why I’m such a fan:

On Sunday, 115 million viewers, give or take, will watch the Super Bowl. Nearly all of them will have opinions on the booth of Jim Nantz and Tony Romo, while the biggest star on the field, Patrick Mahomes, will finish up a season in which he made nearly $57 million.

The media is the financial underpinning of major sports. Sunday’s viewership will be by far the largest of any televised event for the entire year in the U.S. Nantz and Romo, who combined approach $30 million in annual salary, will be scrutinized after a seesaw season. The bulk of the financial reason that Mahomes is paid so much is the more than $110 billion worth of TV deals that the NFL just commenced with CBS, NBC, Fox, ESPN, Amazon and YouTube that extend for the next decade.

I have a saying that I post on social media with my tongue in cheek: Everybody wants to cover sports media #EWTCSM.

While I’m somewhat joking, there is truth in it. Fans, athletes and pretty much everyone have a lot of opinions about what they watch and hear. It is why Romo and Taylor Swift will surely trend during the Super Bowl.

I’m glad Marchand has found an outlet where he can be reflectful and not always focused on scoops.  When I left the nest of a company owned by Rupert Murdoch, I found similar liberties and freedoms that I once did not have.  It’s nice to see him be this thoughtful on these tipics, especially since he couldn’t be more right about where it stacks up in the media pantheon.  Koster, who has the enviable task of covering those who cover sports media, seems to know it as well:

One of the biggest takeaways here is that The Athletic just got a hell of a lot deeper and scary in terms of breaking news and breaking down broadcasts. Marchand can now play off ball and let savvy veteran Richard Deitsch handle the point. Or the other way around. Anything is possible. The point is that one outlet has two of the top players at the position. And it’s not like there’s a single ball to share. The internet is infinite — there’s always room for content.

Deitsch authors a series of insightful podcasts himself, many for THE RINGER.  Belloni (I’m playing nice by giving him the respect of correctly spelling his name this time) fancies himself as a wanna-be Bill Simmons, looking to build PUCK as a subscription-model insurgent to everything from VARIETY! to BLOOMBERG that rewards more popular contributors financially, hired Ourand to expand his tentacles into the sports media world, and it’s one of his better decisions to date.  As Barrett Sports Media reported last month, Ourand’s former employer knows the depth of its loss:

Sports Business Journal Publisher and Executive Editor Abe Madkour released a memo to staffers revealing Ourand’s departure after 17 years with the outlet(🙂

Ever since John Ourand walked out of the third-floor elevator when he came to Charlotte for his first interview with SBJ in 2006, I was fond of him. He came from CableFax Daily and spoke a language of a cable trade that at first, I couldn’t figure out.  He was the consummate SBJ reporter and teammate. He was collaborative, he was tough, he had great sources, he had integrity, fairness and did it the right way. He became the BEST sports media reporter in the world, and he kept wanting to do more.

I’m not quite sure those running The POST know how much they’ve lost.  For now, they’re continuing the endeavor, but if the first one that dropped last week is any indication, it has arguably sunk to a level of minuitae even I am bored by.  Little else but a regurgitation of Nielsen ratings, debating the spin from the various networks and platforms involved.  That’s a part of the story, to be sure, but it can’t be expected to be all of it.  Marchand was able to extract the most from what he got from his sources, including his unbeatable comrade in arms and current FOX research czar Mike Mulvihill and provide context and clarity for those who have never read a detailed Nielsen report.  Even to the level that a trade publication like VARIETY! might occasionally provide.

So maybe THE ATHLETIC, which to be fair already has a deep reservoir of podcasts, might be served well by having Marchand and Deitsch reinvigorate the debate-and-collaborate space in a manner similar to the way Siskel and Ebert once did, or, more appropriately, the way Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald do with THE WATCH?  Call it SPORTS WATCH, if you have to.  Gotta reinforce that brand.

But do it quickly.  Because, like me, Matt Belloni’s probably watching what you do next, and now, with a vested interest.  He loves taking on incumbents, especially those who already got their multimillion dollar acquisition from a larger company.  A revival of Marchand and Ourand, now adversaries and competitors?  Tempting. 

And if you somehow do miss out on this suggestion, I’ll offer myself and this endeavor as Plan B.  Or C.  Or even Z.

You never know what can happen when you leave Rupert.  Right, Andrew?

Courage…

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