Freelancers, The Sports Media Forgotten And The Future Of Fan Experience – Toronto Sports Media Blog


By TSM

When we think about the shutdown of sports we think about players, we think about fans, GM’s, coaches, play by play teams, and all those directly involved in sports as perceive them.

We often don’t think of those we don’t hear or see and there is a large army of them out there; the freelancers.

Leagues, teams, networks, and outlets had been doing the best they can in most cases to address the needs of their people as the shutdown heads towards the 4th month.

However, there is a large group of individuals who aren’t affiliated with any outlet or team but who spend as much time getting us the coverage we want; the Freelancers.

When sports stopped so to did the paychecks for those who work for multiple platforms all year round. They typically don’t just work on one sport or one team; they cover multiple sports for multiple outlets and we traditionally don’t see them or hear them. When sports went dark they stopped being paid.

It’s important to try to remember those we rely on to watch or listen to the games we love when they are hurting or in need.

I can’t explain why the issue of employment in the media business is so important to me but it is. Traditionally I bang the drum on outlets continually hiring young kids so they can get their experience to keep the wheels moving. We cover layoffs and changes all too often here.

This is different. I asked on Twitter to those who are shut out during the Corona who are freelancers to reach out to me. Many did, one agreed to join me on my podcast. The goal was to share the story but more importantly to give a glimmer of hope, some degree of purpose, and to be heard.

More about that below.

The media fawned all over the NHL this week as Gary Bettman announced what would happen this week if the league comes back. Apparently no one is entirely happy with the final result. I think that means that Bettman Inc. got it right.

I work in the wide world of digital technology(something I have never discussed here before), primarily focused on retail and e-commerce. Right now I spend a lot of my time helping companies figure out how to deal with the ever-changing world of technology with the modern shopper in mind. Right now everyone in that word is trying to catch up to Amazon and Walmart.

Well, as someone who works in and around the world of transformations I wonder if anyone at the sports or outlets is thinking the same thing. How do we fix our game and our fan experience? The leagues spend so much time on rules and adaptation and evolution yet the fan experience in stadium and on tv has remained vastly unchanged for like ever. I can’t think of a big swing since the launch and failure of the glowing puck.

In my opinion, even without Corona, the stadium experience was a dinosaur. With the razor-sharp margins in technology the home is without question a viable alternative to the stadium. No, nothing will ever replace being there. Bang for buck wise my couch is damn enticing as an alternative to expensive tickets and overpriced foods/drinks. While I may not love all the commentary, I get better replays and insight at home (or in my car) then I do from the loons that I typically sit near at any game.

Here in the USA stadiums have added Clear as an option to increase the speed at the turnstile. Some stadiums have added Amazon-Go type cashier-less stores for food and products to shorten or eliminate the wait at the games. Those are good starts. Those evolutionary and right now we need revolutionary innovation.

All sports are closed. While the powers that be weigh their futures without fans in seats are they at all contemplating how to dramatically change things when we do actually come back?

There should be no sacred cows. Owners and leagues should use this time to define the modern fan experience. With the rise of streaming and home theatres, the traditional movie theatre went airplane-style allowing people to pre-book seats. Then they added premium theatres with great food and booze or coffee. Prior to the shutdown, my local theatre looked nothing like the one I went to as a kid, teen or young adult.

As we contemplate health and safety and we are told live sports will be the last to return to normal, this is the time to actually redefine what exactly normal is. Normal used to be walking into a store grabbing what you need and then checking out at a register typically paying cash. Thankfully that has changed and now in the Corona it is evolving again. The revolutionary change is click and collect. We order online and pick up the curbside. Win win win..

The smart leagues, the smart teams are spending down cycles and time to blow up the wheel and start a new. There are a ton of super cool companies doing amazing things in the world of technology that are uber focused on enhancing or revolutionizing the customer experience. Will sports make the most of a bad situation and pounce on the opportunity to do good?

Similarly, networks, leagues, and outlets should be doing the same. Sorry, but enhanced camera angles and mics on personnel is lipstick on a big. Those are gimmicks that add little value. This is the time to try new things and think outside the box. Yes, the fire puck failed. However, it tried to address a real problem in the USA. The number one thing I still hear today from friends who aren’t hockey fans.. “where is the puck”.. You may not like it and you may not get it but it is a thing and at the very least someone took a chance to try to address it.

We have technology in our walls and in our hands more powerful than ever before. We stream everything at speeds and with fidelity never contemplated before. Pumping in ambient fan noise during a broadcast when there are no fans is lazy at worst and table-stakes at best.

I once had to try to engineer and negotiate a global wifi platform that would be relevant for 10 years. The challenge to the team then was to try to imagine what speeds and bandwidth would be needed in 10 years. This is a real opportunity to networks, owners and leagues to do the same. Dream a little, innovate and don’t be afraid of the fire puck. Say what you will, Gary Bettman has grown the business and sport of hockey like no other ever before.

Your turn, what would you like to see changed in stadium and on broadcasts? Think BIG, no bad idea..

ok.. off my pedestal…

John Horn is a freelancer who plays a large role in enabling the sports content we love. Unaffiliated, John, like many freelancers is able to work for many outlets, wearing many hats likely working much much more than a typical full-time employee. While sports is shutdown, John represents the forgotten. He is not collecting a paycheck. He is not working. John is a Freelancer and this is his story! If you are in the business please consider all of the freelancers like John who are doing without right now! Brought to you by Bleav, Betonline.ag, sleepenvie and Van Der Hout Jewelry.





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Freelancers, The Sports Media Forgotten And The Future Of Fan Experience – Toronto Sports Media Blog

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