Posts for NBCSP

Discord and Unrest: Current and Former Employees Describe Life at NBC Sports Philly

Kevin Kinkead - July 18, 2018

Both Kevin Kinkead and Kyle Scott worked on this post.

We got a ton of feedback on a story published last week, titled “Some Thoughts on Whatever the Hell NBC Sports Philly is Doing.”

Beyond the reader replies, we were contacted by a number of current and former NBCSP employees, all of whom felt like the station was headed in the wrong direction due to a number of unpopular talent cuts and a wonky revamp of both the television and digital product.

We talked to a half-dozen people – a combination of off- and on-camera folks representing a variety of departments – who were interested in speaking anonymously about the issues. Leadership, money, and a lack of direction were the three topics that came up most frequently in discussion.

Before we get to that, it’s worth considering the important crossroads at which NBC Sports Philly, and all sports networks, regional and national, find themselves at the moment.

Once an indispensable part of sports fandom, cable sports networks have become less relevant in recent years. Gone are the days of fans needing to tune in for highlight shows or roundtable discussions to get brought up to speed on the news and topics of the day. New and social media, along with the continued success of sports talk radio, has rendered almost anything a sports network can show you during traditional news-block hours useless, at worst, or redundant, at best.

For the Philly sports fan, SportsNite with Neil Hartman and Leslie Gudel, or SportsRise with Ron Burke used to be appointment viewing. What’s more, it was novel in the both the breadth and depth of local coverage it provided, beginning in 1997.

The height of the cable news boom, the late 90s were shaped largely by the new and varied niches cable networks could cover, from Music TV to Court TV to sports. Not only did a network like CSN air the games, but they offered nearly around-the-clock coverage of the teams. Until then, local fans were served during off-hours by only the newspaper, sports talk radio, and a few minutes of nightly news broadcasts.

Michael Barkann, Hartman, Gudel, Burke, Dei Lynam and Derrick Gunn became mini rockstars to local sports fans. CSN was essential in a sports-dominated market.

That landscape has completely changed.

The value added by highlight, roundtable, and, to a lesser extent, debate shows is gone. The web fills that vacuum admirably while providing a platform for the average fan to engage and create. You’re now literally part of the sports conversation, whereas before you were only in branding– the voice of the fan. Suddenly, the back-and-forth of static studio shows feels boring and contrived compared to lively Twitter debates, in-depth podcast discussions, and the comment sections of social media posts. We don’t need to hear what Joel Embiid said after the game, because we can watch him celebrate or lament live on Instagram. Highlight shows serve only to reinforce the importance of clips we saw online four hours earlier, or sometimes eight hours earlier. Sites like this one (and many others) provide the continuous updates without readers having to wait for a scheduled broadcast window. Even self-important branding plays, like a “CSN Insider,” which is actually just a beat reporter who, often, is no more inside than 6-8 of their peers, or “Authentic Fan,” feel outdated and disingenous.

So, we’ll argue that NBC Sports Philly, and many other regional sports networks, are right to do away with their stale fare. From a content standpoint, that stuff is no longer interesting. From a financial standpoint, it loses money.

The decisions to do so, including the choice to let go of longtime veteran on-air folks who excel at reading a teleprompter, are not popular, but they are necessary. You can’t teach someone who is used to a camera setup, a script, multiple takes, and a tightly defined framework to just pick up their phone and be creative. [A counter to this would be someone like John Clark, who has excelled on social media and uses his access to inform fans everywhere, and not surprisingly he has been elevated in the NBC Sports-Comcast family of networks.]

More relevant to this piece, though, is what NBC Sports Philly has done in the wake of unpopular decisions and cost-cutting. Some of those decisions can be excused as NBC-led initiatives over which the local shop had little control, while others can be critiqued from a local level. Both deserve attention.

So it’s with that framework and understanding of the business dynamics that we take you inside with current and former NBC Sports Philly staffers as they identify pain points within the once-hallowed halls of the Comcast SportsNet studios. Continue Reading

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NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Phillies Documentary Was Pretty Standard Fare

BWanksCB - July 16, 2018

After weeks of promotion and hype, NBC Sports Philadelphia aired Sunday night its highly anticipated look back at the 2008 Phillies, entitled “World Champions: The Story of the ’08 Phillies.”

As the 10-year anniversary of the 2008 Phillies’ triumph approaches, now seems like the perfect time to chronicle the team that delivered the city of Philadelphia its first major professional sports championship in 25 years. With a natural narrative arc provided by a championship season backdrop that is supported by a beloved cast of eclectic characters given a decade’s time to grow, change, reflect, and gain perspective on their tremendous accomplishments, the program had what I felt were the perfect contextual ingredients for compelling storytelling.

What’s more, I found it encouraging that NBC Sports Philadelphia, a network that has undergone significant changes in personnel and programming in recent years, committed to such an ambitious project. I firmly believe this is the precise type of programming the network should both dedicate itself to and feature. Philadelphia sports fans want to immerse themselves in their teams and feel a connection to the players they come to love (or loathe). Insightful, smart, and anecdotal documentary-style television provides that opportunity, plus it’s a welcomed deviation from the mindless and manufactured quick-hit debate programming that plagues modern sports television.

And that’s why I was a bit underwhelmed by what I watched last night. It felt under-budgeted, underdeveloped, and incomplete.

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Sports Betting Updates

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Some Thoughts on Whatever the Hell NBC Sports Philly is Doing

Kevin Kinkead - July 9, 2018

After Jess Camerato revealed on Twitter last week that she wasn’t returning to NBC Sports Philadelphia, I tried to list, off the top of my head, some of the departures and changes the network has presided over in the last two years:

  • Molly Sullivan out
  • Marshall Harris out
  • Jess Camerato out
  • Dei Lynam out
  • Neil Hartman out
  • Ron Burke out
  • Andy Schwartz out (longtime web guy)
  • production/creative services layoffs
  • new web policy restricting stories to 500 word max

I obviously missed a lot of stuff, which y’all helped remind me of:

  • Leslie Gudel out
  • Breakfast on Broad eventually cancelled, Sarah Baicker and Jillian Mele move on, Rob Ellis comes back in a different role after leaving 97.5 the Fanatic
  • Reuben Frank taken off Quick Slants
  • Tim Panaccio replaced by John Boruk
  • Mike Barkann moved to pre and post game roles
  • Brian Westbrook removed from Eagles postgame show
  • Amy Fadool and Marc Farzetta paired on Philly Sports Talk
  • new simulcast of the Mike Missanelli radio show
  • more short video clips on the website
  • didn’t renew Union broadcasting partnership (I don’t really blame them)
  • assimilated NBC 10 sports department (they no longer had separate anchors for NBC 10 sports segments, they’d just have Amy or John Clark or Danny Pommells do it remotely from HQ in South Philly, which made a ton of sense and saved $$$)

And, of course, Taryn Hatcher was hired as a multi-platform do-it-all person to cover a variety of roles at the station:

You still have regular contributors like Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman and Dave Zangaro and Barrett Brooks and Derrick Gunn on the payroll. Roob, of course, is still writing for the site even though the TV appearances are less frequent. The various experts, like Jim Lynam and Ricky Bo, still do post-game analysis. There were some smaller hires behind the scenes and I’m not totally up to speed on who does what over there now.

I worked in television for nine years, and whenever moves like these are made it’s usually due to three things specifically:

  1. saving money
  2. getting younger in the talent department
  3. trying to stay afloat in a business that has been slowly dying for a long time now

A lot of people are simply getting content from other sources via different mediums, like Twitter and Facebook through your smart phone. It is what it is.

But I feel like we can rule out that first reason, because it’s not like NBCSP is shot for money. Their Comcast overlords just built the biggest skyscraper in Philadelphia next to the now second-biggest skyscraper in Philadelphia. They sunk a bunch of money into NBC 10’s news product. They now own the Philadelphia Wings and Philadelphia Fusion in addition to the Flyers. There is definitely no shortage of cash when you go up the chain of command from Shawn Oleksiak to Michelle Murray, to whomever or whatever is above her.

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