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From Social Media to the Sidelines, Cassidy Hubbarth Epitomizes the NBA

Cassidy Hubbarth has worked her way up to become one of ESPN’s top reporters.

Bailey Knecht

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Photo credit: Allen Kee/ESPN Images

From the “Madden Bowl” on ESPN3, to the late-night “NBA Tonight” program, to the sidelines of the NBA playoffs, Cassidy Hubbarth has done it all during her nine-year tenure at ESPN. And although her roles have changed over time, one thing hasn’t — her fierce devotion to her work.

“’NBA Tonight’ came on at all hours of the night, and her passion for this sport and to be a part of this sport was evident then, too,” said Tim Corrigan, senior coordinating producer at ESPN. “She absolutely caught my eye then, and I was so impressed.”

In the past few years, Hubbarth has become one of the network’s lead NBA reporters and also covers college football and the WNBA, while occasionally hosting shows like “Get Up!,” “SportsCenter,” “First Take,” “The Jump” and “NBA Countdown.”

Earlier this month, the 34-year-old from Evanston, Ill., signed an extension with ESPN, a deal that allows her to host “Hoop Streams,” a new pregame show on Twitter before Saturday “NBA on ABC” matchups.

“I always get asked, ‘What’s your dream job?’ and I honestly, legitimately would not want to do anything other than what I’m doing right now, being at these games, forming relationships with the players,” Hubbarth said. “From covering the league as a reporter and having roles like the All-Star Celebrity Game, and the draft lottery and Summer League in Vegas, which I love, I honestly can handpick the roles that I want to be working on.”

READ MORE: Inside Julianne Viani’s Whirlwind of a Broadcasting Career

With all her roles as an NBA reporter, Hubbarth has found it crucial to be active on social media, especially with the rise of NBA Twitter. In fact, she has embraced technology throughout her entire career, even before social media became a staple of journalists’ arsenals. From her earliest jobs — creating original content for Sprint, covering SEC football as a social reporter at Fox Sports South, and working as a digital host for ESPN3 — she has evolved alongside social media over the years.

“Because a lot of my first jobs were in digital media, it’s something I devoted and invested my time in, and understanding and learning how its grown,” she said. “With the NBA, and covering the sport and how much NBA Twitter impacts the game, and how fans interact with the game, it was a natural fit to build my connection with social media. I’m so thankful for social media because it’s been something I can explore and carve out a niche for myself. It’s really been something that helped me build an identity and connection to sports media in the way I am today.”

A graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Hubbarth has made it a point to stay true to her journalistic roots, even with the changing digital landscape.

“My interaction on social media isn’t just about tweeting content — it’s about how I consume it and apply it to my job and to my reporting,” she said. “My job is to be a reporter, not to be a personality on Twitter.”

“Anyone on social knows of that anxiety, like, ‘Do I press send?’ and then sometimes it’s too late, you’ve missed the window,” she added. “It’s gotten harder to keep up, especially since I’m still a journalist and a reporter. What I tweet and post matters because I need to take my responsibilities as a reporter seriously. I can’t be throwing out opinions left and right without making sure they’re accurate and have legitimacy to them.”

Despite the concerns, Hubbarth explained that social media can and should be used as a resource by reporters, particularly with the NBA where athletes are just as active online as the fans.

“Players offer their own commentary and tidbits about themselves that could lead to stories on social — it’s such a tool,” she said. “Granted, it can be the best place in world or the worst place in world, but it is a tool for you to use, and if you use it well, it has endless possibilities.”

With the NBA’s increasing connection to social media and other cultural forces, Hubbarth’s appreciation for the league has only deepened.

“The NBA has developed into a personality, player-driven league, which has opened up outlets for sneaker culture, fashion culture, and endless memes and GIFs, which I find to be entertaining,” she said. “All these tentacles to the league that I have genuine interest in — it also has helped me in how I cover the sport and has expanded the way we cover it. It’s more than just my in-game coaches interviews, and I have the ability to play around with so many different types of content.”

That genuine interest is the trait that Hubbarth credits her success to, and it’s the trait that Corrigan believes lends itself to consistent, relatable coverage.

“You can tell when somebody is enjoying what they’re doing by their performance and how they do it,” Corrigan said. “Whether she’s doing a postgame interview with LeBron James after he makes the game-winning shot, or hosting ‘NBA Tonight’ at two in the morning, you’re not going to notice the difference. She realizes, each night, the opportunity and that somebody is always watching, and someone always cares, and they may be watching for the first time.”

“I do feel like the NBA really fits my personality, and the reason why is because I’m passionate about it,” Hubbarth added. “I’m a fan, and I’ve been a fan my whole life. My fandom of the NBA is a big part of my personal identity, just as much as professional identity.”

Hubbarth never tries to hide her love for the game or her craft either — in fact, she hopes her viewers take notice of it.

“I feel like what I can bring to the sport is my unwavering passion for it, and that may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but hopefully there are some viewers who feel the same way about it,” she said. “I know I need to work hard, and there are so many people who work hard and know the game, but what may separate me is my presentation and my love for the game, and I hope that shines through.”

Even though she leans on her joy for the game, Hubbarth admits that she still feels pressure to deliver, especially during the emotional, dramatic moments.

“I’m obviously not playing in the game, but I do have a responsibility to the game broadcast to deliver something, like the reaction right after a game-winner or big win,” she said. “People want to hear from that star player about that significant moment, so I do have that responsibility to make sure I’m capturing that moment as best as possible for the viewers and for the player. It’s my responsibility to ask questions so they can sum up for the NBA what just happened to them. It gives a little bit more perspective to who they are as a player, so I do feel pressure in that moment but also a lot of privilege to be a part of significant moments.”

And although she’s showed promise from the earliest days of her career, Corrigan explained that Hubbarth’s years of experience have helped her improve her natural on-air presence in those big moments.

“I’ve known Cassidy for probably five years now, and I think she had a vision for herself and what she wanted to be,” he said. “To me, reps means confidence, and confidence means more comfortable. She’s really coming around now, and none of us are the final product, but all the reps and composure and confidence and poise she’s developed through different roles has rounded her out to become what she is.”

READ MORE: Bartending, Country Music, and Kay Adams’ Relentless Path to Success

If the past few years represented Hubbarth’s exponential career growth as she burst onto the scene as a household sports name, this year may require some shifting of priorities, as she recently gave birth to a daughter. Now, she is embracing new challenges and learning to balance motherhood and her career, with the help of other women in the industry like Doris Burke, Ramona Shelburne and Rachel Nichols.

“Like any working mom, it’s just day-by-day and figuring it all out,” Hubbarth said. “I’m so fortunate that I can potentially quote-unquote ‘have it all’ and have a family and a career. But having it all is a day-to-day thing, as far as making sure I’m managing it.”

“Rachel Nichols gave me some advice because all I knew before my daughter arrived was being an NBA reporter and being who I was on my own, only worried about myself,” she added. “I missed the first few months of the season while pregnant, but she just said, ‘No one’s going to realize you’re gone, and you’re going to pick right back up and just also be a mom.’ It helped me focus on the incredible time I was going through, and I was fortunate to go through my pregnancy and feel like I was able to live in moment during that.”

Now, Hubbarth is back to work. She is as active on the sidelines as ever, and between her family and her dream job, she is enjoying the moment and living with passion, just like she always has.

“I feel so fortunate and happy, and hopefully that shines through in my coverage.”

Bailey Knecht is a Northeastern University graduate and has worked for New Balance, the Boston Bruins and the Northeastern and UMass Lowell athletic departments. She covers media and marketing for Front Office Sports, with an emphasis on women's sports and basketball. She can be contacted at bailey@frntofficesport.com.

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Golf Digest Back Charging For Growth With New Owner

Golf Digest is set to embark on its third ownership transition in its nearly 70 years of operation and all signs point to growth under new owners.

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Photo Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Discovery, Inc. continues its drive into golf with the acquisition of Golf Digest.

Discovery had already entered the golf space, attaining exclusive rights deals outside the U.S. for the PGA Tour, European Tour and Ladies European Tour. GOLFTV, an international streaming service launched by Discovery this past New Year’s Day, is in year one of a 12-year, $2.4 billion deal carrying the PGA Tour’s TV and streaming rights outside the U.S. Discovery also has global content deals with Tiger Woods and Francesco Molinari, using GOLFTV as its platform.

The bullish approach follows the trend of niche content in today’s media landscape. Discovery knows this firsthand with Food Network and MotorTrend. In sports, Discovery has had success with Eurosport and realizes sport fans crave consistent coverage.

READ MORE: The Caddie Network Partnership With Golf Digest Shows Power of Niche Platforms

“We’re looking to evolve our business and investing in content and genres that work for traditional and digital channels,” says Alex Kaplan, Discovery Golf president and general manager. “We learned from our experience with Eurosport Player, it’s very difficult to build an engaged fanbase when we offer multi-sport content.

“Let’s go deep into a specific vertical. Golf rights were available in an expansive way, and it’s not just compelling to watch, but fans play it, buy it, travel for it. It’s an ecosystem that was particularly compelling.”

The acquisition includes all brands under the Golf Digest brand, including Golf World, Golf Digest Schools and The Loop. According to the press release, Golf Digest attracts 4.8 million monthly readers and 60 million monthly video views. That’s along with its 2.2 million social followers.

This is Golf Digest’s third transition of ownership in its nearly 70 years of operation. All three have brought the media company different advantages, says Golf Digest editor Jerry Tarde, who’s been with the company for 42 years.

Tarde said The New York Times, which acquired the magazine in 1969, brought the basics and values of journalism, while Conde Nast, the owner since 2001, brought design, art and sophistication to the brand. Now, Tarde believes Discovery will bring growth.

Tarde, along with being editor-in-chief, gains a new title and role: Discovery Golf global head of strategy and content.

“This is an organization we’re at the heart of, in terms of developing sports and connecting with a high-value audience that’s passionate about the subject,” Tarde says. “This is the most exciting thing to happen to Golf Digest since it was founded in 1950. It lights a fire under us and gives us an opportunity to improve and expand U.S. coverage.

“We’ll also be able to extend it worldwide to more than 200 countries.”

On the other side of the equation, the acquisition gives Discovery a golf presence in the U.S. Kaplan said Discovery has been collecting its golf assets and knew an editorial vertical would be crucial, but it could take years to build. The Golf Digest acquisition allows Discovery to acquire that piece with one check.

“Our offering to golf fans and golf advertisers is now that of a global platform,” Kaplan says. “We can bring an aggregated golf audience anywhere in the world.”

READ MORE: GolfPass Could Set Standard in 21st-Century Sports Media

With a strong strategy in place, it will be business as usual for the time being, Tarde says, but there will be talk of new ideas and potential investments. Discovery will retain Golf Digest staff, continue the U.S. monthly print product and acquire global licenses for editions 70 countries.

“We’ve got a great team that’s been underutilized, really,” Tarde said. “Because of the way the publishing economy has been treated, our business has been in retreat. That’s now the way I spent my first 30 years. We were charging.

“This is the exciting part, we’re back on the charge.”

Like Tiger Woods on the prowl on Sunday.

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Inside the XFL’s New TV Deals

With nine months to go until its first game, the XFL has locked in its lineup of broadcast partners for all 43 regular season games.

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Photo Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

With nine months to go until its first game, the XFL has locked in its lineup of broadcast partners.

The deals will see all 43 games appear on either broadcast or cable TV and will see them divided up between ABC, Fox, ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 and FS2.

What do you need to know?

1. – 24 of the XFL’s 43 games to be on broadcast TV (13 on ABC; 11 on Fox)

2. – According to Joe Flint of the WSJ, the deals are for three years, but no cash is changing hands.

3. – As part of the deals, the broadcast partners will cover the production costs of the games, which John Ourand notes will run $400,000 per game.

4. – Disney and Fox will keep all the television advertising inventory for the games while the XFL will handle the selling of sponsorships in the venues, according to Flint.

Will we see a repeat of 2001? 

The XFL’s reboot will come 19 years after McMahon and company attempted to make spring football a thing. Like the AAF this year, the league started with a promising opening night and then sputtered to the end. By the end of its first and only season, the XFL saw its ratings fall from a 9.5 to a 1.5 at their lowest point, according to OSW Review.

While the first time around may have not gone as planned, executives from all sides of the table are enthusiastic about the possibilities.

“The effort Vince is throwing behind it with his own personal capital and the combination of Fox and Disney platforms give us the best chance to make spring football work.” – ESPN programming chief Burke Magnus to Joe Flint of the WSJ.

Rolling into upfronts…

The announcement of the deals couldn’t have come at a more strategic time for all parties involved with upfronts scheduled to begin in six days. Given the fact that the broadcast partners will be responsible for selling ads, it would be rather surprising if the XFL inventory wasn’t included in their presentations.

Last year alone, the television upfront market for commercials generated $20.8 billion in commitment from advertisers, up 5.2% from the previous year, according to an estimate by Media Dynamics.

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Why Fewer Ad Breaks are Coming to the Super Bowl

Fox will be cutting back the number of commercial breaks for the big game by one, having only four breaks per quarter instead of five.

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Photo Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

Next year’s Super Bowl might feel slightly different to viewers.

That’s because Fox will be cutting back the number of commercial breaks for the big game by one, having only four breaks per quarter instead of five, according to Brian Steinberg of Variety.

Fewer breaks, but the same amount of commercials…

Although Fox will be cutting down one whole commercial break each quarter, the four that remain will be slightly longer, allowing the broadcaster to still have the same amount of slots for advertisers even with fewer breaks in the action.

This isn’t a first for the NFL…

The league has been working with broadcast partners since last year to find new ways to deliver advertisements during telecasts. The initiative last year focused on delivering more sponsored vignettes and less “billboard” ads, a change that could be difficult at times for the networks seeing as in the past they have used the “billboard” inventory as bonuses to big-spending sponsors, according to Variety.

Why do they want to cut down? According to calculations from Streaming Observer’s Chris Brantner, the average NFL fan watches almost 24 hours of advertisements in a season.

Or other leagues…

As leagues battle for the attention of their consumers, making sure they give them less time to check their phone or change the channel has become a priority.

Earlier this year, MLB announced that it was planning to reduce each national commercial break by 25 seconds, NASCAR has been using split screen advertising since its days on ESPN back in 2011, and the NBA has done it with ESPN during timeouts.

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