Connect with us

Broadcasting

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

Published

on

cassidy-hubbarth-nba

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.

Broadcasting

MSG Networks Partners With Overtime To Create A Unique Simulcast

Overtime will take over MSG+ in a bid to put a fresh spin on the traditional NBA broadcast and cater to younger audiences.

Mike Piellucci

Published

on

msg-overtime-simulcast

Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

A single basketball game can cater to a wide variety of audiences but rarely will that ring truer than Sunday afternoon’s broadcast between the Knicks and Lakers.

Turn on MSG, and you’ll hear Kenny Albert and Clyde Frazier break down the battle of two of the league’s most storied franchises. Tune into MSG+, though, and the same action will instead be called by talent from Overtime.

The simulcast represents one of the first major collaborations between the legacy brand and the new media upstart after MSG Networks invested in the two-year-old company as part of a Series B funding round last month. It’s also the sort of experiment that could provide a glimpse into the future of sports broadcasting.

READ MORE: GENERATION Z’S IMPACT ON SPORTS CONTENT STRATEGY

“I think people still want to watch the game, they still want to understand what’s going on and those things ring true of traditional broadcasts,” says Zack Weiner, Overtime’s co-founder and president. “But they want the people on screen to maybe be a little bit more relatable, be able to incorporate more things about pop culture and ultimately, too, feel a little more like their friend.”

The melding point between tradition and innovation is a microcosm of MSG and Overtime’s budding partnership. Each has something the other wants. For MSG, it was better access to Generation Z, the elusive demographic that Overtime has been able to connect to like few other sports broadcast entities.

“It was not necessarily, ‘We need to do something for young people,’ but it was, ‘How do we start to engage this audience for the future?’” says Kevin Marotta, MSG Networks senior vice president of marketing and content. “There’s a recognition that there are some brands out there who do it really well. That sort of led us down the path with Overtime.”

For Overtime, it was MSG’s cache and assets, as well as the appeal of working with a legacy brand that Weiner credits for adapting well in the face of changes within the industry.

“There’s a lot of traditional media companies where I’ve walked into the room and talked about partnerships and it’s just very clear that the first step in any partnership with them is going to be them understanding that things have changed,” Weiner says. “I would say that’s either sort of inherent to companies or it’s not. And for MSG Networks, it felt very inherent. It felt like they understood that.”

All of that comes to a head on Sunday for game that will also make waves by becoming the first-ever regular season NBA game broadcast via FB Watch in the United States. MSG has prior experience with simulcasts thanks to a 2017 collaboration with Draft Kings that assessed the game through a fantasy-centric lens. They’ve decided to up the ante with this time around. The Overtime broadcast will be exclusively called by their own talent, including former Southern Illinois player Camron Smith, former Georgetown player Monica McNutt, Jesse “Filayyy” Jones and Laurence “Overtime Larry” Marsach. But MSG also has built out a custom graphics package to further differentiate the two broadcasts from one another.

“We really looked at this not as a ‘How do we tweak our broadcast with this new talent for a young audience?’ but, ‘How do we create a broadcast for this audience?’” Marotta says.

Both parties insist that Sunday is a test case, one they won’t judge by raw ratings nearly as much as metrics like watch time and social media engagement. Weiner, in particular, is optimistic about collaboration in a number of spaces moving forward, irrespective of how the simulcast is the start of something new or a one-off.

READ MORE: OVERTIME CAPITALIZES ON WOMEN’S BASKETBALL BUZZ WITH OVERTIMEWBB

“Our sort of laboratory to experiment in, I would make the case that it’s extremely unique,” he says. “I think what we’re doing with a younger audience is pretty singular, and I think MSG’s rights portfolio and their established brand is incredible. When you put those things together, you create a really interesting sort of laboratory to play with it.”

Nevertheless, he remains optimistic about the simulcast as a jumping off point for a new sort of sports broadcast, one which finds a common ground that can appeal to any sort of audience.

“Do I think that doing one broadcast between MSG and Overtime is going to completely change everything? No,” Weiner says. “But do I think it’s a huge step in the right direction? Absolutely. I think both parties are going to learn a lot and think that both of our audiences are going to be really pleased with the product and say, ‘Oh, I want to see even more of that.’

Continue Reading

Broadcasting

SXSW Panel Forecasts Opportunities Galore For Broadcast Rights

A missed opportunity by established broadcast networks has set up a wild west when several major sports broadcast rights expire in coming years.

Avatar

Published

on

sxsw-broadcast-rights

Photo credit: Donald Tong from Pexels

The future of sports broadcast rights is about to change.

At least that’s the opinion of the panelists at South By Southwest’s “The Evolution of Rights Holders and Future of Sports” panel, a group which included Hillary Mandel, senior vice president for IMG Media; Seth Bacon, senior vice president of media at Major League Soccer; and moderator Mark Floreani, the COO and co-founder of FloSports.

The reason why? Mandel points to the expiration of as many as nine major-sport broadcast rights deals in the next 36 months. In years past, that might only have amounted to a renewal or minor reshuffling of television broadcasts among the same group of networks. But new, nontraditional players have gotten into the game, which could lead to a serious reshuffling in the marketplace.

“The opportunity came because linear broadcasters didn’t see it coming, stood there and we had contentious arguments about exclusivity and where’s the line of digital,” Mandel said. “We were starving fans. The world shifted; viewing shifted. The world lives in consumption buckets, had they recognized that 10 years ago, it would have been a different place and tougher barrier to entry, but the door is wide open.”

Bacon agreed. 

“To have more options is only beneficial to anyone and everyone in the end,” Bacon said. “Fans get more choice, better awareness for sponsors. It’s not a binary conversation anymore where people put their rights.”

READ MORE: DC United’s Broadcast Deal Could Further Demonstrate Digital Media Potential

Leagues have taken notice, too. MLS executives informed its clubs this month not to have their rights extend beyond 2022 with local partners, so to remain flexible and have all options available as the landscape can change a lot in the next three years.

But a new paradigm comes with new challenges, too. Mandel tackled one of the primary ones near the end of the session when she was asked about the long-term viability of the current subscription-based service model.

“This notion of having a consumer add up in the grocery store this number of services,” she said. “When will all those points converge if the rest of the world still lives with investments in the linear world. Where’s the tipping point?”

One solution could be over-the-top networks like ESPN+ or FloSports and its verticals. They could eventually help solve and provide the outlet all the other individual outlets provide beyond the linear broadcasts. One MLS team, D.C. United already has partnered with FloSports for soccer coverage to create FloFC.com, and Bacon teased a second was on the verge of a similar announcement. 

Outside of event broadcasts, the panel discussed the importance of shoulder content on non-linear channels to fill the void. In 2019, a solid content portfolio that supports the channel’s core demographics also helps support the idea the channel is worth having.

“It’s about time, currency of time,” Bacon said. “There’s so much challenge to compete for people’s eyeballs and that’s what people need to address. You need to have a direct connection that people’s time investment is being respected.”

The round-the-clock coverage can also be an amalgam of similar sports. Mandel pointed to IMG Media’s parent company Endeavor’s Strive Channel in Scandinavia. The channel was created to circumvent the European region’s dominant sports channel for their Serie A broadcast partnership.

“The barrier of entry to market is greatly reduced,” Mandel said. “If you compare what it’s like to launch a cable network 20 years ago to an OTT, we took [Serie A and La Liga] and effectively in a six-week period launched a new service.

“Competition is a key driver for value. We assessed what was available and recognized we had the technology and enabled us to launch an OTT.”

The network has since added MLS to the mix, which Bacon lauded for the solution to sports’ so-called “leaky bucket” issue.

“How do you protect the live game?” Bacon asked. “Rather than hug tightly, they’re going to the biggest newspapers and digital platforms and partnering. The amount of coverage in Scandinavia is 100 times more than it would have been organically.

Both Bacon and Mandel believe that more nuanced changes will accompany the impending shift in who buys which rights. Bacon predicted global rights will become a focal point in future broadcast deals. Meanwhile, Mandel said she foresees the creation of more media entities like Endeavor, which provides multi-vertical cross-over interaction to streamline projects. Endeavor has made 32 acquisitions in the past few years stretched across various industries. Among those were two sports entities, Professional Bull Riders and UFC. The company also has content partnerships with companies entities like Euro League, European Tour and MLS.

“It’s not just an advertising agency, talent agency, sports marketing agency,” she said. “It’s a media company with a number of verticals and expertise. With businesses swimming in and out of the different verticals.”

READ MORE: Turner President Addresses the Future of TV and the ‘Three A’s’ Concept

Some of these changes may not be on the horizon had major operators not remained stagnant for several years. The future, however, is going to look very different now that they have. 

Continue Reading

Broadcasting

NFL Viewership Growth Throughout Europe Exposes Opportunities in the US

The NFL is tapping into a different fan base in Europe — and lead marketing agency Two Circles hopes to merge marketing styles for U.S. clients.

Avatar

Published

on

two-circles-nfl

Photo credit: Two Circles

There’s a drastic difference in marketing tactics in the U.K. and the U.S. — and sports marketing company Two Circles is hoping it can continue to bridge the two.

Two Circles has helped grow NFL viewership in Europe with the NFL Game Pass product as the lead marketing agency for OverTier — the collaboration between Bruin Capital, owners of OTT tech platform Deltatre, and WPP, formed to grow Game Pass Europe.

Last season was the second straight year of subscriber growth, with 14.7 million hours of content viewed, including 6.5 million hours live. The United Kingdom saw a 75-percent increase, while Germany experienced a 69-percent increase, marking the two largest year-on-year viewership growth.

“As the NFL continues to prioritize Game Pass, we sought out key experts to unlock the significant potential across Europe,” NFL Executive Vice President of International & Events Mark Waller said when Game Pass relaunched in Europe in 2017. “Bruin and WPP have a proven track record of innovation and success, and we believe they are the best companies to help take Game Pass to the next level in Europe, technologically, operationally and in terms of growing the user base.”

The past few years has led to New York and Los Angeles offices for Two Circles as it begins to work with U.S. clients.

The success of the NFL in Europe — and the U.K., in particular — has a lot to do with the type of audience the sport is attracting, much like soccer in the U.S.

READ MORE: DC United’s Broadcast Deal Could Further Demonstrate Digital Media Potential

“The NFL tapped into something like MLS has in the U.S.,” said Sam Yardley, Two Circles senior vice president of consulting at the L.A. office. “There’s an audience out there a bit different than the mainstream. The type of fan is very different than the NFL fan here, less like a 55-year-old man drinking Bud Light and more like an alternative, younger fan more likely to drink craft beer.”

The NFL has been in the U.K. for years, as its afternoon time slots in the U.S. are good timing for evening and night games across the Atlantic. Still, football is the new kid in town in Europe and provides the viewers with more “glitz and glamour than hatred” like that found in soccer.

One of the most popular products on Game Pass is the 40-minute condensed game, Yardley said, so there is more concentration in providing fans with that sort of content rather than extra lifestyle documentary-type content, Yardley said.

Two Circles helps manage the NFL viewing rights in 60 European territories, while the NFL also has a separate deal encompassing Canada, Mexico, Australia and Brazil.

Yardley said one of the most important pieces of their offerings is providing a variety of ways to grow subscriber numbers, including an escalator of entry levels as not every fan wants to purchase a season-long pass. Providing single-game purchase options is important.

“It sounds very basic, but the reality is more complex,” he said. “The principals are straight forward. A lot of times, it’s personalized marketing. The NFL data set is rich, and we know who plays fantasy and who lives where. We can also start thinking about that with online behavioral patterns.”

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

There are a lot of behavioral differences across the ocean when it comes to sports, Yardley said. In the U.K. there’s a reluctance for fans to support money-making endeavors by sports organizations. The British view sports as an antidote to a life of work versus the straight entertainment proposition professional sports offer in the U.S., Yardley said.

“It’s created a class of fandom that is very authentic and resistant to change,” he said.

Because of the general reluctance to spend money on sports, Yardley said U.K. sports marketing has excelled in soft selling, an aspect American-focused companies struggle with because fans are more likely to support the base offerings.

“Soft selling to fans are what leagues and teams are good at over there,” Yardley said. “Here, the model is stuck to offices, young grad students burning through phone lists, and selling tickets.”

Yardley said the NFL has been the most innovative league and its media rights strategy is structured in a way to maximize returns and is the most mature direct-to-consumer strategy, which will pave the way for other leagues.

Continue Reading

Trending