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The Ringer’s ‘Winging It’ Podcast Offers Sneak Peek Into Life in the NBA

“Winging It” is headlined by Kent Bazemore and Vince Carter and is co-hosted by Annie Finberg, the Atlanta Hawks’ social media coordinator.

Bailey Knecht

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Image via The Ringer

Touching on everything from golf, to rookie hazing, to career milestones, The Ringer’s new podcast, titled “Winging It,” gives fans an exclusive glimpse into the NBA — straight from the players themselves.

The podcast is headlined by Kent Bazemore and Vince Carter of the Atlanta Hawks and is co-hosted by Annie Finberg, the Hawks’ social media coordinator. Just five episodes in, “Winging It” has already featured a star-studded guest lineup, with appearances by Steph Curry, Andre Iguodala, Jeremy Lin, and Dirk Nowitzki.

“I love podcasting with players because it allows us to show a side of the guys people don’t get to see otherwise, with them not being on camera,” Finberg said.

“The biggest thing for me is that it’s unfiltered,” Bazemore added. “Obviously, we have to watch what we say to a certain extent — like, we aren’t on there saying a ton of curse words or trying to ruffle a lot of feathers, but you speak what you feel.”

READ MORE: How The Players’ Tribune is Expanding Its Global Impact

Finberg and Bazemore are no strangers to the podcast game. They were co-hosts of the “Road Trippin’ ATL podcast last season, along with Mike Muscala, so when the opportunity arose to co-host “Winging It” this year, they already had plenty of experience to build on.

“For me, I think [podcasting] is a great stepping stone for future opportunities,” Finberg said. “It prepares you for a lot of things, whether it’s interviews or more casual.”

Muscala was traded to the 76ers in the summer of 2018, so Finberg and Bazemore were in need of a new co-host for “Winging It.” Luckily for them, the oldest active player signed with the Hawks that same summer, with two decades of NBA experience under his belt. In other words, Carter was the ideal man for the job.

“With Vince Carter coming to Atlanta, we couldn’t think of a more perfect host,” Finberg said.

The opportunity to interact with high-profile NBA players in a laid-back environment isn’t something Finberg takes for granted.

“Being able to sit and laugh with the guys is the best part,” she said. “I’m speaking to some of these guys who I’ve watched my entire life, like Vince Carter. He’s one of the best dunkers of all-time, so to be able to talk to him and see him as regular person and get to know these guys, whether they’re up-and-coming or very established, it’s cool.”

Podcasting is particularly well-liked among athletes because the casual setting allows them to feel at ease and speak more candidly than in a traditional interview setting, according to Finberg.

“They’re just sitting around with friends and myself, so they’re more comfortable to express themselves and be open and be more than an athlete,” she said.

That comfort was particularly evident in just the second episode, when Curry jokingly questioned whether astronauts had actually landed on the moon.

“I’d say with the ‘Winging It’ podcast that we’re a pretty laid-back vibe, so people feel fairly comfortable talking about anything,” Bazemore said. “We’ve got people on there talking about long-time conspiracies, so you’ve got to feel pretty comfortable in order to talk about that kind of stuff.”

“Winging It” isn’t the only podcast hosted by professional athletes — 76ers’ JJ Redick hosts his own show on The Ringer Podcast Network, as well — but Finberg explained how this new show differentiates itself.

“What sets us apart is all the different personalities and traits we bring,” she said. “I’m the quote unquote ‘normal person,’ and fans can connect with me. I’m allowing them insight into the players’ lives. Vince and Baze are different, but also similar, and they connect over humor, which is key for podcasts because, at the end of the day, everyone wants to relax and laugh.”

Carter and Bazemore’s distinct personalities and backgrounds bring a unique perspective to the show, Finberg said.

“They have really different experiences,” she said. “Vince is obviously very broadcast-driven, so he brings that broadcast breakdown of things, and there’s no one better in the league to tell stories and share the life of NBA players. Vince really embodies that.”

“For me, it’s just more repetition,” Carter added, explaining how podcasting fits in with his post-playing career goals. “I’m continuing to learn and figure out some of the things that I like and don’t like as far as, do I want to call games in studio? Or do I want to do my own thing as far as podcasts, or do a podcast while doing some studio work, or working in the field? So, this is definitely just some practice.”

Bazemore’s path to the NBA couldn’t have been more different than Carter’s, so he offers an original outlook, as well.

“Kent brings an amazing perspective, from getting knocked down and getting back up at Old Dominion, then he didn’t get drafted, then he played in the D League,” Finberg said. “He’s proven that, as cheesy as it sounds, you can do what you set your mind to because he was determined.”

With the help of one-of-a-kind podcasts like “Winging It,” The Ringer Podcast Network has grown substantially over the last few years. The network has amassed an impressive following thanks to its 30 different podcasts that range in topics from sports to pop culture.

READ MORE: Bulls Strive to Digitally Innovate While Honoring Their Past

“The Ringer has been amazing,” Finberg said. “From the jump, they’ve been so helpful, and it’s an honor to be a part of it. The fact that Bill Simmons allowed us to jump in and give it a shot is a big blessing. They were open to us, and they’ve been supportive and helpful.”

Between The Ringer’s support and the popularity of Carter, Bazemore, and their guests, “Winging It” has found the recipe for podcast success.

Finberg’s job with the Hawks’ digital team may be to tell the stories of players from a team perspective, but she also recognizes the significance of giving players a platform to speak directly to their fans using the podcast formula.

“Teams try to tell stories, and so do media outlets, but it’s rare that a player has the opportunity to speak out about what he’s about and what he believes in,” she said. “It’s important that they continue to share their experiences. It makes them more personable and builds their fan base, and it gives them the opportunity to share with fans.”

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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