Mar 19, 2020 - Sports

How sports media is handling the coronavirus outage

Illustration of a faulty smartphone
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In the Era of No Sports, media publications, TV networks and leagues are scrambling to find alternatives to fill the void — and in some cases, redeploying staff to work on non-sports coverage.

Driving the news: The Washington Post has redirected some of its sports staff to help with non-sports coverage and, starting this Saturday, the newspaper's daily Sports section will move inside the Style section, per an internal memo (Sunday Sports will continue to stand on its own).

  • The New York Times has "redeployed a handful of reporters and editors to other desks and assignments to meet the unprecedented challenge of this story," sports editor Randy Archibold told me in an email.
  • The Action Network, which covers sports betting, has instructed its staff to focus on futures (i.e. how Tom Brady's arrival impacts the Bucs' Super Bowl odds) and pivot to other types of content, like politics.

League-owned apps/networks:

  • NFL Game Pass, which offers replays of past regular and postseason games and episodes of shows like "Hard Knocks," "Mic'd Up," and "A Football Life," is available for free starting today and running through May 31.
  • NBA League Pass, which offers replays of every game from the 2019-20 season plus an "expansive archive" of classic games and content, will also be made available for free.
  • MLB Network and NHL Network are centering their coverage around classic games or moments.

ESPN ... Q&A with EVP of programming, Burke Magnus:

  • On showing classic games: "Re-airing full-game presentations is not a right that we or other media companies typically have at our disposal at all times. ... We are working with the leagues themselves to free up the possibility to show encore presentations and discussing how we can present them."
  • On moving up the debut of the MJ doc: "Any original content project that we can conceivably move up, we are obviously considering that, [but] the reality is that the production of ['The Last Dance'] has not yet been completed, so we are limited there at the moment."

What to watch: A subplot of the Netflix movie "High Flying Bird" involves locked-out NBA players streaming games they play in a gym. Could the real-life NBA try something similar? Sounds like Adam Silver is open to the idea...

"Is there a protocol where [players] can be tested and quarantined and isolated in some way, and they could compete against one another? ... Maybe it's for a giant fundraiser ... Because people are stuck at home, and I think they need a diversion. They need to be entertained."
— Adam Silver, via SportsCenter

Go deeper: Coronavirus sends sports betting scrambling

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