Sports commissioners need to be dialed in on changing media landscape

My latest column for the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana is on sports commissioners and new media.

From the column:


There is much more to being a commissioner these days than just handing out the champion’s trophy. Just ask Roger Goodell.

The leader of a sports league has to be proactive on sensitive and highly volatile social issues. Again, just ask Roger Goodell.

The person has to know how to deal with players who earn in the significant millions and owners with team assets in the billions. The commissioner also has to be able to navigate through Capitol Hill and Wall Street.

Just ask any of the commissioners.

However, perhaps more important than anything else these days, the modern commissioner needs to be conversant about Slingbox. He must be up to speed about Snapchat. A commissioner can’t think Instagram is a quick telegram from Western Union.

Maury Brown points out that might have been the case with now former baseball commissioner Bud Selig, who Brown writes “was proud never to own a computer.” Meanwhile, Brown describes his successor, Rob Manfred, “as a man perpetually connected.”

Brown did an interview with Manfred at that underscores the importance of the modern commissioner being at a PhD level when it comes to understanding the rapidly-changing media landscape. The various platforms are the source for real game-changing revenue in sports.

Manfred enters at a time when teams are hitting the jackpot with an unprecedented local TV deals. Yet the golden goose could die a quick death as cable cord-cutting and new platforms threaten to transform how fans watch games.

Manfred showed that he is ready for the challenge with this answer:

“I think the changing media landscape was a topic on everyone’s mind.  I’ll tell you in all candor however, that that topic has become even hotter in the few months since August when I was elected as commissioner, largely because the development in that space has come faster than not only people inside the game, but people in the media business had generally expected. HBO streaming, which we are supporting through MLBAM, Slingbox… those developments are coming faster than I think folks thought they were going to come.”


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