Over the last two years, high school, collegiate, and professional sports have been turned upside down.
Seasons were canceled or shortened. Fans were banned from attending games. In-season schedules were altered due to COVID-19-positive tests. Athletes and coaches had to adapt to an ever-changing landscape that provided little in the way of consistency.
Sounds like a pretty good time to do a deep dive into the world of sports media.
That’s exactly what Cheshire’s Dennis Deninger has done, with his new book, “Live Sports Media: The What, How, And Why of Sports Media.” An update to Deninger’s other work, “Sports on Television,” published a decade ago, this book takes an intimate look at how everything, from the pandemic to livestreaming services, to the changing demographic of the sports audience, has impacted the sports media industry, and how that industry is likely to continue to change in the coming years.
And it’s received recognition from numerous media personalities.
“Dennis Deninger’s combination of extensive production experience in sports television and decades as a professor at Syracuse University’s prestigious Newhouse School make this comprehensive look at broadcast sports especially credible,” said Bob Costas, former NBC sports commentator who currently hosts the HBO show “Back on the Record with Bob Costas.” It’s one of the many acknowledgments Deninger received from sports media personalities and executives.
“It’s amazing just how much has changed,” said Deninger, who spent years at ESPN as a producer and is now a professor of television, film and radio at the Syracuse University Newhouse School of Public Communication. “Just 10 years ago, you didn’t have all of these streaming services. Now, they are a (major force) in sports media.”
Deninger’s first book was an all-encompassing look at sports media at the time, offering readers a look at the history of sports on television as well as a behind-the-scenes look at how a sports telecast is produced. “Live Sports Media” takes a similar approach, giving the reader the full scope of what’s been happening in the sports world over the last decade.
The idea for an update was first raised by Deninger’s publisher, Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, back in the summer of 2020. Recognizing just how much had transpired since 2010, when “Sports on Television” had been printed, and considering that Deninger suddenly found himself teaching from home via Zoom, the award-winning producer and executive determined to get the project moving.
“I kind of took it on as my second full-time job,” he admitted, with a laugh.
What Deninger didn’t expect was that circumstances would be changing dramatically as he began to write his book.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the NBA season was halted in March of 2020, only to resume later that summer. The NCAA Tournament for basketball was canceled. High school sports seasons were also canceled, and fall collegiate seasons were threatened.
“The (Major League Baseball) season, only 30% of the games were played,” he recalled, referencing MLB’s decision to only play a 60-game season, “but 100% of the (television rights) fees were due.”
In addition to that, social upheaval impacting all sports. The Black Lives Matter movement was adopted by hundreds of athletes and, eventually, several of the professional teams. Social justice initiatives became a huge storyline over the course of the 2020 and 2021 seasons in both professional and college sports, and it appeared politics was ever-present in sports media discussions.
Then, there was the influence of livestreaming services, as sports viewership began to migrate from traditional networks and cable channels to other outlets.
In order to capture this tumultuous time, Deninger conducted over 20 interviews with media professionals, from television executives and producers, to on-air talents such as ESPN’s Chris Fowler and CBS’s Ian Eagle.
It not only allowed Deninger to paint an up-to-date picture of what is happening in sports media today, but it also allowed him to become more informed on the subject he teaches.
“I can tell you, this process (of writing the book) has made me a stronger professor,” he said. “I am more up to date, more enlightened. I have always said that the more you know, the more questions you are going to ask.”
Deninger sees the book, first and foremost, as offering a guide to those seeking to break into the industry in the coming years — the kinds of individuals who are most likely to take Deninger’s classes at Syracuse. However, he also believes that the book will be of interest to anyone who is fascinated by the sports media industry, as the opinions offered by notable personalities interviewed for the book, along with some behind-the-scenes anecdotes should be enough to intrigue everyone who calls themself a sports fan.
The book also offers some predictions as to where the media industry, and sports world in general, will go in the next several years. That’s the focus of Deninger’s final chapter, in which he tackles a world where fewer individuals in the coveted 18-24 age range are currently watching sports — Deninger mentioned how this year’s Super Bowl, despite overall positive ratings, saw a precipitous decline in viewership amongst the younger demographic — while all professional sports leagues look to become players on the global stage.
“This changing landscape, it really makes things exciting,” he said. “If you read the book, my hope is that you never look at the sports media the same way again.”
“Live Sports Media: The What, How and Why of Sports Broadcasting” is available by visiting www.routledge.com.