Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Radio Insanity

The man to the left is new Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon. Mr. Dundon came into the Hurricanes organization with a promise to do things differently. There would be new eyes who looked at the business and the franchise on the ice, and that means some of the old ways of doing things would be changed. Ron Francis was dismissed. Don Waddell and Rick Dudley were brought in. Head coach Bill Peters opted out of his contract. Rod Brind'Amour took over behind the bench. For as much as Dundon promised new eyes and methods, it sure seems like things are being done with an emphasis on "everything old is new again".

Where this insanity ratcheted up about a dozen notches was when it was reported by The News & Observer's Luke DeCock that longtime radio play-by-play man Chuck Kaiton would be leaving the broadcast booth after the Hurricanes "stood firm on its final offer to the broadcaster, which included what Kaiton’s agent, Lou Oppenheim, said was an 80 percent pay cut". I'm not sure about your situation, but would you be able to do your job and live your current life by taking an 80% pay cut in your salary? Didn't think so.

"I was hoping for a reasonable offer to stay but obviously the offer was an invitation to leave," Kaiton told DeCock. "That is how I look at it. I really was hoping we could make some headway. It's his decision to offer what he offered and it was quite a substantial decrease. It really basically told me they weren't that interested in keeping me. That's life. It's his team."

According to DeCock, "[t]he team's deal with WCMC-99.9 FM to carry the broadcast has no lucrative rights fee like its television deal, incurring six-figure losses while drawing what the team estimates to be fewer than 2,000 listeners per game in the absence of any official metered ratings. Kaiton's salary was a big part of that expense". It makes me wonder why Dundon wouldn't explore a path to get a better radio deal and move Kaiton to a new frequency if "broadcasters are employed by the team". As Kaiton stated, it almost seems like this was an invitation to leave.

"Radio is not a prudent financial decision," Waddell said earlier this summer, DeCock reported. "It's important, I think, to have it for the people that still want to listen to it, but it’s something from a business standpoint that doesn’t make a lot of sense."

Is that so, Don Waddell? Apparently, not only does Don Waddell know something about hockey, he's also in radio management. Let's just take a peek at why Don Waddell is so smart, shall we?

According to Dave Nagle of ESPNMediaZone as of March 2018, "ESPN Audio's content – the ESPN Radio Network's national talk shows and live events, affiliated local broadcast radio stations and podcasting – accounts for nearly half (46%) of all sports radio listenership in the U.S., according to the most recent 'Share of Ear' survey by Edison Research." Hmmm... ok, maybe that's an outlier of a statistic because of how big ESPN is. I'll give Waddell the benefit of the doubt here because it's not like sports on ESPN don't make money. Excuse my sarcasm.

Accordinf to Cork Gaines of Business Insider in 2015, "... media rights revenue is expected to reach $20.6 billion in 2019, compared to $20.1 billion for ticket sales." Radio is a part of media, so why isn't Waddell looking to get a better deal with a radio station as I suggested? That aside, perhaps Waddell might be a little behind the times when it comes to understanding how this whole media thing works, I guess.

As per Statista, "In spring 2017, the number of people who listened to a National Hockey League event within a period of 12 months amounted to 7.93 million." Nearly 8 million people in the US listened to some sort of NHL event via their radio, but "[r]adio is not a prudent financial decision"? Maybe Waddell should walk that statement back about radio not being a "prudent financial decision". If WCMC-99.9 FM is only averaging 2000 listeners per game and the Hurricanes have the third-lowest home game attendance in the NHL with the worst percentage of arena capacity, as per ESPN, the problem isn't radio. The problem appears to be the team the Hurricanes are putting on the ice because it sounds like no one wants to watch or listen to them play. That's directly on the shoulders of Dundon and Waddell.

As much as Chuck Kaiton is right in that Tom Dundon owns the team and can offer whatever he likes to his broadcasters, losing a guy who has called games for the Hartford Whalers and the Carolina Hurricanes since 1979 - some 38 years of experience and knowledge - will be a major blow to the coverage of the team. Chuck Kaiton absolutely deserves better than the insulting offer Dundon put forth, and I personally believe that Kaiton will find something bigger and better despite his devotion to the Whalers/Hurricanes franchise.

As for Don Waddell and Tom Dundon, enjoy the circus you're creating because everything you're doing seems to point to the Hurricanes being run by a couple of clowns.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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