It’s been a good month if you are Mike McCarthy. While one has led the Green Bay Packers back to the NFL Playoffs, another prominent Mike McCarthy, former St. Louis Blues President, has put out a new shingle on the TV production front as co-chair of leading production company Manhattan Place Entertainment with founder Steve Cohen. While his leadership of the Blues helped get the franchise back to NHL prominence, McCarthy is probably best known in the sports business world for his work helping lead MSG Networks to the top of the regional sports cable world.
His resume includes 50 Emmy Awards and 250 Emmy Award Nominations as well as a host of other accolades that included the national Cable ACE Award, an International Festival Award, two Pro Max Marketing Awards, a Bandies Award and The Mark Award. Besides being recognized for excellence in traditional television production and programming, McCarthy initiated a series of innovations that helped make MSG one of the most technically advanced regional networks. Those innovations included the introduction of High Definition Television (HDTV) in 1998 when MSG aired the first regularly scheduled sports events covered in HD. It is that expertise that he and Cohen think will help change and push the broadcast and special video production business to a new high in 2013 and beyond.
We caught up with McCarthy to talk sports biz, TV, and the Blues…
Did the lockout hurt a brand like the Blues in St Louis where they are the only pro sports franchise in the winter vs., an LA or Chicago, where the choices for fans are more varied and NHL is not always top of mind?
The last lockout killed the Blues because the team had been decimated from a competitive on ice perspective -this team is much different, it will be very competitive and the fans will embrace them – I think being the only winter sport actually helps a team rather than hurt it — if STL had an NBA franchise all the ad dollars would be out of the market, disposable income for season tickets would be gone and fans would have had more things to distract them from missing hockey.
You helped grow MSG Networks into one of the most cutting edge and innovative regional networks for sports…with all the segmentation going on now do you see the marketplace for regional networks continuing to grow, or will the future be more sport by sport?
I think the RSN growth will continue because teams and conferences see the value created by MSG, then Yes, then SNY , Big 10 Network, Pac 12 Network, etc. and they want to replicate it for themselves.
What were some of your highlights as president of the Blues?
During my tenure with the Blues we experienced 65% revenue growth and this past year the Blues won a division championship, a playoff round and appeared in the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 10 years, playing to sellout crowds every night of my 2 year run as CEO.
Are there consumer brands that you think do a better job than others in translating to video in sport?
Football is the ultimate TV sport, so much so that teams are struggling for ways to make the “in arena” experience as good as the “at home” experience. I think hockey had the biggest challenge in being a TV sport until the advent of HD, which makes that product 1000% better. Soccer has the most work to do in terms of having a compelling television product.
What technology has surprised you that it hasn’t yet really taken off?
I will answer a slightly different question — while it hasn’t “taken off “just yet, I believe that Apple TV and Roku are the next wave -the next great product– they are turning the content distribution world on its ear, and I expect only bigger and better in the next few months from those two products.
Who are some of the people in the media space who you think of are the most innovative?
Louis CK has broken the distribution model for comedy in a simplistic, high integrity way by distributing his content exclusively and making sizable charity donations while doing it– I am very impressed with his sense of innovation.
Many people feel that print is becoming less relevant every day. Do you see ways that print can better use video technology to stay relevant?
I am surprised more newspapers don’t have apps for tablets- that’s how I consume newspapers on a daily basis and I think it’s the way to remain relevant for traditional print models – for the ones that don’t have an app or even for the ones that do, there could be more use of video, and the experience could be more user friendly – right now it’s kind of an underwhelming experience in terms of the video use for newspaper apps.
What sport do you see as emerging in 2013 and why?
I think soccer will continue to grow–1) the advent of an MLS franchise in New York (Queens) and 2) The world getting smaller with the internet and digital tools available to the consumer to witness the game played at its ultimate highest level (Premier league, Champions League, World Cup Qualifiers, etc.) make soccer poised for a significant growth spike.