For the past six days, the sports radio industry has been the center of my attention due to the release of BSM’s annual Top 20 series. But if you’ve kept an eye on Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin during the past six weeks, you’ve seen frequent posts encouraging fans, followers and industry friends to share their input on the best sports media performers of 2016.
Although radio is the majority of my focus, sports television, podcasting, and social and digital content are also huge attractions for sports fans. Rather than ignore those spaces completely, I decided to conduct a poll and give the public the opportunity to weigh in on who they felt best satisfied their appetite for great sports television and digital content in 2016.
Considering this was the first attempt to highlight performers outside of the radio space, I was pleasantly surprised to receive five thousand thirty six entries. To everyone who took the time to vote, retweet, share or promote the poll on-air, online, and on social, I simply say thank you. Your support is vital in making research like this valuable.
Before I dive into the results, I want to single out a few sports media stories and pieces of programming that I thought were exceptional during the past year.
First, if you didn’t see Pete Rose offering hitting advice to Alex Rodriguez and Frank Thomas on FOX Sports 1, you missed out. Hearing three incredible hitters discuss tricks of the trade was the type of stuff that every baseball fan wishes they were privy to behind closed doors. Truly a great television segment.
I thought The Vertical raised its profile and dominated the discussion during last year’s NBA Trade Deadline when their digital video special filled the void left behind by national television networks which chose to place a lesser emphasis on the evening. Adrian Wojnarowski cemented his place as one of the best reporters in sports, and the supporting cast of Chris Mannix, Bobby Marks, and Brian Scalabrine shined bright as well.
One of the best features on television belonged to ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi who captured the emotionally powerful story of 10 year old New England Patriots fan Logan Schoenhardt. If you were able to watch this piece and not be moved or reduced to tears, you’re a stronger man than I am.
The OJ Simpson: Made In America documentary series produced by ESPN was one of the best forms of original programming that the network has ever created. The ten part series was riveting from start to finish and reminded many of how good ESPN can be when it focuses its energies on tackling a big project.
ESPN and the WWE continued to enhance their partnership, much to the dismay of some media members, and to the delight of others. As part of the relationship, ESPN began featuring wrestlers on SportsCenter on Tuesday evenings, and providing live broadcast support prior to big pay per views such as WrestleMania and Summerslam.
The UFC was sold and the transformation with the company’s broadcast team began with longtime voice Mike Goldberg being given his walking papers. The company has still not hired his replacement, although rumors of Jim Rome being the top target remain alive. Only time will tell if Rome takes the plunge into UFC waters or if Dana White is forced to search elsewhere.
The 2016 ESPYS began with a bold statement from 4 NBA players speaking out on gun violence and the abuse of authority in America. LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul all took the stage and expressed their views in a three minute speech which created buzz across the media world.
Speaking of the ESPYS, John Cena was excellent as this year’s host, but the real star of the show was Craig Sager who gave one of the most memorable speeches prior to his passing. Anyone who watched that on-air moment was reminded of just how unique and special Sager was and how adored he was by his family, colleagues, and competitors.
Few players created the media firestorm that Colin Kaepernick did when he chose to protest the national anthem by sitting. Eventually the 49ers quarterback modified his stance by taking a knee during the patriotic song. Some television networks chose to focus heavily on the story and the drama it provided. Others elected to briefly mention it and focus on the action on the field.
ESPN began to explore the intersection between sports and race with the long awaited debut of The Undefeated. The website has placed an emphasis on exceptional journalism, and although it still needs to be promoted more to become more familiar to everyday sports fans, the quality of content has been impressive.
Nate Silver, like so many other political pundits, swung and missed when projecting the outcome of the presidential election. Donald Trump won, which led to many questioning how reliable early polling numbers are.
Bill Simmons launched The Ringer and started adding jobs during a time when many other companies were decreasing staffs. The Washington Post has since followed suit in 2017. Unfortunately for Simmons, his new television program on HBO “Any Given Wednesday” was cancelled after just 17 episodes.
I could spend another hour pointing out the best and worst moments in sports media of 2016 but that should give you enough to digest for now. Plus, aren’t you wondering who the winners were of this year’s poll?
With that in mind, here are the results of our 2016 Best in Sports Media poll. Be advised that participants and shows that registered less than 1% of the vote in each category have been removed.
WINNER: 30 For 30 – ESPN
WINNER: Pardon My Take – Barstool Sports
WINNER: Vin Scully Calls His Final Game
WINNER: Richard Deitsch – Sports Illustrated
WINNER: Adrian Wojnarowski – The Vertical
WINNER: NFL RedZone – NFL Network
WINNER: Scott Van Pelt – ESPN
WINNER: Colin Cowherd – FOX Sports 1
WINNER: Al Michaels – NBC Sports
WINNER: Cris Collinsworth – NBC Sports
WINNER: Louis Riddick – ESPN
WINNER: Alex Rodriguez – FOX Sports
WINNER: Charles Barkley – TNT
WINNER: Kirk Herbstreit – ESPN
WINNER: Jay Bilas – ESPN