Charles Barkley on Inside the NBA
Source: NBA on TNT
The National Hockey League needs crossover appeal, and with its new media rights partnership with Turner Sports, it’s the perfect time to include Charles Barkley in their coverage.
NHL and Turner’s parent company, WarnerMedia, has agreed to a rights pact for more than $ 1 billion in April, Turner will broadcast three Stanley Cups and the Winter Classic. Turner wasted no time increasing broadcast talent and landed hockey on Wednesday Legend Wayne Gretzky.
The decision to add Gretzky is a good move, especially if Turner is hoping to get a Tony Romo-like impact on his coverage. And who better to break down hockey than “The Great One”?
Turner’s coverage isn’t just about explaining the dynamics of an NHL competition, however. It’s about entertainment and the growth of the NHL outside of its traditional fan base. Barkley can help with that growth.
In sports business circles, TNT president is talked about Lenny Daniels is encouraged to think about the move, and it should. Here’s why.
On Tuesday, the 60-year-old Gretzky admitted one Leadership role with the Edmonton Oilers and will now try to reinvent himself as Barkley did in 2000 when he joined Turner’s “Inside the NBA” show.
In an interview with the Associated PressGretzky said the “stars are aligned” when talking about joining Turner Sports as he will be closer to the family, which is a bonus. “And I can do what I love to do, which is talk about hockey,” he added.
There is no doubt that Gretzky was one phenomenon on ice. He is the leader in terms of total points, goals scored and assists. He won it Hart Memorial Trophy nine times, 18 NHL All-Star appearances, and won four Stanley Cup trophies. Respected sports media advisor Lee Berke said Gretzky’s Turner Sports addition was like hockey’s Babe Ruth.
“There’s no one who is offensively better and they have a great name that speaks to people – and casual fans know Wayne Gretzky,” said Berke, CEO of LHB Sports, Entertainment and Media. “The question is, as good as a reputation is, how will that person behave as an analyst?”
“He has to prove himself again,” added Berke. “And they (Turner Sports) have to give him time. But to get attention and build momentum, it’s a good move.”
Jamie Redmond interviews Wayne Gretzky prior to the fourth game of the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and the St. Louis Blues at the Enterprise Center on June 3, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri.
David Fleet | NHL Pictures | National Hockey League | Getty Images
Again, mimicking Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback who went on to become a CBS sports star, is a success. But remember, ESPN was trying to cast another great cowboy, Jason Witten, for a similar role, and that too did not work either.
This is where Barkley can help with Gretzky’s transition. After all, he is credited with helping Gretzky with Turner’s NHL crew. Barkley is authentic and has a great TV personality. The audience tunes in whether they agree with his perspective or not.
And Barkley is a sports fan. Outside of the NBA, he works in the studio for NCAA men’s basketball coverage from Turner and CBS and plays at golf events. He’s also a hockey fan so he is familiar with the sport.
“He’s iconoclastic, headstrong – his opinions are thoughtful, funny, and smart,” said Berke, referring to Barkley’s brief appearance on NBC Sports’ NHL coverage while attending one Stanley Cup game in 2019.
“He only had five or six minutes and was great,” added Berke. “I think he would be a tremendous asset and offer great prospects.”
Speculation about Barkley’s addition to NHL coverage is not new. Some media including Sports illustratedmentioned the idea after Turner took NHL rights. However, the network has to be different from ESPN to attract new audiences.
For the first time since 2004, Disney’s own network will include pro hockey in its lineup and pay for it $ 400 million Overall for the package that includes streaming. Berke said ESPN will continue to use NHL analyst Barry Melrose for its coverage and will most likely take a “professional” approach to presenting hockey games.
Turner can do a little more research, however, like the network is doing with the NBA. Berke credited Turner’s move to add a legendary mug Pedro Martinez to its Major League Baseball coverage in 2013.
“It’s one of the great things about Turner,” said Berke. “You have an opportunity to present sport. You do a spectacular job at the NBA. You develop your own flair and your own commentary that offers a different perspective.”
When asked how Daniels would approach building an NHL audience, Berke, who has known the sports manager for years, replied, “I think he will want to develop his distinctive approach.”
“You already have a core audience that wants to see these games,” he added. “So you’re not going to reinvent everything from scratch. You have to develop credibility, and that is Kenny AlbertWayne Gretzky develop credibility. But you also want to develop your own style for it. “
And what better way to do that than with a voice like Sir Charles?
Barkley doesn’t have to teach the game. He just has to make it entertaining for the casual fanatic. Turner could add a Barkley hockey camera from time to time or receive a sponsored segment with Barkley’s insight. Anything, anything, but finding a way to include it.
The challenges are there, especially since the NBA and NHL seasons overlap. But there are also ways to get it working, like the Winter Classic or the Stanley Cup screenings.
“Add Barkley, add Gretzky – come up with more stars and present yourself in a way that makes it yours,” said Berke. “I hope they can do it. He (Barkley) adds interest and viewer to anything he’s involved in.”