John Henry: Media Mogul

In 2006 there was some drama about the Red Sox possibly leaving “powerhouse” radio station WEEI and turning to another terrestrial radio provider for all their broadcasting needs. 98.5 The Sports Hub had yet to launch. Games were available for streaming as part of Red Sox Nation and MLB.TV, but this was before the iPhone, widely-available 3G or LTE access for smartphones, tablets, etc. so the alternatives to WEEI and traditional radio were limited. Oh, and WEEI still used 850 AM as their primary vehicle to deliver Red Sox games. Instead of shaking things up by choosing a new broadcast partner, the Red Sox instead renewed their pact with Boston’s major sports radio network. To the delight of the hosts and management, signing a record-setting deal placed the network atop a stronghold that could not be breached by any potential competition.

Now, the tables have turned. WEEI has lost its spot atop the radio rankings to The Sports Hub, many of the hosts have been let go, and John Henry owns a newspaper.

John Henry, principal owner of the Red Sox now owns his own radio station of sorts with BDC Radio. He owns and the Globe proper (plus the Worcester Telegram & Gazette). In three years, will he still need WEEI? It’s not very difficult to imagine the Globe taking over broadcast rights, the advertising power (and dollars) that comes with Major League Baseball, and cutting the WEEI cord once and for all. The Red Sox and John Henry would control a television station (NESN), a newspaper (Boston Globe), a radio arm (BDC Radio).

Once the Red Sox contract is gone, maybe WEEI will be on the block and Henry can pick up all the antennas and equipment on the cheap. Just buy up the transmitters.

If the Commissioner’s Office and Major League Baseball Advanced Media were to relax and reform the blackout rules, it’s not hard to imagine a Henry-Red Sox media machine that could stream audio and video, have a team of writers and new media types supporting the classic announcing of Joe Castiglione on radio and Remy and Orsillo on the NESN video feed. Heck, if one man (essentially) owns the text (why say print at this point for the Globe), audio stream, and video stream, it might be the start of actually offering a choice of camera angles, announcers, live commentary and community chat during the games.

For the non-sports press I’d be worried about this sort of control, and John Henry will own the Boston Globe, not just the sports section, but from a baseball only view, I hope he uses every bit of the control and influence he can have to deliver a truly awesome experience by tying everything together.


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