This week I interviewed television executive Scott Moore. Scott has held roles as Director of CBC sports, Head of Production for Sportsnet and President of Broadcasting for Rogers Media. He has been a trailblazer in the industry and has a long history of success. Scott was kind enough to share highlights from his career, his thoughts on the sports media industry and offer advice for people who are interested in the field.
Josh Wahler: To take it from the beginning how did you get into the field of sports media and has this always been a passion for you?
Scott Moore: When I was going to school I either wanted to be a comedian, a foreign correspondent or a hockey play by play guy. I wasn’t quite funny enough to be a stand up comedian, although close. When I graduated a foreign correspondent by the name of Clark Todd, who worked for CTV was kidnapped and killed in Beirut. So I thought of these three options and decided to go with hockey play by play.
I didn’t quite make it here, but when I graduated from Ryerson in 1984 it was when TSN just started and I was lucky enough to get into TSN very very early. I think I was employee number twelve. I worked to start Sportsdeck, which was the precursor for SportsCentre. From there I moved up the ranks. I’ve been in this industry for almost 35 years now with a few detours in entertainment, but really for the most part I have been in sports media my entire career since 1984.
JW: It’s quite the accomplishment to become the number one sports media brand in Canada, what elements go into an achievement like that?
SM: I have a pretty standard formula that I say works. It’s comprised of three parts. Number one, state your vision or goal. Number two, create a winning culture and winning team. Number three, execute with integrity. This is a very important distinction. Not necessarily execute with perfection because you’ll never do everything right. You’re always going to make mistakes along the way, but if you execute with integrity than hopefully your brand comes across as authentic and you’re creating a culture that is not only a winning culture, but a culture full of ethically good people.
Looking back at what we did at Sportsnet on day one when I arrived back in 2010 after having worked there from 1989 to 2003 I met with the sports staff and I said we’re going to be the number one sports media brand in Canada within five years. I gave people what I call permission to win and that gave people a great amount of talent and energy. While we didn’t have the roadmap of how we were going to make that claim a reality we took advantage of the opportunities as they came along because we set that goal. Rather than just being okay with being competitive, we wanted to win. Sports in my opinion is about one thing and that’s winning. If you’re in the sports business, whether you’re on the team side, on the media side, or any part of it you tend to be a competitive person. I’ve always wanted to win whenever I’ve been part of a team.
JW: With all the games and events you’ve produced is there anything that stands out to you as a highlight or special on a personal level?
SM: There are a number. One of my favourites was the World Junior hockey championships in 1991 in Saskatoon. It was the first World Juniors that TSN did and I produced those games. That was the year Eric Lindros played for the Canadians and Pavel Bure played for the Russians. It was a round robin tournament at the time but it still came down to Canada versus Russia in the final game. John Slaney scored the winning goal and we just happened to have his mother mic’d and are in the stands. It was my first introduction to the World Junior tournament. It’s always been one of my favourites and I think TSN has done a terrific job of making it into a national institution that was the beginning of that journey. That would certainly be one of them.
More recently, developing and putting Rogers Hometown Hockey on the air at Sportsnet which was a labor of love for both myself and Ron MacLean and the entire team. That’s a highlight. Also having done and being part of the production team for eleven Olympic games. Those are all highlights. There are lots of individual ones along the way but I would say those are the ones that come to mind quickly.
JW: What’s your opinion on the way sports media has changed and is changing especially with younger generations? You used to have just television and radio and now with social media you’re able to have these HD highlights and clips in real team and people are able to discuss the content in real time online. How do you think that’s changed the industry and what do you think of that direction?
SM: Well I think there’s a real positive to that. There’s more ways to become engaged in sports than there ever has been. Certainly compared to when I started in the industry in 1984. We’ve come light years from that. Becoming a fan is more accessible, it’s easier, the information around the teams, players, leagues that you love is way more accessible. People have become way more engaged as sports fans. While they may consume the product differently, I think the shear volume of sports fans and the shear volume of minutes consumed on various platforms has skyrocketed over the years, so that’s a great opportunity.
The downside is probably that the most recent generation of fans don’t necessarily consume full games all the time the way I would have when I was eighteen or nineteen years old. They consume snippets of it on various platforms, but if you use those platforms properly to build stars, to build affinity you can still bring those people back to where the real money is made in sports media and in the sports landscape, which is either watching games in their entirety or attending games. The one big issue I see with the way sports is being consumed right now is a challenge that’s prevalent in the entire entertainment industry and that’s piracy of content. Too many people are finding ways to circumvent the paid ecosystem of sports content or any entertainment content. As technology improves we’ll be able to deal with that, but when people steal content that’s not good for the entire system from the media right down to players’ salaries. If I were to look at one big red flag in the industry it would be pirated content of all types.
JW: Working in sports and media is a dream for a lot of people. With it being such a competitive field what advice would you give to young people chasing that dream?
SM: Lots of little bits of advice. The sports business like the entertainment business looks incredibly sexy and it is a really exciting field. I’ve enjoyed 35 years of working in it and loved almost every minute. It is a business though and you’ve got to look at it as a business not just a hobby. Just because you’re a sports fan doesn’t mean you’re necessarily the right fit for the sports business. When there’s that much interest around an industry there’s a supply and demand issue. The supply of people wanting to work in the business usually outweighs the number of jobs and you’ve got to be aware of that. If you’re going into the business for the reason of making a lot of money and money is your motivator you should probably go into the banking business. If you’re into it because you’re truly passionate about sports and about telling stories or providing entertainment to fans than that’s probably the right thing and hopefully the career will follow.
The other big bit of advice, that it sounds like you’re following is that I tell people that everybody who is a potential sports media professional has more access to audience than ever before and every sports media professional is their own media conglomerate. You can start your own blog, you can start your own online network, you can create an audience. That’s a powerful tool. It’s also a responsibility. You look at someone like a Steve Dangle, who has used his own personal media brand and his own media network to literally create a job and a brand for himself. I think that’s the way the industry is going to work over the next ten to twenty years.
The dark side or the flip side of that is if you have an audience you also have a responsibility. As quickly as you can gain notoriety for being good you can become notorious for being stupid. There’s no such thing in my opinion as social media, it’s all media, it’s just the size of the audience that changes. You can reach a gigantic audience really quickly by being stupid and negative. You need to be your own censor, you need to be your own standards and practices department to make sure whatever you’re putting out is responsible, it’s journalistically sound and that you’re not spreading rumours, hate, negativity, because none of that really adds to the ecosystem. I tell students all the time that nothing of any significance has ever been built on a base of negativity. If you want to go on social media and be negative, my guess is you’re never going to make a successful career for yourself. There’s a difference between negative and critical. You have to be your own media brand and police your own brand.
JW: One last question. What’s next for you and is there any new challenge you’re looking to tackle that you haven’t had an opportunity to take on yet in your career?
SM: I’ve been really lucky in my career. I’ve had lots of terrific opportunities. I’ve worked as I said, eleven Olympics, multiple world championships, Stanley Cup finals, every major sporting event in the world and have been really really lucky to work with great people. My next step is going to be something that’s a little bit more fun for me, a little less corporate, a little closer to content. I’m probably still a couple of months from being able to announce what I’m doing. I’m enjoying my life and my wife and having great travels around the world. At some point I’ll come out and tell people what’s next for me because I’m not totally ready to hang it up yet.