Sunday media: The ins and outs for Spectrum SportsNet “Lakers Insider” Mike Bresnahan

Spectrum SportsNet

By all transparent measurements, Charter Communications is in the Lakers’ business, with its Spectrum SportsNet covering the team as close to a 24/7 cycle as it can possibly do.
While the Lakers didn’t own this channel — the Dodgers later would do so with SportsNet L.A., produced and distributed by TWC, now owned by Charter – there was the understanding from the start that the franchise would be the marquee asset and get far more in-depth coverage, good or very good, than previous rights holders Fox Sports West and KCAL-Channel 9 could ever manage.
That’s what comes with a 20-year, $3 billion rights arrangement.
“The approval rights were born out of our desire to be more involved in how our brand is portrayed,” Tim Harris, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of the Lakers, said at the time of the launch in 2012.
Mark Shuken, the TWC Regional Networks manager and senior VP at the time, added: “The Laker relationship is transcendent … (the channel) will share the truth” in partnership with the Lakers and “make sure their viewpoint is represented.”
There is favoritism in some ways, but to stay legit, it can’t go overboard. Fair and balanced isn’t always going to happen, no matter what mechanisms are in place.
Four years later, enter Mike Bresnahan into the Lakers’ coverage, a SSN employee whose job it is now to cultivate information from his connections.
The role he played in Tuesday’s coverage of the Lakers’ announcement that Magic Johnson would be the new president of basketball operations was how he conducted the live interviews during the half-hour presentation on SSN.
And it got watched: SSN reports that it got a .38 household rating in the 7 p.m. hour that day, after many repeats. That was the highest-rated “Access SportsNet: Lakers” non-game day show since the start of the 2015-16 season.
We caught up with Bresnahan to talk about how he fits into this role after years of covering the team front the print side as the Lakers’ beat writer for the Los Angeles Times for the previous 12 years.
Some of the outtakes:
His thoughts about how he wants to continue going to games, home and away, to generate information: “I don’t want to be just some guy prattling in a studio about what I think I know. I insist they send me out on road trips — I’ve already done four this season, including Oklahoma City (right after the Magic Johnson hiring).”
His incentive to make the move from print reporter to TV reporter: “I had done the Lakers beat for 12 years and felt I broke a ton of news, and maybe that was all I could do on the beat. I had the last 12 years of Kobe Bryant’s career. We had our ups and downs and didn’t see eye to eye, but I think there was mutual respect. I realized this was a good way to out on the print size after cataloging Kobe for so long. It seemed like a good time to try something new.”
On thinking of this as a career path: “(TV) hasn’t been that different. I’m green-lighted as a reporter to track stories. Basically, it’s just a different medium. Instead of behind the scenes in an interview with Magic Johnson and Jeanie Buss, it’s broadcast for fans to see. I felt we needed to ask questions on the minds of the Lakers fans. I try to put myself in the chair of the fan. That’s what has always guided me. What does Joe from Encino or Fred from Carson want to hear.”
On whether he now feels he’s a performer in a TV show: “I still feel like I’m a guy asking questions, which is not always easy. When we had semicircles around players or coaches after a game or practice, I wasn’t the first to ask a question. I’d wait and then jump in. Now they want me to jump in to get the answers, so they can get it on tape and edit it for the postgame show. There is more speed and immediacy in that respect. I had some experience already as a reporter who would come onto the Time Warner Cable Lakers shows for the last four years, going in a couple of times a month. I know how I need to bring energy to the show. Now I have to do that almost every day I’m in. So there’s a transition even in that. And I wasn’t always getting haircuts or wearing suits all the time. We do have a mirror on the set below our table, but I haven’t used it yet. I’m not concerned if I have a hair out of place.”
On what he’s asked to do by Spectrum SportsNet: “They want to have more opinions in their discussions, as well as breaking news. That sounded good to me. It’s not like it’s going to be Stephen A. Smith versus Skip Bayless, which is fine because I’m neither one of those. I was intrigued by what they wanted to accomplish, break news in a different way to a different audience, and I really have been enjoying that. I watch TV differently now. I tape the show every day. I’m watching how people ask questions and learn from that. How body posture is important. Those were not the kinds of things I learned when I went to journalism school.”
On how other media reporters treat him now: “It feels like a pretty natural transition. Not like I’m feeling anything special. I’ve known these reporters before as people and I still talk to them about things. I’m never too far away from them and there’s no animosity. It’s actually been pretty chill. There are no jerks on the beat. Everyone has been supportive and cool.”
More about Bresnahan and the SSN approach in Sunday’s column at this link.

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