New book by Cheshire resident examines changing sports media

CHESHIRE – Over the last two years, high school, collegiate, and professional sports have been turned upside down.

Seasons were canceled or shortened. Fans were banned from attending games. In-season schedules were altered due to COVID-19-positive tests. Athletes and coaches had to adapt to an ever-changing landscape that provided little in the way of consistency.

Sounds like a pretty good time to do a deep dive into the world of sports media.

That’s exactly what town resident Dennis Deninger has done, with his new book, “Live Sports Media: The What, How, And Why of Sports Media.” An update to Deninger’s other work, “Sports on Television,” published a decade ago, this book takes an intimate look at how the pandemic, livestreaming services and changing demographics have impacted the sports media industry and and how that industry is likely to continue to change.

The book has received recognition from numerous media personalities.

“Dennis Deninger’s combination of extensive production experience in sports television and decades as a professor at Syracuse University’s prestigious Newhouse School make this comprehensive look at broadcast sports especially credible,” said Bob Costas, former NBC sports commentator who currently hosts the HBO show “Back on the Record with Bob Costas.”

“It’s amazing just how much has changed,” said Deninger, who spent years at ESPN as a producer and is now a professor of television, film and radio at Syracuse University. “Just ten years ago, you didn’t have all of these streaming services. Now, they are a (major force) in sports media.”

Deninger’s first book was an all-encompassing look at sports media at the time, offering readers a look at the history of sports on television as well as a behind-the-scenes look at how a sports telecast is produced. 

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The idea for an update was first raised by Deninger’s publisher, Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, back in the summer of 2020. Recognizing how much had transpired since 2010, when “Sports on Television” had been printed, and considering that Deninger suddenly found himself teaching from home via Zoom, the award-winning producer and executive was determined to get the project moving.

“I kind of took it on as my second full-time job,” he said.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the NBA season was halted in March of 2020, only to resume later that summer. The NCAA Tournament for basketball was canceled. High school sports seasons were also canceled, and fall collegiate seasons were threatened.

“The (Major League Baseball) season, only 30 percent of the games were played,” he recalled, “but 100% of the (television rights) fees were due.”

In addition, social upheaval impacted all sports. The Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice initiatives became a huge storyline in 2020 and 2021. Then, there was the influence of livestreaming services, as sports viewership began to migrate from traditional networks and cable channels to other outlets.

In order to capture this tumultuous time, Deninger conducted over 20 interviews with media professionals, from television executives and producers, to on-air talents such as ESPN’s Chris Fowler and CBS’s Ian Eagle.

“I can tell you, this process (of writing the book) has made me a stronger professor,” he said. “I am more up to date, more enlightened. I have always said that the more you know, the more questions you are going to ask.”

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Deninger sees the book, first and foremost, as offering a guide to those seeking to break into the industry in the coming years — the kinds of individuals who are most likely to take Deninger’s classes at Syracuse. However, he also believes that the book will be of interest to anyone who is fascinated by the sports media industry.

The book also offers some predictions as to where the media industry, and sports world in general, will go in the next several years. That’s the focus of Deninger’s final chapter, in which he tackles a world where fewer individuals in the coveted 18-24 age range are currently watching sports — Deninger mentioned how this year’s Super Bowl, despite overall positive ratings, saw a precipitous decline in viewership amongst the younger demographic.

“Live Sports Media: The What, How and Why of Sports Broadcasting” is available by visiting