For a guy who grew up a Knicks fan in Bergen County, New Jersey, it seemed like Jon Diament has one of the best jobs in TV, selling commercials for Turner Sports.
Then the coronavirus shut down the National Basketball Association, cancelled the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and delayed the start of the Major League Baseball season, snuffing out what had been shaping up as a fairly lucrative year in terms of ad revenue for Turner.
Diament and his Turner colleagues are looking to make a comeback in May via a charity golf event featuring a rematch of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, with quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning joining the fun.
But like other sports fans, Diament is looking for activities to keep himself physically and mentally fit. “I find an half hour in the middle of the day to do a spin class or weight lift, anything to break up the monotony of being on the phone or a Zoom meeting,” he said.
B+C business editor Jon Lafayette talked with Diament about life without sports. An edited transcript follows.
How did this golf match come about? This is a rematch. We did the first one in Las Vegas and we’ve been thinking about a new format to make it more interesting. When COVID hit, we decided we’d be one of the first, maybe only, live sporting events. Bringing other celebrities was always in the works, and playing for charity felt like the right thing. Hopefully it will be an entertaining few hours of relief of being able to watch live sports again, during the coronavirus crisis.
What was your reaction to the NBA and the NCAA basketball tournament being canceled? From a financial perspective, we’re super-disappointed. We sell the NCAA Tournament with CBS, and we claimed our sellout position months before the tournament. That never happened before. With the NBA, we were pacing way ahead of where we needed to be, and then all of a sudden we got the rug pulled out. It sounds like a small thing with how bad the pandemic’s been, but it did hurt us.
What do you have to sell now? We have some things going on, but we miss not having the tournament and the NBA in the second quarter, that’s for sure. We’ve got NBA TV,
NBA.com. We also have Bleacher Report in our portfolio. We’re doing podcasting with some of our personalities and producing things for social media. So I wouldn’t say we’re completely not working, but I wouldn’t say we’re at full capacity. We should be in playoff mode right now. We’ve been quite busy, having a lot of discussions with clients about what their plans are.
What are you telling advertisers? When do you guess sports will be back? We’re long-term partners with most of the advertisers; 82% to 90% of them are consistent with us from year to year. We try to work with our advertisers and encourage them to participate in the media we currently have on the air, whether it’s CNN, HLN, TBS, TNT, tru TV or Cartoon Network. We’re hopeful the NBA will come back and we’ll talk about some of those commitments when that happens. I think the folks at MLB and NBA are working feverishly to figure out how to salvage the summer and get live sports back on the air.
Are you a Zoom guy or a Hangouts guy? We use a Microsoft app called Teams. I have a happy hour with people from the sports industry every Thursday. We have league people, agency people, talent firms. It’s a tough time for the industry, but we all get together using Team for that.
Shows in your queue? The Sopranos again and Ozark.
Book on your nightstand? Mental Toughness by A.C. Drexel.
Favorite podcast? The Stream Room with Charles Barkley and Ernie Johnson.
Destination on your bucket list? I am so excited to travel, I’ll go anywhere. … I’ve never been to Australia, so that’s where I would go.
Recent memorable meal? In early March, the Men’s Basketball Committee Meal at Quality Italian [in Manhattan]. It’s a formal get-together between Turner, CBS and the NCAA. On the way to the dinner, I bumped into an NBA exec who said they were talking about the Warriors game being played without fans. I was shocked.