SMG Featured Profile : John Horn

Taylor Shold: Tell us about yourself, who are you and what do you do?
John Horn:
My name is John Horn and I am a Freelance Producer, Reporter & Host and have been working in the sports broadcasting industry in both TV and Radio for 16 years. I grew up in Vancouver and moved to Toronto in 2007

I do the majority of my work on Live Event Programming at TSN and also dabble in TSN Radio and do contract work for MLB Network, Comcast Sportsnet & the ATP World Tour.

Taylor: How has networking helped your career?
John: Networking has played a huge part in my career especially of late. I have worked for 4 of the biggest companies in the broadcasting industry but last year I decided to start my own company (Around the Horn Media) which allowed me to work for anyone who wanted to hire me. When you are a freelance guy you only work when someone hires you so it is crucial to network. Being in the business for many years I have met many great people. If you work hard, know your stuff, have good attitude and good personality people will recognize this and will be more than happy to either recommend you or in some cases hire you. If it wasn’t for the number of people I know, it could be a tough grind. Recently a former cameraman I worked with contacted me to work for Turner Sports for the NBA All-Star weekend.

Taylor: What have been some of the biggest struggles you’ve faced and how have you overcome them?
John: One of the biggest struggles I have faced is getting people to give you a chance. You may have the best Resume with lots of work experience and some great references but until you get a chance to show what you can do, what you have on paper doesn’t really mean anything.
Make sure you stand out, be creative when you can, think outside the box. What can you bring to the table that other people can’t. If you show you are willing to do whatever it takes and have a good attitude you will get opportunities.

The other struggle in this industry is balancing your career with your family. When you are single working long hours, weekends and holidays isn’t that big of a deal. That changes when you have a family. Many couples in this industry don’t survive because of the pressures, hours and demands. Make sure you don’t get wrapped up in sports 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Know when to take a breather. Get away from it and spend quality time with your wife and kids. They have to put up with a lot and many times you can’t be there when needed. Recognize that and be thankful for their support of YOUR career.

Taylor: If you could go back and tell your 18-year-old self about this business…what would it be?
John: Enjoy the moment. Often times you get so wrapped up in your work you don’t realize how lucky you are to be in this industry. When I first started, I never would have thought I would have had the opportunity to cover 3 Olympic games, Stanley Cup Finals, Grey Cups, Golf Grand Slams, tennis tournaments and the recent Blue Jays run. The countless games I have attended over the years is crazy.

They say at your wedding you should take 5 minutes to look around and soak everything in so you remember the moment. I should have done more of that over the years at sporting events. I do that now and keep all my media credentials as momentos.

Taylor: What advice do you have for someone trying make it in broadcasting?
John: If someone is looking to get into this industry there are two important things you must do. Be patient and do anything. Don’t expect to come out of broadcast or journalism school and expect to be an anchor on a national sports network or be Producing Trade Centre. It takes time. There are people who are on air and in important positions behind the camera for a reason. They have likely put in time as an intern, cut highlights, worked on graphics or helped Nabil Karim choose the right hair product. The more experience you can get working your way up is valuable and will make you better at what you do.

Never say no when you first start out. The job may not be ideal out of the gate and the hours can be long and late. Put in a good effort with a good attitude and it will make you feel good and you will get noticed.

Also, don’t think you know it all. You really don’t know anything. Be a team player not an individual and listen to the people who have the experience. Dressing well never hurts either!


TSN TradeCentre Review

It’s one of the craziest days on the NHL calendar. Our annual TradeCentre show on TSN.

Although it was pretty quiet on the trade front with just 17 deals taking place on Trade Deadline Day, the show provided lots of insight from our expert insiders including Darren Dreger, Pierre Lebrun, Bob McKenzie, Craig Button and others plus we delivered some fun yet goofy moments throughout the show. James Duthie, Corrie Moore and myself put together some of the fun bits you may have seen including a Kiss Cam, Prime Minister races and Celebrity Look-A-Likes. You may also have seen the T-Shirt cannon moment with Marty Biron and Jennifer Hedger.

The ratings were decent and once again showed that sports fans in Canada still choose to watch TSN for their NHL coverage when they can.

Below is a link to the review written by Davis Shoalts of the Globe and Mail who spent the day watching TradeCentre from behind the scenes:

“TSN’s Trade Center Coverage makes the most of a very slow deadline day”

John Horn

Oct 31st…not just Halloween

As a young kid, Oct 31st was one of the best nights of the year. Dressing up in your favorite costume was the coolest thing to do and nothing beat endless free candy and getting a chance to stay up late. During my teenage years I will never forget hopping on the bus to Chinatown to buy illegal firecrackers in a back alley or heading to one of those temporary stores and spending all of my paper route money buying the biggest and loudest fireworks I could. It was all about trying to one up your buddies.
Then after high school it was all about the house parties or nightclubs. Ah good times.

But in 1998, Oct 31st changed for me… forever. After a 3 1/2 year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, my Dad passed away on that day. I remember it like it was yesterday. The early morning phone call, the reaction on my Mom’s face, seeing my Dad for the last time. Moments that will stay in my mind forever. It was the toughest night of my life. A day of pretend suddenly became all too real.

Two things always bothered me. My Dad would never get to meet my future wife and kids and he would never get to see me do what I really wanted to do, work in sports broadcasting. He missed the broadcasting part by less than a calendar year.

In 1999, I was on the 12th hole at a golf course in Vancouver on Labour Day Monday and I got a call from Barry Macdonald. He had read my resume and was looking for some part-time help at a show called Sports Page. This wasn’t just any show, this was Sports Page!

The #1 sports TV show in BC. Every night at 11pm, hundreds of thousands of sports fans across the province would watch Global TV every night for the show. The fastest 30 minutes in sports television and at that time the ONLY place to watch ALL your sports hilites featuring local and professional sports teams. I knew guys who ended dates early so they could get home to watch “The Page”!

“BMac” asked me if I would be interested in helping out on the show. After playing it all cool and not sounding too anxious, I agreed. I proceeded to spray my next 3 shots off the tee. I couldn’t focus. I would be working at Sports Page! Man my Dad would be proud. He always said make sure you are doing something you enjoy doing. This would be it!

During my early tenure on the show, I would work on both the early sports cast which ran on the 6pm news and then on the big show at 11pm. Archiving, scoreboard writing, working on graphics and doing dinner runs to Wendy’s were all part of my role. I was a deer in headlights at first but quickly fit in with the guys. I knew my stuff, had a good sense of humour and liked to have fun—three things I was told you had to have to stay in this business.

However, I found out quickly, things weren’t all fun and games every night. During my first month at “The Page” I learned how a show which prided itself on fun had to handle tragedy. On Sept 25th, recently crowned US Open Champion golfer Payne Stewart had died. It was a shock to many. Such a well known athlete in the prime of his sport, gone after his private plane lost cabin pressure and eventually crashed. Two weeks earlier NBA Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain had died too and “Sweetness” Walter Payton lost his fight with liver disease in early November.

Despite these black marks in sports nothing will compare to what happened on the afternoon of Oct 31st, 1999.
It was already a tough day for me. The 1 year anniversary of my Dad’s death. Trying to keep my mind on things was difficult but what made it easier was I was working that day. Doing what I loved to do, working at Sports Page.

As usual, on a Sunday, we had our early sportscast on the news plus our regular show at 11pm. Several of the guys working on the show would often arrive early on the weekend to watch games. We had a US satellite setup at work so it was a perfect opportunity to watch football and hockey games for free. Sunday’s was also a day we would keep our eyes on on the track. That’s because BC boy Greg Moore would be racing. It was a big day for Greg as it was his last race competing for the Players Racing team. He was moving to the highly acclaimed Penske team the following season. A huge move for a local kid who had made it big!

Greg quickly became a sports icon in British Columbia. His journey to the top level of auto racing had been followed closely. Similar to Steve Nash’s rise to the NBA, everyone knew who Greg was in this town. He was the kid with glasses from Langley who once raced go carts, His Dad owned a car dealership. He was one of our own and when he was behind the wheel the province would be rooting for him. We also thought Greg was cool too because he use to tell the guys he would watch Sports Page whenever he was in town.

Since we had 2 TV’s in our office, we were watching football and the Indy Car race in California at the same time just to keep an eye on Moore’s final race of the year. Unfortunately, what turned out to be the final race of the year, turned out to be the final race of his life.

In a matter of moments, Greg Moore lost control of his car coming around a turn and crashed. It was a bad crash. Our room went silent. We could tell from the moment his car hit the concrete barrier it wasn’t good. The preparation had already begun. We knew this could be a tough night so we started preparing right away. Not long after, an announcement was made, Greg Moore had died. We couldn’t believe it. Even in a sport that was so dangerous, how could this happen to Greg. Just 24 years old with his entire life and career in front of him.

Whether it’s news or sports, when something “big” happens, good or bad it was all hands on deck. Our entire staff, some on a day off came in to work on this story. We went around town to get comments from race fans, we interviewed former coaches, got reactions from other drivers, took in press conferences, heard from medical staff, you name it we did it. We were the only show in town so we did everything we could to tell the story and give a tribute to Greg that he deserved including a report summarizing his great yet shortened career.

I will never forget sitting in the control room just after 11pm, watching the show and thinking to myself, how could this have happened. I thought of my Dad, on the same day a year earlier passing away. I had to wipe my eyes.

After the show that night we were all drained. The shock had become a reality. In the 20 years Sports Page had been on the air, the guys said it was the hardest show they had ever done. Less than 2 months into my broadcasting career it was the hardest show I had ever done.

For many years Oct 31st was never the same. I always skipped the parties, didn’t wear costumes and passed on the candy. Each year I just wanted to hang out at home, drink in hand and remember.

That all changed in 2011. Ironically, on the day I dreaded the most, on Oct 31st, my wife gave birth to our daughter. On a day that was always remembered for tough times, it could now be remembered for something great.

Those two years in the late 90’s will never be forgotten but at least something good came out of Halloween.

John Horn

Major Sports Broadcasting Contracts in Canada

This article aims to educate you about which companies hold the respective sports broadcasting contracts in Canada. The industries covered include Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey, Motorsports and Soccer.

In Baseball, Major League Baseball, Sportsnet, with parent company Rogers Communications being the owner of its sole Canadian franchise, the Toronto Blue Jays, holds national rights to Major League Baseball in Canada. This includes assorted games from the United States (the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Los Angeles Dodgers), the MLB All-Star Game, and the postseason. Games air across Sportsnet and its sister national services Sportsnet One and Sportsnet 360. Since May 2010, rights to ESPN’s Monday Night Baseball, Wednesday Night Baseball, and Sunday Night Baseball have been sub-licensed to TSN, in exchange for its previous rights to a package of Blue Jays games. In 2014, after successfully sponsoring its addition to the whitelist of foreign channels approved for carriage in Canada, Rogers Cable became the first provider in Canada to offer MLB Network.

In Basketball, the National Basketball Association’s Canadian division is managed by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), parent company of the Toronto Raptors. In turn, MLSE is majority-owned by Bell Canada and Rogers Communications. Therefore, coverage is contained in between co-owned TSN and Sportsnet properties, along with the MLSE-owned NBA TV Canada. Toronto Raptors games are primarily aired by TSN and TSN2, with certain games airing on Sportsnet, Sportsnet One, or Sportsnet 360. Ancillary Raptors content, including game encores, air on NBA TV Canada. TSN exclusively carries the NBA Finals.

In Football, under the Canadian Football League (CFL), TSN shows all games including playoffs and the Grey Cup. On the other hand, RDS shows all Montreal games in French; as well as playoffs and the Grey Cup. In regards to the National Football League (NFL), as of the 2014 Season, CTV airs Sunday afternoon games in both “early” (1:00 pm ET) and “late” (4:05 / 4:25 pm ET) windows, most playoff games, and the Super Bowl. CTV Two occasionally airs additional Sunday afternoon games. In Atlantic Canada, all regular-season games in the Sunday late-afternoon window are relocated to CTV Two Atlantic. Additional Sunday afternoon games, and playoff games interfering with other major events carried on CTV, may air on one or more of the TSN feeds. The divisional playoff game on late Sunday afternoon usually airs on TSN due to the possibility of a late-running game interfering with CTV’s broadcast of the Golden Globe Awards that evening.
TSN airs all games in the NBC Sunday Night Football and ESPN Monday Night Football packages, including the NFL Kickoff game, but excluding NBC’s game on U.S. Thanksgiving night. Sportsnet airs all games in the Thursday Night Football package, all (U.S.) Thanksgiving Day games, and the Pro Bowl.

In Hockey, under the National Hockey League (NHL), Rogers Communications is the single national rightsholder of the NHL in Canada as of the 2014–15 NHL season. Most games are aired on Sportsnet. In addition, most regional games, including teams “Vancouver Canucks”, “Edmonton Oilers”, “Calgary Flames” and “Montreal Canadiens” are aired on Sportsnet properties. The Toronto Maples Leafs air 16 games on Sportsnet and 26 games on TSN.

-John Horn

How to Become a Sports Broadcaster

Sports broadcasters, or more commonly referred to as “sportscasters”, specialize in one of two streams: the first being play-by-play and the second being analytical. Opportunities for work in Canada exist in both television and radio, however for the aspiring freelancer, entry-level positions can typically be found through smaller stations. This type of work can be quite stressful at times, with tight deadlines that must be adhered to. An upside to this line of work is that it is usually performed indoors within a climate control studio environment. As well, in addition to during game coverage, sportscasters will often provide commentary and analysis pre and post-game too. They are found behind the scenes providing insider information.

Now, you may be wondering about what it takes to become a sports broadcaster, whether you’re in Toronto or in another part of Canada. The first step is that you must be a sports enthusiast! You must possess a love for sports in general and at the same time have a sport that you’re passionate about. Most broadcasters specialize in broadcasting the one sport that they know best. Knowledge of the sport can be acquired through watching games on TV, on the computer or even live in person. This is just half of the equation though. The second step is to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in broadcasting, communications, or another directly relevant stream. By completing a 4-year program, you will become equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary to succeed in your career. Curriculums typically include courses in mass media, English communication and writing, audio production, broadcast journalism as well as communication law. While you are completing your Bachelor’s, it is advised that you take any and all opportunities to announce games for college / university teams. Working for the schol can provide invaluable experience as well as connections into the industry. While doing this, you should also create a reel to showcase your skills to any future employers. The third step is to complete an internship. By doing this at an accredited program and institution, you will gain extensive on-the-job training under the supervision of skilled industry professionals. Once you have completed these steps, the final step is to begin your career and take on relevant, experience-building work. This work can be in the form of journalism, reporting or even a production assistant or equipment operator. There is nothing wrong with starting out in one of those positions since they serve the purpose of enabling you to demonstrate your ability for sports announcing. If you are very successful, you may just end up hosting your own television or radio show one day.

If you have any questions about becoming a sports broadcaster in Canada, I am the right person to ask!

-John Horn

Around the Horn Media

Offering his expertise in a freelance capacity, John Horn provides clients with an extensive skill set to deliver highly-esteemed sports media productions. Contact John for your sports broadcasting needs.