Jim Daddona has assumed a level-headed persona after more than 25 years of producing and directing television sports shows. That’s why he’s taking a wait-and-see approach to Major League Soccer’s new deal with Apple TV.
Announced June 14, the 10-year deal puts all MLS matches, Leagues Cup and MLS NEXT Pro and MLS NEXT selections in one place. Some games will still be available on cable stations like ESPN, but the local broadcast deals will no longer exist. Fans will have to pay an unknown fee for the new service.
It is believed that there will be a team of national commentators covering the games. It is also believed that fans will have the option to listen to local voices.
But there are still a lot of unknowns regarding next year, even for the people who work on the games. In fact, Daddona and his colleagues have regular conversations about what might be around the corner.
“If I’m being honest with you, of course there’s some kind of anxiety about it,” Daddona said. the bent musket. “When we see each other, it’s what everyone talks about. You know, ‘Did you hear something? What’s going on?’ People who have done it for a while and have shown that they have done a decent job are [feeling okay]… I think a lot of us will end up being a part of this. It’s just not definitively knowing if that’s true and what it means.”
Daddona noted that the new deal could be a positive for MLS, saying the quality of broadcasts could be more standardized. He said: “Hopefully there will be uniformity where every game will look similar in terms of production quality, the visuals you’re seeing and the announcers.”
This is not Apple’s first foray into the world of sports, as they have exclusive rights to some Major League Baseball games. That said, MLS’s shift to a model where most games won’t be broadcast on cable is a new frontier for American sports.
Daddona is no stranger to innovation. As someone who has produced football, baseball, hockey and more, she “is always trying to do something different, push the boundaries a little bit.” Some things work and some don’t.
He recalled mid-game interviews with the head coach, a feature several MLS teams adopted in the 2000s. Then-New England Revolution head coach Stevie Nicol was a willing participant, even if he led some Interesting TV moments.
“There were some times when nothing was happening, but as can happen, suddenly there is an attack,” Daddona said. “So we’d go down to it and basically nothing would happen and all of a sudden something would happen. There were a couple of times, in that Scottish accent, he was like, “Jesus!”
Mid-game interviews are a rarity now and something Daddona doesn’t think much of. However, he does not regret them, because being innovative is important in the world of television.
Apple’s deal has the potential to be groundbreaking, with many people opting to stream instead of paying for cable. Daddona anticipates that the Apple deal will appeal to a younger audience.
However, he has concerns. He worries that casual fans won’t invest enough to sign up, which could affect local interest in the team. The Revs recently benefited from their partnership with WBZ, which included detailed coverage of broadcasters like Dan Roche.
The Revs have long struggled to gain a foothold in the Boston media market and the Apple deal could make this even more difficult.
“I think WBZ did a good job this year and Dan Roche really seems to think it’s important, but it frustrates me when the Globe and other Boston media outlets talk about whatever and the Revs aren’t even considered one of the professional sports. . said Dalena. “That is in many markets. Any market that has a lot of professional sports, established sports, I feel like MLS falls short, for sure.”
“Boston is a tough nut to crack because there’s a great history, obviously, from all of their major sports,” Daddona continued. “It’s like New York, the same. NYCFC, they don’t have much coverage there. Red Bulls, they don’t get much coverage there. I thought it was funny, but it also pissed me off when [NYCFC] He had his banner. It was this little banner at Yankee Stadium for NYCFC. It is shameful. I get it, it’s not really their home, but it’s their home, and they won a championship.”
In short, Daddona isn’t entirely sure what to make of the Apple deal, saying, “It’s ten years, so I think there’s time for it to grow.” He later commented, “I don’t have anything definite about it. I think it has an opportunity to be a new way to consume a professional sports league. It could be at the forefront.”
This kind of casual attitude is what you would expect from an industry professional who has seen it all.
Daddona recalls a trip to Houston in the early 2000s when the Dynamo played at Robertson Stadium. It was an old stadium that required television crews to use a generator in order to broadcast. For some reason, the Revs team did not have the necessary equipment.
Everyone quickly got on the phone, struggling to locate a generator. They were successful, but it didn’t arrive until two hours before kick-off. They then needed to let the truck cool down before they could turn on any of the equipment.
There was uncertainty as to whether the Revs broadcast would go ahead as planned and Daddona recalled, “There were so many things wrong.” While they did not broadcast a pre-game segment, they did run one of the “most rudimentary games ever” as they only included the score bug and a few other graphics.
Another incident occurred in 2004 when Daddona and his colleague were scheduled to work back-to-back games. First was the MLS Eastern Conference final between the Revs and DC United on Saturday, November 6. With the game tied 3–3 at RFK Stadium after extra time, the two teams resorted to penalty kicks, ultimately resulting in a DC victory.
Daddona immediately jumped in a car and drove to Storrs, CT, to broadcast a Sunday UConn game. He slept in the car for an hour before going back to work. Still, that Revs playoff game is one of Daddona’s fondest memories.
Daddona was also present when Bruce Arena was unable to hear the announcers during his halftime hit on July 4, 2019, prompting him to infamously ask, “Does anyone know what’s going on here?” Daddona and his partners had everything properly prepared, but something went wrong. It was an unfortunate moment, but all they could do was laugh.
“He tests it beforehand and it works, but sure enough, when it comes time to do it, the headset doesn’t work,” Daddona said. “I thought Brad [Feldman] You might be a little upset about that because you don’t like having bugs in the air, but we all thought that was the most fun.”
Daddona has enjoyed producing segments with Arena, who “has a good sense of humor.” He admits that he tries to cut it off before Arena throws the headphones after her halftime interview, but often fails because he “does it too fast.”
The hardest thing about the current uncertainty regarding the new Apple TV deal is that Daddona isn’t sure who he’ll be collaborating with each week. He has worked with various organizations, including Columbus Crew and New York City FC, but has been around for 20 years on Revs broadcasts. As you can imagine, he has forged some close ties.
He remembers dinners with Paul Mariner, who “was a fantastic guy” with “the best stories.” Jay Heaps spent time in the booth before becoming head coach and “really immersed himself in it and did a lot of homework.”
Of course, Brad Feldman has been a central figure in Daddona’s career. The two have known each other for a long time and even worked together at WUSA games in the early days.
“It’s unbelievable,” Daddona said of Feldman. “He was a great boss, but an even better friend. He’s really the linchpin of the whole thing… Without him there, those productions wouldn’t happen.”
Daddona spent time away from the Revs to produce games for the Boston Red Sox. He remembers going to Feldman’s office to tell him about his new job. Feldman couldn’t have been nicer as he wished her well. A few years later, Feldman asked Daddona to come back.
“The team that we work with, many of those people have also done it for 20 years. It was like a family,” Daddona said. “[Feldman] He has been super loyal to me. She has been supportive. He always has my back. He is reciprocated. I always have his back on the broadcast.”
Daddona no longer believes that he will work with Feldman on a regular basis, but he hopes that they will meet from time to time. After all, he “considers him more of a friend than a co-worker.”
For now, Daddona will continue to produce and direct on a weekly basis and will soon travel to Qatar for the World Cup. He has become a fully fledged “footballer”, which is a bit surprising since his “knowledge of the rules and all that was very limited” when he started.
But Daddona was a quick learner, gaining a knack for placing charts and displaying replays. He doesn’t know what the next ten years will bring now that MLS has partnered with Apple, but he’s excited to learn, just as he has been for the past 25 years.
He is proud to be a part of the growing league.
“Of all the sports I’ve done, [soccer] he’s probably the least knowledgeable back then, but he’s been the best,” Daddona said. “I have come to love the sport. I love being part of the football culture and I am very happy that it has worked out.”