The Pelicans are preaching the power of a refresh.
On the floor and in the front office those changes are obvious. Rookie sensation Zion Williamson and executive vice president David Griffin provided a welcoming jolt of renewal this summer, reshaping the narrative around a franchise badly in need of a reboot.
Now, the Pelicans are trying to get that sense of revitalization to translate to its airwaves for the 73 games it will broadcast this season on Fox Sports New Orleans, starting with the team’s preseason tilt against the Utah Jazz on October 11th.
It’ll be the first time the Pelicans can unveil their re-engineered broadcast team for the 2019-20 season, and just like the on-court Pelicans, the team’s television broadcast is taking a bit of the old and mixing in several new elements.
First, they inserted a new producer to run the telecast, moving Josh Richardson from his post as the Pelicans’ executive director of game presentation into the broadcast truck, lending a new leader to the television operation.
While play-by-play announcer Joel Meyers and sideline reporter Jennifer Hale remain in place for their eighth season in New Orleans, they’ll be flanked by a new partner on the headsets. Former Hornets guard Antonio Daniels departs the Fox Sports regional studio to man the sideline as the Pelicans’ full-time color analyst, adding a dose of brashness to the proceedings.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to work alongside Joel Meyers, Antonio Daniels and Jennifer Hale and the talented team at Fox Sports New Orleans to broadcast Pelicans basketball in New Orleans and across the Gulf South,” Richardson said. “We are looking forward to the debut of new enhancements this season including behind the scenes content we feel confident fans will enjoy and tune in for more.”
But, the biggest difference will be Daniels, who replaces David Wesley, but isn’t an unfamiliar face to the rest of the Pelicans brass. He shares chemistry with Meyers, having worked together on SiriusXM radio for the past four years, and history with Jrue Holiday, who he played with briefly in Philadelphia.
“I think we are taking the lead of the team and it’s all about retooling and revitalizing and giving everything a breath of fresh air,” Daniels said. “But I think all of that new energy coming in starts with Griff and what he’s doing to this whole franchise.
“He got this whole thing rolling in a different direction and the vision trickles down to everyone in the organization. It will absolutely have a positive effect on the broadcast. It’s a real blessing to be a part of it.”
Traditionally, the Pelicans local broadcast ratings have been neither boom-or-bust levels, not finishing the Top 5 or Bottom 5 of the league’s local ratings in the past several years. There’s been a core audience, but it’s proven difficult to move the needle significantly during the regular season.
However, New Orleans has proven to be a bountiful sports television market overall.
Not only has New Orleans led the NFL’s local ratings several times, including Week 1 of this season (the Saints’ Monday Night win over the Houston Texans), but the market actually flexed NBA muscle in recent years, posting the best ratings on ESPN playoff games in 2018 and finished No. 3 in national broadcast ratings last season (ESPN/TNT/ABC), according to Meyers.
So with a refurbished, refreshed product to watch, and a new direction at the top, Meyers and his re-worked broadcast team are plunging into a new season with a new energy, new optimism and a belief they can become a fixture in the local television landscape.
“The ground work is already there,” Meyers said. “The loyalty factor is already there. Now, it’s up to the franchise to deliver, and with Griff here, I am absolutely certain that is going to happen. So we’ve already got it here. The groundwork and the foundation has been laid. It’s perfect. And that’s why I talk about timing.
“There’s certain things under the ‘meant to be’ department, and I think Griff is meant to be here right now and the energy he’s brought in, combined with the creativity and foresight to make it sustainable, it’s going to carry over to our telecast. And our numbers are going to be not only where they’ve been before, but going to be even better.
“There’s a whole lot to be excited about.”