boston.com Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe
Super Bowl XXXVIII: Pats vs. the Cats
SPORTVIEW

Krafts had media foresight

Having a newspaper, radio station, and TV station -- not to mention a few websites -- under your corporate umbrella certainly would seem to put you in the "media mogul" category.

The Kraft family, in making sure Patriots fans have every opportunity to follow their team, has assembled all of the above in its decade of team ownership.

OK, so the paper is a weekly and the other communications entities are limited to covering the football team (so far). And, yes, the radio and webcasts are accessible only over the Internet; nonetheless, it's an impressive group of holdings, one the rest of the National Football League has checked out and copied to one degree or another.

With the Patriots in the Super Bowl for the second time in three seasons and third time in eight years, the team's operating procedures -- including its in-house media operation -- will get scrutinized again in the coming week.

What the curious will find is:

* The team newspaper, Patriots Football Weekly.

* Patriots.com Radio: Six hours of daily live team news and talk.

* Patriots Video News: Seven to 10 minutes of fresh daily video.

* Plus the constantly updated team website, www.Patriots.com.

How did this come about? Simply put, Patriots vice chairman Jonathan Kraft looked into the future.

Ten years ago, when the Krafts were in their first season of ownership, a young writer contacted Jonathan, pitching the idea of an in-house newspaper for Patriots fans. "I figured Robert Kraft was besieged with requests and ideas," said Fred Kirsch. "So I wrote a letter to Jonathan during the season."

The Krafts liked the idea. Kirsch heard back within a week, and Patriots Football Weekly published its first issue in April 1995. That was a month after www.Patriots.com was launched, making the Patriots the first professional team to have its own website. PFW, the newspaper, wraps up its ninth season with the Super Bowl and starts Volume X next month. The publication has widespread newsstand availability thanks to a distribution deal with USA Today and has added its own website -- www.pfwonline.com -- for subscribers.

"I've learned that foresight is a family trait," said Kirsch. "Jonathan can take something new to him and extrapolate how it can be useful to him and the team. It's a powerful tool in any business."

Kirsch was hoping to publish a newspaper with color photos on the cover and black and white inside. The Krafts opted for all color. "From Day 1, I learned two things about Jonathan," said Kirsch. "First, if something is worth doing, he's going to do it the right way. Second, if you have a season ticket, the Krafts are committed to making sure it carries added value beyond a seat in the stadium."

In the early days of PFW, Kirsch and a couple of interns worked out of The Kraft Group's Boston offices, then in rented space in Walpole, and finally in a large coat closet in the Patriots Club at the old Foxboro Stadium. "Every night, we'd have to pack up our computers and papers and store them away," said Kirsch.

It's a far cry from their present offices at Gillette Stadium, which is home to a full-time staff and an editing suite for the team's video arm.

Growth has been constant.

"In 1997, I got a call from Jonathan one night," said Kirsch. "He was on the treadmill and had made a decision. He told me, `I want video on the website.' "

How advanced was the concept in those days?

"I picked up the phone and called a company called AudioNet, which was the biggest provider of internet broadcasting services at the time," said Kirsch. "A fellow named Mark Cuban answered the phone. Yes, it was that Mark Cuban."

Cuban, of course, went on to make billions pioneering the streaming of audio and video on the Internet (Broadcast.com) and now owns the NBA's Dallas Mavericks.

"Patriots Cybersidelines" launched in 1997, and later became "Patriots Video News" as technology evolved and allowed the webcasts to become more TV-like.

"Patriots Video News" is sending two teams of its own to the Super Bowl. Regular editor Bob Doyle and reporter Brian Lowe, who put out the nightly webcast all year, will be joined by a "second team" consisting of New England Revolution (also part of the Kraft Group) broadcaster/PR man Brad Feldman and Chris Ramsey of Boston Bureau Productions to provide daily reports. Boston Bureau Productions works with Channel 5 on "Patriots All Access" and other team TV initiatives. Despite being around the stadium all day, the PFW and PVN staffs are on their own when it comes to access to players. "We only get special access if we're doing a special team project," said Kirsch. "When it comes to news-gathering, we have the same access and protocols as the regular media."

And the same reactions.

"We at PFW pride ourselves on being fair and objective," said Kirsch. "So we've gotten our share of criticism from players and coaches. Coach Belichick can be tougher on us than the rest of the media, sort of like the father who coaches his son's baseball team and is harder on his own kid."

The PFW staff also is versatile. Staffers Bryan Morry, Paul Perillo, and Andy Hart work the noon-2 p.m. stint on Patriots.com Radio. They also do the "Patriots Football Weekly" TV show on Channel 56, and think nothing of answering an out-of-town request for a radio or TV interview.

Stadium announcer John Rooke, a veteran of New England radio and TV, and an ESPN Radio regular, does the 2-4 p.m. "Patriots Playbook" radio show, which reaches displaced Patriot fans around the country and world. From 4-6 p.m., Gary Grodecki replays the best interviews, game clips, sound bites, and callers on "Sounds of the Patriots." The three shows then re-air between 6 p.m. and midnight.

"Because a lot of our callers are from all over the country and world, our shows often have a different perspective from what you get on local radio," said Kirsch.

The Patriots' media initiatives are a microcosm of how the Krafts operate, something folks from around the NFL will discover this week. They'll also see why, in 2002, "Sports Business Daily" took a similar look at the stadium, Patriots and Revolution, and named Robert and Jonathan Kraft its Sports Industrialists of the Year.

Celtics not on

From the bizarre file: There's no NFL today, so the Celtics have an afternoon game scheduled (1 p.m. at New Jersey). But because it's in ABC's "exclusive window," the game won't be televised in Boston as the network airs Kings-Mavericks (Channel 5, 1 p.m.). The only beneficiaries should be radio broadcasters Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell, who have the call on WWZN (1510-AM). The same scenario could happen to the Celtics again April 4 vs. Washington.

Bill Griffith's e-mail address is griffith@globe.com

in today's globe
Super Bowl extras
SEARCH THE ARCHIVES
 
Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives