It was announced yesterday that Bob McCown has signed a new, three year contract with Rogers to continue hosting Prime Time Sports on radio and television. McCown told me this contract took no time at all. You’ll find that surprising if you read the piece I wrote about McCown in this space two weeks ago. You’ll recall how he said he usually takes his sweet old time negotiating his contracts. “(This was) the quickest negotiation I’ve ever done,” McCown said about his new deal. “By miles. Same principles, but I knew that the money wasn’t going to be an issue. I had one thing that I wanted. I basically asked for what I wanted, but I asked for a lot more than what I wanted. And they said no, and then came back with an alternative amount, and I re-worked it and wound up getting essentially what I wanted and what I needed in the deal. It was one meeting of about twenty minutes and one phone call of about five minutes. Deal done. All time record. By miles the quickest and easiest deal I ever did.”
I conducted an extensive interview with McCown in November for my piece two weeks ago. We talked at length about his contract negotiation philosophies. He shared so much with me, and because he rarely does press, I thought I would post some more of what he had to say on negotiating his contracts. I found a lot of what he said very interesting, and at times hilarious. Below is a brief back and forth between he and I.
Bob McCown on WALKING AWAY: You have to go into a negotiation with the willingness to walk away, but it isn’t just arbitrary. You have to be willing to walk away at a certain point. But then again, you have to understand who you are, what your strengths are, what the guy at the other side of the table what his strengths are. Truthfully, probably 999 out of 1000 people should never take the approach of, ‘I’m willing to walk away,’ because it’s not a question about how good they are at their job, but what kind of job do they have? What you really want to ask yourself is, ‘Am I replaceable? Is there one other person that can do my job as well as I can do it? Are there a hundred other people or are there ten thousand other people who can do the job as well as I can do it?’ You have to be honest. So it starts with that premise. And most people fall into the ten thousand category. A few people may fall into the, ‘There’s a hundred other people.’ There are very few who fall into the, ‘I don’t know of anybody else who can do it.’ It’s not a question of ego, you gotta be honest in assessing where you are.
If you get misled by the ego, then you’re gonna get called and then you’re gonna end up out of a job and not able to get another one.
I always felt as though, ‘If I lose this job over a negotiation, I can get another job. And part of that is because of the offers that you get. And part of it is what you perceive your skill set is. And how important are you to this company, if at all. So you weigh all those things very carefully.
I go through a process in every negotiation where I’m constantly making notes that I keep private, but notes on – What I think my status is…Who I think could replace me…What would they be able to bring to the table that I wouldn’t? Read the people you’re opposite to you (at the table). Do you think they really give a shit whether they re-sign you or not? All those things. It’s like reading tea leaves. And it changes with the people, because I’ve negotiated essentially with the same, well not with the same company over and over again, but more or less. I did twenty years of one year contracts. The first multi year contract I did was at most, fifteen years ago.
I’ve been in the business for over forty years, so I signed a lot of contracts. And I signed one year deals. I think they got tired of going through the process with me over and over and over again. I think the first multi year deal I got was three years, and the last contract I signed was for six. I’ve done a lot of them. I’ve done a fair bit of research and homework and read a bunch of stuff about the skill of negotiating. I sort of came up with a formula that I’ve used over and over and over again. Obviously it’s changed an evolved over the years. You get smarter at things. You realize some stuff doesn’t work and some stuff does work. You learn from each process. You read the person who’s across the table from you.
You always want to negotiate with somebody who’s got the authority to do the deal. And very often people don’t negotiate with people that have the authority. For example, I negotiated numerous contracts with my friend Nelson Millman, one of my closest friends, but I also knew Nelson didn’t have the power of the pencil, as I call it. He didn’t have the singular authority to sign me to whatever deal he wanted to, that he was going to have to take it to somebody above him. So you have to take that into consideration. In truth, only the last two negotiations have I done them with people that had the ultimate authority.
Todd T. Hayes: What’s the difference between the two?
Bob McCown: I’m not sure there’s a huge difference. It’s just understanding that the essence of the negotiation is two-fold – number one, ‘Are you prepared to walkaway?’ And number two, ‘Are you prepared to be more patient then they are?’ We all want to do the deal quickly. That’s the easiest thing. “Here’s the offer, sign, don’t sign. You’re either here or you’re not here. This is all we have to offer.” That’s what 99% of all deals are. They decide what they want to give you and they want you to say yes or no. What I’ve always done is deferred the process. For example, I never begin a negotiation. I never make the first phone call. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever. My contract’s coming up, I’ll wait. Make them make the first move. When they make the first move, you can talk in generalities, but as soon as they start getting specific about details, not just the amount, but details, never respond. You just listen. Don’t say yes to anything. Don’t say no to anything, just listen. What they’ll do is they’ll give you a blue print of what they want. Then you take it back. You think about it and you analyze what you want and what you think you can get. That’s based on a whole variety of factors obviously, and a lot of it is experience. And in the course of the discussion, what you want to do is essentially prolong the negotiation as long as you can. I always had a theory, that I’m going to put a hundred things on the table, and out of those hundred things, I maybe want two of those hundred. I’m not going to put all the hundred things on the table at once. I maybe put ten things on the table, and they’ll say no to this, no to this, no to this. Then I’d come back and put ten different things on the table, and I’ll keep doing that over and over and over again. In essence all you’re trying to do is wear them out, ‘I’ve got more time than you do. I’m prepared to be more patient than you are.’ The longer it goes on, the more frustrated they become. Eventually you get to the point where they don’t really remember what they said no to or what they said yes to. It’s complicated but ultimately you wind up getting what you want, as long as you keep focused on those two things. “What are those two things I want?” Many times they’ll say no to those two things. Well you may take them away but you re-introduce them later on. And sometimes they remember they said no to them, and sometimes they forget that they said no to them. But in essence, I’ll keep coming back and saying, “Well look, I keep giving you ideas and options and things and this and that and the other thing.” None of which I want. None of which I expect to get, but they don’t know that. Ultimately, I almost invariably get them to accede to whatever it is I want. I get those two things. So, that’s part of it.
The money becomes the other part of the equation. It’s a lot of talking. A lot of back and forth. In essence, you just gotta be unbelievably patient. And it’s hard. It’s really difficult to do, because at the end of the day, both parties want the same thing. They want to get it done. But, if you are prepared. You gotta out last them. You can’t look at it as a battle, you have to look at it as a war. And a war is a series of battles. It could be five battles. It could be fifty battles. You don’t know. You don’t know how long the war is gonna last. Some wars last a couple of days and they’re over. Some wars, as you know, last years…decades, before they’re over. So you never know when you start, how long you’re going to last, but you gotta be prepared to be there till the end. So there’s a whole process that you go through. At the end of it, you just wear them out. They’re so tired of negotiating with you. So tired of, “Well, if you don’t get me that, then you gotta give me this.” You get them to the point, it’s hard to describe, you try and get them to the point where you’re conveying to them that, “I’ve given you all these options, and you keep saying no, no, no, no, at some point there’s gotta be something that you’ll say yes to.” Ultimately what you want is those two things. Whatever those two things are. I honestly can tell you, I don’t think I have failed at a single negotiation to get what I wanted or what I thought I could get, that’s more accurate. You don’t get what you want, because what you want is a billion dollars. You start the process. You evaluate where you’re at. You evaluate what you think they’re thinking. You get them to make the first offer. That becomes the benchmark. Once they’ve put the first number on the table. You never put the first number on the table. Ever ever. And in fact, I almost invariably don’t negotiate money until the very end.
Toronto Blue Jays Broadcast Rights
One of the biggest sports stories of the week had to be the news that Rogers is contemplating selling the Blue Jays. When I first read about it, and after it sunk in that there could actually be a new owner at some point soon, I immediately thought about the teams broadcast rights. What would happen to them if the team was sold? Would Rogers make a deal with the new owner and keep the rights for Sportsnet? Or would the new owner want to auction off the rights to the highest bidder? Hello, Bell Media. I asked around to get some sort of idea on what could potentially happen here. One interesting thought was Rogers could hang on to half the games, and allow the new owner to sell the other half to places like TSN or CBC. Part of the thinking here would be that it costs Rogers a lot of money to produce the games. It would be a big savings if they only had to produce eighty one, and the new owner would be able to make a tidy profit selling the other half of the schedule. One person even told me not to be surprised if Rogers actually packaged the Blue Jays AND Sportsnet in the same deal. Hello, MLSE. Wouldn’t that be wild?
Free Agent Frenzy: Dave Hodge Edition
I found Dave Hodge’s Twitter bio this week to be rather interesting. It simply reads: HNIC 1971-1987; TSN 1992-2017; available for work 2017-???. I took it to mean that he is officially out at TSN, not too long after his stepping down as host of The Reporters. I asked Hodge for a comment on his future plans. He declined to talk, other than to say he is “open for business”.