A lot can happen in the sports-media business in three years. For both Woburn-based Lax Sports Network and their lead anchor, Travis Eldridge, uncertainty three years ago has led to unparalleled opportunity.
In 2015, Travis Eldridge was a sports director in Binghamton, New York. His contract about to expire, he was uncertain what his next move would be. Meanwhile, a group of sports executives in Boston were considering a plan that would change the way lacrosse fans celebrated their sport. The idea was to provide round-the-clock coverage, including games, news, analysis, and discussion, of the fastest growing sport in America.
“In Binghamton, my contract was coming up , and I was on the lookout for a new job,” Eldridge said recently as he prepared to cover the Major League Lacrosse Championship game for both LSN and ESPN. “Jason Eich, the recently-hired executive producer at LSN, reached out to me. I did some internet research, but the network had not launched yet so there was not much there. We started a conversation (which included Rob Wallace, LSN’s COO) and it seemed like the right fit.”
It was a huge leap of faith for Eldridge as his experience covering lacrosse was limited to his undergraduate years at Syracuse University, but the appeal of working in Boston was difficult to pass up. “I grew up in Philly, but my dad grew up on the South Shore, so I knew what a great sports city Boston was,” Eldridge said. “The opportunity was something new, and the time was right. Jason had worked in local news, Rob had worked at ESPN and NBC, so they had the highest level of experience. It was a good risk to take.”
Wallace had previously established a relationship with Major League Lacrosse and its then commissioner Dave Gross when MLL games had begun to be produced by Lax United Marketing, an Internet-based entertainment and information-media company that distributed games to Regional Sports Networks around the country. “Dave and I developed a relationship and we stayed in touch,” Wallace said. “As I was working for the Orange County Register and looking to head back East, I reached out to him only to find that he was working on something big. We talked about what became LSN.”
Wallace and Gross discussed the concept of a network to feed the fan base of a sport vastly growing in popularity.
“The Netflixes and the Hulus paved the way for niche or Olympic sports to create something they could own,” Wallace said. “The idea was to cover the sport of lacrosse. College, pro, field, indoor, and everything in between-our focus was the sport of lacrosse.”
LSN launched on January 5, 2016, with Eldridge as the face of their brand-new digital, subscription-based lacrosse network. Lacrosse fans could watch from the LSN website, www.laxsportsnetwork.com, stream via Apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, and Kindle Fire, or stream through a TV via Roku, Chromecast, or Apple AirPlay for 24-hour a day coverage.
Eldridge’s main role at LSN was to anchor “Lacrosse Now”, a nightly SportsCenter-type show, the goal of which was to be both informative and entertaining. Its evolution has been a benchmark for the network as they continue to find new ways to keep people tuning in.
“Content is king,” Wallace said. “And we have a wonderful experience for those that want lacrosse. We produce over 150 games a year-60 are MLL games. So, 365 days a year… we are talking lacrosse, with over 2,000 hours of live-produced content, and access to players and coaches every night of the week.”
As LSN has continued to grow as a network, Eldridge has become a familiar face with a growing fan base. “Nothing has shown the growth of LSN more than when we covered the Lake Placid Summit Classic,” Eldridge commented. “I was doing a feature story and (people of all ages) would say ‘I love seeing you on LSN’ or ‘Love the old college games.’ All the work we have put in has paid off. Lake Placid was a watershed moment,”
LSN’s growth was further spurred when they decided to offer free access to their programming to all consumers, and strike a content agreement with ESPN. “We took a giant step forward in May when our sponsors and partners suggested we (make those changes),” Wallace said. “It really laid the path for us to look to the future.” One month later, LSN and ESPN announced an exclusive, multi-year content-development deal that brings MLL games, produced by LSN, and original content to ESPN +, ESPN’s new subscription platform. The partnership allows the MLL and the game of lacrosse to be displayed to a wider audience.
The concept of an all-lacrosse sports channel with a rising star to lead the way has been a recipe for success for LSN and Eldridge because they recognized and adapted to what the fans wanted. “I think we have continued to adapt,” Eldridge said. “When you look at ESPN+ starting up, we were doing that before they were on the map. We have been a trailblazer.”
LSN has truly been a trailblazer. Prior to its inception, lacrosse had not been getting the coverage on the major networks that more popular sports like football, basketball, baseball, hockey and even soccer had received. “I think the journey we have been on is pretty unique,” Eldridge said. “We started in the shadow of the New Balance building, and now we have this gorgeous new facility in Woburn with everything we need to make quality content. It’s a great journey to be part of.“
From local sports anchor in Binghamton to now the face of LSN, it has been an incredible journey. A rising star on both LSN and Lacrosse America on ESPN+, Eldridge has been the lead anchor/host for every major lacrosse event since the network’s inception. And he will continue to carry the mantle as the lacrosse community and its expanding fan base celebrate the fastest growing sport in America.