Talaya Gaines on Bringing Sports Betting to MSG Networks
Talaya Gaines is VP of content strategy and original programming at MSG Networks, overseeing originally produced content, branded content, licensed and acquired content, and all sports-betting focused studio content.
Prior to MSG, Talaya spent more than 14 years at ESPN, managing a number of ESPN+ originals and studio programming, which involved collaborations with third-party production teams, logistical support, editorial oversight, as well as creative input from ideation to execution. Talaya had producing stints on SportsCenter's SC6, His & Hers, First Take, NBA Countdown and Outside The Lines. During her tenure she has covered a number of remote events ranging from the ESPYs/EMMYs red carpet coverage to five NBA Finals appearances. In addition to her professional portfolio, she was nominated and chosen as one of ESPN's Inspiring Women in 2018 for Women's History Month.
An avid sports fan and former Division I basketball player who still enjoys coming out of retirement from time to time, Talaya also loves to travel and network.
We spoke to Talaya for our Time-Out series, where we chat with folks in the sports world about their favorite athletes, teams, sports movies and shows, and their love of sports generally.
Talaya, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I’m a Westchester-born, Beacon City School raised, Brooklyn-bred New Yorker. I'm from the intersection of instability meeting opportunity. I was birthed by two high school sweethearts who probably had no business bringing me into this world and contemplated their constitutional right (Roe v. Wade) on more than one occasion. My childhood was … unconventional.
Grand Central Station was my playground while my parents worked opposite MTA shifts as conductors to support me. I grew up going to Yankee Stadium with my uncle and cousins in the summers, spent winters ice skating at Rockefeller Center, attended concerts and cheered on my beloved Knicks at Madison Square Garden. As one can imagine, working at MSG now is a full-circle moment.
I currently reside in Brooklyn.
Your earliest sports memory.
I picked up the rock and fell in love with the game at seven years old after my grandmother entered me into a YMCA league. Basketball would become the vehicle I used to navigate every stage of my life: junior high, high school, AAU, Division-l Women’s Hoops at Siena College, YMCA intramural leagues, ESPN and now MSG Networks.
Your favorite sports teams.
Your favorite athlete.
My favorite athletes are a few former Knicks: Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Carmelo Anthony and Jamal Crawford. As a guard, I admired Jamal’s handles and streetball flare when he unleashed in transition. I used to practice Carmelo’s combinations, hesi-moves and pull-up game. John Starks could do no wrong after that baseline dunk over Jordan. And I still want to hug Ewing after the finger-roll game.
Your favorite sports show or podcast.
Some of our recent MSG Networks original programming. One of my favorites includes a feature we did on Dyckman Park, one of the premier streetball destinations in New York City. I also loved our recent Black History Month programming, which highlighted influential Black trailblazers and local businesses across New York City. And our new sports betting shows—The Betting Exchange, The Bettor Half Hour and Odds with Ends. Some of my favorites from my time at ESPN include His & Hers, NBA Countdown, SportsCenter SC6, Get Up and First Take.
Your favorite sports movie.
A recent project you're proud of.
My first assignment after I accepted this role was to quickly get three studio sports betting shows on the air. No pressure, right? With the end goal in mind to become the mecca of sports betting content, we wanted to strategically be positioned before the legalization in New York. The mission was accomplished after successfully premiering The Bettor Half Hour, The Betting Exchange and Odds with Ends in the fall. To have the freedom to build out each show from the ground up was amazing. We handpicked or vetted every forward-facing talent and production staff member, and I couldn’t have asked for a better team to help build this foundation. Each show delivers sports betting content in a fun and informative way, which our viewers seem to be enjoying.
I was also recently nominated for a Sports Emmy for an animation short that I wrote and narrated for Juneteenth while at ESPN, my sixth-ever industry nomination.
Someone else's project that you admired recently.
What sports can do that nothing else can.
Sports has a way of unifying regardless of economic status or political/religious affiliations.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the sports world.
I have an affinity for creative writing so I’d have a greeting-card shop and mini production studio to capture my customers' testimonials.