Where have I been for the last few years? Innovating!

It’s been almost 3 years since my last post! Since my last post, I have received two promotions at the NBA, moved twice and experienced unparalleled happiness in my personal life.

My activity on the internet has waned, but my interest in the industry continues to grow at a furious pace. I continue to utilize Twitter and LinkedIn as great aggregation tools as well as the primary sources of information such as Sports Business Daily & The Athletic (which didn’t exist at the time of my last post!).

My experiences at work since my last post have taken me to places as far away as South Africa to serve as an Ops Manager for the second-ever NBA Africa Games and to Las Vegas, Nevada more times than I can count.

While my primary objectives at work have been the WNBA and G League, which have both continued to grow and flourish with new international and domestic (local and national) partners, I’ve helped to launch a new property (Jr. NBA Global Championship) and redefined the strategies for our existing properties.

I’ve spent a few weeks each summer in Las Vegas at the annual NBA Summer League as part of our Optimal Telecast Initiative. The experience has been nothing short of amazing as our team on-site has done some CRAZY things such as shot the first ever “vertical view” game, optimized for viewing on a mobile device in portrait mode (9×16). We’ve also experimented with producing a Smartphone Game utilizing the fast arriving 5G networks to provide a different perspective utilizing the emerging technology that will be widespread in the next few years.

This is just a few examples of the fun that I’ve had over the last few years. The sky is the limit, and we’re just starting to get to the good stuff. I can’t wait to see where the next year will take me.

Working For Free in Sports

Darren Rovell has over 120,000 tweets and 1,680,000 followers as a sports business reporter for ESPN. While many of his tweet’s are viewed by twitter trolls as irrelevant or insignificant, Darren is an influential and well respected member of the media for his staunch reporting.

Darren’s latest tweet (shown above) drew the ire of many in the industry for suggesting that students should work for no financial compensation and that billion dollar media outlets should be expecting free work. The common theme amongst detractors of Darren’s philosophy was that if your work was valuable than you should be compensated. There was also the belief that if someone is doing the work for free, they are taking away a paid position from someone else.

When working in ‘sports’ is discussed, what many don’t understand is just how broad of an industry it is. There are glaring differences between the professional and collegiate ranks. There are also many different jobs that are traditionally within the industry or perhaps working for brands or organizations that interact with sports. All of these different positions require different paths in order to get your foot in the door, as well as to develop the skill sets required to succeed.

I agree with Darren that you must ‘prove value more than ever’, but my personal beliefs actually take the importance of value one step further. Work does not equal compensation. Work does equate to the activity done in order to achieve a result. There are benefits other than financial compensation that should interest you more than the ‘pay’.

The true value of any ‘free’ labor that your provide is: the access to the tools, the relationships developed and being a part of the experience are all more valuable in the build-up of your career in this industry rather than fighting for small wages.

You don’t have to agree with me and I understand that some believe that any compensation is better than no compensation. Many part time / full time employees throughout the industry continue to be undervalued in their current roles.

If you are providing more value to the organization and the are failing to compensate you for that or not compensating in line with your perceived value, perhaps it is time for you to reconsider either the organization that you are working for or the industry that you work in. If you stand around for too long and fail to provide value, you’ll be replaced by the next hungry individual that wants to prove their worth, and maybe they’ll be working for free.

EXTRA:

I’m not usually a fan of Around The Horn but check out their opinion on Rovell’s comments.

#Sportsbiz Recap – September 18, 2016

‘Thursday Night Football’ Ratings Sag, but Twitter Feed Surpasses Expectations by Anthony Crupi

Excerpts:

  • According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the Jets-Bills game averaged a cumulative 15.4 million viewers and a 9.5 household rating across CBS and NFL Network.
  • 26% decline compared to the 21.1 million viewers and 12.9 household rating compared to last year’s Broncos – Chiefs opener.
  • last season’s eight-game average on Thursday Night (17.5 million viewers, 10.9 household rating).
  • AAC matchup between the Houston Cougars and Cincinnati Bearcats on ESPN drew 2.16 million viewers, or slightly more than the 2.1 million viewers of TNF on Twitter.

My opinion is the ratings may have been down due to the lack of a compelling matchup from the Empire State. I wouldn’t be surprised if ratings were down from last year’s due to people realizing that the quality of the games on Thursday is a pittance. The Twitter experience still has some quirks that need to be worked out but with over 2 million viewers and the average viewing time of 22 minutes, this is certainly a valuable property. Twitter has struck a deal with Time Inc. to simulcast the Twitter stream on Time properties, which I think is a very proactive approach to increase the visibility. The remaining issues for TNF on Twitter mainly reside with the viewing experience. There is a lag of approximately 45 seconds between the TV set and Twitter feed, which is disparaging on a real time platform. The second complaint that was commonly lauded was the inability to change the tweets that were displayed on the TNF page. The tweets displayed were curated content, controlled by a combination of a human/computer algorithm to weed out the bad apples. Paying approximately $1m per game and charging between $1-8m for varying levels of sponsorships, Twitter made out well on this deal. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the bidding of simulcast rights go much higher on the next deal similar to what the NFL was able to pull off for the linear rights on Thursday Nights by splitting the package between CBS/NBC.

FOX is live streaming Saturday’s Oklahoma, Ohio State football game in virtual reality. 

Excerpts:

  • Fox Sports will stream the game (Oklahoma vs Ohio State) live in virtual reality as part of a new deal with LiveLike.
  • You can watch using Gear VR or Google cardboard, but you can also watch it straight from a smartphone, sans headset.
  • LiveLike’s setup is much more TV-like than when another VR streaming startup.
  • Unlike traditional VR videos that let you see 360-degree views of your surroundings, LiveLike only films 180-degree views, replacing the area “behind” you with what looks like an in-stadium suite
  • LiveLike is taking a different approach. In addition to multiple camera views, you can keep Fox’s TV feed of the game, including announcer commentary

LiveLike is a new competitor to the Virtual Reality space. My most interesting takeaway from this is that Fox Sports already had a five-year agreement in place with NextVR. LiveLike takes a fresh approach that does not require a headset to experience and opens the experience up to a much larger audience. The experience was available via Fox Sports VR app, which required cable authentication. I look forward to seeing what the next step is taken by LiveLike and what additional content they are able to deliver to consumers.

Sling TV Adds ESPN3, SEC Network

Excerpts:

  • Sling TV continued to round out its college sports offerings, adding ESPN 3 and SEC Network to its Sling Orange package.
  • The addition comes on the heels of recent carriage deals with Pac-12 Network and Campus Insiders for the over-the-top product.
  • Sling TV split into two offerings in June – Sling Blue, a multi-stream service that includes regional sports networks and broadcast and cable channels; and Sling Orange, its original 20-channel offering.
  • According to a blog posting by Sling TV chief marketing officer Glenn Eisen ESPN3 and SEC Network are available to Sling Orange customers at no additional cost.

Sling TV continues to add to their offerings as an alternative for all of the ‘cord-cutters’ that are contributing to the rapidly falling subscriber numbers at the cable networks. Additional subscribers to ESPN3 are interesting because as a digital platform it now has more subscribers than the ESPN lienar networks. Sling TV is an Over-The-Top solution which will be competing in the future with the ESPN planned OTT network and that is my key takeaway from this content distribution plan.

#Sportsbiz Recap – September 11, 2016

Battle at Bristol’s unique nature made for success for all who attended by George Schroeder

Excerpts:

  • Tennessee beat Virginia Tech 45-24, overcoming an early 14-0 deficit and thrilling the sea of orange that made up perhaps 70% of the crowd of 156,990, a record for a college football game (shattering the previous high of 115,109 for Notre Dame at Michigan in 2013).
  • In Tennessee and Virginia Tech, the organizers had the perfect pairing: two passionate fan bases, two schools within easy driving distance of (and nearly equidistant from) Bristol Motor Speedway.
  • Maybe even at Bristol. But if college football at a race track is not a one-off, will just being there be good enough?

The neutral field non-conference games have become more common as it gives Power 5 schools a guaranteed payout to play in the game in a unique atmosphere. Teams in the past have used the non-conference portion of the schedule to host additional home games, although it is tough to challenge tough competition to come for a true road game due to the financial guarantee required, the importance of winning the game for playoff consideration and the inevitable need to ‘return’ the home game in a future season. These one-off neutral site games have guaranteed both teams a substantial payout and often include an experience that provides more of a championship or bowl game atmosphere, but often with more on the line for their fanbases. The Battle at Bristol was a perfect storm in terms of proximity to the school’s, historic nature of the game due to a long break in the series and both teams from a Power 5 conference with something to lose. Another game will be hosted at Bristol next weekend, for a Group of 5 matchup that will not be met with nearly as much fanfare nor the TV coverage provided by ABC.

Battle at Bristol: ‘Colossus TV’ video board to also be used at Final Four by Janie Harris

Excerpts:

  • Each of Colossus’ screens measure 29.5 feet tall by 62.9 feet wide. The display weighs in at over 700 tons. 18 million pixels make up the entire system, and the pixels are grouped tighter than the screen displays in Times Square in New York, which means the screens are 23 times brighter and 25 percent sharper than the average HDTV.
  • Over 100 tons of cabling suspend Colossus, and the suspension cables are larger than some of the cables supporting the Golden Gate Bridge with a length that could circle Bristol’s track twice.
  • Eventually, the massive four-sided video board will make a stop in Phoenix, Arizona to be used during the Final Four games.

The center hung video board that was present for the Battle at Bristol is an absolute marvel. The site lines may have been less than optimal for many in attendance which is a common theme at many of these events that are hosted in oversized venues (ie football at NASCAR track or basketball at a football stadium). The display was manufactured by Panasonic and has a pixel pitch of 6mm which is really incredible for a display of that size. The display also includes a speaker system that will allow the audio to be no farther than 90 feet from speaker to ear, which is another impressive feat. The quality of the system’s speakers means there will be less than 3 decibels of difference among any seat in the grandstands.

John Malone’s Liberty Media to Buy Formula One by Simon Clark

Excerpts:

  • John Malone’s Liberty Media Corp. said it agreed to acquire Formula One in a cash-and-stock deal that values the auto-racing franchise at $4.4 billion.
  • CVC Capital Partners, a London-based private-equity firm, bought majority control of Formula One in 2006.
  • Companies backed by Mr. Malone—including cable operator Liberty Global PLC and TV channel-owner Discovery Communications Inc.—have been aggressive in expanding overseas, especially in Europe, to chase growth outside the maturing U.S. market.
  • Formula One Group will own the racing business. Liberty Media shareholders will have a 35% ownership interest, while existing owners including CVC will have the remaining 65% interest.

The acquisition of Formula One will not take place until the first quarter of 2017 at the earliest. Formula One has seen it’s viewership fall in recent years and has given the false pretense that the sport is in trouble. The issues can mainly be attributed to the structure and leadership of the organization. The viewership numbers were reportedly down due to numerous new TV-deals that took the F1 product from over-the-air TV to a paid, usually sports specific, channel. The struggles of Formula One were covered well by NBC Sports. The sport has grown popularity in the United States, and will look to regain international prowess with the support of Liberty Media whom has recently made a number of acquisitions in the European market.

Turner wants to build its own streaming service for channels like CNN and TNT by Peter Kafka

Excerpts:

  • Turner wants to sell streaming subscriptions to its channels, including TNT, CNN and Cartoon Planet, directly to consumers.
  • “I believe it’s imperative that we put the company on a course, to be in a position, to offer an end-to-end solution, direct to consumer,” he told Recode in a wide-ranging interview this month.
  • We have to go from being a wholesale, linear cable TV company to being a consumer-focused, consumer-centric company.
  • We are building the capabilities to move to becoming capable of offering VOD — not only domestically, but globally — and then building out the things that you need to be able to do to be an end-to-end provider, including customer relationships, billing and so on.

Fantastic Q&A with Turner CEO John Martin discussing how Turner needs to get away from the traditional TV ecosystem and grow their revenue streams in order to be self-sustainable in the long-term. Developing a direct-to-consumer backbone that is able to support all of the Turner owned content is a step in that direction, while their commitment to TBS/TNT and producing original content is another. This article continues on to discuss much more than just sports.

 

#Sportsbiz Recap – September 4, 2016

Tennis Channel to Reach 60M Homes by 2017 by Mike Farrell

Excerpts:

  • Tennis Channel acquired by Sinclair Broadcasting Group for $350m earlier in 2016.
  • According to ComScore, current distribution of Tennis Channel is at 47 million households
  • Sinclair Broadcasting plans to have reach of 60 million homes at some point 2017.

Sinclair Broadcasting bought the Tennis Channel (along with approximately $200m in debt). Sinclair Broadcasting has the reputation and additional channels in order to influence carriers for both wider distribution and subscriber fee’s. They’ve already shown leveraging their other relationships in order to influence better carriage for Tennis Channel. Tennis Channel was started in 2001 and was an independent channel, unlike Golf Channel which is owned by NBC Universal. Tennis Channel has slowly accumulated some rights to majors and other substantial tournaments along with a respectable stable of talent. They had been sub-licensing some of their rights to other entities in the past, but with the support of Sinclair Broadcasting should be better positioned moving forward.

Columbus Crew Seeking Next Jersey Sponsorship

 Excerpts:

  • Crew expect its next multiyear uniform naming-rights deal to be around $3M annually.
  • Current uniform naming-rights holder is Barbasol and they pay under the $2-4m that other MLS teams are currently averaging.
  • Last year, Columbus landed their first naming rights sponsor in the history of the 17-year old stadium. Mapfre Insurance is estimated to be paying $1-2m annually.

 

Major League Soccer continues to expand but the Columbus Crew have been one of the stalwarts of the league for over a decade. Unfortunately, being located in Columbus, OH leaves them at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to sponsorship compared to some clubs located in soccer hotbeds such as the Northwest or major cities (New York, Los Angeles, Houston, etc.). The major assets available sponsorship wise continue to be the jersey sponsorship and stadium naming-rights. It’s important for Columbus to secure a market rate jersey sponsor in order to sustain long-term financial health of the club.

White Sox get no new money from naming rights deal with Guaranteed Rate by Peter Matuszak

 Excerpts:

  • The White Sox will receive only the remaining value of the original 2003 agreement with U.S. Cellular, which amounts to $20.4 million. The remaining $4.7 million will go to the state agency that serves as landlord of the ballpark, the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority.
  • The deal to change the facility’s name to Guaranteed Rate Field, which was announced last week, runs through 2029.
  • The new naming rights deal for the publicly owned stadium where the White Sox play baseball is worth $25.1 million but will deliver no additional money to the team.

The funds generated from the naming-rights deal will not go directly in to the White Sox coffers, instead they will be used in a manner that is agreed upon by the Illinois Sports Facility Authority and the team. The most likely scenario is the funds will be used to update the facility. The team will not receive the funds due to terms of the lease. Public-private ownership of facilities always seem to play out in the favor or the private tenant. The tenant holds much of the leverage these days by threatening relocation.

Marketers Invest $2.5 Billion in NFL Telecasts by John Consoli

 Excerpts:

  • the league’s four major TV networks partners have already cumulatively sold north of $2.5 billion of commercial time.
  • Making the networks’ NFL ad sales take so far even more impressive is that they had to overcome a cumulative loss of about $150 million in ad spending by daily fantasy sport companies DraftKings and FanDuel.
  • Every one of the four TV networks carrying games says new pharmaceutical advertisers have bought ad time in their NFL telecasts.
  • For the Sunday afternoon games, buyers say CBS averaged about $600,000 for the 4:25 p.m. national games, while Fox averaged $700,000. For the 1 p.m. regional games, CBS and Fox sold units between $350,000 and $500,000.
  • NBC, according to buyers, averaged about $675,000 for a unit on Sunday Night Football. NBC averaged 22.5 million viewers for its SNF primetime telecasts last season, up 6% from 2014 and the best ever average for SNF on NBC.
  • Buyers said they like the system of buying one set of ads to appear on both and paying for them together rather than having to buy TV ads and digital ads separately and at different pricing. This season the WatchESPN audience is built into the TV rate.

Most interesting takeaway from this article was that the sales were not hurt by the Olympics sales which were north of $1.2b. It’s interesting as ratings of other entertainment units continue to fall and primetime programming is not as strong as a decade ago, that the NFL continues to see high single digit to low double digit percentage increases every year. ESPN selling a singular advertising unit across linear and digital will drive up the rate they are able to command but also strengthens their position with advertisers as reaching the younger fan base that many NFL advertisers are trying to reach.