The Down Side of Technology & Sports

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Sports is on the forefront of a lot of things. From sports medicine to nutrition to technology. Yet technology can separate people from the reality of the situation and make things a little too convient sometimes.

Earlier this month Edmonton Oilers Head Coach Ralph Krueger was fired after one lockout shortened season…via Skype. He was on summer vacation in Davos, Switzerland and that was apparently the best way to reach him.

It may have been convenient and more personal than the phone call some people have received in the past. It also rings very closely to the George Clooney movie ‘Up in the Air’.


Will more firings be like this in the future? Possibly. Sports is a power driven business and it’s hard to imagine owners or GM’s not looking a coach in the and saying, ‘we’re going in a different direction.’ Although we’re sure that some will take the same avenue that the Edmonton Oilers did. No matter what you think of it.


Saber Rattling by Saban and Bielema

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Make it two coaches now in the SEC who want rules to slow down the fashionable no-huddle, up-tempo offenses.  Their reasoning, player safety. Their real reason, they don’t know how to stop it.

One of these coaches is Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban who’s teams have won 3 of the last 4 National Championships. The other is Arkansas’ new man Bret Bielema. Both are former Defensive Coordinators which makes their reasoning seem all the more odd.

It’s a slippery slope that Saban and Beilema are standing on. Their trying to play the injury card. However, if they were genuinly concerned about player safety then they would be working with Bill Polian and look at expanding the field. The wider field plays into the wheelhouse of the no-huddle, up-tempo offense so there is no way Saban and Beilema would back that. Hence, their argument for a rule change. ‘

There is another way though. We wrote on this site late last year about how to stop or at least prepare for the no-huddle, up-tempo offenses spring up like weeds around college football (and in the NFL):

First, they have to stop approaching defense with a ‘well it worked in the past’ philosophy. While there are lessons that can be learned and schemes poached, there has to be a fresh approach to the basic practices  The best place to start is with the substituions. Stop them. While several years ago substituting in players for certain defensive packages worked it won’t when you play teams like Oregon or
Arizona who never huddle and snap the ball quickly. If you want rotate players to keep them fresh throughout the game you’re going to need 22 players and not 11.

Defenses can stay fresh by rotating the starting 11 between series. While this may leave some playmakers on the sidelines for a couple of series it will, in the long term, keep those players fresher to make plays throughout the game.

Second, defensive players have to now be the most conditioned athletes on the field. Rotating super giant lineman to clog the line of scrimmage isn’t going to work. Having well conditioned athletes with great technique is. Anticipate having to leave 11 defenders on the field for an entire series.

The bigger question is why do these coaches want to stop these offenses? When you look at both of these coaches styles it is the very old school, traditional, smash mouth football. They both start with defense and their offenses are designed to run the ball. They are very traditional thinkers and their philosophies have won them a lot of games.

What these no-huddle, up-tempo offenses do is threaten their livelihood. If they were to change their defensive schemes and go get fast players with good size as opposed to big, strong and fast players then players would eventually stop coming to these schools.  Why? That’s not what the NFL wants and most of the kids coming looking to play big time college football have dreams of playing the NFL. Playing at Alabama and Arkansas can greatly enhance your chances if your one of these young players.

In the end this may be a hallow threat from Saban and Beilema. But when two successful coaches are both saying the same thing then their threat should be taken seriosuly.


3-D Fails….Again and Where Sports Should Go From Here

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

If you haven’t seen sports in 3-D then you better hurry because you’re time is running out. ESPN has decided to kill off their 3-D effort by the end of the year. Their reason, low adoption. In other words, no one watched.

LIVE 3D Sports

3-D proponents made a lot of noise a few years ago, right around the time that the movie Avatar came out. While 3-D has found some traction on the big screen it hasn’t found much of any support on the small screen.

There are a multitude of reason for why 3-D has not taken off on TV, in particularly for watching sports. From the price of the TV’s to the lack of content to the fact that you still have to wear glass among others. While 3-D may have failed (again) this gives folks like those at ESPN a chance to throw their resources in a different direction.

The main direction should be to provide a really wide camera angle, especially when it comes to football. Give fans the same view that the coordinators get during the game and let fans really see how the play develops.

This could go for other sports too. Imagine an aerial shot of the hole during the US Open with the weather information and instant tracking of the shot. A wide shot of a soccer match so you can see how the runs are developing during a match.

There is plenty of room for sports broadcasters to make improvements that fans want. Who knows, they may even find that fans will pay extra for it. What fans are not going to do is buy an entirely new TV for a limited amount of content. It’s nice to see that someone like ESPN came to that conclusion.

The Least Popular Can Be The Most Innovative

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard
The US Open Cup is one of the longest running professional sports competitions in North America. This years installment is the 100th edition and with it comes live streaming. Free live streams of all of the games in the 4th round of the tournament.
Most overlook the US Open Cup with such a busy sports time in North America it’s easy to do. With the Stanley Cup Finals, NBA Finals, US Open, World Cup Qualifiers, Major League Baseball and the College World Series. TV networks have plenty to choose from and the US Open Cup isn’t going to pull the same numbers the Stanley Cup Finals or NBA Finals are. However there is a market for the US Open Cup and a low cost solution is available to let fans around the country watch the matches.
This is really a perfect storm of opportunity. No TV deal, low production costs, existing bandwidth and an unserved viewer. The one caveat is the bandwidth. If dedicated, high-speed bandwidth isn’t available then the viewer may just turn away.
There is no TV deal for these matches which means that the clubs and US Soccer can try all kinds of new things to let viewers watch the matches. Several platforms are available but most clubs opted for either YouTube or Ustream. YouTube allows channels with 1,000 subscribers to stream video which lowered the barrier of entry even more for content creators.
You continue to hear noise from media companies about TV Everywhere and second screen experience. The clubs in the US Open Cup, whether the New England Revolution or the Carolina RailHawks, took an obvious leap with free live streaming of the Cup matches. That leap, giving the fans what they want. No log ins, no sign ups, and no restrictions.

The Retirement Pt. 2 of 2

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

At the end of the May there was a flurry of retirements. From football legends to a man who helped launch the sport of mixed martial arts into the modern day psyche. Sir Alex Ferguson, David Beckham and Forrest Griffin all at some point had to ask themselves this question, ‘what else is there left for me to accomplish?’

Sir Alex & Becks Retire

For the first time in 26 years Sir Alex Ferguson will not be the manager of Manchester United when they take the pitch next season. In those 26 years he has led the Red Devils to 38 trophies and 2 Champions League titles among other things. Along the way one of his most famous players was David Beckham. Beckham won 6 premier league titles and a Champions League title with United. He also won league titles with 3 other clubs ( Real Madrid, LA Galaxy and Paris St-Germain) and is one of the most famous people in the world.

Forrest Griffin Retirement

Forrest Griffin was on season 1 of the The Ultimate Fighter. He defeated Stephan Bonnar in the finale in what is consider the greatest fight in UFC history and pointed to as the fight that helped launch the UFC to where it is today. He later won the Light Heavyweight title by defeating Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson. He’s also a 2 time New York Times bestselling author.

Each of these individuals accomplished a lot in the world of sports. Now each has to find a new endeavor to fill the void. Those outside of the athletic world know this feeling having encountered it on occasion. Maybe after losing a job, graduating from school, getting a divorce, etc. It’s the ‘now what?’ question that has to be answered.

Sir Alex will remain with United as a director. Beckham worked out a deal when he initially came to MLS that after he retired he could get a deal on an MLS club ($25 million to be exact) and now there is talk of an expansion team in Miami. Griffin will stay on with the UFC in a yet undetermined capacity.

Yet for these 3 there are hundreds more who don’t have a retirement plan per say or at least a very quiet one. Athletes, as the saying goes, retire twice but the first one may be the hardest to do if they are not prepared. The acknowledgement that at some point you’ll put your hands on your hips and say, ‘what else is there for me to do here?’ is a great first step. In other words, knowing that there is an end will allow you to begin.

CNN – The End Game

The NFL Embraces Cord Cutting

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

NFL & Verizon Wireless

This past Tuesday the NFL signed an exclusive deal with Verizon Wireless to stream not just Thursday, Sunday and Monday night games (along with the NFL Network & NFL RedZone) but also Sunday games starting in 2014. The cost to Verizon, a cool $1 billion over 4 years. This represents the first sports league to truly embrace cord cutting.

The NFL’s deal will gives fans access to Sunday games which are the local games. (If you live in Atlanta you see the Atlanta Falcons for example.) This is the first sports league to embrace this model. Other sports leagues like the NBA, MLB, NHL and even MLS blackout local games due to contracts with regional sports networks (RSNs). The NFL doesn’t have this problem. All of their tv rights are with national broadcasters or cable companies and not with RSNs.

What does this do for the average sports fan? Well it allows them access to their local game along with the Thursday, Sunday and Monday night games without the cost of a cable or satellite bill. This is unprecedented.

This is not free though. It is only available on the NFL app on Verizon which costs $5 a month plus whatever data you use. This could make for a hefty mobile bill if you have a data limit on your smartphone. It is also not available on your tablet however there does not appear to be any effort to block you from switching the game from your smartphone to your TV via Apple TV (if you have the Apple TV device).

The NFL may be the only league to be able to get away with this kind of deal. With the amount of money that RSNs are paying out to their local teams it doesn’t seem likely that another league would be able to cut out the local RSNs without a significant battle. How much are the RSNs paying out? Well earlier this year the LA Dodgers signed a 25-year $7 billion deal with Time Warner Cable and a new RSN was formed, SportsNet LA.

The NFL has taken the first step in recognizing where their fans are going and making sure that their product is in front of them anywhere and everywhere. It’s not free but for the price it is not a bad option if you truly want to be a cord cutter.

Cord Cutting an Expensive Option for Sports Fans

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

You’ve probably heard the slow, consistant drum beat of the cord cutters. Those who watch video without the use of a cable or satellite provider. They use over the air TV, and online services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. What’s rarely talked about though is what would it cost for a true sports fan to cut the cord?

Each league and sports network offers live streaming of sports in one way or another however it is usually for a significant price or you have to have a cable or satellite subscription which defeats the purpose of cord cutting. Below is a breakdown of what each league charges for their online package:

The Cost Of Viewing Sports Online

At this stage, there it is not an economically viable solution for a fan of sports to cut their cable or satellite subscription. Let’s look at DirecTV by comparison. The Sports monthly package is $12.99 and with the Choice XTRA Classic plan, 1 HD Receiver with DVR and you’re looking at about $110 a month. The NFL Sunday Ticket plan and other sports packages (NHL Center ICE, MLD Direct Kick, etc) are all extra. But a lot of times you do not need those.

For example, if you live in Las Vegas with the above DirecTV package you get the following teams with no extra cost:

MLB: SF Giants, LA Dodgers, LA Angels, SD Padres, Oakland A’s

NHL: Anaheim Ducks & LA Kings

NBA: LA Lakers, LA Clippers, Sacramento Kings, Golden St Warriors

While it isn’t economically viable for a sports fan to cut the cord the cord cutters themselves really do have a distinct advantage, mobility. The fact is that sports fans can only watch whatever is on their TV via a Slingbox. Non sports cord cutters can use any one of the aforementioned services no matter what device they are on (phone, tablet, or  laptop).

Will there ever be a point where sports fans can cut the cord and do so economically? Probably not. If you take into consideration the continual increase in player salaries and the increase in TV rights fees it is highly doubtful that we’ll see a price decrease from any sports league or online service from a network without a cable or satellite validation.


MLB.TV, NHL GameCenter, NBA League Pass, NFL Sunday Ticket, MLS Live