What To Watch – Fri. 10/30 – Sun. 11/1

All times are Pacific.

The best time of year because we have NFL, College Football, NBA, NHL, MLS Playoffs and World Series not to mention Nascar and F1.

Friday October 30

Dartmouth at Harvard – 4:30pm NBCSN: Both are 6-0 and tied for first place a top the Ivy League.

KC Royals at NY Mets – 5pm FOX: Game 3 with the Royals up 2-0. This one is in NY though and that can make a huge difference.

Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets – 6:30pm ESPN: Defending champs go on the road to a team that is one of their main challengers this season.

 

Saturday October 31st

Chelsea vs Liverpool -5:45am NBCSN: Liverpool looks for it’s first win under the leadership of Jurgen Klopp. Chelsea looks to turn the season around.

2015 Rugby World Cup Final – 9am NBC: It’s Australia vs New Zealand.

Florida vs Georgia – 12:30pm CBS: We don’t care, it’s still ‘The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.’

Oklahoma State at Texas Tech – 12:30pm ESPN: Plenty of points and a tough place for the Pokes to get a win.

Nashville Predators at LA Kings – 1pm NHL Gamecenter: The Preds are the best in the West and LA isn’t far behind.

Pittsburgh Penguins at Toronto Maple Leafs – 4pm NHLN: Sidney Crosby heads to the heart of the hockey world.

Michigan at Minnesota – 4pm ESPN: Michigan is a hard nosed football team and Minnesota will be playing with a heavy heart as their head coach retired due to health reasons.

Notre Dame at Temple – 5pm ABC: Huge game for the undefeated Temple Owls. First visit by ESPN Gameday, they’ve never been undefeated this late in the season. The question becomes, can they handle it all?

KC Royals at NY Mets – 5pm FOX: Game 4.

Stanford at Washington State – 7:30pm ESPN: For the lead in the PAC-12 North believe it or not.

 

Sunday November 1st

Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers – 10am CBS: Boy these two teams are good this year and the Steelers look like they might get Big Ben back under center.

goalDC United vs NY Red Bulls – Noon ESPN: One of the longest standing rivalries in MLS. NYRB took home the Supporters Shield again this year but will Jesse Marsch be able to lead them to an MLS Cup?

NY Jets at Oakland Raiders – 1pm CBS: No seriously, this game should be really good.

Portland Timbers vs Vancouver Whitecaps – 2pm ESPN: If you didn’t watch arguably the most exciting MLS Playoff game ever the other night then…well you missed out. Portland was able to survive and now they host Cascadia Cup foes Vancouver.

Green Bay Packers at Denver Broncos – 5:30pm NBC: Two undefeated teams square off in the Mile High City. Can the Broncos find their offense?

Seattle Sounders vs FC Dallas – 6:30pm FS1: FC Dallas has arguably the toughest road to MLS Cup. Why? Your first playoff game is going to be in front of the largest crowd in typical Seattle wet and cold conditions.

 

If none of these do it for ya, Twitch is running a marathon of ‘The Joy of Painting.’

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NFL Game via Yahoo = Success?

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Yahoo Screen GrabThe Buffalo Bills vs Jacksonville Jaguars was the first ever NFL game distributed mainly via the web. In this case Yahoo! handled the streaming duties. While it is being spun as a success, it wasn’t as big of a success as the powers that be would like for us to believe.

Peter King on MMQB pointed out that the live stream on Yahoo may not have been as awesome as Yahoo and the NFL are making it out to be. For example, King points out that Yahoo is counting a “stream” as anyone who watched for me than three seconds. The stream was on autoplay on Yahoo’s homepage. Not exactly an accurate portrait.

While the stream worked well it was great for everyone. As Business Insider pointed out, some people experienced a less than ideal viewing experience. It was still free and available on a global basis though.

nfl on yahoo

What this game really did, besides being a pretty damn good one, was show why the Internet has not take over TV when it comes to our main viewing source.

While ad space on the Internet is infinite (want more space, create a new page) the bandwidth is not. Unlike TV, bandwidth is finite. There is only so much of it at any given time in a given place. It is, after all, a series of tubes. For example, if you are at a Starbucks trying to stream the game and there are 10 other people there on their various devices doing various bandwidth sucking things then your stream is going to suck at some points. If you are at home in your house in the suburbs and everyone else is i your neighborhood is at home streaming the new season of ‘House of Cards’ on various Netflix connected devices then odds are you may not be getting the speeds you are paying for from your ISP.

So, while the game may not have been as successful viewing wise as some people would like for us to believe, it was a success. Why? People could watch a football via a new distribution channel without borders or boundaries. In Vietnam? No Problem. In Denver? We got you. Normally to get that kind of access you had to fork over an absurd amount of money and in this case, you’d be forking over money for two teams in some of the smallest markets in the NFL.

This is hopefully will not be a one off event. Live streaming is a good thing. It gets back to the fundamental possibilities of the Internet: any content, any where on any device. Remember that? Kind of funny that the NFL is the one trying to get us back to that idea. But hey, as long as we get there do we really care who leads the way?

And now, your Internet moment of Zen.

Trojan War Fails To Deliver

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The ESPN 30 for 30 series has brought us many great stories. From the ‘Guru of Go’ to ‘Small Potatoes’ to ‘Pony Express’ to ‘The Two Escobars’. The series has continued to knock one documentary after another out of the park. They have also struck out a few times and they struck out looking on ‘Trojan War’.

Trojan War ‘Trojan War’ is the first film in Volume 3 and was directed by Aaron Rahsaan Thomas. Thomas is an accomplished TV Producer but in this his Directorial debut, he fell short. ‘Trojan War’ showed a massive lack of creativity and professionalism with it’s poor VO (done by Thomas) and its script direction graphics wiped on the screen with cliched typing sound effects. After about 15 minutes it felt like nails down a chalkboard.

If you could get over that and know anything about the era then you would know how much they left out. The loss to Cal in 2003 was huge. It cost them a berth in the National Title game and they ended up having to split the National Title with LSU. Zero mention of that. Instead they filled the 90 minute documentary with a lot of interviews with people who didn’t really matter (a backup quarterback who threw two touchdown passes? Really?)

The fact is (and through no fault of Thomas) that this story has been done by NFL Network’s ‘A Football Life’ last year and it’s too soon for people to really open up about the era. One for the main pillars of the story, Reggie Bush, didn’t even do an interview. It was partially because of decisions he made that USC’s “era” ended. This story would have been better served being done 10 years from now when the dust truly settled.

CarrollOne good takeaway from the film was Pete Carroll. How he changed his style and the culture he developed at USC were the solid takeaways from the film. In all honesty, ESPN just should have done a 30 for 30 on him and dived deeper into how he changed his coaching style and became successful on the collegiate and professional level after being a below average head coach as his two previous NFL stops.

ESPN 30 for 30 is a solid film series. The vast majority of the stories they have told to this point have been compelling and well done. One of 30 for 30’s creators was Bill Simmons who was unceremoniously removed from ESPN earlier this year. You can’t help but wonder if ‘Trojan War’ would have been better if Simmons was still in ESPN’s good graces. It might have been better if it wasn’t made at all. A very disappointing start to Volume 3.

 

Early Week Exits

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

It’s been a crazy, crazy early week in college football. When the smoke cleared on Tuesday evening, four head coaches were out along with one athletic director and one Heisman Trophy contender.

‘Somehow we slid. I’m responsible. I’m the Head Coach.’ It’s rare that you hear that from people nowadays in this country. People want to blame everything else and not take responsibility. Well Steve Spurrier (aka the Head Ball Coach) takes responsibility. He took South Carolina from a perennial lower rung collegiate football program and into an SEC contender. He did the same at Florida and even had a winning record at Duke. He was loved, hated and always quotable.

The Head Ball Coach wasn’t the only coach to move on from his duties of leading a college football team but he is the only one with a National Title to his name and the only one going to the College Football Hall of Fame.

The others who were asked to step aside in the last few days include Maryland’s Randy Edsall, North Texas’s Dan McCarney, and USC’s Steve Sarkisian.

Sarkisian may be the saddest removal. He reportedly checked himself into a rehab facility on Monday, the same day he was fired from USC. He was apparently intoxicated at a team meeting and is being accused of being intoxicated during USC’s win against Arizona State a few weeks ago. These are just the latest incidents he’s had with alcohol, rumors of which date back to his days as the Head Coach at Washington.

The Athletic Director who stepped down is also the Head Coach of an 0-6 team. That would be George O’Leary at Central Florida. While O’Leary’s title was technically ‘Interim Athletics Director’, it still doesn’t bode well for his prospects as Head Coach.

Finally, Georgia running back Nick Chubb blew out his knee on the first play from scrimmage against Tennessee. Chubb was arguably one his way to a possible spot in New York for the Heisman Trophy. He had already run for over 700 yards and seven touchdowns in only five games.

Yes, it’s been a busy couple of days off the field in college football. Luckily there is a top 25 match up on Thursday between UCLA and Stanford to get our mind back on the gridiron.

ESPN And It’s Bad UX

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The fact is that ESPN has been the crown jewel of Disney for sometime now. It’s $6 plus per subscriber charge to cable and satellite providers (and that’s just ESPN, not ESPN2, ESPNEWS, etc) has been a cash cow for Disney. But just because they have clearly shown a mastery of their domain in cable television doesn’t mean that their online video presence is any good. In fact, it’s down right offensive and shows a lack of creativity from the ‘World Wide Leader in Sports’.

You have sit through a 30 sec ad to watch a 31 sec video? YouTube here we come!

ESPN.com has taken the ‘old school’ view of the Internet or at least the non-Innovators Dilemma view which is to say that by doing the right thing gets you exactly what you don’t want to have. ESPN wants to charge a lot of money for ads in front of videos and by going with that philosophy the are sacrificing the user experience. ESPN is putting an ad, of any length, in front of every piece of video they have (or so it seems). Hey this is capitalism and that’s fine. Where they miss is when they place a 15 second ad in front of a 13 second clip or a 30 second ad in front of a 31 second piece of video. It may make them money in the short term but it will push users away in the long term which means losing money down the road and opening a door for competitors to run through.

ESPN LENGTH

It’s not a one time thing either. We have looked at ESPN.com several times a day for a very long time and have noticed this trend for a while now. ESPN isn’t alone in this mind you, UFC.com was notorious for this in the pass. They would post a 30 second video masquerading as content and run 30 second ad in front of it. While it may gain ad dollars on the front end by capitalizing on current traffic trends, it’s a bad way to get people to come back to your site.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 9.16.55 AM
15 sec ad in front of 13 sec video. Really?

There is a way to fix this, it’s called an ‘if/else’ statement in the ruby code. If video > 30 then play video ad, else don’t. It is possible. It is a choice ESPN makes to not do this that can drive people nuts and pushes users to the same video content elsewhere (YouTube are you listening?)

What ESPN and others have failed to realize is that ad inventory/space online is infinite. You can make a new page and create new ad space. You can increase the amount of videos you put online and increase ad space. It’s a TV way of thinking which makes sense since the people in charge are TV people. Problem is, this ISN’T TV!

TV has one giant luxury that the Internet doesn’t which is why TV will always be a revenue generator…there are only 24 hours in a day and that will not change as much as entrepreneurs and workaholics want it to. That means a finite ad inventory. You cannot create more time in the day to place ads and you have a hard time cutting any more time out of a show or event to run ads.

The proper way to generate ad inventory online, especially in video, is to wrap it. Wrap the player then have a 5 second billboard at the beginning of the video (max) and have, if possible, an anchor say something. If there is no anchor then stick with the billboard at the beginning and get to the video content. More people will view the video on the site because others are running a 15 or 30 second ad in front of the same video (it’s not exclusive people as much as you want to think that it is). You will make your money on volume and not on exclusivity.

Then again, ESPN may have gone this road to far that they may not know how to get themselves back.

The New Gambling That Isn’t

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Like many of you out there we wondered it ourselves, ‘how is FanDuel and DraftKings legal?’ They advertise winning money off of sporting events. That sure looks and smells like gambling. It is however not gambling according to federal law and these two entities look like they are here to stay.

Fantasy Sports Guys

Some outlets have asked this question and a Forbes article from September pretty much nailed itEssentially these companies are walking the fine line between ‘skill’ and ‘chance’. In other words, you have to have some skills and knowledge to win one of their daily contests while gambling is perceived as pure chance (or so says the law).

Screenshot 2015-10-03 14.07.04

We can imagine that there will be legal challenges sooner rather than later. In fact last month Rep. Frank Pallone called for hearings on the daily fantasy sports organizations We figured that he was just annoyed by the amount of ads he had to endure during the kickoff of the 2015 football season. The Representative from New Jersey should know, as Adam Kilgore states in his article for the Washington Post:

In 2006, the Unlawful Internet Gaming and Enforcement Act (UIGEA) specifically defined fantasy sports and carved out a law protecting them. The lawmakers behind the act did not consider daily fantasy sports, because they did not exist at the time.

Laws do outlaw sports gambling online but as we all know, if you want to gamble online, you can. You can still do it legally in Nevada too.

FanDuelThis can really go one of two ways; first these daily fantasy sports sites find legal protection and this paves the way for the lifting of the ban on sports gambling nationwide or some conservative legislatures try to move these sites under the gambling label and outlaw them on a national level. There would be some very wealthy people who would have a vested interest in seeing these sites go away. Some of them donate a lot of money to politicians too.

We’re leaning to the former here at Sideline Signals and here is why, they have influential well financed backers.

The backers for DraftKings and FanDuel include the following according to Crunchbase:

MLB Ventures, Major League Soccer, NBA Ventures, Google Ventures, Comcast Ventures, 21st Century Fox, Time Warner Ventures, NBC Sports Ventures and the Kraft Family. Not to mention VC firms like Atlas Venture.

Not every sports entity is excited about the rise of the daily fantasy sports leagues. The Power 5 conferences have asked the leagues to pull back from collegiate sports. Not the NCAA but the Power 5 conferences. They will take their sponsorship money, but apparently don’t want them promoting betting on college athletics during their games. Sounds American enough.

Capitalism shows us time and time again that if there is a loophole in a law people will find a way to drive a truck through it. In this case it’s a very public loophole with some big, deep pocket people driving semi’s through it. Could these two daily fantasy sports sites lead to lifting the nationwide ban on sports gambling? Only time will tell. What we do know is that you will be seeing ad’s for these two sites for the foreseeable future.

Further Reading:

NY Times

NPR

Business Insider

 

UPDATE:

It looks like legal inquiries will be happening even sooner for daily fantasy sports companies. The New York Times is reporting what amounts to insider trading at DraftKings. As the article by Joe Drape and Jacqueline Williams states:

The statements were released after an employee at DraftKings, one of the two major companies, admitted last week to inadvertently releasing data before the start of the third week of N.F.L. games. The employee, a midlevel content manager, won $350,000 at a rival site, FanDuel, that same week.

This is the first major PR and legal hurdle for the industry. It will be interesting to hear how it plays out and if this means government restrictions for the industry.