The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.31.2016

While many point to the end of the calendar year as the ‘most wonderful time of the year’, those folks are clearly not sports fans. While the yule log, spiked eggnog and massive amount are nice, they do not compare to the last week of October and the first week of November.

World SeriesSeveral years ago the World Series got kicked back a little bit. Now the baseball season overlaps with the NFL,college football, CFL and MLS for a two solid months. Add in the start of the NHL and NBA regular seasons and you have got sports on seven days a week.

After Halloween, the Mid-American Conference (MAC) starts playing football games during the week which means that there is football on seven days a week. Add this to the NFL games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday and it can be easy to see why some people get ‘football overload’ and turn to something else.

While the Holiday Season is great, it does not compare to this time of year. From the World Series to pivotal college football games to the MLS playoffs. The games this time of year are more important than the ones during the Holiday’s. So enjoy the Indian Summer some of you are getting and enjoy the sports overload.

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The NFL’s Bad Media Calls

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.25.2016

rodgersIt seemed like the NFL was getting it when they signed on with Twitter to live stream the first 10 Thursday Night football games. Then they limited the amount of original content with NFL footage that the 32 teams could post on social media outlets such as Twitter. Lately, the media has been abuzz with the ratings decline through the first seven weeks. It appears that the NFL is calling the wrong plays when it comes to media.

Drew Harwell of the Washington Post penned an article a week or so ago trying to explain the possible reasons for the TV ratings decline. There are many variables that are effecting the ratings including the Presidential Election, cord cutting, and an aging demographic.

Harwell made a couple of interesting points in his article. First, during the 2000 and 2008 Presidential Elections, the league saw a ratings decline. Second is that overall TV viewership among those 24 years old and younger is down some 40%.

Another intriguing variable is the cord cutting. While apps like Sling TV and Watch ESPN increase in usage it is not enough to offset the viewership decline on traditional TV. What this means is that, yes people are watching in “non-traditional” ways (via mobile phones, tablets, laptops, etc) but these numbers are big enough to say ‘hey, people are just watching this way vs the traditional way.’

One way to embrace those younger fans is to reach them where they are. On mobile devices and on social media. Kind of thought that the NFL was doing this when they signed the deal with Twitter to steam the Thursday Night games. Then they limit game highlights on team social media accounts. The teams have come up with some creative solutions that help feed their fans desire for info but also troll the NFL league office at the same time.

The NFL should be the leaders as far as video distribution on social networks. This should be one of the most important things that the NFL does outside of the game itself. Do bad ratings lead you to not watch a game on a Sunday? Probably not. Does bad social media discourage you from following your favorite team? Probably. If you can’t see the awesome one handed catch by Julio Jones that everyone is talking on Facebook then where do you expect someone 25 years old to see it?

Overall, the NFL isn’t going anywhere but they can certainly stop shooting themselves in the foot. They can do this by getting their content to fans where fans are which is everywhere. Will ratings take a hit? Sure but you’ll make up that revenue and exposure on other platforms and on some platforms that haven’t even been created yet.

Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: Easier To Use and Follow Ups

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.19.2016

As we all know, Twitter is live streaming the NFL’s first 10 Thursday Night games. A couple of games in, you are starting to see some to of the changes that needed to be made not only for the games but for Twitter’s live strategy.

twitterads-they-started-mondayBefore the Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers game I saw more advertisements within the Twitter application further out from the game. I also received an email with a straight forward graphic reminding me about the game. These are both things that Twitter didn’t appear to be during Week 1.

 

twitterliveBy the time the Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers game rolled around the next Thursday, there was a video player inside the desktop application right next to the ‘Trends’ section.This is a big and necessary change especially for new users of the platform. Granted this is only on the desktop/laptop view and not the mobile view but it’s a start.

There are two parts of streaming NFL games that Twitter needs to nail. First show that the platform is stable enough to have the capacity that the NFL and others are going to need. They’ve done that.

The second part is to get users, new and existing, to watch and you can only do that through advertising inside and outside of Twitter.

With the combination of ads within the application running further out from the game and the email campaign, Twitter is getting the second half of this right because the stability and quality of the live stream is great.

Follow Up:

Last week I posted about the low hanging fruit that Sling TV and other OTT providers could pick. Those are the league channels like MLB Network, NBA TV and NHL Network among others. Well in a blog post on Sling TV’s website on October 19th announced that the NHL Network was now available in the sports package.

Princess of Darkness

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.17.2016

Amy Trask was the first female NFL executive. There have been female owners, wives, daughters and others but she was none of these when she went to work for Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders. She worked her way up from an intern to be CEO of one of the NFL’s most storied and divisive franchises and along the line gained the nickname ‘Princess of Darkness.’

Amy TraskTrask has a new book out called ‘You Negotiate Like a Girl: Reflections on a Career in the National Football League’ and was recently featured on the Sports Business Radio podcast. One of the stories she told was how Davis didn’t consider her a woman and how that was one of the more special moments of her career.

Trask makes the point, ‘Don’t we all want to be regarded without respect to gender, ethnicity, race, religion, all of those characteristics which have no bearing what so ever on whether we can do a job.’ It’s a perspective that has examples all over the Raider organization. The Raiders were the first team to hire a Hispanic head coach (Tom Flores), an African American head coach (Art Shell) and numerous young coaches (Jon Gruden and Lane Kiffin).

Trask may not consider herself a trailblazer but she was. I look forward to reading Trask’s book and I also look forward to more NFL franchises seeing things the way Davis did when it comes to race, gender, ethnicity and so on. It is 2016 after all.

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Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: Easy Wins

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.12.2016

Wednesday brings the opening of the 2016/2017 NHL season. With that comes a solid OTT package (full season for $140) and a once a week game live on Twitter. What of course is offered to cord cutters like myself is the league channel, NHL Network. Neither them nor MLB Network nor NBA TV are available in an OTT package but the NFL is. This seems like an easy win that the leagues are not taking advantage of.

NHL NetworkThe league networks have evolved over the years to include live games. NBA TV, NHL Network and MLB Network all show regular season games while MLB Network will actually broadcast a playoff game or two. If you are are cord cutter like myself you are out of luck when it comes to these. While that may not hurt all that much since the games are usually available with the OTT league package, it does make the decision for the casual instead of giving them the choice. If your the league and have your live game content available on every device/service know to man, why wouldn’t you cut a deal to get your network onto Sling TV or Playstation Vue? It seems like an easy win and a simple way to gain new fans.

 

MLB NETWORKWhen DISH Network (Sling TV’s parent company) and the NFL came to an agreement earlier this summer, it would seem that others would follow. All of the leagues are trying to stay relevant during the offseason with some original content, live draft coverage, etc, yet none of this content is available to cord cutters. On the surface it doesn’t appear to violate any existing TV contracts yet these channels and it’s niche content anyway which is right down the cord cutters avenue.

The league channels, outside of the NFL, are not a necessity for OTT providers or for fans. They really don’t ‘move the needle’ so to speak however, it is cheap, easy content for OTT channels and nice to haves for the end user.

What’s Happening Out West?

Compiled by Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.10.2016

For those that may have been asleep, there is a tectonic shift happening in the PAC-12. As Fox Sports Stewart Mandel points out, the Oregon Ducks and Stanford Cardinal have won the past seven PAC-12 titles. No USC, UCLA, or Washington in site. Now, the Ducks are losers of four in a row and Stanford has been manhandled in two consecutive conference loses. So the question is, what happened?

First, the Washington Huskies are pretty good. The #5 Huskies have defeated the Cardinal and the Ducks in back-to-back weeks by a combined score of 114-27. Impressive yes but it’s how they beat these two that makes you stand back and take notice. They overpowered the Cardinal recording 8 sacks along the way and bullying the perennial bully. They then went into Autzen Stadium and hung 70 on the Ducks. A team they had not beaten in a dozen years.

Stanford didn’t recover losing the Washington State at home on Saturday night. It was another game where the offensive line was beaten up, although this time they only gave up four sacks.

The Ducks meanwhile have become the an oil spill. The once high powered offense is unable to make up for a defense that cannot stop a nose bleed since the second half of last years Alamo Bowl. Changes were made including a change in defensive coordinators and scheme.

After back-to-back seasons with a graduate transfer named the opening day quarterback, the Ducks have now turned to freshman Justin Herbert. Herbert may turn out to be a fine quarterback but it makes you wonder why head coach Mark Helfrich was unable to recruit a starting quarterback since he became head coach?

Helfrich has developed quarterbacks throughout his career. From Andrew Walter at Arizona State to Marcus Mariota at Oregon. This is his fourth season as head coach and he has yet to recruit and develop a quarterback.

Stanford head coach David Shaw has another problem. How does a team that has flat out overpowered teams over the last decade all of sudden forget how to do it? Add to that that his star player, Christian McCaffery, has been stuffed by opposing defenses and is now dinged up to the point that he may not play Saturday against Notre Dame.

In both cases you have to look at the head coaches. Did these coaches and their staffs identify the right players in the recruiting process and sign them? Are their players not responding to coaching? More often than not, when programs that have had as much success as Stanford and Oregon have over the last decade, players have a tendency to become complacent. They almost feel like it should be handed to them and they don’t have to work for it anymore.

Helfrich and Shaw have some tough mountains to climb. Neither thought that they would be in this place at this point in the season. While Helfrich and the Ducks have an off week to like their wounds and regroup, Shaw must find an answer this week in South Bend. The other fact is that while the media will always fawn over USC and UCLA, the Huskies are the team to beat out west.

Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: Competition In OTT

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 9.28.2016


Competition In OTT

When I first decided to cut the cord I really only had one option if I wanted to see any kind of sports and that was Sling TV. Over the last few months a new competitor has emerged and that is Sony’s PlayStation Vue. From the outside looking in, there are some benefits but also some drawbacks.

PlayStation VuePlayStation Vue is an application that runs on just about every OTT device except for Apple TV and of course XBOX. When I first heard of Vue, I presumed that I had to have a PS4 or something to use it but I was wrong. While not being on Apple TV hurts it’s distribution, it seems like only a matter of time before it will be available and that will expand the app’s reach.

As far as channels that are available, you pretty much get the same stuff but there are some differences. With the Sling TV Sports Extra package, you get all of the PAC-12 channels and Campus Insiders. These are not available on Vue but to that point, Vue has the Big Ten Network, Fox College Sports, and One World Sports which are not available on Sling TV. So here it really depends on what is more important to you. Are you a PAC-12 person or a Big Ten person.

The price of NFL RedZone is the game changer here. On Sling TV it is included in the Sports Extra package which is $10 a month. On Vue, it is $39.99 for the season which breaks down to about $10 a month for the NFL season. There some other stipulations with NFL RedZone on Vue too as you can see below. You have to have a certain level of package in order to get it and if you downgrade, you won’t be refunded.

Restrictions

The price for the two services is a little different too. While both applications can vary on price, if you max out the sports options, you are looking at $50 a month on Sling TV and that includes NFL RedZone. If you want a similar package on Vue, you are looking at $75 a month but that is only for the four months of the NFL regular season. So for a year, Sling would cost you around $600 a year and Vue would cost you around $580.

As a Sling TV user I can confirm that ESPN3 is available but I cannot confirm that with Vue as of right now. This could be a deal breaker if you are like me and want to watch CFL games during the summer.

It really comes down to your own personal variables. If your OTT device an XBOX or Apple TV then you are going to Sling TV but if you have an Amazon Fire or Roku you can go with Vue. The choice is yours. So far, I have chosen Sling TV.

 

Bradley Breaks Through

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.3.2016

Bob Bradley has done it. He became the first American to be named manager of a Premier League club. Bradley takes over Swansea City which is based in Wales but plays in the Premier League. It is another step in Bradley’s trailblazing career.

Bob BradleyBradley has found success in just about everyone of his coaching stops. He lead MLS’ Chicago Fire to an MLS Cup and US Open Cup title in their first season in the league and his first managerial job at the professional level. He later went on to coach the US Men’s national team and take them to the final of the Confederations Cup in 2009 and to the knockout stages of the World Cup2010.

He famously coached the Egyptian national team through a turbulent time (the Arab Spring) but failed to qualify for the World Cup. After that he made stops in Norway and France’s second division before scoring his historic new job.

As you can see, Bradley is absurdly qualified and has been considered for jobs in Premier League before. Most, including Bradley, would point to the inherent bias against American managers for being passed over for those earlier positions. Swansea City does have American owners but it turns out that chairman Huw Jenkins made the final call to hire the New Jersey native.

Bradley has to improve Swansea City fast and it won’t help that he will be under the every watching eye of the UK press. But he’s been there before so this should be nothing new to the trailblazing American.

Acting On The Data

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.1.2016

Dustin Johnson finally broke through in 2016. After years of finishing second or third he finally won a major and was the 2016 PGA of America Player of the Year.  It wasn’t a new coach or club but use of analytics that apparently made the difference.

dustin-johnsonAccording to an article by GeekWire.com, Johnson’s use of Trackman helped him improve his wedge game from 53rd to 4th among those on tour. That’s a huge jump and it was made because Johnson was exposed to the data and then acted upon it.

This is important not just for athletes but for everyone. Finding the data and analyzing it are steps one and two. But it is step three, what to do about it, is the step that most people screw up on. Johnson didn’t.

Johnson had been so close so many times in major tournaments that it would have been easy for him to pass it off as ‘bad luck’ or ‘it’s not your day’ but he didn’t. Being the competitor that he is, he worked at that part of his game to the point that it put him over the top and made him the 2016 PGA of America Player of the Year.

Golf is in the midst of a youth movement. Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth among others are all under 30. They have come up in a time of massive amounts of instant data ranging from the angle of their swing to information about their health. Acting on that data is proving to be the tipping point between winning a major and having a top 10 finish. That difference is a difference in millions of dollars.