Diary Of A Cord Cutter: Variables Of Failure

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 11.4.2018

It’s not very complicated. If you want people to adopt your service, it needs to be easy and it needs to work. It sounds simple but it’s really not especially when when you only control a portion of the environment you service needs to run. ESPN, YouTube TV and others are making some interesting products and services but they have a ways to go before they can truly be user friendly.

On Saturday, I was watching the Tennessee vs Charlotte game (cause I’m a very proud Tennessee alumni) via the ESPN app on Roku. All of a sudden the feed got decrepit and eventually went out. There was no change to the environment. Internet was working fine. One minute it was working and the next it wasn’t.

After a quarter and a half, the feed came back (luckily the game was terrible so I really didn’t miss much). However, it seems pretty unacceptable to have a feed just go out in the middle of a game. Below are some steps I took  during that quarter and a half:

*Deleted and reinstalled app.

*Checked feed on other devices (iPad) only to find same result.

*Tweeted @espn and @espnapp multiple times to no avail.

*Finally found streaming support on ESPN.com.

*Chatted with support person only to have them tell me, ‘well it works on my machine.’

Here is the takeaway; Google, Dish, AT&T and others don’t own the end-to-end environment. For example, Dish owns the app but doesn’t control the router and device while AT&T controls the app and possibly the bandwidth but not the router or the device. To troubleshoot an issue is tough because there are so many variables.

All cord-cutters have experienced problems like this. One of the more frustrating parts is just finding a customer service. Once you do, With so many variables, the customer service rep is usually at a loss and seems to always recommend  the following: A) Reboot of the device B)Delete and reinstall the app or C) Reboot the router. These are viable options but you generally don’t run into these issues when you have a cable or satellite setup.

In order to keep prices low where consumers will adopt these cord-cutting one of the sacrifices is the customer service. It’s outsourced, hard to contact and generally pretty useless.

It use to be that you’d call the cable or satellite company when your service went out. Now, twitter may be your best option of getting a hold of a customer service rep. Even that can be iffy because of the amount of variables involved with the issue.

Cord-cutting is cost effective and generally a pretty good option. It does have draw backs due in part to the lack of customer service and the various points of failure that are out of the providers hands. Don’t know how to fix it but it is something that needs to be addressed.

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Diary Of A Sports Cord Cutter: Waiting On Local

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 8.26.2018


A week or so ago, Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand reported that Hulu, Verizon and YouTube TV were among the suitors for DC United’s media rights. It’s not new that OTT providers are bidding on local rights but it does raise the question which is ‘when will established media, sports teams and leagues truly open the OTT doors to local sports fans? ‘

For the uninitiated, local/regional sports rights are the true money maker for sports franchises. Not ticket sales, over priced parking, merchandise sales or the $20 you have to pay for a craft beer at AT&T Park in San Francisco. This is why the sports teams, leagues and networks are so reluctant to move to an OTT model.

 

It is, however, inevitable that local sports teams will be available in an OTT package of some kind. What I mean by that is that eventually the teams, leagues and networks will figure out what their fans have already figured out, that delivering content on any device and service and making it easy to sign up for or cancel is the way of the future.

The teams, leagues and networks will also figure out that this is situation is like any sports game, you take what the defense gives you. And that doesn’t mean that you have to like it. The sports fans just hope that this happens sooner rather than later.

Welcome To Canada Mr Manziel

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 5.22.2018

Johnny Football is back. This time Manziel will be donning a Hamilton Tiger-Cats jersey and doing his magic in the CFL. It’s a smart move and one that could potentially make Manziel the most exciting, undersized quarterback in the CFL since Doug Flutie.

First, let’s be real about the expectations here. The Canadian game is significantly different than the US game. While it’s a style that fits Manziel’s skill set, it is also one he’ll have to adjust to. From the motion rules to the routes the receivers run to the way the coverage develops. It’s going to be a whole new thing for the boy from Texas to take into account. With a limited amount of preseason games and his late signing, it’s going to take probably half a season before Manziel starts ‘getting it’ but he could also pick it up a lot quicker.

The excitement that fans should feel is two fold. First Manziel has a coach who has won at every level of football and is a direct disciple of Mouse Davis who is the Godfather of the Run ‘N’ Shoot offense. June Jones offense employs concepts that every team in football now uses and it’s the foundation for the offense Manziel ran at Texas A&M.

Second, look at the comparisons between Manziel and Doug Flutie. Flutie is in the CFL Hall of Fame, won the Most Outstanding Player 6 times in 8 years while up north and also won the Grey Cup 3 times. Flutie’s arm, scrambling, and ability to extend the play proved to be a lethal combination in the wide open CFL. Manziel has a lot of the same characteristics as you can see from the two quarterbacks highlights.

Some will just say that the CFL is Manziel’s chance to get back to the NFL. Maybe but if Manziel zeros in on being a CFL quarterback, he has the potential to be one of the all time greats. This can go a lot of ways for Manziel but the bottom line is that he is in a great spot in Hamilton with a coach with a proven track record. Things could get very interesting in the CFL come August and September.

The Silliest Of Seasons

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 11.29.2017


This time of year (mid to late November) is known as the ‘silly season’ in college football. It’s silly because of several reasons. First, the money spent to remove coaches and hire new ones. Second, the search process which as some schools have shown can be an absolute disaster. Football is a game and if you remove yourself and look at the big picture, what has occurred over the last few weeks or so is absolute nonsense.

Full disclosure, I am a graduate of the University of Tennessee and a very proud alumni.

Over the past few weeks universities (or major boosters) have paid out a minimum of $55 million to remove head coaches. That’s right. $55 million to pay coaches to leave. Meanwhile people in this country, who love these football programs and struggle to make ends meet, have to sit back and watch a coach like Butch Jones will get $205k a month for the next 40 months to not work. The best deal, how bout former Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin. Sumlin will get some $10+ million in the next 60 days to not coach football. Texas A&M doesn’t even get a deal on the payout if Sumlin takes another job. How bout that for an exit package!

Why are these buyouts so high? Well partially because the whole industry has gone off of the deep end. Arkansas head coach Brett Bielema was fired shortly after the teams last game of the season. In fact the media got the PR release immediately after the game which may have occurred before Bielema got the news.

Speaking of deep end, let’s talk about Tennessee and the fiasco that is still occurring there. Athletic Director John Currie fired head coach Butch Jones and was very frank and professional in the press conference following the firing. He gave off an air of professionalism and the expectation that Currie was planning far ahead and a new head coach would be in place soon. Several weeks later Currie tried to hire former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano. That outraged the Tennessee fanbase, media, alumni, boosters and even politicians to the point of protests on campus. It was so bad that Currie had to (from what we know) withdraw the offer and go back to the drawing board. That drawing board saw him get turned down by Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy and apparently be overruled on bringing in Purdue’s Jeff Brohm.

But back to the Schiano debacle. The pulling back from Schiano showed a few things; first that social media and boosters can stop a hiring if they don’t like it. Second that people associate anyone with the Penn State at the time of the Jerry Sandusky abuses as tainted goods and finally, the expectations at a Power 5 school like Tennessee is to have a “splash hire” and someone who can put their team back in the running for national championships. For some at Tennessee that means former Tampa Bay and Oakland head coach Jon Gruden. A coach who hasn’t roamed the sidelines of a football game in a decade and hasn’t coached at the collegiate level in almost 30 years.

Let’s be honest, all this is beyond the pale. This is college football where the players are not paid yet millions of dollars are being shelled out to fire coaches and hire new ones all the while the universities that the players represent saddle students with enough loan debt to make an economist have an extra shot of tequila. Social media turns into the digital equivalent of a forrest fire and fans get so fired up that they protest or confront coaches who might leave as one did at Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher’s weekly radio show.

Athletic Directors are beholden to big money donors who bless or curse hires. Coaches change jobs and receive millions of dollars while the players they recruited are stuck and can only transfer to schools in a lower division or sit out a season. They do not get to share in the riches  of revenue but put their bodies on the line for 12 games a year and then some. It’s time for this industry to look in the mirror and say that enough is enough.

College football is a wonderful sport but it is officially out of control. While the passionate fans found in Knoxville, Gainesville, College Station, Lincoln and Fayetteville among others deserve a quality program for the support they give, at the end of the day it’s still just a game being played by unpaid participants. The amount of money, time and attention being paid to firing and hiring coaches could and should be spent elsewhere. It doesn’t appear that this will change any time soon so do what you can do enjoy the fiery spectacle.

Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: Sling vs Fubo vs Hulu

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.15.2017

Being a sports fan and a cord cutter has it’s advantages but it also has it’s downsides. One of those downsides is that you may have to have more than one service in order to get all of the channels required to watch the games you’d want to watch (depending on the sport and your fan level). While that sounds simple enough, switching between the two apps is not exactly quick or simple and there is still the issue of user experience and that whole buffering thing. But if you get tired of the service, dropping it and signing up for another one takes a whole five minutes.

I have been a Sling TV user for about two years now. After a slow start and the occasional reboot, I have found the service a solid investment. The only knock on Sling from my perspective is that it doesn’t have CBS Sports Network or the Big Ten Network. To that end, I subscribed to another service, Fubo TV, in late summer.

Fubo TV touts itself as the ‘sports fan’ service. Or at least that’s the feeling I get from their ad’s and imagery. Fubo was going well, they had some of the channels I was missing with Sling and more of the financial channels like CNBC and Fox Business. Their interface lacked a lot. Want to go between channels, you have to completely exit that channel, scroll for the next one, and then click on two different screens.

 

Fubo TV’s downfall for me came during two weeks earlier this year. First, I was doing everything I could to stay awake for the end of the Texas vs USC matchup and on USC’s final drive in regulation, the feed went out. Fubo TV allows the user, at least in the Denver metro area, to get the local CBS and Fox affiliate. I was laying in bed when the feed went out and dragged myself out of bed and to the couch to watch overtime on the over-the-ar signal.

The next weekend during the afternoon, the service went out all together. A tweet confirmed the outage and also confirmed my switching over to Hulu.

Hulu is one of the relatively newer OTT services. While the interface is more stylistic than Fubo TV’s, it’s confusing and you still cannot watch a channel and look for another show without completely exiting the channel. Sling TV’s interface allows you to do this and to this point, I find it far superior to Fubo TV or Hulu’s.

Hulu’s service to this point I have found stable and reliable. It is geared more towards the non-sport fan but you can at least set your own channel listing. Drawbacks include when you click on a game, if the TV listing says it’s over and it’s not, you have to go to the channel directly instead of the game itself. Another is you have to dig for the beta live TV service to watch live TV on a web browser and if you’re OTT device is an Apple TV….we’ll that’s not going to end well.

Another drawback is that when you first start Hulu, after a few moments of viewing, I regularly encounter a buffer screen.

It’s annoying and in the middle of a play, soul crushing, but nothing outside of the realm of fixability.

To go a little Bill O’Reily on you, here’s the bottom line:

Sling TV is thus far the best service as far as reliability and user experiencE are concerned. It’s drawbacks are the amount of people who can watch at one time, time shifting (backing up a play so you can see that amazing catch one more time) and the lack of the Big Ten Network, CBS Sports Network and local channels.

Fubo TV lacks in stability, user interface and the lack of ESPN channels. The first two were so bad that I went to another service.

Hulu has a slick interface that was designed by someone who clearly wants to show off their design skills. It has local channels and just about every sports channel you’d want except PAC 12 Network and NFL RedZone.

If you are going to go with one service, Hulu might be it but it’s hard to push Sling TV aside especially if user experience is important to you.

The good news is that if you want to change services, it takes about 15 minutes.

Blackmon 4 MVP

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 8.14.2017

Believe it or not, sometimes it’s hard to be noticed in the rocky mountain outpost of major league baseball. The Colorado Rockies are chasing down their post season appearance since 2009 and they are doing it behind a centerfielder having one of the best seasons in baseball.

Simply put, Rockies centerfielder Charlie Blackmon is having a career year.  Yeah you can always default to the  ‘he plays at altitude’ argument but in this case that argument doesn’t hold up. Away from Coors Field he is hitting .288 with 10 HR’s, 35 RBI’s, with 12 doubles and a .330 OBP.  Those are quality numbers for any leadoff hitter at any park.

In a nutshell, these are his National League stats through August 12th:

1st in runs: 105 | 1st in hits: 159 | 1st in triples: 13 | 2nd in batting average: .338 | 3rd in slugging: .618 | 6th in homeruns: 27 | 11th in OBP: 3.94 |15th in RBI: 74

While most people point to Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado for MVP and for valid reasons. Not only is Arenado one of the top 5 position players in all of baseball but he is also leading baseball in RBI’s and pretty much ranks in the top 10 across all the important offensive categories in the National League.

But let’s be honest, Arenado only has 100 + RBI’s because Blackmon is on base in front of him.

 

Blackmon has been a solid player for the Rockies for a few seasons but he was usually overshadowed by former shorstop Troy Tulowitzki and current right fielder Carlos Gonzalez not to mention Arenado. He overshadowed so much that a year ago the Washington Nationals made a run at acquiring the centerfielder. The Rockies didn’t pull the trigger and now that seems like one of the better decisions any franchise has made.

While there are several quality candidates for NL MVP none of them have gone as above and beyond as Blackmon has. From his hitting to his speed to his play in the vast outfield of Coors Field, Blackmon has proven himself to be MVP material.

Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: Coming True

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 8.7.2017

In a post back in May I pointed out how the little guys were primed for big things when it came to over-the-top (OTT) services. I thought this might be six months off but I was wrong. Two months later The Big Sky Conference signed a deal to have all of their football and basketball games shown on Pluto TV which can be found on just about every OTT device (Roku, Amazon Fire, etc). It’s a trend that will continue and the time for your own private sports channel is finally worth doing.

While the Big Sky Conference isn’t going to bring huge numbers to Pluto TV, it is a niche group. The alumni from Eastern Washington who now lives in Austin,Texas can see their Eagles square off against Portland State. The Montana State Bobcat alum who lives in Sacramento, doesn’t have to make the trek to Bozeman to see them take on Montana in November. It may not seem all that impressive but it’s giving consumers what they want which means they will probably stick around longer which means you can sell more ads and generate more revenue.

The National Lacrosse League (NLL) is showing how to make your own network by using the right combination of platforms to reach your audience. As a recent Bloomberg article pointed out that the NLL is able to charge customers a $35 subscription to watch the league’s OTT channel but it also gives fans a game a week live on Twitter for free.

People are starting to see not just the economic benefit that moving to a straight OTT platform can provide but also the indirect revenue that it can generate.

Mountain West Championship 2016

One of the major topics of discussion that this years Mountain West Conference media days was the possible move away from traditional broadcast partners and to their own OTT channel. Why? Well one of the biggest complaints coming out of the conference the last few years has been the kick off times. Boise State currently has five games scheduled for kick off 8pm or later and three games on week nights. When you get into October and November, it’s not exactly getting any warmer in the mountains when the sun goes down and fans are starting to stay home. That means less revenue from tickets, concessions, parking, etc. Fans have been complaining about this for a few years now and by the sound of it, Commissioner Craig Thompson is listening.

Each conference and league looks at cord cutting a different way but in the end it’s all about one thing, money. Whether it’s about holding on to revenue or if it’s about generating more, each league and conference needs to come up with their own acceptance criteria of what’s best for them. The good news is that there are plenty of platforms and plenty of combinations to try to find out which one is going to suit them the best.

What They Should Do Now

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 7.26.2017

In case you haven’t noticed, there is a lack of the written word on FoxSports.com recently. As you know Fox Sports has to go all in on video on their website. Vice recently followed suit this past week. And of course Sports Illustrated and ESPN have laid off a large portion of their writers over the not to distant past. Whether you agree or disagree with the decisions, direction of the sites, etc, one things is certain, there are a lot of quality sports writers out there wondering what to do next. Well, I have an idea.

There are a lot of reasons why a company lays off it’s employees. A lot of times the employees did nothing wrong, it’s strictly a numbers game and that includes what they are paying said employee in salary and of course the ever rising cost of health insurance.

The main reason for the layoffs is that the media landscape continues to shift beneath the feet of journalists, commentators, execs, teams, conferences, and fans. So it’s time to start executing a different plan instead of trying to jump from one media ship to the next.

What is this new plan? For arguments sake I am going to focus on college football. Several top notch college football reporters were laid off recently including ESPN’s Brett McMurphy and Fox Sports Stewart Mandel. Both have over 100k twitter followers, have great contacts in the sport, written books and are some of the go to people when it comes to breaking news and analysis in the sport. People like this need to come together and form their own sports centric wire service.

Mandel recently became the Editor-In-Chief of College Football for TheAtheletic.com which is a new website based on a yearly subscription model. McMurphy and others should take a similar approach except in their case build a web site that acts, in part, as a college football wire service. Be those boots on the ground reporter that takes advantage of all their contacts and years of experience. They can then sell these to outlets that have cut back that kind of reporting and maybe even have pieces commissioned by these former employers. Outlets like ESPN, Bleacher Report, and even places like Yahoo Sports, the New York Times and others.

This is not game recaps but something deeper. An angle on a player, coach, situation, etc. Because in the not too distant future, there should be an artificial intelligence able to create game recaps for a reasonable price that they can capitalize on.

Let’s be clear, this is a hard core hustle move but it’s a hustle that they can do. It’s a process that capitalizes on their years of experience, contacts and access that they have spent a career building. I understand that this is not comforting news to the older, married, lifers of the industry. But it’s reality. They have the toolset but that toolset is not desired by their former employers. Of so those employers think.

‘All of Nothing’ Drives Home Ruthlessness of NFL

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 7.8.2017

The second season of Amazon’s ‘All of Nothing’ series starts off with Los Angeles Rams head coach Jeff Fisher informing the team that he was fired.  From here the show takes you through the ins and outs of the Rams 2016 season and finishing off with the hiring of a new coach and the 2017 NFL Draft. It’s a long journey and one that NFL Films tells very well.

The Rams 2016 season was teed up pretty well for the producers of ‘All or Nothing’. You had the move from St. Louis, the trade to get quarterback Jared Goff with the #1 overall pick in the 2016 draft, young stars like running back Todd Gurley and defensive tackle Aaron Donald and a schedule that saw them log more miles than anyone during the 2016 season. Add in the unexpected firing of the head coach and you have enough material to fully flesh out 8 hour long episodes.

This series is not HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’. In fact ‘All or Nothing’ doesn’t even touch on training camp. It dives right into the season and does a pretty good job of avoiding the typical NFL game camera angles while it’s at it. There are solid shots from the sidelines and great sound from the coaches throughout the season. From their homes, to the meeting rooms to the sidelines.

One aspect of this show that was very interesting goes back to something that former Notre Dame head coach and ESPN analyst Lou Holtz once pointed out and that is when a coach is fired it’s not just him who is effected. It’s the assistants and their families too. ‘All or Nothing’ does a great job of driving that home. How the families deal with the never ending moves from city to city. For example, offensive coordinator Rob Boras ended up as the tight ends coach for the Buffalo Bills shortly after being let go by the Rams following the season. So in under a year he had moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles to Buffalo while his family was still in St. Louis. It gives you a great look at how much of grind an NFL season can be not just for the players but on the coaches.

This season of ‘All or Nothing’ is compelling and could be compelling for someone who isn’t the biggest football fan. It shows how difficult and ruthless this game can be on the players, the coaches and the families and how everything can change in an instant. It’s story telling at high level and worth checking out.

Tour de Drama

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 7.4.2017

During the final sprint in stage 4 of the Tour de France, world champion Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish were driving to the finish line when Cavendish went into the barrier and was run over by cyclists behind him after it appeared that Sagan nudged Cavendish causing him to fall. At least that is the way the Tour sees it and now both riders are out of the race but for different reasons.

First Cavendish. He took a hard line with no room for error and it didn’t work out. He has a fractured shoulder blade and a nasty cut on his hand. He is out of the race due to injury.

Sagan, the five time Green jersey winner, was initially relegated to 115th place among other penalties but then the Tour changed it’s mind and disqualified him from the race entirely. Sagan denied the claim that he elbowed/nudged/winged Cavendish into the barrier but the race organizers see it differently and have made their decision in the name or ‘rider safety’.

Social media is a buzz about this. While some see a clear elbow by Sagan others point out that Sagan does not need to give a rider behind him a clear path and that Cavendish took a very dangerous if not reckless line.

The bottom line is this, Sagan and Cavendish are out. Two popular cyclists out of cycling’s biggest event of the year. It also means that the race for the Green jersey is wide open. This will either make the 2017 edition of the Tour de France incredible interesting or it will forever have yet another asterisk next to the results.