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.

22 It

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 6.25.2017


The Canadian Football League (CFL) kicked off its 2017 season with a game between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Montreal Alouettes this past Thursday. Unless you are a football fanatic like myself or a Canadian with a vested interest in the two teams on the field, you probably didn’t ever know the game was going on. My hope is that someone at the NFL office or at one of the NFL TV partners was watching so that they could be reminded about an angle that they are missing during their broadcasts. The wide angle or as they call it in America, the ’22’ angle.

Roughriders at Al’s CFL 2017 Opener.

For the uninitiated, the CFL has 3 downs, 12 men aside and unlimited motion. Which means that at least three of the receivers get a head start on their routes before the ball is ever snapped. This requires the TV cameramen to get a wider shot of the field because you don’t know where these guys are going. It’s not a genuine ’22’ angle but you have a better view of what the receivers are doing and how the defense is lined up to defend them.

Why would the NFL or college football widen out the camera shot and show more of the field? Well it could be a source of revenue. Most of us, believe it or not, don’t care about the close up of Tom Brady or the coach on the sideline. We care about how the formation and who is on the field.

The down side is that you may reveal a bunch of empty seats at the stadium caused in no small part by a teams performance and high ticket prices. The upside is that nerdy football fans like myself would pay a fee to get just this angle.

ESPN Megacast during the 2014 National Championship game

The reason why a portion of us would pay for this is that we want to see for ourselves how the defense is lining up, who is coming in and out of the game and have a visual representation of where our team is on the field which let’s guess what our team should or should not do. We don’t want an analyst telling us after the fact or being burden by replays when a team goes without a huddle and we miss the beginning of the next play.

Eventually, having graphics overlay that one could turn on and off would be nice as well. I don’t mean your stats of total yards, etc but a marker on a player so that while viewing the ’22’ angle, a mark or flag can pop up over a player as they come on and off the field which is turned on and off automatically by when they cross the sidelines into the field of play.

While there is a lot of talk about how to improve the in-game experience for fans (none of this talk includes lowering ticket prices or beer mind you), very little is talked about improving the home viewing experience. These are two things could improve the viewing experience immediately. While the graphics overlay may take some doing, it’s hard to believe that having a camera zoom out would be much of a technological feat. Extra costs, I think I pointed out earlier that there are plenty of us who would give you money for this.

Some Solid Picks In The 2017 NFL Draft

By Brad Hubbard  | @bradhubbard | 5.1.2017

Another NFL draft has come and gone with it it’s usual predictions and interesting predicaments. While no one can predict the future, NFL teams and television analysts sure like to think they can. There are always there share of booms and busts and usually no remembers how wrong the scouts, general managers and TV analysts were. He is my take on some of the steals and or solid picks in the 2017 draft.

You probably weren’t around for pick #206 but it was solid. The LA Rams selected Virginia Tech fullback Sam Rogers. First, fullbacks are a dying breed in football which makes them all the more valuable but more importantly this guy was a walk-on at Virginia Tech and earned a scholarship after just one week of practice. One week! He contributed all four years so that should tell you something about his character and work ethic. While he may never be an NFL star, the Rams sure aren’t going to have to worry about desire to play.

Zach Cunningham played in the SEC. Why didn’t you hear about him that much? Because that SEC school was Vanderbilt. Cunningham, in my opinion, was one of the best inside linebackers in the draft if not the best. He single handedly beat lead Vandy to an upset win over Georgia in Athens after stuffing Georgia’s top running back on a 4th and short. That was just one of his 125 tackles on the season which led the SEC.

A guy who didn’t get drafted but will probably make the Carolina Panthers due to his hard nosed style is former Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware. He’s not big enough or fast enough but like Cunningham, he just makes plays. Not to mention that he does his homework and can sniff out plays before they happen. This was evident in the National Championship game against Alabama.

Some wide receivers to watch include Cal’s Chad Hansen and North Carolina’s Ryan Switzer. Neither will impress you with their size or speed but both just have a knack for making the tough catches and finding the endzone.

Running backs, how about the three out of the Mountain West. First, Donnel Pumphrey from San Diego State who was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles. While his size put some teams off, he is also the FBS All Time Leading Rusher with 6,405 yards to his name.

Pumphrey wasn’t the only Mountain West back taken. Wyoming’s Brian Hill and Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols both came off the board in the fifth round. Hill is Wyoming’s all time leading rusher (a feat he accomplished in less than three full seasons) and McNichols scored 26 touchdowns in 2015 (20 rushing and 4 receiving) not to mention the 138 yards a game he averaged on the ground last year.

While NFL teams can talk themselves into anything (see the Chicago Bears and the #2 pick in the draft), they eventually do the right thing. Forget the combine numbers and the all that jazz and go back and look at the players tape. You’ll see that the eight guys mentioned here stood out week in and week out. I’ll roll the dice with these guys every week.

The Sunday – From Scary To Celebration

Compiled by Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 4.16.2017

The Scary

We live in a world with scary moments. Borussia Dortmund had an explosions near their bus that put one player in the hospital. It happened on the way to their Champions League match against Monaco on Tuesday.

In a moment that made SF Giants fans and the MLB brass gasp in horror was when Giants catcher Buster Posey took a 94 mph fastball to the head. He’s on the concussion DL and will hopefully be back behind the plate soon.

The Good

Despite bombs and getting hit in the head with a 90+ mph fastball, there is some good in the world and it was reflected in two different spring games on Saturday. First at Ohio State.

And then at Nebraska.

 

 

Why We Love Baseball

Cat Climbs A Wall.

Snarfing the Phanatics wheels.

 

WOW

 

Legend

UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson cemented his place in the record books as he tied Anderson Silva for the most title defenses in a row with 10. He is a bad man and the nicest guy you’ll ever want to meet.

 

More Mouse Davis Than Bill Walsh

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 1.10.2017

Over the years we’ve written quite a bit about Chip Kelly. We’ve written how he wasn’t right for the NFL and we’ve written that he could be the next Bill Walsh. With many things, the truth falls somewhere in between.

Chip Kelly 49ersChip Kelly was fired from two NFL jobs in little over a year. The second wasn’t his fault as he was dealt an absolute oil spill but the first was his fault. More importantly there has been some talk out there that Kelly wasn’t able to adjust to the NFL. He didn’t disguise his looks and become, in a word, predictable.

NFL defenses may have figured out a way to stop Kelly’s ‘blur’ offense but the NFL also adopted some of his ideas and methods.

While at Oregon, Kelly made trips to New England to talk about the hurry-up offense with Bill Belichick and his staff. Belichick and Kelly have become good friends and there is a possibility, however remote, that Kelly could slide into the OC spot if current Patriots OC Josh McDaniels gets another head coaching gig with, ironically enough, the San Francisco 49ers.

The fact is that a lot of teams, college and pro, use some of Kelly’s principals in their offenses. It’s a lot like how every one criticized Mouse Davis’s Run’N’Shoot offense when it debuted in the NFL way back in 1989.

Many criticized the offense and in it’s purest form wasn’t very successful at the NFL level. However aspects of the offense have made it into just about every current NFL offense. Using the pass to set up the run, single back sets and having wide receivers read the coverage along with the quarterback.

Kelly’s offense and training methods are seeing a similar bubbling up across the league. Kelly embraced sports science and employed a ‘sport science coordinator’ while with the Eagles. Other NFL teams have begun to embrace the idea of maximizing athletes performance after Kelly blazed the way.

Teams have also incorporated some zone read plays, allowed their quarterback to run more often, and of course using the hurry-up or no huddle offense throughout the game instead of just at end of a half.

While Kelly may not have revolutionized the game like the late Bill Walsh did so many years ago, he did influence it significantly like Mouse Davis did back in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Kelly’s NFL career will be judged by wins and losses but he has contributed much more than that.

 

SF 49ers: Digging To The Bottom of the NFL

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 1.3.2016

The San Francisco 49ers will be on their fourth head coach in as many years and the first team in almost 40 years to fire coaches in back-to-back years after just one season. The Cleveland Browns haven’t even done that. Add to it that the owner, Jed York, said in his press conference on Monday, ‘I own this football team. You don’t dismiss owners.‘ The 49ers were once the envy of every North American sports organization. Now, they are a laughing stock and paying millions of dollars to their former coaches with little hope for a winning team anytime soon.

Jed YorkIt’s almost scary what’s happening to the 49ers. They seemed to be on the right track when Jed York and then GM Trent Baalke convinced Jim Harbaugh to take over as head coach. He had immediate success and was within an inch of winning a Super Bowl. But Harbaugh and Baalke clashed and York, essentially, sided with Baalke which led to the dismissal of Harbaugh after an 8-8 season.

The 49ers have yet to win 8 games total since letting Harbaugh go.

To add insult to injury, the organization is going to have to pay between $30 million to $70 million to former coaches to not coach. This includes having to pay the next three years of former head coach Chip Kelly’s deal. Kelly never had a chance with the hand he was dealt but no matter, he’ll get paid handsomely for his one year with the team.

The fact is that Jed York should be fired. Can you imagine running a company where you have fired the leadership over the last years and will lose at least $30 million to pay former employees to not do their job?

It would be nice to say that there is some hope for the 49er faithful. The fact is that there isn’t. They have had multiple terrible drafts, lost potential hall of fame players to retirement or injury and have arguably the worse roster in the league. It will take several solid drafts, free agent signings and a lot of luck for the 49ers to make the playoffs again. So strap in 49er faithful, this is a long term plan.

The Sunday – Christmas Miracles

Compiled by Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 12.25.2016

Happy Holidays

It’s A Christmas Miracle….the Browns Win!

And so do the 49ers!

Score a touchdown, get in the bucket.

Or run for a while.

Bortles!

Spreading Holiday Cheer

What the Golden State Warriors have to see when walking into their locker room.

The Good

When the opposing crowd gasps, you know it was a good save.

Whoa!

The Bad

And then let everyone know how he feels

The Ugly

But Duke’s Grayson Allen did something, again, that made you wonder how come he is not suspended.

Then his reaction…

And then of course he was suspended indefinitely.

Things didn’t go very well for the Wyoming punter.

Don’t Miss Event

Gregg Popovich is usually a man of few words but he is a man of action. Popovich attend the funeral of the late Craig Sager in Georgia hours before the Spurs were to take on the Houston Rockets back in Texas.

Marissa Payne of the Washington Post penned a terrific article on Pop and his relationship with Sager.

 

Steph Curry Moment of the Week

3 Star = Pro Bowl

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 12.22.2016

The 2017 Pro Bowl roster was announced this week and while the game is becoming increasingly meaningless, a few outlets point out how there are more former 3-Star college recruits and lower than anyone else on the roster. Proving again that the recruiting star system is also increasingly irrelevant.

Recruiting stars are no guarantee of NFL success or collegiate success for that matter. There are many more three, two, one and no star recruits than there ever are five and four star recruits but most people presume that five or four star players are significantly better than three and below.

While the star rankings do not give the best indicator to future success, it does show that three and lower are just as good if not better than the four and five players if put in the right situation and coached up.

If you look at the no star recruits coming out of high school and now in the 2017 Pro Bowl, two of those players, Antonio Brown and Tom Brady, are arguably the best at their position. Brady is a lock for the Hall of Fame and Brown is probably the most feared receiver in the NFL over the last two seasons. Brown was a sixth round pick out of Central Michigan. He didn’t ‘fit’ the ‘typical’ NFL wide receiver. All he does now is make plays and score touchdowns and has become an indispensable part of the Pittsburgh Steelers offense.

As college football teams go into the final recruiting push early next year, it’s important for those three star and lower kids to recognize that the coaches and so-called ‘experts’ may not know talent when they see it. Proving them wrong is better than any star from.

 

 

The Sunday – Bad, Better, Best and Beyond

Compiled by Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 12.18.2016

Football….At It’s Not Finest

Ryan Tannehill and the worst throw ever.

Browns season in one mascot play.

Not sure how to describe the following motions by the Colts mascot.

And…..ouch.

You know who needs Obama Care? Bryce Petty.

 

Dunking 101

But I know this was not a dunk….

or this…

But this was. And it’s how you should do it.

 

Winter Has Come. So Has Playoff Football.

Winter is not officially here but man does it look and sure feel like it. Which means it’s perfect Penguin weather. So you know this is the only way to get to the FCS Championship game.

Oh it’s so nice.

Not The Way To Retire

Bernard Hopkins retired Saturday night and went out in the way you don’t want to as a boxer. Knocked out and falling through the ropes.

Steph Curry Moment of the Week

Low five to asst. coach after making a shot.

 

Thanks Craig

You knew him, loved him and his fashion. Craig Sager lost his battle with leukemia this past week.