The Pacing Problem

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 11.12.2016

The pace of college football games is becoming a bigger issue. The nearly 5 hour Tennessee at Texas A&M game earlier this year was probably the straw that broke the camels back. But there are ways to fix this and yes they are easy to achieve.

There have been two major articles written on this subject this fall. First by Ben Cohen in the Wall Street Journal and then by Dennis Dodd at CBSSports.com this past week. Both point out that games have steadily been increasing in time since 2008 and a few of the reasons are up-tempo offenses, increased scoring and of course TV timeouts among them.

Cohen’s article did an analysis on the Florida State vs Ole Miss game at the beginning of the year. While the game lasted a little over 4 hours there were only 16 plus minutes of actual football action (it was a heck of a game though).

Dodd’s article points to the main culprit of extended games, fast-paced offenses. Kind of ironic that fast-paced or up-tempo offenses cause games to be longer. Short passes, snapping the ball 15-25 seconds after the previous play all leads to more plays, more stoppages and longer games.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema have been vocal about the this style of play in the past claiming that it will lead to injuries. That may not be far off but there is no data to support their beliefs.

A few years ago, I remember listening to UCLA head coach Jim Mora on the Jim Rome show. He pointed out the low hanging fruit on how to solve this problem, quit stopping the clock after a first down. The NFL doesn’t do this and Mora postulated that if you don’t stop the clock after a first down then you will decrease the amount of plays a team can run (probably by a dozen) and speed up the game in the process.

Tougher sells would be to shorten the play clock by 10 seconds, limit reviews to 90 seconds, and limit the number of commercial breaks in a game.

There are fixes for this problem and some of them are pretty easy. This is an issue that the NCAA should look at. Games are getting longer and in a world where students won’t go to games due to poor mobile phone reception, it is an issue that should be addressed sooner rather than later.

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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.

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.

Sports Business Radio Podcast

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: RedZone and Radio

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 9.28.2016

I cut the cord last November. While addicted to sports, it made little sense to pay Comcast $150+ a month so I could watch various college football games and receive NFL RedZone. I began looking into other options. I found Sling TV and a plain, old fashion over the air antenna. This is the football season where I will be a full fledged ‘sports cord cutter’ and this is how it’s going.

RedZone and Radio

It was touch and go there for a few months as Dish (Sling TV’s parent company) and the NFL negotiated a truce. Once they did, NFL Network and NFL RedZone both appeared on Sling TV just in time for the start of the NFL season. While that is great, there are still some channels missing that leaves you searching for other options when it comes watching or listening to a game.

RedZoneRedZone is a great channel for the 17 weeks of the NFL regular season. No commercials and you get to see every score. The downside of course the ‘internet streaming delay’ that can vary from event to event. That means that you may hear about a score via text or social media before it actually comes across RedZone. The benefit of course is that you can be completely mobile and not miss any football.

CBS Sports Network is not available for cord cutters. The channel has very limited agreements with cable providers to give one the ability to watch the away from the traditional method of sitting in front of the TV.  This means that you are left with two options if you want to follow the game on CBS Sports Network. 1) go to a bar that may have it or 2) revert to the radio.

Last Friday Wyoming visited Eastern Michigan. I wasn’t feeling the bar route so I downloaded a radio app for my phone and listen to the game. Combine that with twitter and you had a pretty real time experience. It’s cumbersome but it can work and you can still see the big plays pretty quickly after they happen. In some cases even faster than that ‘internet streaming delay’.

It is kind of funny how new technology can lead towards using old technology. While reverting to the radio is an old school thing to do, so is using an over the air antenna which is something else that I do. It’s a lot like how Netflix exploited the USPS to get dvd’s out when they originally started.

RedZone on Sling TV is the real deal but being a cord cutter means that sometimes you have to go old school. You have to take advantage of over the air television and the radio. While it’s not ideal, neither is not having all of the sports channels available online.

Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: Here But Not There

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 9.21.2016

I cut the cord last November. While addicted to sports, it made little sense to pay Comcast $150+ a month so I could watch various college football games and receive NFL RedZone. I began looking into other options. I found Sling TV and a plain, old fashion over the air antenna. This is the football season where I will be a full fledged ‘sports cord cutter’ and this is how it’s going.

Here But Not There

Cord cutting is not for the faint of heart. It is something that you have to want to do. While Twitter proved that they can handle the current level of cord cutters/mobile users who will demand the ability to watch Thursday Night Football while at their daughter’s dance recital or watching on their XBOX. It is a little frustrating though to not have the ability to watch the Thursday Night game via NFL Network over Sling TV.

photo-sep-15-8-41-39-pmWhile Twitter did a great job, they really did but their deal did have  a head scratching moment. Sling TV users on Roku saw the error you see to your right. How does that happen?

You’d figure that you’d be able to watch the Thursday Night game on NFL Network just like you’d be able to on Comcast, DirecTV, Time Warner or even Dish. You’d be wrong.

The NFL and Twitter cut a pretty sweet deal that would allow Twitter to have exclusive access to any and all OTT services. Or so it seems. In Twitter’s defense, they did roll out apps on XBOX One, Amazon Fire and Apple TV in time for the game. That’s great but Roku has around 10 million users, more or less, which makes them a fairly big player and to not be able to stream the Thursday Night game is pretty significant.

All hope was not lost though. Any decent cord cutter, including myself, have an antenna to capture over the air broadcasts. The real question becomes, when Twitter stops streaming the games after week 10 of the NFL season, does that mean that I can watch the Thursday Night game on NFL Network on Sling TV again since it will be exclusive?

It’s all very confusing but this is what happens in the new frontier. Deals are cut as people try to put the new model into the an older one. It’s the equivalent of putting a round peg into a square hole. It should all be sorted out soon enough and we can all get back to streaming the games were supposed to.

Twitter Does The NFL & It Didn’t Suck

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 9.16.2016

twiterThe biggest name in North American sports, the National Football League, has officially embraced over the top streaming and the experience didn’t suck. Thursday nights game between the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets was the first NFL game ever streamed over Twitter. While there is some room for improvement, Twitter pulled it off.

The NFL has dipped it’s toe into the live streaming world for a couple of years now. Their streaming only game from London last year between the Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars was a success but the numbers were not the most accurate thanks to Yahoo autoplaying the game on the homepage. While experts like BAM’s Bob Bowman say that it’s a dicey proposition to go all in and make OTT the only place to see a Thursday Night game, Twitter doesn’t have to worry about that. CBS or the NFL will be broadcasting the games so Twitter only needs to worry about the cord cutter and mobile folks. As Sports Business Journal’s Eric Fisher pointed out, that is a solid number of people but nothing that should put too much stress on Twitter’s system.

Twitter was ready for this amount of users because they did a dry run the opening weekend of college football. The Weber State vs Utah State football game was a low profile way to test their infrastructure. It worked beautifully and they were able to replicated that with a significant increase in users. That should make CEO Jack Dorsey sleep well at night.

twiter2Thursdays game was a solid, stable, and had good quality stream. Finding the game was another issue.

If you were on a phone, there was no clear advertising to find the game. The best way was to search #TNF, #NYJvsBUF, @NFL, one of the teams or go to Moments. On a laptop, you were able to see a LIVE graphic in the trending section. That helped but you’d have to figure that the users were split between computers/OTT devices and mobile devices. For any new users, it would have been hard to find.

Twitter was the dark horse to win the streaming rights for Thursday Night Football. There was a lot of curiosity to see if they could pull it off and they did with flying colors. While things went well, they have to work on alerting people. It’s a challenge all OTT providers face but one that has to be solved soon.

Further Reading:

ReCode

Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: Unavailable on iPhone

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 9.14.2016


I cut the cord last November. While addicted to sports, it made little sense to pay Comcast $150+ a month so I could watch various college football games and receive NFL RedZone. I began looking into other options. I found Sling TV and a plain, old fashion over the air antenna. This is the football season where I will be a full fledged ‘sports cord cutter’ and this is how it’s going.

Unavailable On iPhone

Sports fans, especially Pac-12 fans, got an unexpected gift last Thursday. Sling TV announced a deal with the Pac-12 Network to get all of the Pac-12 channels which are split up into regions (Mountain, Arizona, Washington, etc). However the victory was short lived as the pop up ‘Unavailable on iPhone’ appeared during Monday Night Football.

pac12The Pac-12 deal is big for a couple reasons. First, the Pac-12 has some pretty darn big media markets including Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Seattle, Portland, Denver and Phoenix. Second, DirecTV doesn’t have the Pac-12 Network which means about 25 million people. The cost savings an opportunity to watch your Alma Mater could be enough to chip into that number for Sling TV.

Then Monday happened.

imageEvery now and then I have to travel for business. This trip just so happened to land on the season premiere of Monday Night Football. While bandwidth on the Southwest flight is good enough to get a medium to low quality stream of Sling TV (which I found out a day later by streaming the US Open Cup Final on ESPN), it was shocking to see the ‘Unavailable on iPhone’ when I got off the plane and tried to watch the Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers game on ESPN.

That’s right. I can watch via a Roku on my TV, my laptop or tablet but I cannot watch on an iPhone. That’s some 63 million Americans who, in theory, could not watch Monday Night Football on their phone.

That’s kind of shocking.

Now I did not try the WATCH ESPN app. I was so flabbergasted that I couldn’t watch on Sling TV that I totally forgot about the WATCH ESPN app. I was also going to be at my hotel in a matter of minutes and the game was at halftime.

I am sure that there is some contractual or technical reason why I couldn’t watch one of ESPN’s most popular programs on my iPhone but as a user I don’t really care about the reason. Part of the reason for cutting the cord was so I could watch anywhere I wanted to, on any device. How can I watch any TV, tablet or computer but not on the device that is with me 24/7? It’s like the content is available ‘almost anytime on almost any device.’

Sling TV is still winning as far as I am concerned. Two weeks into the college football season and I don’t feel like I am missing any of the action. Not being able to watch Monday Night Football on the device I have with me all of the time is odd but something that I am sure that will be fixed.

Big Data In College Football

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 9.10.2016


Rukkus, a ticket selling website, showed what you can do when you sit down and comb through the data. Some of this shouldn’t be surprising like the fact that Hawaii leads everyone in how far players have to travel to go to school there. Some of the other stats may surprise you though.

One of the things that made total sense is that Stanford was second. Stanford has to recruit a certain kind of ‘student-athlete’ and Stanford is that place where they truly are ‘student – athletes’. So the Cardinal has to go all over the country to find their players.

Navy, Army, and Air Force pretty much the same deal as Stanford. A certain type of person is going to go to these Academies. This is why all 3 are in the top 12.

Nor Cal

The one that did raise an eyebrow but it really shouldn’t when you think about it was the fact that the PAC-12 has 11 of the top 24 spots on the list. Surprising because you really never think of it but not surprising in that when you get out west, things are little more spread out than they are in the south.

Overall this was a really impressive use of data in sports. A lot of times people look at data within the context of the sport itself or they find another sport and transfer over that data. Other times data like this is glossed over and used a bumper on ESPN College Gameday into the ‘feature’ on a player or coach.

imageNow compare this to the ESPNFC article from the other day that pondered the question, if your NFL team was in the Premier League, what team would they be?

Really? This is what you are bringing to the table ESPN?

A ticket selling site gives us great use of big data and ESPN throws out this? Really disappointing.

Data like this can be used to draw so many other conclusions. Last 5 College Football National Championships have been won by Florida State, Alabama (3) and Ohio State. They are only a few spots from each other (59, 63 and 67) or have players who are 400 to 367 miles on average away from home. Oregon and Oklahoma are the only two schools in the top 48 who have made the College Football Playoff and neither won the National Title. Those players travel some 1,000 (Oregon) and 515 (Oklahoma) miles to go to school at these universities.

This is a great use of data. It’s intriguing, can help put things in a new perspective and help coaches, players and fans know their schools just a little bit better. Biggest shock, this wasn’t ESPN, CBS, NBC or FOX that came up with this.