Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: Zero Rating

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 11.5.2016

A week or so ago Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch did his first ever Periscope live broadcast. While he couldn’t talk about specifics (partially because A) why would you and B) Dish was entering a quite period for it’s next earning release) he did point out that Sling TV sees new users every month but a major event like the Olympics triggers bigger pops in the user base.He also mentioned that he didn’t think that going to a ‘zero rating’ was a good idea.

With the recent announcement of AT&T purchasing Time Warner and another AT&T subsidiary DirecTV launching their OTT option this month with a ‘zero rating’ it makes you wonder which path we’ll go down.

‘Zero rating’ is when the backbone provider (AT&T, Century Link, Verizon, etc) allow certain types of content without having it content against you’re bandwidth limit. Now T-Mobile already does a version of this but in their case the content provider (Netflix, MLB, MLS, etc) have to except a lower quality stream in order to keep other content moving through the pipe. In AT&T’s case, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, they say this will increase competition because anyone can pay DirecTV to have a ‘zero rating.’

So what does this mean to you and your ability to watch the Nebraska at Ohio State game on ESPN via an OTT application? Well it means that you have more options to watch the game depending on your device and application. It also means that there is a chance, however remote, that you could not have the ability to see the game.

Being a sports cord cutter for about a year now, I have come close but have not reached my data limit with my ISP. It would be nice if commercials didn’t count against the data cap but that is a technological innovation that isn’t very sexy to build. Not sure how many customers hit the 300GB limit most ISP’s are putting on their user but I would presume that it’s not a lot.

If AT&T wants to go down the road of having outfits like Netflix, MLB and others pay them so consumers won’t have their data caps maxed out then I think they are in for a rude awakening. There is nothing stopping AT&T or their subsidiary DirecTV from raising the price on the content provider and the customer in the name of meeting quarterly earnings. I would venture a guess that this is there plan.

Why is someone like Lynch against this, because it’s not a sustainable path. ‘Zero rating’ is essentially an end run around net neutrality. It would make, by default, the ISP’s the revenue winners in this future of video viewing. It puts the ball clearly in the backbone company’s court and invites a ‘pay to play’ model down the line.

Now back to that Nebraska at Ohio State game. If the backbone companies are able to initiate this ‘zero rating’ then if you are a Verizon customer, there is a chance that Disney (ESPN’s parent company) didn’t want to pay Verizon’s fee and therefore you cannot watch the game. I think that chance is slim but well within this model is a lower quality stream. In other words you are in the back of the bus viewing wise and there would not be much you could do about it.

‘Zero rating’ is not a really fair model for the user or the content providers or distributors. The backbone companies like AT&T are going to make their money because they are a necessity to modern living and they have the ability to put on caps which could also lead to revenue grow however inconsistent that may be. This is not the business model of the future. New models need to arise and they will as more consumers cut the cord, but the ‘Zero rating’ is not it.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.