Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: Hulu Enters the Fray

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 1.5.2017

Hulu finally announced that they are entering the live streaming fray to compete against DirecTV Now, Sling TV and PlayStation Vue. This has been rumored about for several months but was finally announced this week at CES. Will this be a viable option for sports cord cutters? On the surface the answer appears to be yes.

Hulu announced that the price for the package will ‘under $40’. Translation: $39.99 (Really guys? You think this still works on people?) Second, and this is what has the press buzzing, Hulu got CBS to sign on. This means that you can watch NFL on CBS games (apparently only the game in your local market but they weren’t clear on that) and the elusive CBS Sports Network with this package.

To go along with the CBS Sports Network, you will also get all of the ESPN and Fox Sports channels. In essence you are getting as many channels sports wise than what Sling TV can offer. Although Hulu made no mention of the league networks (NFL, NBA, NHL, etc) or of the collegiate channels (Pac 12, BigTen, Campus Insiders) much less NFL RedZone.

While the selection and price point seem too good to be true, in my experience it usually is.

Hulu Pricing ModelLet’s not forget that Hulu was the online provider that brought us the most ridiculous pricing model known to the Internet. How? By convincing you to pay them to allow you to watch commercials. Also because Hulu is run by studios (Comcast, Disney, Time Warner, 21st Century Fox) which means that they see things through the TV lens. However, they are not dumb and they saw the backlash on DirecTV Now’s rollout and packages that did nothing but move the cable and satellite bundling to a new domain.

Hulu has a chance here but details are too vague to see if this is going to be a true option for the sports cord cutter. Basically no one in the cord cutting universe offers all of the ESPN, Fox Sports, NBCSN, League and Conference networks and CBS Sports Network for under $50 a month. That is a hard thing to do and we’ll have to wait and see if Hulu can do it.

Digital Consolidation

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


BAMIt’s been a busy couple of days in the digital sports world. First MLBAM (BAM) buy a part of Silver Chalice Ventures (SCV) who owns SportsLabs, ACC Digital Network and Campus Insiders just to name few. Then Fox Sports and SI decide to team up for an editorial/ad deal. Essentially, they will merge their traffic to sell. What does all this mean to you? Not much but it’s certainly interesting.

CampusInsidersThe SCV and BAM deal should, in the future, bring more confidence to the pessimistic folks who feel that live streaming isn’t stable enough. It also gives new BAM investors Disney another reason to possibly purchase all of BAM down the line.

The Fox/SI deal presents some interesting ideas. Two of the old media establishments partnering together in the new world. Funny because two of the better know personalities from these two organizations had a feud a few years ago.  

Consolidation is nothing new in business much less in media. It will interesting to see how this effects coverage, analysis and fans ability to see games on something other than their cable or satellite provider. Time will tell.

The Man Baylor Needs

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


While you can read about what is happening at Baylor at ESPN, Fox Sports, Deadspin, etc, I like to look to the next step, who Baylor should hire next. That person is a former Baylor All-American linebacker, Mike Singletary.

Fox Sports Bruce Feldman brought up this point on the latest edition of ‘The Audible’.

Singletary is the guy for right now. Not only is he the straightest shooter you’ll probably ever meet but he has also taken the time to learn more about the job of being a head coach. He’s been learning everything he can about the X’s and O’s since he left his head coaching job.

He’s a man of faith and family and this is his alma mater. How ill the allegations may make you feel, it’s even worse if that is your school and this is his school so one can only image how painful this is for him. 

Can he adjust to the collegiate game is the big question. The NCAA rules and regulations, recruiting, etc. It would be an adjustment for him for sure but if he got the right staff around him then one could only hope that he would run a good, clean program. 

Baylor needs Mike Singletary and needs him now.

Second Screen, Delays & Moving Forward

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


A lot of people are on their phones, tablets or computers while watching a game. The College Football Playoff National Championship game is no exception. According to a study by Accenture, 87% use a second device while watching TV. It gets even more interesting when you cut the cord and stream the game. It gets even more interesting when you have multiple channels to switch between and ESPN using the National Title game as a test lab for coverage.

ESPN Megacast FilmRoomThe college football National Championship between Alabama and Clemson is going to be one of the most watched sporting events of the year. If you are watching it via an OTT provider like Sling TV and also on twitter….you will notice that twitter is more real time than Sling TV.

There is a delay when you stream video. It’s a byproduct of having to take a satellite feed, run the signal through an encoder and then spit it back out. It’s just the way it is right now. For the National Title game I was noticing a good 30-40 second delay between twitter and Sling TV.

Now these very rough findings are going to vary between users but it is a good thing to remember if you are on twitter and watching a game via Sling TV.

Coverage

Periscope Travis and KlattThrow in a new wild card, Periscope. Clay Travis of Fox Sports and Outkick the Coverage was streaming during the game. It usually consisted of himself and Joel Klatt and had various people on over the phone. This feed was on par with twitter and about as real time as you can get. It was not overly compelling which is shame since Travis and Klatt have a lot of insight to offer. It is awesome to see this medium used during an event like this. And it costs virtually nothing to do.

ESPN had a similar thing going on but with a higher budget on ESPNNews in ‘Voices’. This featured everyone from Taylor Twellman to Jay Bilas and wrangled by Michelle Beadle. Both the Periscope feed and ‘Voices’ just turned into people yapping about anything but the game and could be better.

ESPNU had the ‘homers’ broadcast from the sideline of the game. It was hosted by Joe Tessitore and Dave Pasch with alums Tajh Boyd and Barrett Jones. While semi-interesting it just wasn’t compelling.

SEC Network featured Paul Finebaum’s version of of FilmRoom with Bret Bielema, Greg McElroy and Booger McFarland. It was ok but not as good as ESPN2’s FilmRoom.

ESPN Megacast FilmRoomFilmRoom featured five head coaches along with Chris Spielman and Brian Griese. They brought Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi back again this year and he was joined by Jim McElwain, WIll Muschamp, Willie Taggert and Larry Fedora. A good combo with lots of insight and good connections to Clemson and Alabama.ESPN GoalLine National Title Game

 

While FilmRoom was very interesting but rough around the edges, ESPN’s best coverage was via GoalLine. It was a mutli-screen feed complete with stats. The audio during the game was ESPN Radio which featured the awesome combination of Mike Tirico and Todd Blackledge. During commercial breaks one of the screens would either jump between the other channels like ESPN2 and ESPNNews. NFL’s RedZone channel should do this for the Playoffs. Super compelling and great, great broadcast combo.

So word to the wise, if you cut the cord and are watching a big game via Sling TV or WatchESPN, don’t be on twitter. Twitter will spoil it. Would love to see ESPN do more with FilmRoom and GoalLine during the regular season. Maybe do FilmRoom on WatchESPN for the Saturday primetime game with retired or out of work coaches. Same thing for GoalLine. Either way, the future of live sports looks fun but has something work to do.

The Sunday: A Bad Week

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Dempsey Sent Off

US National team star Clint Dempsey was suspended three matches by MLS for his actions which led him to be sent off during a US Open Cup match last week. Dempsey took the referee’s notebook, tossed it and then picked it up and ripped it in half.

It’s not a good look for Dempsey or MLS. Apparently if a player takes the referee’s notebook it is supposed to trigger a six match ban and is considered an act of assault.

 

Fox Fails At Golf

A couple of topics for discussion during this years US Open at Chambers Bay. Most have to do with the golfers or the course (which a lot of players say is just terrible) and another is with Fox Sports’ coverage. Covering golf is a new thing for Fox and it showed during the tournament. Upsetting fans seemingly at every turn. From the leader board crashing to a vignette of Jason Dufner going to Seahawks practice instead of showing actual golf.

ForTheWin probably has the best summary of the coverage and well worth the read. While some argue that golf needs to get younger no golf fan young or old turns on the TV because you have a drone. They tune in to watch Rory McIlroy nail a 72 foot putt

 

The One You Want Back

Max Scherzer was literally one strike away from having Major League Baseball’s 24th perfect game. That one pitch that ended up hitting Pittsburgh Pirates pinch-hitter Jose Tabata. Ouch. It’s not all bad news for Scherzer, he did get the no hitter and lowered his ERA to 1.76 while retiring 54 of the last 57 batters he has faced. 

How ESPN (and others) Screw College Football Fans on DirecTV

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

One could argue that ESPN was all about the College Football fan. No matter the game, ESPN seemed to carry it on one of its many platforms. Now, ESPN has taken a step backwards. It has let an old TV mindset takeover and in the process screw the College Football fans in the digital age.

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Last season, it was a College Football fanatics dream. If you were on DirecTV (which a lot of sports fans are because of NFL Sunday Ticket) and had an internet connection (pretty standard in 2013) you could watch multiple games at one time via DirecTV and ESPN3. On DirecTV you had your main games you flipped between, your XBOX 360 had another game or two via ESPN3 (any game on ESPN3, ESPNU and even ESPN2 was accessible), and yet another game via ESPN3 on your laptop. This year, unless you are a TV and internet customer of the cable provider (Comcast cable and Comcast internet for example) you can only get games shown exclusively on ESPN3. If you do have this, you’re in great shape. If you have DirecTV, we’ll you’re hosed.

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Why was something available last year and not this year? Probably because contracts got renegotiated at some point between last season and this season and with all of the conference realignment going on that is probably a safe bet.

But why would ESPN, the profit center for Disney, backtrack on showing games? Isn’t showing more games, and selling more advertising a great way to make money? Is ESPN really worried about people the digital world cannibalizing the TV profit? What is this, 2006?

In ESPN’s defense, they are not the only one who do this. The Big Ten Network does not allow you watch a game online if it is being broadcast of the Big Ten Network (as we’ve been told by the DirecTV customer service rep).

The bigger questions still remain why? Why treat TV and online separate when as recently as last season they we’re considered almost equal? Why must you have a TV and internet subscription to watch games on laptop, XBOX or tablet? Why isn’t an internet subscription enough? Why limit your customer base to those who have a cable TV subscription? By cutting out the DirecTV customers your losing 20 million people in the US. 

Could DirecTV help? Sure but their iPad app is…well horrible. You can only watch certain channels and only within your home. That’s like buying a car and only being allowed on certain streets.

There are answers out there. The short-term one is Slingbox. This device will make a comeback but not without a price. You’ll need another DirecTV receiver in another room. Kind of a bummer and a lot more money.

The long-term answer is for ESPN, the Big Ten Network, NBC Sports Network, and Fox Sports, to come up with a digital answer…not to say that they don’t already have one.

For example, when ESPN3 shows CFL games, there are ads during the commercial breaks of the broadcasted game. Yes it’s a bit of an apples and oranges comparison but not really. Why can’t ESPN, FOX, NBC and others run different ads online as they do on air? It’s not like they aren’t doing it already.

What is really sad is how unprogressive ESPN and others have become. They are taking steps back instead of forward and giving credence that the ‘any device anytime’ line is really just lip service.

What happens now is that fans will use pirated streams to watch the games. Nobody wins there. If the folks at Fox Sports, NBC, and the Big Ten Network (partially owned by Fox by the way) were smart they would flood the digital space with live, free streaming and sell the bejesus out of it. It’s a white space that can be stolen right from under ESPN’s nose. Then again, maybe this is another reason why the digital world will never overtake TV.