Big Ten – The Last Big Sports Deal

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


The Big Ten’s media rights are all locked up. They will begin in 2017 and according to John Ourand of SBJ it’s a deal that very much falls in favor of the Big Ten and not the networks. One thing is certain about this deal from the networks perspective, it is the last time you’ll probably see a massive price increase.

People have been pointing to the Big Ten’s media deal for a few years now. The Big Ten was the last one of the Power Five conferences to sign a new deal and many people believe that this deal was either not going to be the typical windfall or would only increase slightly. Well it looks like it will mean $20 million a year more to the conference teams so it’s safe to say that the concerns were almost valid.

The real interesting part of this is ESPN’s late entry. They were in, then left the bidding and then returned to win part of the contract. Some thought they wouldn’t bid or would try to leverage some kind of lower end deal. In the end, they ponied up like they always do even after a very low opening bid.

Another interesting thing is that there is no mention of the Big Ten hoarding it’s digital rights. I along with other cord cutters were hoping that the Big Ten would keep it’s digital rights and sell them as a stand alone package on Amazon or through it’s own site. There was no mention of this to this point and it shows that the Big Ten had to use all it’s leverage to squeeze as much as it possibly could from this deal.

This will be the last time the major networks shell out this kind of cash though. The consumer is at a breaking point and are starting to refuse anymore price increases to support these kinds of transactions. ESPN knows this which is probably why they had such a low opening bid.

While this deal is great for the Big Ten and its teams it is the last hurrah for deals such as this. Networks are not going to be ponying up huge amounts of cash in the future and it is time that the sports leagues and conferences look to splitting out their packages and doing what I call the Jeff Bezos, less money out of each user but having a wider user base.

 

Another Step Closer

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Sling TV continues to slash and burn it’s way through the jungle of sports rights. Last week it announced that you can now get a FOX package on the service. This includes FS1 and FOX Regional Sports Networks, giving cord cutters another reason to move to Sling TV.

NEW SLING TV OFFERINGThe announcement kind of came in under the radar. It was all of a sudden…there and according to The Verge, you can get this new ‘FOX’ package (which is in beta) along with the original Sling TV package that has all of the ESPN channels including ESPN3.

The big thing here is the FOX Regional Sports Networks (FSN). So if you live in New York and cannot get the Yankees because you are a Comcast subscriber, well now you have an option. This of course depends on if you live in the footprint of the YES Network. While I have yet to confirm it, I am confident that you can cut the cord in Tennessee and get FSN Tennessee with this new package (someone in Nashville confirm this for me please).

I have always made the argument that cord cutting is really possible for the sports fan but this addition only adds to the argument. Now there are still a lot of caveats to cutting the cord. NBC Sports is still not available without a cable or satellite subscription which makes watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs a bit of a problem. There is also the issue of watching local teams in a market like Denver or San Francisco.

None the less, this move by Sling TV is welcome news to the cord cutting sports fan.

The Sunday: The End, The Beginning & Why We Keep Watching

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The Best Hangs’em Up

Abby Wambach was the best. We say ‘was’ because she announced this week that she will retire from the game after the USWNT December 16th game against China. Currently she has had 252 appearances on the international stage and 184 goals. Hats off to the best.

Power Outage

PLEASE STAND BYGame one of the World Series is kind of a big deal….and then the power goes out to the TV trucks. That’s essentially what happened to FOX during game one. Luckily it was just FOX (along with Televisa and NHK) and not the stadium itself.

FOX did rally well and was tapped into the MLB feed a few minutes later so the game could continue.

Yes they did delay the game.

 

Shootout To Ends All Shootouts 

If you didn’t watch the shootout in the MLS Cup Playoff knockout match between Portland and Sporting KC then stop what you are doing and click on the video below. It was unbelievable, un….everything. That includes breaking the laws of physics.

 

Yeah, That Shouldn’t Have Counted

Miami Lateral GraphicPlease see image to the right. Looks amazing right? Ok, now go watch the video below. We count a knee down of a Miami player before he pitched the ball, three blocks in the back (only one drew a referee’s flag & was reviewed which isn’t reviewable but officials didn’t enforce it anyway), a Miami player running onto the field towards the end of the play from the sidelines with his helmet off (too many men on the field and a player with helmet off are both penalties) and the replay officials are like, ‘yeah looks fine. Want to go to the Halloween party?’ To be fair….no there really isn’t fair here. Duke got screwed.

 

The End Of The Project

GrantlandESPN shuttered Grantland. The long format mix of sports and entertainment started by now ex – ESPN employee Bill Simmons had a lot of twists and turns. It, ironically enough, deserves its own ESPN 30 for 30. The sight did prove two important things: One person is not more powerful than a Disney subsidiary & long format content can work in the era of 140 character limits.

 

The Shorts From Saturday

It’s called elevation holmes.

jump.0

Great On Air But Terrible Online

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Without a doubt ESPN’s 30 for 30 series is some of the best storytelling/entertainment for sports fans on TV. Problem is that if you miss one and did not DVR it then watching it online is not a user friendly experience.

Boz

If you haven’t seen one of the many ESPN 30 for 30’s then you are missing out. They are creative, insightful and very entertaining. They cover a wide variety of subjects like the University of Miami football team to the earthquake that postponed the World Series. If you missed the episode on TV then watching it online becomes a real challenge.

The website for 30 for 30 is pretty. It has a summary of every episode, comments and a nice big image. What it doesn’t have is video. Yes they may have one or two but no archive. You have to do a search and maybe you will find the an episode on YouTube or on ESPN’s website buried somewhere beyond comprehension. Pretty much they’re saying, ‘here is this awesome feature we did and here is what it’s about but go watch it on TV.’ It’s a backwards way of thinking.This is backward thinking creates a bad online user experience and negates all of the online claims that ESPN makes with every PR release.

30 for 30 VIDEO

ESPN needs to make the 30 for 30 more accessible for online viewing. It can do this in two ways: First, build out the YouTube page. The current versions are not what we’d expect from ESPN. Second, build out the 30 for 30 site itself. Add video and build and searchable archive. Do it now before the series backlog becomes too big of a mountain to climb and you cannot do something truly innovative.

30 for 30 on YouTube

ESPN my be the 800lb gorilla in sports but it is vulnerable when it rests on it’s laurels. Not providing replays of original features like 30 for 30 online and making it easy to find shows that it is resting on its laurels. It also provides competitors like NBC and FOX avenues to start chipping away at ESPN’s lead. ESPN needs to actually get on the new media train and stop with the lip service.

Relying on the Dedicated Fan

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

MLS recently announced a new TV deal with ESPN, Fox and Univision. Besides the money (MLS is looking at $90 million a year give or take) the two major points of the deal are 1) the Sunday night block of games on ESPN & Fox and 2) the digital rights.

MLS TV Press Conference

MLS is now going to get a Sunday night block of games. One on ESPN at 5pm EST and then one on Fox Sports 1 at 7pm EST. This will finally provide some regularity to MLS’s schedule.

Now for the bad news.

MLS and the networks believe that this will increase viewership for MLS. But it is asking a lot of the viewer. It may not seem like a lot to ask a viewer to change the channel from one channel to another but why should the viewer do all the work?

This is not ground-breaking or abnormal. Viewers have been conditioned over the years to flip around for the games or shows they want to see. But it’s getting beyond the pale. The NFL makes viewers jump between five channels, the NBA four, and the NHL between three during the regular season and four during the playoffs. Let’s not forget the NCAA Tournament that has games on four channels or the UFC which makes users jump from an online channel to a cable channel to a pay-per-view channel in a matter of hours.

You get the feeling that you’ll watch the first half of a game on one channel and then have to click over to another to watch the second half.

The digital rights are going to go to ESPN. This apparently is still in the works because it’s still pretty vague in the media reports.

Right now MLS has THE best digital deal. You can get MLS Live for around $60 a season and watch any out of market/non national TV game on any device from your Apple TV to your phone.

Now ESPN is getting that.

That means that DirecTV customers, who cannot get certain content on ESPN3 or the Watch ESPN app, are in big trouble. That’s 20 million subscribers MLS is leaving in the dark. Add that to the brilliant TV deal the Columbus Crew cut this off season and less fans will be able to watch games.

While the TV deal is a windfall for MLS a good portion of fans have good reason to be sceptical. ESPN and FOX do not bat 1000 however they will hopefully kick the ball off at the scheduled time unlike NBC Sports.

 

What to Watch For This Weekend

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Thursday Sept. 26

5:30pm-NFL Network: Rams @ 49ers (Both teams really need a win and there is a lot of adversity for the 49ers right now not to mention an offense that has only scored 10 points in the last 2 games.)

Friday Sept. 27

5:25pm-NBCSN: Philadelphia @ Sporting KC (Sporting is in the Playoffs and Philly is on the outside looking in. Philly needs this bad.)

Saturday Sept. 28

4:45am-NBCSN: Chelsea @ Tottenham (It’s a good early season matchup. Chelsea is not looking all that great and Spurs look to stay unbeaten.)

9:00am-ABC: South Carolina @ UCF (A surprisingly tough out of conference road game for the Gamecocks. UCF is no joke. Most of the experts are pointing to this as a possible upset.)

9:00am-ESPN2: Northern Illinois @ Purdue (Could Purdue be NIU’s second Big Ten victim this year?)

12:30pm-CBS: LSU @ Georgia (Watch this game. It will not suck.)

5:00pm-ESPN3: Calgary @ Hamilton (Calgary had Hamilton’s number two weeks ago but now have to travel east and rebound from a heartbreaking loss last week to Toronto.)

3:30pm-ESPN: Ole Miss @ Alabama (Another upset alert game. Bama is not the same team they were a year ago and Ole Miss is much improved.)

4:00pm- FOX: Arizona @ Washington (There could be a 100 points total in this game.)

5:00pm-ABC: Wisconsin @ Ohio St (An actual game for Ohio St.)

5:30pm- Regional: Montreal @ Chicago (Chicago can make a run at the playoffs again but they have to get past Montreal who sits 6 points ahead of them.)

7:30pm-ESPN2: USC @ Arizona St (Lane Kiffin takes the underperforming Trojans into the desert to face a pretty solid Sun Devil team that is coming off a loss.)

Sunday Sept. 29

10:00am-FOX: Seahawks @ Texans: Probably the best team in the league goes on the road to face a possible Super Bowl contender.)

12:50pm-NBC: LA Galaxy @ Portland: Big NBC heads to the Rose City and future playoff teams square off in front of the Timbers Army. If you want to know what a soccer crowd looks and sounds like, watch this match.

5:20pm-NBC Patriots @ Falcons: Can Tom Brady take this young group of receivers and get past the Falcons in the dome? Only one way to find out.