BAM is for Billions

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


BAMIt wasn’t a secret that Disney was looking to take a stake in MLBAM (BAM) but the end number may surprise some folks. According to Bloomberg Disney is buying 33% of BAM for $3.5 billion with an option to buy more in a few years. That is a valuation of over $10 billion. Not bad for an entity that doesn’t even turn a profit yet.

A few years ago Fast Company did a profile on BAM and within that article there was an estimated IPO price for BAM in 2005. That number was $2.5 billion so the company has essentially increased around $8 billion over the last 11 years. If you did some loose math based on that article you could see that BAM was more or less breaking even.

That’s not to say that MLBAM isn’t worth a $10 billion valuation. They are a white label solution as their CEO Bob Bowman would say. They are the streaming backend for MLB, WWE, NHL, Watch ESPN and have even done the Super Bowl. They made bets that paid off and with this purchase by Disney, it puts them in a position to stay in the lead when it comes to live video streaming.

Disney for it’s part made another shrewd investment. It’s no secret that their cash cow, ESPN, is having to adjust to the new realities of cord cutting. Enter an investment by it’s parent company and Disney has created an A to Z revenue stream when it comes to over the top video. It’s like selling the car and the gas that goes in it.

This is a very smart purchase by Disney. They have the cash to do it and it’s very well timed. It’s no wonder that the Disney board wants Bob Iger to stick around a bit longer. It will be interesting to see if BAM competitors like NeuLion look to cut deals or merge with CDN or network. In the meantime the only one doing better in this space is probably Amazon.com.

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Digital Dugout

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Normally Major League Baseball (MLB) is the last sports league to adopt change much less technological change when it involves the game itself. Tradition is very important to the gatekeepers of baseball which is why a partnership with Apple to allow iPads in the dugout during games is all the more shocking. This change is a quantum leap in a lot regards and puts MLB in front of the other major sports when it comes to using technology during a game.

Apple’s iPad Pro and an app called Dugout will allow each team to access their own proprietary data during a game. This is includes video if the player or coach so desires. Now think about this for a second, the NFL and their much ballyhooed deal with Microsoft to allow Surface tablets on the sidelines only allow pictures and even those are limited. Meanwhile, the old school MLB is going to allow actual video and hopes to get to a point where it’s real time sometime in the near future.

The handoff  is going to be key. As Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon pointed out, until you have AI moving at the speed of thought there is going to be limit to the technology. The anticipation, preparation, etc will eventually come but Maddon makes the same point that Bill Gates made years ago which is that the computer needs to be as easy as a piece of paper.

There must have been some hesitation in the offices of general managers and mangers across the league when this idea was initially floated. Why? Well there is always the old school fear that the other team will ‘steal your signals’ but the most recent technological example is when the Houston Astros were ‘hacked’ by the St Louis Cardinals.

Regardless of the past, come Opening Day players and coaches can ditch the binders (if they want) and grab the iPad to access information. A massive leap indeed for MLB and a move that will have other leagues monitoring the move closely.

 

 

Cord Cutting Is Here For The Sports Fan

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


“Cord Cutting” is one of the hip terms thrown around in the cable, satellite and broadcast world. The real question is, is this a viable option for the true sports fan. The sports fan is, after all, why entities like ESPN, CBS, FOX and NBC write checks with three commas in them to leagues to acquire their rights. So the answer is YES you can cut the cord…almost.

SECN on SLING
SEC Network via Sling TV on an iPad.

Dish Network launched Sling TV earlier this year. They keys for Sling TV are as follows: there is no contract, it is $25 a month with the “sports extra” package that includes the ESPN family of networks and is device agnostic. Yes, it is a viable option for the sports fan. While the speed of your internet connection is a factor in how good your picture quality is, overall it’s an easy to use service that allows you to watch all of the ESPN channels anywhere you want on just about any device.

Outside of the ESPN channels, the sports package isn’t anything to scream about. The package also offers beIN sports, Outdoor Channel, Univision IDN and the now defunct Universal Sports. I am not sure that these really qualify for a “sports package” but you get them none the less. So in reality you are paying $5 a month for ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, SEC Network, and ESPN3. ESPN3 is kind of a hidden gem because it can allow you to watch games on ABC which is awesome if you have a bad over the air signal. You can also use ESPN3 and the WATCH ESPN app to watch a second game because your Sling TV account is a single sign on. That means one account, one screen at a time.

Sling TV doesn’t offer rewind functionality or a DVR. These can be annoying but not deal breakers by any stretch of the imagination.

SLING TV
Sling TV on the Roku 3.

If you live out of market then you are still paying for the league apps like MLS Live, NHL Gamecenter, MLB.TV, etc. You can also get NFL Sunday Ticket online in certain markets. The cost is the same as DirecTV but if you have the money it’s an awesome package. All of these apps available on virtually all of the OTT devices, Do your homework though to make sure that the app your looking for is available on the device you are thinking about purchasing.

Twitter

On the positive side, Sling TV’s customer service is pretty awesome especially if you go through Twitter to do it. It’s a pay as you go service but if you pre pay a few months ahead of time then they will give you deal on an OTT player like a Roku or Amazon Fire. I went with the Roku 3 after watching a review by Lon Seidman and despite some minor drawbacks, it’s working out pretty well.

There are drawbacks of course to cutting the cord. If you go the Sling TV route and dump your cable or satellite subscription then you do not get FS1, CBS Sports Network, NBCSN, NFL Network. NHLN, NBA TV, MLBN or your regional sports channels. This means that if you live in a market like San Francisco, Phoenix, Houston, Pittsburgh, etc then you won’t be able to see your local teams in baseball, basketball, hockey and so forth. You’ll also be blocked out by the league packages offered by MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS and be forced to head to your local sports bar or the game itself.

The other drawback is that you are back on over the air TV. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because, well, it’s free. However, if you live in a place with a bad signal then you may not get your basic network channels like ABC or CBS which isn’t a problem until Sunday NFL games roll around.

Something that you may not have thought about ( I didn’t) is the ability to switch quickly between games. On a college football Saturday, I will swap between three or four games at a time. That is very difficult to do if you cut the cord. Instead of changing channels, you are jumping in and out of apps and swapping sources on your TV. It can be annoying but not impossible.

There are work arounds for all of these issues of course. First, grab someones log in so that you can stream games from apps like NBCSN and FOX SPORTS GO. Research and invest in a super strong indoor antenna for your local channels. It may sound hokey in 2015 but if you want your local Sunday NFL games then you’ll definitely need one.

Finally you have to address your internet connection. You’ll want the fastest possible speed you can get and no matter what your cable company tells you, you do have a cap. I haven’t hit it yet but even if I do go over it’s a $10 change. That is still significantly cheaper than a $150 cable bill.

The fact is that you can cut the cord and still watch sports. It’s cumbersome but not as impossible as it was say five years ago. It’s cheaper in the long run but the short term costs and hit you pretty good. The fact remains that true sports fans can now be cord cutters too and it’s is only going to get better.

The Best Day In Sports. Period.

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

It may be a cosmic event or maybe just plain old luck. Either way, Saturday May 2, 2015 is shaping up to be one of the greatest days in sports history. Just about every major professional sport will be represented and then some. The only question is, is it too much?

Mayweather vs Pacquiao

Let’s start with the one off, the fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. They won’t actually start fighting until around 8:30pm Pacific standard time (PST) on Saturday at which point they will truly begin to split the estimated $300 million in pay-per-view money. 60-40 to Mayweather of course. It’s the biggest fight boxing has seen since Mayweather took on Oscar De La Hoya. It will probably be the last great matchup for a generation.

Before this of course is a smorgasbord of sporting events.

The 141st running of the Kentucky Derby will take place around 3:25pm PST. It’s the one time a year that a wide spectrum of people care about horse racing and women get to wear big hats.

The events that we are use to seeing this time of year are of course Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the NBA Playoffs, NHL Playoffs, and the NFL Draft.

The NFL Draft is the only event where there isn’t any actual sporting activity happening. But this is a football nation and people will be glued to the draft (even the later rounds which will be happening on Saturday). It will be the first time that the Draft has been outside of New York City and the second time that it has been held in the month of May.

Yes, this may go down as the greatest day in sports history. Is it too much though? That’s for you to decide for yourself. There certainly won’t be a lack of options on Saturday that’s for sure. Our advice is to pace yourself and try to find a couple of people to split the $100 Mayweather vs Pacquiao ppv.

Business Decision

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The Baltimore Orioles will host the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday afternoon in an empty stadium. It’s nothing either team did but with the current situation in Charm City, the powers that be came to the conclusion to play a day game instead of a night game with no fans in the stadium. While it may seem odd it isn’t the first time a sporting event has been played in an empty stadium.

Baltimore Riots

Major League Baseball (MLB) faced a similar situation over two decades ago in Los Angeles when the Rodney King riots broke out and shut down the city. The LA Dodgers and Montreal Expos made up the games later in the year with three doubleheaders in three days. The Orioles and White Sox will not have to do that but the Orioles will be a “home team” in Tampa this weekend as Major League Baseball moved the weekend series against the Rays from Baltimore to Tampa.

The empty stadium situation is not unprecedented in sports. UEFA, the governing body of soccer in Europe, has played games in empty stadiums before. In just about every case it was a punishment for racist conduct by a team’s supporters. Most recently CSKA Moscow supporters where locked out of Champions League matches against Manchester City and AS Roma after racist chants in precious Champions League matches. While locking fans out of a stadium is punishment in Europe, it is a matter of safety in Baltimore.

Not everyone agrees with the decision by Major League Baseball but it is their decision none the less. The fact is that baseball is a business. As a business you have to make business decisions while also being mindful of your employees and customers safety. MLB and the Orioles are doing that. Hopefully they nor anyone other league or franchise will have to make similar decisions anytime soon.

 

What To Watch Thurs. 4/9 – Sun. 4/12

All Times Are Pacific.

Thursday April 9th

The Masters 1st Round – Noon ESPN: A tournament unlike any other….and it’s steaming online at themasters.com.

Frozen Four: Nebraska -Omaha vs Providence – 2pm ESPN2: Well since the hardwood Final Four is finished, let’s get on the ice.

Frozen Four: Boston vs North Dakota – 5:30pm ESPN2: Next!

LA Kings at Calgary Flames – 6pm NHL Gamecenter: The Kings need to win out if they want a chance at the playoffs. They have to win this one against a possible playoff opponent.

Portland TrailBlazers at Golden State Warriors – 7:30pm TNT: Two playoff bound teams just tuning up for the post season.

REMOTE-contrast

Friday April 10th

The Masters 2nd Round – Noon ESPN: It’s the Masters. Even if you hate golf you’ll still know who wins this. And it’s only the second round!

NY Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins – 4pm NHL Network: The Pens need to get their act together if they want to be in the playoffs.

 

Saturday April 11th

The Masters 3rd Round – Noon CBS: The cut is down and now it’s time to get down to business.

San Jose Sharks at LA Kings – Noon NBC: The Kings have to win out and get some help if they want any chance of defending their title. The Sharks would love nothing more than to prevent that from happening.

DC United vs New York Red Bulls – 4pm MLS Live: The top two teams in the East square off. Oh, and they don’t like each other.

Frozen Four Final – 4:30pm ESPN: Let’s find out who is college hockey’s best team!

 

Sunday April 12th

Manchester United vs Manchester City – 7:55am NBCSN: A Manchester Derby on a Sunday morning.

The Masters Final Round – 11am CBS: It’s the final round of the Masters. It’s usually pretty awesome.

Portland Timbers vs Orlando City FC – 2pm ESPN2: Kaka visits the friendly confines of Providence Park. Sure the Timbers Army will make him feel welcome.

LA Galaxy vs Seattle Sounders – 4pm FS1: Arguably two of the more entertaining teams in all of MLS. Neither is 100% but it’s still worth tuning in for.

Boston Red Sox at NY Yankees – 5:10pm ESPN: Well if you’re going to watch a baseball game this early in the year it might as well be between these two.

America’s Pastime Returns

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Major League Baseball (MLB) is the oldest professional sports league in North America. It opens up another season on Sunday evening with two of their more legendary teams (St Louis Cardinals vs Chicago Cubs) and a lot of questions to answer as far as where it fits in the modern era.

MLB

The fact is that baseball has it’s fair share of issues. From performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) to the speed of the game (they usually average around three hours) to a lack of diversity on and off the field. Despite all of this the average player salary is now over $4 million a year led by LA Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw who will pull in a record $31 million this season.

While PEDs have been a part of every major sport, baseball seems to be at the forefront as far as use goes. It seems that not a season goes by where a big named player is suspended or accused of using PEDs. The speed of the game is something that is being addressed by the league. Matthew Futterman of the Wall Street Journal wrote a great article about the changes MLB is trying in order to speed up the game and appeal to younger fans.

Diversity in the game, whether on the field or in the front office, has been a topic just below the surface for a while now. White players make up some 27% of the players on the field while African American players make up only around 8%. When it comes to the front office, there has yet to be a female general manager in the history of the game. While there are some ground breakers like Kim Ng, there has yet to be a female in the role of General Manager or President of Baseball operations.

Now it is not all bad news for baseball. 2014 was the seventh best year as far as attendance is concerned. There is a new commissioner in Rob Manfreda new face of the sport in Buster Posey, and last year saw the return of a “small market” team to the World Series (Kansas City Royals).

The biggest change in baseball over the last decade has been the widespread adoption of analytics thanks to Michael Lewis’ book ‘Moneyball’. Released in 2003 and debuting on the big screen in 2011, the book made people aware of sabermetrics and how a small market team like the Oakland A’s could compete year after year with the likes of the New York Yankees and their bottomless bucket of money. Big data has become a major part of the sport and something that both the teams and the fans can dive into.

While the game has it’s flaws it is still ‘America’s Pastime’. A game that has been passed from one generation to the next. Each team starts anew with the hope of reaching the postseason and raising that World Series trophy above their heads. So in preparation we recommend the following this weekend; re-read ‘Moneyball’, watch ‘Bull Durham’ and get yourself ready for moments like the one below.

Let’s play ball!

 

Want To Get To The Playoffs? Hire A Former Catcher

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The most important position in Major League Baseball (MLB) may be catcher. It might also be one of the toughest because of the physical and mental demands. The position calls for strong technique, analysis and physical strength. It may also lead to a successful career as a Major League Baseball manager too when the playing career is over.

Since 2000, half or the World Series managers played catcher at some point in their professional career. They have won seven times and there have only been three years when a former catcher was not managing either team. There was also a streak of four years in a row when a former catcher was managing the winning side (2000-2003).

The Catcher

Why is this? There are certainly too many variables to consider but when you think about it it makes a lot of sense.

Catchers are the most involved player on the diamond. They have to do research on the opposing teams batters so they they can properly call a game. They have to work with various pitchers during a game and know what they’re strengths are then apply to the hitter and determine the best approach to getting that batter out.

Catchers also have to have a sheer love of the game. The physicality of the position has driven some men to other less physically demanding positions. The stress on the knees alone is enough to make a grown man cry.

And this is just defense we’re talking about. This doesn’t include the hours in the batting cage working on ones swing.

Joe Giradi won the World Series with the New York Yankees in 2009.
Joe Giradi won the World Series with the New York Yankees in 2009.

It should come as no surprise then that out of the 30 managers in MLB today, 11 are former catchers. Out of that, eight have their teams in first or second place in their respective division and within striking distance of the playoffs.

GM’s can and owners can do a lot of over thinking when it comes to baseball. One thing they do not need to think about are the prerequisites to being a manager. First requirement, have played catcher at the professional level.

What To Watch Fri. 8/29 – Mon. 9/1

All times are PST.

Friday August 29th

Colorado St vs Colorado – 6pm FS1: This could be one of the best versions of this game in years. Both coaching staff’s have turned around losing programs. Look for a hard fought game.

Oakland A’s at LA Angels – 7pm MLB.TV: Great series and probably the best pitching match of the series with the A’s Jon Lester squaring off against the Angels Jered Weaver.

UNLV at Arizona – 7:30pm ESPN: Both teams are starting brand new QB’s. UNLV is coming off of their best season in years. Watch out Cats.

Saturday August 30th

Ohio State at Navy – 9am CBSSN: This may be closer than the experts think. Ohio State was not good on defense last year and Navy is Navy. It’s a disciplined triple option attack.

Chelsea at Everton – 9:30am NBC: Everton just fell apart in the last 20 minutes against Arsenal last week. They have to do better if they want to beat one of the favorites to win the league in Chelsea.

Colorado Rapids at Seattle Sounders – 1pm MLS LIVE: If Colorado wants any shot at the playoffs they have to come away with at least a point in this match.

Clemson at Georgia – 2:30pm ESPN: Oh this might be the best game of the weekend. It was a fun game last year and should be again. New QB’s on both sides too.

Wisconsin vs LSU – 6pm ESPN: Both teams have some questions to be answered at the QB position. Either way, it’s two teams that could and should challenge for titles in their respective conferences.

Sunday August 31st

Liverpool at Tottenham – 5:30am NBCSN: Liverpool just got hammered by Manchester City on Monday. They do get reinforcements though in the form of Forward Mario Balotelli.

New York Red Bulls at DC United – Noon NBCSN: Battle of top teams in the Eastern Conference.

Milwaukee Brewers at SF Giants – 1pm MLB.TV: Getaway game between two  playoff teams.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Saskatchewan Roughriders – 1pm ESPN3: Neck and neck in the Western Conference standings. Something has to give and the Roughriders get one of their better slotbacks back in the form of Weston Dressler.

Utah State at Tennessee – 4pm SEC Network: See one of the best QB’s in college football in Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton. Tennessee is going to need to harness every ounce of talent they have to win this one.

SMU at Baylor – 4:30pm FS1: If you like defensive struggles then don’t watch this game. Points a plenty are expected.

NASCAR – 4:30pm ESPN: It’s getting down to the nitty gritty before The Chase. They are in Atlanta which means they pretty much won’t touch the brake pedal.

Cleveland Indians at KC Royals – 5pm ESPN2: KC has been an absolute buzzsaw the last month or so. Cleveland is still sneaking around the playoff hunt.

Monday September 1st 

Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Indians – 1pm ESPN: A little divisional Labor Day baseball for you.

Edmonton Eskimos at Calgary Stampeders – 1:30pm ESPN3: The battle of Alberta continues.

Miami at Louisville – 5pm ESPN: It’s Louisville’s introduction to ACC football.

Washington Nationals at LA Dodgers – 5pm MLB.TV: Another playoff preview for your viewing pleasure.

The End Of The Argument

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

In baseball there are big market teams and there are small market teams. What makes a team fall into one or the other? In a word, attendance.  You can make an argument that it’s the owners willingness to spend money to win but in the end it comes down to how many people pay to see the team play. However this is not the deciding factor on if a team can win or not as we have seen over the last 10-15 years which makes Tampa’s trade of staff ace David Price all the more baffling.

This years MLB trade deadline was one of the most interesting in years. Not only were multiple big name players dealt but they were dealt for other major league players which never seems to happen in this day and age. Tampa’s David Price went to Detroit in a three team trade while Boston’s Jon Lester went to Oakland for Yoenis Cespedes and Boston’s John Lackey went to St. Louis. The biggest head scratcher of all was Price going to Detroit especially since Tampa has been one of the hottest teams in baseball since the All-Star break and fought their way back into playoff contention.

Tampa is the smallest of the small market teams. Through 57 home games in 2014 they had yet to hit the seven figure mark in attendance while averaging 17,450 people per game. The lowest average attendance in baseball. Yet between 2008 and 2013 (and since they changed their name from Devil Rays to Rays) their lowest win total has been 86. They have made the playoffs four times and appeared in one World Series during that span.

So why trade the ace of the staff?

The argument that it’s a question of economics doesn’t fly here. Price is eligible for arbitration next year but he is not an outright free agent which means that Detroit will probably be able to lock him up to a long term deal if they play their cards right. It also means that Tampa could have traded him in the winter and work out, possibly, a better deal without sacrificing the season.

Contrast what Tampa did to Oakland. Oakland is the epitome of a small market team as so well documented in Michael Lewis’ book ‘Moneyball’. Yet Oakland went off and traded for big name, big contract pitcher who will be a free agent next year in Lester. Yes it took one of their power hitters (Cespedes) to get Lester but Oakland is just as small of a market as Tampa. While Oakland has 24,000 plus people per game, Tampa actually had a more expensive payroll at the time of the trade deadline.

How can Oakland justify making deals that take on more salary while Tampa can’t? It appears to come down to just the perspective of the front office. One is making a commitment to doing everything it can to win the World Series this year vs just being happy to maybe make the playoffs. One team clearly realizes that they have a better than average chance to win it all while the other believes that there are too many variables against them.

It’s a classic class of the glass half empty or half empty scenarios playing out in real time over the course of a major league baseball season.

The other big question is how does one of baseball’s best managers in Tampa’s Joe Maddon keep his team from tanking the rest of the season? Here you are one of the hottest teams in baseball since the All-Star break and the front office trades the biggest bullet in your gun. If he is somehow able to keep Tampa in the hunt, much less making the playoffs, he should have no problem winning yet another AL Manager of the year award.

The trades made before the deadline were more interesting then they have been in the past few years. Time will tell who got the better end of them. Common wisdom would lead us to believe that Detroit and Oakland did. But as Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher once said, ‘if it’s common it’s not wisdom and if it’s wisdom it certainly is’t common.’