Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: Carnage and Opportunity

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 5.23.2017


It’s what they call in Washington a ‘True Fact’ that cord cutting is affecting the sports world in a major way. North America’s biggest sport rights holder, ESPN, is front and center in this battle of the cord cutting and the traditional way things have been done.  Subscribers are fleeing at a rapid rate (down 12% since 2010) and ESPN along with the sports leagues are trying to figure out how to stop the bleeding or profit from the change. While the traditional powers are nervous, small leagues and up and coming sports are rejoicing.

ESPN has spent billions on sports rights between the NFL, NBA, MLB, college football and others. To give you an idea of how much they do spend a year, they spend over a billion dollars on the NFL alone and they only get one game a week! With the old cable and satellite model being blown up, the network and the leagues are looking at every option available to them which is partially why ESPN’s parent company, Disney, bought into MLB Advanced Media last summer.

The NFL, MLB, MLS, PGA and NBA are already reaching out in different ways to get their live programing to their fans. Whether it is the NFL cutting a deal with Amazon or MLB and MLS signing deals with Facebook, the sports leagues are already preparing for the day when they see a decrease in the value of their sports rights. Gone are the days of multi-billion dollar deals for the exclusive right to show a sport. In the near future the leagues and big time college conferences will have to spread the costs among several outlets.

ESPN is approaching this transition a little discombobulated. The fact is that live streaming on platforms like Amazon, Facebook and Twitter will not replace the loss of dollars from the traditional cable/satellite/TV world. However, these new platforms are a life saver to niche or relatively new entities like eSports, MMA and others.

ESports were born online and are thriving on platforms like Twitch, YouTube and even Facebook. These OTT platforms are also paying a whole lot less for the sports rights than ESPN, NBCSports and Fox Sports are paying for traditional sports like the NFL and NBA. These new platforms also provide these niche or newer sports the right demographic and a ton of exposure.

What does this mean? A lot more exposure for League or Legends, Overwatch and even the UFC if they play their cards right.

Remember, these niche and newer sports and starting from scratch in a way. An mid eight figure deal for an eSports league or new MMA organization is a windfall for them. The same can be said for a non-power five conference like the Mountain West who floated the idea earlier this year of going to straight OTT model.

The fact is that Disney, Comcast, and Fox are unlikely to retract the amount of cable outlets they have. And if they are unwilling to play these huge amounts for the rights to the NFL, NBA and others then they’ll have to fill the hours on their networks somehow. That could give newer, cheaper sports entities like Riot Games League or Legends or the UFC an opportunity to swoop in provide quality content that pull desirable demos for a reasonable price.

The winds of change are upon the sports networks and leagues. You are already seeing layoffs because of these changes and you are going to see more. But these changes are inevitable and disrupting but not the end all be all. Opportunity does exist for the traditional sports networks and leagues but the have to accept the fact their options may not be as beneficial to them as things were in the past. For the newcomers, get ready for a windfall of money and a lot more exposure. Here’s to hoping that you know how to scale.

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What To Watch Fri. 2/13 – Sun. 2/15

All times are Pacific.

 

Friday February 13th

Arizona Wildcats at Washington Huskies – 6pm ESPN: This is a good basketball game for a Friday night. It’s no gimmie either for the #7 ranked Wildcats.

Boston Bruins at Vancouver Canucks – 7pm NHL GameCenter: Two teams battling to stay in the playoff picture in their respective conferences.

 

Saturday February 14th

Baylor Bears at Kansas Jayhawks – 10am CBS: Not many top 25 match ups but this should be the best of the bunch.

Villanova at Butler – 3pm CBS Sports Network: This is the other top 25 match up worth watching.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Montreal Canadiens – 4pm NHL Network: Well the Leafs aren’t very good this year but the Habs are.

Washington Capitals at LA Kings – 7pm NHL GameCenter: Alex Ovechkin and the Caps head out west to take on the defending Stanley Cup champs.

UFC Fight Night – 7pm FS1: Either Benson Henderson is going to grind out Brandon Thatch for 5 rounds or Thatch catches Henderson early. Take your pick.

 

Sunday February 15th

Pittsburgh Penguins at Chicago Blackhawks – 9:30am NBC: It’s on national TV for a reason. You get to see some of the biggest names in the NHL.

Tampa Bay Lightning at San Jose Sharks – 5pm NHL GameCenter: The Lightning hit that tough west coast swing coming off two hard fought games against Nashville and St Louis.

 

What To Watch Fri. 1/30- Sun. 2/1

All times are Pacific

Friday January 30th

Portland TrailBlazers at Atlanta Hawks – 4:30pm NBA League Pass: The Hawks have been unreal but the Blazers are no joke themselves.

Chicago Blackhawks at Anaheim Ducks – 7pm NHL GameCenter: The Blackhawks head west to take on the best team in the NHL as far as points are concerned.

 

Saturday January 31st

Chelsea vs Manchester City – 8:30am NBC: Five points separate Chelsea and Manchester City at the top of the Premier League. Yeah, it’s a big game.

Washington Capitals at Montreal Canadiens – 10am NHL Network: Two quality teams in one of the best venues in all of hockey.

North Carolina at Louisville – 1pm ESPN: It was fun when they played a few weeks ago. This should be too.

Los Angeles Kings at Boston Bruins – 4pm NHL Network: An east coast vs west coast showdown.

Duke at Virginia – 4pm ESPN: Duke is ranked in the top 5 but have to have this game is they want any shot of winning the ACC regular season title. UVA looks to keep their unbeaten season alive.

LA Clippers at San Antonio Spurs – 6pm ESPN: Lob City heads deep into the heart of Texas to take on the defending champs.

UFC 183: Silva vs Diaz – 7pm PPV: As long as Nick Diaz shows up we should have a fun fight. Even a 39 year old Anderson Silva coming off an extended layoff is something to marvel at.

 

 

Sunday February 1st

St Louis Blues at Washington Capitals – 10am NBCSN: The Blues have to be the most underrated team in the NHL. See how good they really are. Tough back to back stretch for the Caps too.

Nashville Predators at Pittsburgh Penguins – 11am NHL GameCenter: Predators have been one of the best teams in the NHL this season. Pittsburgh is a tough place to steal three points though.

Super Bowl XLIX – Seattle Seahawks vs New England Patriots – 3:30pm NBC: This should be an amazing game. We did think that last year too.

What To Watch Sat. 3/22-Sun. 3/23

Be advised, March Madness is in full swing. See it on TV and online throughout the weekend via CBS and Turner.

Saturday March 22nd

Chelsea vs Arsenal – 5:45am NBCSN: All aboard for some top flight soccer on a Saturday morning!

Tampa Bay Lightning @ Pittsburgh Penguins – 10am NHLN:  If ice, sticks and some of the world’s best players is more your thing then the NHL Network has you set on Saturday morning.

Montreal Canadiens @ Toronto Maple Leafs – 4pm NHLN: It’s the Habs vs the Leafs. They are both in playoff contention at the end of March. You’re welcome.

LA Galaxy @ Real Salt Lake – 1pm NBCSN: RSL has been nothing but good over the last four or five years. But so have the Galaxy. It’s a display of some of the leagues best players and two teams that don’t seem to like each other very much.

San Jose Earthquakes @ Sporting KC – 5:30pm MLS LIVE: Both teams are coming off of tough Champions League losses during the week. SKC is a tough place to play but San Jose is a tough team. Or as they say in Quakes territory, ‘Goonies never say die!’

Sunday March 23rd

St. Louis Blues @ Pittsburgh Penguins – 10am NHLN: Two of the best teams in the east face off in Pittsburgh.

Real Madrid  v Barcelona – Noon beIN Sports: El Clasico is on. Messi, Ronaldo, Bale, Fabregas and then some. See two of the best clubs square off with some of the best players on the planet.

Dan Henderson vs Shogun Rua – 4pm FS1: The last fight between the two was, in some circles, the best MMA fight…ever. So don’t miss rounds 6-10.

Defining “Great”

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Certain terms and phrases are thrown around in the sports hemisphere without out any structure or foundation. ‘Of all time’, ‘in history’, ‘the best’ and ‘great’ or ‘greatest’. While the term ‘great’ can be thrown out prematurely it can also be thrown out appropriately. This past weekend the term seemed to raise it’s head more than a few times.

Sunday night football and Cris Collinsworth throws out the term at towards the end of the 2nd qtr calling both Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck ‘great’. He didn’t say it specifically about each QB, but he implied it. ‘Great quarterbacks’ was the exact term. Is Luck a ‘great’ NFL QB? No doubt he’s good but ‘great’? He’s not even through his second season. Manning, most would agree that he is either ‘great’ or on the cusp of being ‘great’. Most would say that there are only a few who have been ‘great’ at the position. Those would probably include Joe Montana and John Elway among others.

Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez had a very memorable fight on Saturday night at UFC 166. Some called it the ‘greatest fight’ they’ve ever seen. Others called the entire card the ‘greatest’ in UFC history. Why?
Is it the amount of finishes that were on the card (eight) or something else. Most would point to the fact that just about every fight was exciting regardless if it was a finish or not.

Almost two years ago people called the Shogun Rua vs Dan Henderson fight the ‘greatest’. A week before that was Benson Henderson vs Clay Guida.

There many ‘great’ fights just like there are many ‘great’ quarterbacks. But what makes someone or something ‘great’? Is it how many trophies they win? How many Super Bowls? How many punches they delivered vs how many they took? How long their winning streak was?

It is a combination of things boiled down to one simple point, standard. ‘Great’ can be associated to someone if they redefine they way we look at the sport, position or profession. They set the standard to which others will compare and judge.

Peyton Manning is a good example. He has the trophies to prove his worth but also set the standard at which others will be judged in how he prepares and operates on the field of play.

The Melendez vs Sanchez fight is ‘great’ because we will become the standard which other fights will be measured. The Chicago Bulls team of the 1995-1996 season and the 1989 San Francisco 49ers teams are a standard on their respective sports arenas.

‘Great’ is a term we should use. Just do not use it lightly.

When It All Goes Wrong Again

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

No one likes to lose especially in sports. Those in sports love to compete plain and simple. Whether it’s on the field, on the ice or in the Octagon. Being a competitor means two things, you like to win and you hate to lose.

The July 4th weekend saw a lot of streaks come to an end and some bad ones continue. Competitors who have been so use to winning finally lost. UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva lost his belt to the undefeated Chris Weidman. It’s the first loss for Silva in his 17 fight UFC career and his first since January 2006.

A streak of a lesser note came to end in MLS where the Portland Timbers lost to the Columbus Crew 1-0. This ended a 15 game unbeaten streak for the Timbers who have been the surprise team of MLS so far this year.

On a bad continuing note, the defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants continued their losing ways. They have not won a series since mid May and since June 1st they are 11-25.

Winning is contagious but so is losing. When things are going well, they go really well and vice versa. Baseballs find the gaps, punches find their mark, and passes are crisper. But all streaks eventually come to an end and bad streaks can begin if you’re not careful.

The Timbers and Giants have immediate opportunities to turn it around while Silva will have to wait a while for another chance at the first man to defeat him in over 7 years.

The Retirement Pt. 2 of 2

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

At the end of the May there was a flurry of retirements. From football legends to a man who helped launch the sport of mixed martial arts into the modern day psyche. Sir Alex Ferguson, David Beckham and Forrest Griffin all at some point had to ask themselves this question, ‘what else is there left for me to accomplish?’

Sir Alex & Becks Retire

For the first time in 26 years Sir Alex Ferguson will not be the manager of Manchester United when they take the pitch next season. In those 26 years he has led the Red Devils to 38 trophies and 2 Champions League titles among other things. Along the way one of his most famous players was David Beckham. Beckham won 6 premier league titles and a Champions League title with United. He also won league titles with 3 other clubs ( Real Madrid, LA Galaxy and Paris St-Germain) and is one of the most famous people in the world.

Forrest Griffin Retirement

Forrest Griffin was on season 1 of the The Ultimate Fighter. He defeated Stephan Bonnar in the finale in what is consider the greatest fight in UFC history and pointed to as the fight that helped launch the UFC to where it is today. He later won the Light Heavyweight title by defeating Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson. He’s also a 2 time New York Times bestselling author.

Each of these individuals accomplished a lot in the world of sports. Now each has to find a new endeavor to fill the void. Those outside of the athletic world know this feeling having encountered it on occasion. Maybe after losing a job, graduating from school, getting a divorce, etc. It’s the ‘now what?’ question that has to be answered.

Sir Alex will remain with United as a director. Beckham worked out a deal when he initially came to MLS that after he retired he could get a deal on an MLS club ($25 million to be exact) and now there is talk of an expansion team in Miami. Griffin will stay on with the UFC in a yet undetermined capacity.

Yet for these 3 there are hundreds more who don’t have a retirement plan per say or at least a very quiet one. Athletes, as the saying goes, retire twice but the first one may be the hardest to do if they are not prepared. The acknowledgement that at some point you’ll put your hands on your hips and say, ‘what else is there for me to do here?’ is a great first step. In other words, knowing that there is an end will allow you to begin.

CNN – The End Game

Do It For The Fans

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Recently NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson offered LeBron James $1 million to be in next years Slam Dunk Contest during All Star Weekend. Fellow analyst and former NBA star Jalen Rose added that he’d like to see Blake Griffin in this contest as well.

LeBron has never been in the Slam Dunk Contest. Will a million dollars get him to do it? Maybe but then again maybe not. While people around the internet debate the reasons why LeBron should or shouldn’t do the Slam Dunk Contest it begs the question, don’t fans want to see him in the Slam Dunk Contest?

Compare LeBron’s situation to another sport, MMA. There have been countless times when a fighter has lost a fight and yet was content with the show they put on for the fans. The Wanderlei Silva vs Brian Stann fight this past weekend is a classic example. Both fighters are true warriors and have absolutely no intention of letting the judges decide who would win the fight. They had some amazing exchanges in the 1st round before Wanderlei found the right combination to knockout Stann in the 2nd.

Silva v Stann Highlights

There are several fighters out there like Silva and Stann. So many that it’s hard to keep track. Fighters who put it all on the line and would rather put on an amazing fight for the fans then to play it safe and and take their chances with the judges decision.

So why is LeBron playing it safe? Yeah, he may lose the Slam Dunk Contest if he enters but he also might lose his next game so what’s the difference? It’s part of being a competitor. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose but the beauty of sports isn’t just winning, it’s putting on a memorable performance that lives on through the years. Much like Michael Jordan’s winning dunk at the 1987 Slam Dunk Contest where he took off -literally- from the free throw line. It wasn’t Jordan’s first Slam Dunk Contest. He lost his first one to Dominique Wilkins but the competitor he is made hime comeback to show that he was the best.

Should LeBron enter the 2014 Slam Dunk Contest? Yes and if for no other reason then to do it for the fans.

Why We Watch Sports

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

The past week has been filled with everything but actual sports. From Lance Armstrong’s doping admission to Oprah, the MLS SuperDraft, NFL Coaching hires, and the Manti Te’o ‘catfishing’ story, all of the sports news has been about everything outside the field of play.

Maybe that’s what makes Saturday and Sunday so great.

Saturday was one of the best days of regular season college basketball match ups in recent memory. #1 vs #6, #10 vs #17, and it was to be topped off with #8 Gonzaga at #13 Butler. You know it’s a going to be a good day when ESPN College Gameday is at Butler and someone makes the half court shot for $18k…on the first attempt.

BUTLER GAME WINNING SHOT

The end of the day was even better. 10 plus hours later Roosevelt Jones makes a runner as time expires to win the game for Butler in an ending you have to see to believe. 

About 30 minutes before Jones’ game winner, Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Vitor Belfort TKO’d Michael Bisping at UFC on FX 7 in Sao Paulo, Brazil with a head kick. It’s a close call as to which crowd reaction was better. The one in Brazil or the one in Indianapolis.

Then Sunday morning saw American Clint Dempsey get the tying goal for Tottenham in stoppage time against Manchester United in a snow storm. Dempsey was yellow carded for celebrating with supporters after the goal but he’ll take it and the point for Spurs.

This is why we watch sports. For the unbelievable moments that can occur. The comebacks when all hope was lost. That rush of adrenaline into your system as you scream and jump up out of the chair. The rest, is to fill air time. Armstrong’s admission doesn’t make you forget the moments you watched over the years. The fake girlfriend of Te’o doesn’t make you forget the big plays he made during the year (or the tackels he didn’t make against Alabama).

This is why we watch sports and why we will continue to watch regardless of the flaws these athletes have.

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