‘All of Nothing’ Drives Home Ruthlessness of NFL

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 7.8.2017

The second season of Amazon’s ‘All of Nothing’ series starts off with Los Angeles Rams head coach Jeff Fisher informing the team that he was fired.  From here the show takes you through the ins and outs of the Rams 2016 season and finishing off with the hiring of a new coach and the 2017 NFL Draft. It’s a long journey and one that NFL Films tells very well.

The Rams 2016 season was teed up pretty well for the producers of ‘All or Nothing’. You had the move from St. Louis, the trade to get quarterback Jared Goff with the #1 overall pick in the 2016 draft, young stars like running back Todd Gurley and defensive tackle Aaron Donald and a schedule that saw them log more miles than anyone during the 2016 season. Add in the unexpected firing of the head coach and you have enough material to fully flesh out 8 hour long episodes.

This series is not HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’. In fact ‘All or Nothing’ doesn’t even touch on training camp. It dives right into the season and does a pretty good job of avoiding the typical NFL game camera angles while it’s at it. There are solid shots from the sidelines and great sound from the coaches throughout the season. From their homes, to the meeting rooms to the sidelines.

One aspect of this show that was very interesting goes back to something that former Notre Dame head coach and ESPN analyst Lou Holtz once pointed out and that is when a coach is fired it’s not just him who is effected. It’s the assistants and their families too. ‘All or Nothing’ does a great job of driving that home. How the families deal with the never ending moves from city to city. For example, offensive coordinator Rob Boras ended up as the tight ends coach for the Buffalo Bills shortly after being let go by the Rams following the season. So in under a year he had moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles to Buffalo while his family was still in St. Louis. It gives you a great look at how much of grind an NFL season can be not just for the players but on the coaches.

This season of ‘All or Nothing’ is compelling and could be compelling for someone who isn’t the biggest football fan. It shows how difficult and ruthless this game can be on the players, the coaches and the families and how everything can change in an instant. It’s story telling at high level and worth checking out.

The NFL’s Bad Media Calls

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.25.2016

rodgersIt seemed like the NFL was getting it when they signed on with Twitter to live stream the first 10 Thursday Night football games. Then they limited the amount of original content with NFL footage that the 32 teams could post on social media outlets such as Twitter. Lately, the media has been abuzz with the ratings decline through the first seven weeks. It appears that the NFL is calling the wrong plays when it comes to media.

Drew Harwell of the Washington Post penned an article a week or so ago trying to explain the possible reasons for the TV ratings decline. There are many variables that are effecting the ratings including the Presidential Election, cord cutting, and an aging demographic.

Harwell made a couple of interesting points in his article. First, during the 2000 and 2008 Presidential Elections, the league saw a ratings decline. Second is that overall TV viewership among those 24 years old and younger is down some 40%.

Another intriguing variable is the cord cutting. While apps like Sling TV and Watch ESPN increase in usage it is not enough to offset the viewership decline on traditional TV. What this means is that, yes people are watching in “non-traditional” ways (via mobile phones, tablets, laptops, etc) but these numbers are big enough to say ‘hey, people are just watching this way vs the traditional way.’

One way to embrace those younger fans is to reach them where they are. On mobile devices and on social media. Kind of thought that the NFL was doing this when they signed the deal with Twitter to steam the Thursday Night games. Then they limit game highlights on team social media accounts. The teams have come up with some creative solutions that help feed their fans desire for info but also troll the NFL league office at the same time.

The NFL should be the leaders as far as video distribution on social networks. This should be one of the most important things that the NFL does outside of the game itself. Do bad ratings lead you to not watch a game on a Sunday? Probably not. Does bad social media discourage you from following your favorite team? Probably. If you can’t see the awesome one handed catch by Julio Jones that everyone is talking on Facebook then where do you expect someone 25 years old to see it?

Overall, the NFL isn’t going anywhere but they can certainly stop shooting themselves in the foot. They can do this by getting their content to fans where fans are which is everywhere. Will ratings take a hit? Sure but you’ll make up that revenue and exposure on other platforms and on some platforms that haven’t even been created yet.

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.

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

Twitter Jumps Into Live Streaming Sports Fray

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Twitter, very smartly, did a dry run Thursday night of it’s live streaming platform. They streamed the Weber State at Utah State football game. It was a small, off the radar kind of game that gave twitter a chance to do a live test of their platform before the real test comes next week when they do the first of their 10 NFL games. From a user perspective, the test was a success but hard to find.

CampusTwitterWeber State at Utah State started at 6pm MST. It was streamed on CampusInsiders.com and on the Mountain West Conference website as well as twitter. The twitter feeds of both CampusInsiders and the Mountain West Conference promoted the event continuously during the stream in case you were not aware. Overall the stream was clear and stable over an LTE network in a crowded location.

There were some drawbacks of course. The first being that if you didn’t know the game was on it was hard to find, at least on the app on a phone. If you jumped out of the app and went to say Facebook and then wanted to come back to the game, it was even harder to find. Pretty sure twitter has a bigger marketing plan and in app advertising for the NFL games once they start.

Photo Sep 01, 6 19 57 PMThe other drawback was the latency. While watching another game live on ESPN, you would see the score of the Utah State game on the lower third crawl and then not see the scoring play on the twitter live stream for a good three to five minutes. There isn’t much twitter can do about that. There are too many variables involved from the transcode speed to the speed of the network you are on so while it sucks for the user, it isn’t a hurdle easily overcome.

Overall twitter had a successful test run. Being able to find the game, especially for new twitter users, is going to improve. The tougher challenge will be the backend work of compression, stability and decreasing the delay. That’s easier than it looks due to the variables out of twitter’s control but it is something that will get better over time and with better technology.

The Trend Is The New Normal

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Last March I wrote a blog at the rash of younger players retiring from the NFL. The most notable of which being San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis. Well as training camps get under way there have been another slew of quality players (if not Hall of Fame candidates) 30 and under who have decided that another season on the gridiron just isn’t worth it.

We all know about the high profile retirements this off-season of Peyton Manning and Charles Woodson. Those were expected but Charles Johnson, aka Megatron, hanging it up along with Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch came as a shock to some. They were joined by wide receiver Greg Jennings, linebackers Jerod Mayo and AJ Tarpley, defensive backs Walter Thurmond and Husain Abdullah, offensive linemen Phil Loadholt and Eugene Monroe just to name a few.

The oldest member of the group listed outside of Manning and Woodson, was just 30 years old. As the video above shows, some people just can’t believe that 30 years olds like Lynch and Johnson are walking away from millions of dollars.

Everyone has a reason but as Tarpley stated in his piece with MMQB, it was about concussions. It is a reasonable conclusion to make that with all of the publicity surrounding CTE that it is influencing players in their late 20’s, veterans, to take the money and run.

Last March I said that we will have to wait and see if this was a trend. Over a year later I would say that it isn’t a trend but a fact of life moving forward. Yes players like Manning and Woodson will still be around but overall NFL teams should expect players to give them between five to seven years of service before they hang it up.

While this seems like a ‘crisis’ for the NFL it really isn’t. Back in 2011 an NFL study said that the average NFL career was around seven years. The league and teams should plan on players pushing very hard for a bigger and bigger signing bonus after their rookie contracts are up and that in all reality shouldn’t be coming as a great shock to anyone in the NFL.

The NFL is smart. They will adjust salary caps and such to fit what is going to be the ‘new normal’ for the sport.

EXTRA READING:

What it’s like to retire from the NFL

The Twitter Streaming Plan

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


PAC 12By the looks of it Twitter is trying to become the ultimate mobile live streaming sports platform. They surprised everybody by getting the rights to stream the NFL’s Thursday night games this fall. Now they have grabbed the rights to the PAC-12.

It’s not all wine and roses however. The deal is apparently mainly focused on Olympic sports like swimming, volleyball, baseball, etc. The football and basketball games are apparently off limits with their current deals.

TWITTERIt is still a nice step to see and one of only a couple of deals that Twitter is working on. They recently signed on CBSN and Bloomberg but Tuner, MLS and MLB could be right around the corner.

It would be a major coup for Twitter to bag multiple sports league and be a huge benefit to the cord cutters like myself. While Twitter doesn’t give you the ’10-ft experience’, providing live game content on the computer or mobile device might just be good enough. It also really helps them corner the market on the younger sports demo.

Time will tell how this all shakes out and if Twitter even has the infrastructure to support such moves. The speed at which they are moving is a great sign that they may have this figured out. It would be even better if the PAC-12 just went ahead and streamed all of their content but at this point let’s take what we can get.

Worth The Risk?

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Every now and then you have to scratch your head and wonder what a particular athlete was thinking. The latest is Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford. Bradford signed a new deal ( two-years at $36 million with $22 million guaranteed) and then asked to be traded because the Eagles traded up in the NFL Draft and selected a quarterback (Carson Wentz). Then Bradford doesn’t show up to voluntary workouts only to then show up and rescind his trade request. This from a quarterback who cannot stay healthy and has never made the playoffs.

Sam BradfordWe forget that Bradford was once the number one overall pick by the then St Louis Rams in 2010. A draft that saw the next six picks all became Pro Bowlers. He was supposed to be the first franchise quarterback they had since hall of famer Kurt Warner.

Then he got hurt.

He had not one but several season ending injuries with one causing him to miss an entire season. He was then traded to Philly before last season in exchange for Nick Foles where he was injured again but this time he only missed two games.

Now for the crazy numbers.

Bradford is 25-37-1 as a starter and has never led a team to the playoffs. Yet after his two-year deal he will have made some $114 million and still be under 30 years old.

I get he wanted to be traded. He’s a competitive guy and believes that he can do the job and get the Eagles, or some other team, to the Super Bowl. He probably doesn’t fell like he should have to compete for the quarterback job but facts are facts; Bradford hasn’t played a full season since 2012 who just singed a relatively big money deal. Not exactly awesome trade material.

BradfordWhat did he think when the Eagles signed veteran backup Chase Daniels? Why not “demand” a trade then? So the Eagles traded up to get their quarterback of the future in Wentz. Did Bradford think that the Eagles were just going to hand him the job and not hedge their bets?

Hopefully Bradford fulfills the promise that made him the top overall pick of the draft and Offensive Rookie of the Year. It would be nice to see him prove the doubters wrong and lead the Eagles to the playoffs. But he has to prove it and while history is not indicative of future success, even Bradford himself must understand that the Eagles have to manage their risk.

What To Watch: Fri. 4/29 – Sun. 5/1

All times are Pacific.

Friday April 29th

New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox – 4pm MLBN: Hey, it’s the Yankees vs the Red Sox. It’s doesn’t get any better.

NFL Draft – 4pm NFL Network/ESPN2: Rounds two and three will be in primetime and a lot of good players will be on the board.

Toronto Raptors at Indiana Pacers – 4:30pm ESPNEWS: The Pacers look to stave off elimination against the Raptors.

BLUES V STARS FIGHTSt Louis Blues at Dallas Stars – 5pm NBCSN: These two were neck and neck most of the regular season and the Blues just came off of a brutal series with Chicago. Will that and inconsistent goaltending be their downfall?

Nashville Predators at San Jose Sharks – 7:30pm NBCSN: The Preds won three of the four road games against the Anaheim Ducks in the first round. Sharks better be ready to go.

Saturday April 30th

NFL Draft – 9am NFL Network/ESPN: Rounds four through seven. It’s also fun to see how delirious the commentators get by this point too.

New York Islanders at Tampa Bay Lightning – Noon NBC: Game 2.

Montreal Impact vs Colorado Rapids – 1pm MLS.TV: This is a surprisingly good matchup. Not many people picked these two to be in second place in the respective divisions. Yet here we are.

Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals – 5pm NBC: Game 2 of a series that is going to be the one to watch in the second round. Lots of stars, lots of offense and which ever team wins it will be considered the favorites to go to the Stanley Cup Final.

Sunday May 1st

Leicester City vs Manchester United – 6am NBCSN: Leicester City can wrap up the Premier League title. This still should blow your mind.

San Francisco Giants at New York Mets – 10am MLB.TV: Pretty good pitching matchup on tap as the Bumgarner squares off against Syndergaard.

Portland Timbers vs Toronto FC – 12:30pm ESPN: Michael Bradley and company head to the Rose City to take on a Timbers team that has yet to find it’s playoff form from a year ago.

Sporting KC vs LA Galaxy – 5pm FS1: This is a playoff game disguised as a regular season matchup. Let’s see how the Galaxy deal with Blue Hell. They’ve looked very good so far now and still have a couple of key guys out with suspensions and injuries.

New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox – 5pm ESPN: What a game to cap off the weekend in sports. Big Papi has only got a few more games to get his knocks in against the Bronx Bombers.

Nashville Predators at San Jose Sharks – 5pm NBCSN: Game two from the shark tank.

Twitter Winner

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Twitter beat out Amazon and Verizon among others for the right to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games this fall. It comes as a surprise to many but in the end it may be the right move by both the NFL and Twitter.

The deal is interesting for many reasons, one of which is how is Twitter going to pull this off? MLB Advanced Media President and CEO Bob Bowman was at the Code/Media conference a few months talking about how much of a technological challenge it would be to pull off weekly streams of an NFL game. Possible yes but dicey at best.

Maybe the fact that Twitter is primarily a mobile application means that the video will be limited in Mbps and screen size. The games will after all be available via traditional broadcasters (CBS and NBC respectfully) so you would logically think that these live streams would not see the same usage as say a game that was only live streamed and not on TV.

nfl on yahooThe second interesting fact is that it only cost Twitter $10 million or a million dollars a game. Last year Yahoo paid almost $20 million for the Buffalo Bills vs Jacksonville Jaguars. Granted Yahoo was the only place you could see the game and had control over the advertising which is probably why the rights cost them more. Twitter is getting none of that.

One more reason why this deal probably got done, Twitter’s CFO Anthony Noto was once the CFO of the NFL. You can’t say that that didn’t play a part.

When you think about it, this deal seems to help both parties. It shows that the NFL is serious about cord-cutting because you don’t have to be a Twitter user to watch the game (which makes sense since you don’t have to have a cable or satellite subscription to get NBC or CBS). It also helps Twitter who has hard a hard time of it lately with flat user numbers and a lack of advertisers.

See SBNation’s Matt Ufford on Nightly Business Report. 

No doubt that there will be a lot of eyes on Twitter come the fall when they begin streaming games. Will the quality of the stream be there? How much strain will be put on mobile carriers and CDN’s? Interesting questions indeed. Almost more interesting than some of the games will be.