The Gentle Giant

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 6.18.2017

1-4 in the UFC and being on the receiving end of the quickest knockouts in UFC history isn’t the way you’d want to be remembered but I am sure that’s how some will remember Tim ‘The Thrashing Machine’ Hague who passed away Sunday at the age of 34. I don’t remember his record in the Octagon. No I remember Tim as a Canadian version of a gentle giant.

I worked at the UFC for nearly seven and half years. I interviewed countless fighters before and after fights. While I remember a lot of them Tim stuck out. While he was built more like an offensive guard for the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL, he was genuinely the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet. Which is why it came like a punch in the gut to find out that Tim passed away after being violently knocked out in a boxing match in Alberta.

Tim taught fourth grade. A 6’4″ 265lbs man teaching English to a bunch of fourth graders five days a week and then finds time to go train combat sports. That still makes me shake my head but it’s one of the big reasons why I remembered him. Calm, polite, pretty much what you would expect out of someone from Western Canadian.

A gentle giant. One who taught children when he wasn’t fighting and That’s how I choose to remember Tim. It’s sad to lose such a nice guy. Rest easy big Tim.

CTV Edmonton

 

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.

The Sunday – From Scary To Celebration

Compiled by Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 4.16.2017

The Scary

We live in a world with scary moments. Borussia Dortmund had an explosions near their bus that put one player in the hospital. It happened on the way to their Champions League match against Monaco on Tuesday.

In a moment that made SF Giants fans and the MLB brass gasp in horror was when Giants catcher Buster Posey took a 94 mph fastball to the head. He’s on the concussion DL and will hopefully be back behind the plate soon.

The Good

Despite bombs and getting hit in the head with a 90+ mph fastball, there is some good in the world and it was reflected in two different spring games on Saturday. First at Ohio State.

And then at Nebraska.

 

 

Why We Love Baseball

Cat Climbs A Wall.

Snarfing the Phanatics wheels.

 

WOW

 

Legend

UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson cemented his place in the record books as he tied Anderson Silva for the most title defenses in a row with 10. He is a bad man and the nicest guy you’ll ever want to meet.

 

The Next Big Thing Started Big

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 2.14.2017

Due to my day job, I had the opportunity to spend some time at RIOT Games recently. I knew that e-sports was popular but I didn’t know how popular it was until I spent some time with the RIOT Games folks. Afterwards I began to dig into the sport a little bit more and found some interesting parallels between e-sports the UFC and some of the bigger, established sports like the NBA.

The last ‘big thing’ was the UFC and you could argue that it still is. While the UFC was turned around by the near bottomless checkbook from the Fertiitta brothers and the vision of Dana White, it couldn’t have made it without the rapid adoption of the Internet in the mid to late 90’s. From bulletin boards to chat rooms to user groups, it was this medium that helped keep mixed martial arts alive while White and the Fertitta’s fought to get back the UFC back onto pay-per-view in the early 2000’s.

Full disclosure, I was a UFC employee from 2006-2013. 

Fast forward a decade and a half or so and e-sports is the now the next big thing. While the ‘athletes’ in e-sports wouldn’t last 30 seconds in the Octagon with a UFC fighter, most UFC fighters wouldn’t do well against any of these gamers either. But the Internet and global distribution are what both have thrived on.

It was a long, hard slog for the UFC to build up its global network. They built the brand up in America first and then slowly but surely locked in TV deal after TV deal in various countries around the world while also expanding their online distribution footprint to the point where they launched UFC Fight Pass in 2014.

E-sports on the other hand started globally because it was born online. From Asia to the Americas to Europe, it has been a global sport since day one. It is a sport that is thriving on over-the-top (OTT) networks like Amazon’s Twitch and Google’s YouTube.

lol

While networked gaming goes back two decades (LAN Party in the dorm anyone?) it has flourished in recent years drawing in several big name investors and sports organizations along the way to the point where the NBA is seeing this as a new vertical for the league and it’s teams.

Recently the NBA announced a partnership with Take-Two Interactive to launch a professional e-sports league with teams managed by current NBA franchises.

While other mixed martial arts organizations existed, the UFC was the premiere player. E-sports on the other hand have several big name players from the start like RIOT Games and Activision | Blizzard to name a few. Now with addition of the NBA and major soccer clubs like Ajax and Manchester City, there are multiple behemoths battling it out in the space.

The NBA wasn’t the first to see the benefit of e-sports or sign a major deal. RIOT Games, maker of League of Legends, signed a deal with the Big10 not too long ago to broadcast games between school sponsored teams. So Rutgers may not have a chance against Ohio State on the football field, but in League of Legends, only time will tell.

The investments by the NBA, soccer clubs, and the Big10 makes a lot of sense. Live sports have been under fire for a couple of years now. While previously seen as ‘DVR proof’, the recent decline in TV ratings for the NFL and the decline in attendance at sporting events has sent the leagues, conferences and even teams scrambling to find avenues of growth. While starting an e-sports team does not in anyway correlate to increased TV ratings or more butts in seats at a Denver Nuggets or a Purdue football game, it does provide the leagues, conferences and teams a chance to not fade into irrelevancy and leverage existing advertising and marketing partners by providing them a young desired demo.

This is good news for consumers and players in the e-sports realm. There is choice, diversity and no one entity running the show. It also means that e-sports will succeed by whatever revenue standard you put up against it. Wall Street and the NBA have a tendency to not bet on things that are doomed to fail and anytime you get college kids involved, there is no telling the innovation and growth e-sports could really have.

The NBA partnership with Take-Two and the RIOT Games deal with the Big10 can be a blueprint for other leagues and conferences to follow. If these can show short term success and projected long term growth, others will quickly jump on the bandwagon.

E-sports has an opportunity to be the biggest “sport” in the world due to it’s immediate global reach and massive backers. It is doing it differently by not having a concentrated center of power, an individualized rule set for each game and it’s reach across every existing sport and continent. Drop in the explosion in OTT providers from Twitch, YouTube and Facebook Live and you have the makings of something that can, over time, do something that UFC set out to do, eclipse soccer as the world’s dominate sport.

Further Reading

SF Chronicle

Venture Beat

The Sunday: The Scary, Absurd, and Appropriate

Compiled by Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Scary

A masked ran out onto the pitch and attacked a goalkeeper last weekend in Sweden.

 

 

Falling Down

Kyrie Irving doing, well what Kyrie Irving does.

Meanwhile, this was happening with the headline, ‘Pole vaulter’s penis gets in the way of Olympic dreams.’

Really? Aren’t people supposed to be the best in the world?

 

RIZZO!

The Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is a bad man. He’s great with the bat in his hands and impressive with the glove.

Scary thing is that he made a similar catch against the same team a year earlier!

 

It’s Almost Over

Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz do not like each other…. in case you didn’t notice. Thank goodness that they put on an all time classic fight because if they didn’t, all they would be know for would be this…..

 

Attention!

With all of the bad press generated by Ryan Lochte and Hope Solo, it’s nice to see what the anthem means to some people. People like track & field athlete Sam Kendricks who stopped in the middle of his run to stand at attention when the national anthem was played. For the record, Kendricks is also a 2nd LT in the US Army.

 

Which Hurt More?

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Full disclosure, I worked at the UFC for seven plus years. 

The UFC has come a long way. That is well documented but their biggest event, UFC 200, may linger for a while and not in a good way. Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones was suspended the week of the event and former UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar failed a drug test before and after the fact. So which one will hurt the UFC more in the long run? My guess is Jones.

The announcement of UFC being sold for $4 billion came on the heels of UFC 200. An event that Dave Metzler claims didn’t do as well as UFC 100 or the most recent Conor McGregor or Ronda Rousey pay-per-views. Could Jones testing positive for PED’s and being taken off of the card have hurt the overall numbers. Probably.

The fact is that Jones is a 29 year old fighting phenom who can’t out of his own way. If he could then the UFC could bank on two or three big pay-per-view selling fights a year for the next few years with Jones as the headliner. So his possible two year suspension could hurt the bottom line a lot more than Lesnar’s.

It wasn’t clear if Lesnar was going to fight again for the UFC anyway. Given his age, 39, it is unlikely that he would be able to provide four or five more years worth of high selling pay-per-views. Jones could have. His age combined with a solid performance at UFC 200, it could have given the UFC a third pay-per-view crown jewel next to McGregor and Rousey.

Jones suspension will hurt the UFC more financially than Lesnar’s will in the long run. It didn’t help public perception that both of these positive tests came around the biggest event in its history. That being said, the UFC has a track record of finding talented fighters and building them into MMA stars.They have successfully transitioned from Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Matt Hughes and Rich Franklin to George St-Pierre, Anderson Silva and BJ Penn to Ronda Rousey, Conor McGregor and Demetrious Johnson. They’ll be alright even if it sucks for a bit.

The Sunday: Selling, Retiring And Owning

SOLD!

The UFC was sold for $4 billion this week. The weekend after UFC 200 which did lord knows how many pay-per-view buys. Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta bought the UFC for some $2 million many moons ago. They will make a pretty good return on their investment. Dana White will remain as President of the organization and he will add to that this week by speaking at the Republican National Convention.

The Legend Retires

Tim Duncan called it a career this week in the only Tim Duncan can, very low key. All he did was write a letter and posted it on the San Antonio Spurs web site.

Duncan

Saban vs Finebaum

Alabama head coach Nick Saban may go down as the greatest college football coach in history. In order to do that you have not only have to be a great coach but you also have to be able to own the media. Saban can does that and did it again at the SEC Media Days. A mic was hot later and you can hear the the ESPN panel pointing this out.

 

Tour de Run?

It’s becoming a very odd Tour de France. While the stages have been exciting, sometimes they have been exciting for other reasons. Fans are on top of the riders at points during the race and when that happens that means that the motorcycles carrying cameras and photographers. Well a bottle neck occurred this week and caused a crash. This meant that leader Chris Froome was without a bike and just started running until his team car could get to him.

 

This..

France may have lost to Portugal but man is this a cool shot.

EURO FINAL 2016

Or this….

Catches

It’s never too early for ‘Catch of the Year’ nominees.

 

Put Out The Fire

Someone tried to put out the Olympic torch with a fire extinguisher. This pretty much sums up the Rio Olympics before it even gets started.

 

The Sunday: Fighting, Fires and Freebies

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


MMA In Baseball

It’s safe to that the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays don’t like each other. it goes back to last years playoff series that the Blue Jays won. Things escalated last Sunday after Jose ‘The Bat Flipper’ Bautista’s slide into second. Rangers shortstop Rougned Odor didn’t take to kindly to it and then the beginnings of an MMA fight broke out. Odor was later suspended for eight games.

Dinner

Speaking of MMA, you know you’ve made it when fans pick up your dinner. UFC Featherweight Champion Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson had that happen to him this past week.

Horses

Two horses died in the pre races before the Preakness and one jockey broke his collarbone. One was euthanized on the track after breaking it’s left front cannon bone and the other appeared to die of a heart attack after winning a race.

Set Fire To The Place

What happens when your team gets relegated in the Turkish league? Set fire to the place. Literally.

The Flop

Cmon LeBron…you’re better than this.

Steph Curry Moment of the Week

Steph Curry dove into the stands to save a ball and then in the 2nd half he had 15 points in under two minutes. To add insult to injury he gave Serge Ibaka the no look three.

Not to be outdone, somehow Andre Iguodala made this shot….

The Sunday: All Good Things Come To An End

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


The End Of The Streaks

Jose Aldo lost an MMA fight for the first time in 10 years Saturday night. Even more shocking, it only took 13 seconds. While people will want to talk about the beginning of the loud mouth Conor McGregor era (and rightfully so) it’s more unbelievable to think that Aldo lost for the first time in 10 years in 13 seconds in round 1.

Curry after Warriors lossNot as long but arguably as impressive was the Golden State Warriors run. They had won 27 straight regular season games dating back to last season. Oh and an NBA title in between. Their undefeated run came to an end Saturday night too when the Milwaukee Bucks defeated them 108-95.

 

Broke Down Raiders

The Oakland Raiders are having one their better seasons in more than a decade. While their team is improving, their (and the Oakland A’s) stadium is falling apart. So much so that they aren’t even fixing leaks.

Really reenforces the reasons why Billy Beane and the A’s went the Moneyball route. If there is no money to fix the leaks, we doubt there is any to pay players.

 

Loss

As of October 1st, UFC fighters were no longer allowed to use IV’s to rehydrate after the weigh in. A lot of people said that this was a dangerous. Those voices included UFC commentator Joe Rogan and nutritionist Mike Dolce.  This past weekend another MMA organization, One FC, in Asia had a fighter die after his weight cut. The reasoning appears to be cardiopulmonary failure. While further investigation is underway, it only exemplifies the serious nature of weight cutting. It should be taken very seriously and be done with as many safeguards as possible.

 

Throw That Ball Over That Wall!

Florida State quarterback Sean Maguire went showing off his arm. Odds are that he threw it further than Uncle Rico despite Uncle Rico’s claim that he could throw it over that mountain.

 

Military Creativity

Saturday saw one of the better Army vs Navy games in years. Almost as good were the signs at ESPN’s College GameDay.

You have to give the Cadets and Midshipmen some credit. For all they have to do during the day, between high level course work and military obligations, this is some high level creativity.

It’s a great way to end another season of College GameDay.

ESPN And It’s Bad UX

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The fact is that ESPN has been the crown jewel of Disney for sometime now. It’s $6 plus per subscriber charge to cable and satellite providers (and that’s just ESPN, not ESPN2, ESPNEWS, etc) has been a cash cow for Disney. But just because they have clearly shown a mastery of their domain in cable television doesn’t mean that their online video presence is any good. In fact, it’s down right offensive and shows a lack of creativity from the ‘World Wide Leader in Sports’.

You have sit through a 30 sec ad to watch a 31 sec video? YouTube here we come!

ESPN.com has taken the ‘old school’ view of the Internet or at least the non-Innovators Dilemma view which is to say that by doing the right thing gets you exactly what you don’t want to have. ESPN wants to charge a lot of money for ads in front of videos and by going with that philosophy the are sacrificing the user experience. ESPN is putting an ad, of any length, in front of every piece of video they have (or so it seems). Hey this is capitalism and that’s fine. Where they miss is when they place a 15 second ad in front of a 13 second clip or a 30 second ad in front of a 31 second piece of video. It may make them money in the short term but it will push users away in the long term which means losing money down the road and opening a door for competitors to run through.

ESPN LENGTH

It’s not a one time thing either. We have looked at ESPN.com several times a day for a very long time and have noticed this trend for a while now. ESPN isn’t alone in this mind you, UFC.com was notorious for this in the pass. They would post a 30 second video masquerading as content and run 30 second ad in front of it. While it may gain ad dollars on the front end by capitalizing on current traffic trends, it’s a bad way to get people to come back to your site.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 9.16.55 AM

15 sec ad in front of 13 sec video. Really?

There is a way to fix this, it’s called an ‘if/else’ statement in the ruby code. If video > 30 then play video ad, else don’t. It is possible. It is a choice ESPN makes to not do this that can drive people nuts and pushes users to the same video content elsewhere (YouTube are you listening?)

What ESPN and others have failed to realize is that ad inventory/space online is infinite. You can make a new page and create new ad space. You can increase the amount of videos you put online and increase ad space. It’s a TV way of thinking which makes sense since the people in charge are TV people. Problem is, this ISN’T TV!

TV has one giant luxury that the Internet doesn’t which is why TV will always be a revenue generator…there are only 24 hours in a day and that will not change as much as entrepreneurs and workaholics want it to. That means a finite ad inventory. You cannot create more time in the day to place ads and you have a hard time cutting any more time out of a show or event to run ads.

The proper way to generate ad inventory online, especially in video, is to wrap it. Wrap the player then have a 5 second billboard at the beginning of the video (max) and have, if possible, an anchor say something. If there is no anchor then stick with the billboard at the beginning and get to the video content. More people will view the video on the site because others are running a 15 or 30 second ad in front of the same video (it’s not exclusive people as much as you want to think that it is). You will make your money on volume and not on exclusivity.

Then again, ESPN may have gone this road to far that they may not know how to get themselves back.