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.

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Don’t Treat Fans Like The Enemy

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Does anybody remember the music industry back in the 90’s? When you would buy a $15 CD at Tower Records? No? Well apparently some sports and media entities don’t remember either because they are making some of the same mistakes that the music industry did 15 years ago.

The Premier League threatens to sue their fans for posting a low quality video of a goal. Seriously. Instead of figuring out a way to quickly distribute this content on their own the Premier League’s answer is to take legal action against their fans. Instead of embracing the social sharing economy the Premier League turns it’s back on it in favor of the ‘old school’ way of doing things like selling the goal rights to the Sun which then charges user £8 a month (about $13 US) for the right to see a goal they may have missed.

Really?

Now flash back to 2000-2001 and the age of Napster. Instead of creating a user friendly digital distribution model the music industry sued Napster. Then it went after the music fans themselves for downloading music they wanted to hear. Why? Well the record companies felt that people should have to buy the $15 CD to listen to that one song they might like. The artist, executives, marketing and truck drivers all need to get a piece of that $15. Damn how the user wants their content.

In the end the users won and we now have the ability to buy an entire album or just a song and for less money. We now have the ability to stream or download, better price fluctuations and more devices and outlets than ever before.

The Premier League should be embracing this not discouraging it. They should be standing on top of the mountain and shouting to the world how great a goal was. They should want the world to see it.They shouldn’t be running away from it. This is an opportunity not a burden.

How do they go about it? It’s pretty simple actually.

First, stop the current model they have. Selling the rights to someone else is just a cop-out. Second, set up a digital command center in London (or Manchester if you like). Have all the feeds of all the Premier League games fed into this location and a person assigned to each game. That person’s job is to pull out those moments as they happen. That same person compresses the video and pushes it to a repository where there is a another person,  a social media producer so to speak, who decides which amazing moment should be tweeted out or posted to Instagram or uploaded to YouTube, etc.

This guarantees that high quality content is sent out from the Premier League accounts. This helps dominate in SEO and drives eyeballs back to the Leagues other revenue generating properties like YouTube (if they had a channel which they don’t which should tell you something about their backwards way of thinking). In other words, this can be a revenue generator which is a good thing.

The NFL, MLB, NHL and others have a command center. If the Premier League doesn’t then they should really think about taking the term ‘Premier’ out of their name.

This isn’t difficult. The fact that the Premier League’s modus operandi is to sell the rights to someone then threaten to sue people who do not use that service does say alot about the business practices and lack of creativity at the top. If the metamorphosis of the music industry tells us anything its that the users are going to win in the end. The faster you accept that the better off and more profitable you will be.

 

 

 

How ESPN Leaves Money on the Table

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Recently ESPN began to lay off a lot of people. Up to 5% of it’s workforce but ESPN has not confirmed that number. Either way, ESPN is laying off people. For those that don’t know, ESPN is the best profit source for it’s parent company DISNEY. But buying up sports media rights isn’t cheap and it may have, in the end, cost some people their jobs.

While ESPN continues to buy up media rights it has neglected a new revenue stream, YouTube. Yes ESPN has a presence on YouTube but not nearly the one it should. And while they wouldn’t get 100% of the ad revenue I’m sure they could get a pretty good deal  (maybe 80-20) and a high dollar CPM.

How would they do it? Well let’s start with the NFL Draft. ESPN has perhaps the best and most entertaining draft preview show, Gruden’s QB Camp. It’s a show with no regular time slot but it”s turned into an annual right of passage for QB’s (and other players) entering the NFL Draft.

Coach Gruden

This show was built for YouTube. It only runs about 25 minutes and has a great personality in Monday Night Football color commentator and former Super Bowl winning head coach Jon Gruden. He’s charismatic to say the least and the show has segments that could be expanded upon online.

While the main YouTube playlist would be Gruden’s QB Camp there should also be another playlist that just focuses on him on the practice field with the draft prospect. There could also be an outtakes playlist as well with some of Gruden’s best one liners and looks.

Gruden With EJ

Take one episode from TV and you could have three pieces of content online. Total, you’re probably looking at 250,000-300,000 views which can turn into a decent chunk of change for very low overhead (the initial costs were picked up under the TV production budget). ESPN does have some material under their Insider section on their web site which is about $40 a year. They do this right and they blow that number away (and without the print costs).

Not only is this a revenue generator but it’s also user friendly. Now fans can watch all the episodes if they missed it on TV (or even if they saw it and want to watch it again) not to mention the expanded content. Fans have more of a connection to those prospects and probably more incentive to watch the NFL Draft on ESPN later. What does that mean? More eyeballs equals more money for ESPN, Disney and the shareholders. More importantly, maybe this means ESPN doesn’t layoff as many people. That means less unemployment and a better US economy.

Just a thought.

MLS SuperDraft and How It Can Get Better

MLS held the 14th edition of their Superdraft on Thursday January 17th. It was broadcast at times in the US on ESPN and on some outlets in Canada. The entire thing was streamed live on their YouTube channel and from the what we can tell peaked with around 10,400 concurrent views. That means that 10,400 people were watching at the same time. That’s pretty good.

MLS SuperDraft

In fact the entire thing was pretty great with a few exceptions. The first being Commissioner Don Garber’s speech at the start of the draft. While probably important to the MLS brass it was in all reality a waste of time. A short welcome is OK but a 5 to 10 minute thank you-fest is really unnecessary. Fans are watching. The ones who buy tickets, jersey’s and the MLS Direct Kick package. Gain more of them by starting the draft and the sponsors will be happy later. Thanking the sponsors and the NCAA for 10 minutes on a live broadcast is not a way keep the fans happy.

The second unfortunate thing about the draft is the unfimiliarity with the players. Contrast the SuperDraft with the NBA or NFL drafts where the average fan knows who some of the players are who are being drafted. The fact is that college soccer isn’t commanding major time slots on broadcast and cable television outlets. So when Toronto FC walks away with 2 first round picks and makes several trades in the process the average fan has no idea if this good or bad. It’s not MLS’s fault but it’s not the airlines fault either when your flight is delayed due to weather but they take the anyway.

The final thing that MLS must address in future SuperDrafts is the timing. While a Thursday afternoon in January usually seems like a great time to have the sports stage it’s still a Thursday afternoon in January. They’d have been better served to do the draft this upcoming Saturday when their only competition is college basketball and hockey (the opening day for the NHL this season but that only happens once every 10 years or so). If they did Saturday vs Thursday one could argue that the 10,400 concurrent views may have been 12-13 thousand.

You cannot control other sports and lord knows that the MLS had no control over the other sports stories grabbing headlines this week. From the Lance Armstrong doping admission to Oprah, to the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax to the NFL playoffs and various NFL head coaching positions being filled. They still do control the day and Thursday is not a good day.

The MLS wants to grow and by having a SuperDraft look and sound as good as it did today is another great step. The stream worked (which is always key) the commentary by Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman was top notch and the interactivity was second to none. If you were on twitter you noticed that the picks came in about 10-20 seconds before they were announced (that’s your encoding delay from satellite to the Internet). MLS is making this an event and you can only hope that in future drafts there is more hype and build up and with that comes more interest. With more fan interest comes more success for the MLS and in turn soccer in the professional sports landscape.

“Traditional” Beats “New” When It Comes to Live Sports (Despite Red Bull)

This past fall the Red Bull Stratos jump had at its peak 8 million concurrent views on YouTube. That annihilated the streaming of last years Super Bowl which had 2.1 million uniques which was on NBCSports.com. No one knew what would happen when the streams hit that 8 million mark and there was some genuine concern among the engineers but the system held up. A major part of the system though hasn’t held up well this past year.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is rapidly becoming a leader in the cloud space. According to a Bloomberg report by Cory Johnson AWS will generate $1.6 billion in revenue in 2012. It’s not all fun and games for AWS though. Christmas Eve saw Netflix go down. According a Wall Street Journal article 95% of Netflix computational and storage needs are handled by AWS. Netflix in turn accounts for 33% of peak downstream residential internet traffic in North America so if AWS goes down, which it’s done a few times this year, it’s a problem.

If YouTube (who’s parent company is Google) would have failed during the Red Bull Stratos jump one could argue about the level of consumer outrage it would have received from the public. If YouTube was hosting the Super Bowl or the BCS National TItle Game on the other hand and the stream fails then there is a pretty good chance that the level of consumer outrage would be significantly higher.

SNF-DALvWSH

For all of the the mocking and criticism that goes toward broadcast television, cable and satellite providers they have something that people will continue to pay for, reliability. If the Super Bowl is on you can bet that you are going to be able to find a reliable “old school” way to watch it. The broadcast, cable or satellite signal does not get weighed down by the amount of people using it. It does not need to be ‘throttled down’ just to be able to continue showing you the game or event.

Strip away the economics of this argument and just look at the stability of the platforms and on that alone it is easy to see why live sports will continue to be the lifeblood of “traditional” outlets like broadcast, cable and satellite. While leagues like the NFL, MLB, NBA, MLS and UFC will continue to offer live streams of games and events they will not be able to deliver the same experience or reliability night in and night out like the “traditional” outlets can.

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Food for Thought: On The Media