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The Future Impact of Augmented Reality on Sports Media

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Augmented Reality is the innovation that will abruptly disrupt sports media.  It will fundamentally revolutionize the consumer’s experience.  The moment is not that far away.  In the past few months we have had a rapping Tupac at Coachella and fans virtually posing with Super Bowl rings, the Stanley Cup, and the French Soccer Championship trophy.  Augmented Reality will center on specialized one off events for the next few years; however, the future of the burgeoning field is the enhancement of live events.

The aforementioned sport activations are superb in their innovation.  Fans will appreciate them for their authenticity, and they provide an opportunity for fans to identify with athletic greatness.  These are vitally important developments for properties and sponsorship activation teams.  To effectively construct a different sports reality, we will have to take this technology to the hands of consumers in real-time.

Live sports continue to be the most indispensible commodity of a network’s portfolio.  However, there will come a point when rights fees are no longer economically justifiable.  Distributors are increasingly willing to fight networks on their carriage fees, e.g. MSG v. Time Warner, Fox Sports San Diego v. Time Warner/Dish/AT&T U-Verse, and Viacom v. Dish.  These fights will continue at both the local and national level.  It is inevitable that the ceiling for sports rights will have ramifications that extend to the playing field through CBA related causes.  Therefore, it will be incumbent upon properties to develop new mediums which will give broadcasters more interactive advertising solutions.  This is where Reality Distortion will truly take hold.

I envision a world where the next Shazam integrations are geo-targeted, time-specific, and relevant to the broadcast.  For example, Coors Light would run an ad during the third quarter of a Chargers vs. Raiders game to a displaced Chargers in fan NYC.  The fan using an app on their phone or tablet would then be able to recognize the ad, the fan’s location, time-slot of the ad and offer the fan specific behind the scenes footage of the game.  The activation would include bringing Herm Edwards into the living room of the user.  Herm would offer real-time commentary about the broadcast in such a way that would speak directly to the fan’s team allegiance.  This user specific Augmented Reality will be the defining experience of sports media over the next decade.

We have only begun to scratch the surface of Augmented Reality’s potential.  The future will include geo-targeted integrations that speak directly to the consumer’s interest during live broadcasts.  The ability of properties and networks to offer these solutions to advertisers will ensure the sustainability of current sports broadcast rights.

Written by Peter Amador

July 30, 2012 at 11:14 PM

Multi-Screen Sports Viewing Options for 2013

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How can networks capitalize upon the fragmented attention span of sports fans during live broadcasts? The reality of our ever increasing need for information has caused broadcasters to not only think about how they stay connected with viewers, but also how to serve their advertising partners.  The use of multiple screens by viewers has been widely debated by advertisers and programmers.  Evidence from parties such as Time Warner’s Research Council suggests that users who interact with social media during broadcasts are more engaged with programming than those that watch broadcasts without a second screen option.  NBC and ESPN are developing apps to address the opportunities associated with multi-screen viewing experiences.

NBC’s Live Extra App for the 2012 Summer Olympics “will allow you to view live video, highlights, news, and more on your smartphone or tablet”.  Satellite and cable subscribers will be able to access more than 3,500 hours of live competitions, including medal events.  NBC’s new app will not deter viewership from their broadcasts, but will either complement their broadcasts or connect with viewers unable to watch the events live on their TV.  A similar thought process has compelled ESPN to develop an app for the college football season.

ESPN will unveil a college football app that has access to video highlights as soon as six seconds from the live action, game recaps, trending scores, and live engagement.  The opportunity to connect fans before, during and after games is what appeals to ESPN.  The fact that they will be offering in-game highlights demonstrates that they are committed to providing fans with content as it unfolds.  This user first approach of ESPN will ensure that the company continues to provide its consumers with the experience they demand, and advertisers with opportunities that connect them with the experience of the game.

The sports consumer now demands to know what, why and how things are happening in real-time and wants to consume this information on their terms.  Broadcasters no longer have a monopoly over a fan’s attention span.  It is imperative that they continue to provide fans with more interactive options during their broadcasts.  NBC and ESPN should be commended for their initiative, and we can be assured that they will not be the last broadcasters to take this approach.

Written by Peter Amador

July 18, 2012 at 11:35 PM

March Madness on Demand: Streaming Live Sports to the Consumer

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We will always watch sports on the biggest screen available (Kint, Jason).  It is simple math, 60 in > 14 in >10 in > 4 in.

Sports produces a visceral emotion which is tied to the artistic beauty of witnessing athletic greatness.  And as art has moved from caves, to temples, to cathedrals and into the Met, our spectating experience has moved from radio, to black-and-white, to color, and into HD.  We have always sought out authenticity in our viewing experience, and this need will continue to be the defining quality of our viewing habits.  Results from the 2011 NCAA Tournament support this argument.

Through the Elite 8 of this year’s NCAA tournament, CBS and Turner Sports (TBS, TNT and truTV) averaged a 6.8 rating in the top 56 US markets*.  This translates into an estimated average audience of 9.4 million viewers per night. Furthermore, nearly 100 million people have watched some part of the tournament.   Television’s hegemony on the publics viewing habits becomes apparent when the tournament’s ratings are juxtaposed to MMOD stats.

Through the Elite 8, more than 41.6 million visits have been registered to March Madness on Demand across the online, iPhone and iPad platforms.  These visits account for 12.7 million hours of video streaming, with the iPhone and iPad MMOD app accounting for 29% of video streams (Multichannel.com).  These numbers are quite impressive; however, MMOD viewership pales in comparison to the television viewership, being bested at a rate of nearly 5:2.

The disparity between television and online viewing is not an indictment on the lack of penetration or breadth of online viewing, but rather a validation of the theory that online viewing is a supplement to television consumption and not a competition.

The benefits of online streaming are twofold – 1. it reaches the disenfranchised fan (San Diego State fans in NYC without a tv) and 2. it enhances the viewers experience by providing camera access and angles which are unavailable from the broadcast (NBC Sunday Night Football), neither of which compete with the traditional broadcast experience.

If online streaming of games challenged the integrity of game broadcasts, would the “Most Innovative Company in Sports” dare allow its customers to view its games online with ESPN3.com – putting into jeopardy its more than $4 billion in cable subscription fees per year?  This presumption is supported by the fact that online video streams for MMOD have been the highest for the early Thursday and Friday games – while most people are presumably at work.  I would argue that the same conditions lead viewing patterns to increase on the iPhone and iPad during the weekends while people are living their life, but want to know what is happening in the San Diego State vs. Temple game (we won).

People want the flexibility to consume sports whenever and wherever they please, but this does not mean that they will forgo experience for convenience.  If you don’t believe me, ask my friends at Qualcomm headquarters about Flo TV.

The idea of living in a multi-screen world is to enhance our reality.  Our senses must be stimulated like never before; we expect to be moved by the experience of watching an event.  A multi-screen world provides us with numerous outlets to consume the content which we desire – sports.

In opening ourselves to this content, we are also opening ourselves to corporate sponsors.  We must embrace this reality and be grateful, because they are the ones the make the content possible.

* TV ratings were weighted down by the First Four match-ups

A Stateside Action Plan for Liverpool

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The words "Liverpool Football Club" are in the center of a pennant, with flames either side. The words "You'll Never Walk Alone" adorn the top of the emblem in a green design, "EST 1892" is at the bottom.

New England Sports Ventures can generate substantial revenue from Liverpool in the United States by: 

1) hosting an annual or biennial American tour 

2) syndicating Liverpool matches to regional sports networks (RSN)

The American public has demonstrated a substantial interest in international soccer matches.  This past summer alone, Manchester United averaged 55,790 for three matches  in the US, Real Madrid averaged 68,236 in two matches and the Barclay’s New York Challenge averaged 19,042 over three match dates; total attendance for these 8 matches, 360,968.  To put this number into perspective, the Oakland Raiders drew 354,276 for their eight home games in 2009.

It could be argued that these attendance numbers were the manifestation of interest from this year’s World Cup, and are not sustainable in long-term; however, the CAA run World Football Challenge of 2009 drew 336,813 fans over six matches, and two FC Barcelona matches drew 159,967.  The combined attendance of 496,780 for these two tours was more than six NFL clubs in 2009.  The substantial gate receipts generated from these international friendlies has been adversely affected by fees imposed by the United States Soccer Federation. 

Currently, the USSF taxes match promoters 5.25-15% for matches held on US soil featuring international teams.  If we assume that a match selling 60,000 tickets generates somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.7 million in gross ticket sales (based on an average ticket price of $45), the USSF’s tax can serve as a significant deterrent to those considering the feasibility of promoting international matches.  The probable repeal of USSF’s sanctioning fee will increase the viability of these tournaments.  

Moreover, MLB stadiums could be the preferred venues for a Liverpool tour. Matches delivered to municipally owned stadiums  could serve to enhance the political leverage of New England Sports Ventures with its fellow owners.   Furthermore, market selection could be a driving force to forge partnerships with team owned RSNs.

In last week’s SportsBusiness Journal, Ted Leonsis made the argument that more and more clubs will be looking to launch their own RSN.  He pointed out that in the coming years broadband and mobile distribution rights will become increasingly important.  Thus, the question arises, how will these networks fill the vast amount of programming requirements for a multiple platform presence?  The YES Network may have given an indication where RSNs will look to acquire programming.

The YES Network recently agreed to terms with Arsenal to broadcast their EPL, FA Cup and UEFA Cup matches in HD.  John Filippelli, President, production and programming for the YES Network had this to say about the agreement:

“This Arsenal package provides additional depth to our already diverse, Emmy Award-winning lineup. It not only makes our programming more attractive to those living in our traditional regional viewing area, but it also enhances the value of our YES national feed available throughout the country.  Those tuning in to our YES national feed will benefit from these Arsenal programs airing in HD throughout our schedule, including when our Yankees and Nets game telecasts are blacked out.”

New England Sports Ventures would first utilize Liverpool rights to increase its subscription fees with New England based MSO’s, and then build the business case for Liverpool being a valuable asset for RSNs outside of the Northeast.

New England Sports Ventures has demonstrated innovation and efficiency in every endeavor it has embarked upon; I eagerly await their stateside plans for Liverpool.

Written by Peter Amador

October 20, 2010 at 9:43 PM

Posted in EPL, TV Rights

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A Vision for Univision

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Hispanic male consumers age 18-49 –  A targeted demographic for marketers, and an emerging consumer base for properties.  The interests of both intersect with Univision.

Univision has positioned itself as the preeminent network for Spanish language sports.  The large audiences which the network attracted for its World Cup broadcasts thrust the network into the forefront of sports media stories throughout the summer; however, its acquisition of the United States broadcast rights to  Mexican National Team matches leading up to the 2014 World Cup may have been the network’s most significant achievement of 2010. 

The Mexico vs. Ecuador match on September 4th attracted 2.7 million viewers, helping the network become the most viewed channel amongst 18-49 year-olds for the week.  This was the first time a Spanish language network had beat out its English counterparts in this significant demographic.  The match broadcast may have not been the primary reason for the network winning the ratings battle; however, the ratings bump which the network received on a Saturday night was of critical importance.    Furthermore, Univision’s exclusive rights to MNT matches enables the channel to drive its business interests with multi-platform content.

Prior to the Ecuador match, Univision announced a partnership with AT&T to deliver MNT matches to AT&T Mobile TV subscribers.  This deal was made possible due to AT&T’s existing relationship with the MNT through Soccer United Marketing, and Univision’s broadcast agreement with the MNT, highlighting the complexity of the digital sports landscape.  Additionally, the AT&T deal is a manifestation of the adept leadership at the network. 

Univision was able to secure the Mobile TV rights in addition to its broadcast rights.  Mobile TV rights have been the providence of governing bodies in the United States.   The network’s ability to procure these rights from the FMF was not only a coup for the network’s bottom line, but I believe its reputation amongst the three major sports leagues in the United States.   Univision’s partnership with the NFL to launch NFL.com/espanol demonstrates the increasing importance the network will have on the future domestic growth of the NFL, NBA and MLB. 

Whether you are considered to be a general market property (NFL) or a Hispanic focused property (MNT/MLS), Univision’s hegemony of the Spanish-speaking audience in the United States is a necessity.    The networks youthful audience (55.2% 18-49 compared to CBS’ 31.5%) is in concert with the Hispanic population’s demographic (49.5% between 18-49 compared to the non-Hispanics 44.8%), providing properties a forum to generate sustainable domestic growth. 

We continue to wait for Versus to evolve into a legitimate challenger to ESPN’s crown – which may very well happen if Congress ever approves the Comcast / NBC Universal merger – and continue to neglect an over-the-air network that delivers a premium audience to advertisers.  Don’t keep the blinders on too long, because there’s a horse gaining ground down the stretch.

The Case for Transparency in the Super Bowl

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The debate over which commercials were good  (Bud Light and Doritos) and bad (Go Daddy and Denny’s) is a Super Bowl tradition, like guacamole and salsa.  USA Today’s ad meter scores have been the deciding factor in the success of ads in years past, but now engaging your audience prior to the Super Bowl Sunday is a key component of a successful Super Bowl appearance.  Budweiser allowed its fans “vote” in the Clydesdale spot, the Focus on the Family ad was a topic of conversation for over a week leading up to SB44 and numerous companies teased their spots on Facebook prior to the game.  The evolving landscape of B2C relationships necessitates that companies align themselves with their consumers’ perception.

Cunningham, Cornwell and Coote (2009) argued that an organization’s identity is not what it says it is, but what its consumers say it is; therefore, it is a dynamic entity controlled by the consumer, and molded by the organization.  The Super Bowl is a proven platform for companies to reinforce (Google), reinvent (Kia) or introduce (Flo TV) its brand to a mass audience.  These companies have attempted to shape an identity which they can attach their brand to; however if their product is incompatible with the image which they are perpetrating the ad will be ineffective.  Admittedly, I do not know anyone that owns a Kia, but would it really be the first choice for a Vegas road trip?  Meanwhile, critics derided Flo TV’s ads, but their message was true to what their product is, a toy for bored men.

Cunningham, Cornwell and Coote (2009) do assert that sponsoring a major sporting event can help a brand craft its image, if it aligns with the company’s core values and philosophies.  Accordingly, a company which aligns its message in a Super Bowl, with its core values stands to gain substantially from the Super Bowl’s mass appeal (monster.com).  A well executed Super Bowl campaign would then offer the viewer with insight into the ethos of a company (Volkswagen).  Brands should strive to integrate their traditional marketing strategies and new media endeavors, much as Coca-Cola did, to demonstrate transparency with their consumer.  By becoming transparent a brand exhibits faith in its product and truly molds its image.

Written by Peter Amador

February 9, 2010 at 6:03 PM

The Future of Sport Broadcasting Rights

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When the clock strikes midnight in Time Square, strangers will embrace, lovers will reminisce, and executives at CBS, NBC and ABC will understand; they will understand the cross they have to bear when they attempt to negotiate retransmission consent fees with cable operators.  What’s at stake is billions of dollars.  Currently, the over-air broadcasters receive between $0.25-0.50 from cable operators per subscription, Fox is looking to receive $1 per subscription from Time Warner Cable, a fee that TWC is loathe to pay.  The immediate impact of the dispute could be TWC customers being unable to watch three BCS  bowl games and four NFL playoff games – which TWC customers should be accustomed too as the do not have the NFL Network – however, the dispute will end up affecting the broadcast rights the ACC, PAC 10, Olympics and the NFL will be able to command.

ESPN bullied its way to the rights to the BCS by being offering $595 million over 4 years, a sum which surpassed FOX’s bid by more than $100 million.  ESPN was able to bid that much because they receive $4 per subscription from cable operators.  That $4 is multiplied by the 98 million homes it is in and by the 12 months of the year, for an astonishing $4.7 billion in revenue for ESPN prior to them selling a single advertising unit.  FOX’s battle with TWC will have a substantial impact to the coffers of  leagues, conferences and governing bodies in the future.  Broadcast channels must begin to generate revenue from cable operators if they are to compete with ESPN for broadcasting rights.  A decrease in competition for broadcasting rights will undoubtedly hurt the strength of entities such as the IOC’s during negotiations.  Which explains why they have not awarded the American broadcasting rights to the 2014 or 2016 Olympics.  The acquisition of the incumbent Olympic broadcaster by a cable operator may be advantageous to the other broadcasters.

Comcast taking control of NBC is welcome news to sport entities.  Whether they are going to develop Versus into a legitimate rival to ESPN remains to be seen, but what must be expected is they will lead the charge for retransmission consent fees.  While they are the largest cable distributor with over 24 million customers, the benefits of receiving retransmission fees for NBC from other cable operators would far exceed the fees it would have to deliver to its rival broadcast networks.  Their position would be strengthen if FOX is able to make TWC acquiesce to its demands.

My prediction is that TWC and FOX will arrive at a compromise of $0.85 prior to the New Year’s deadline, NBC will retain the rights to the Olympics in 2014 and 2016 and Versus will develop into a respectable competitor to ESPN boosted by the broadcasting rights to the PAC 10.

Written by Peter Amador

December 28, 2009 at 7:39 PM

Posted in TV Rights

Tagged with , , , , , ,

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