December 20, 2014

Bleacher gets $22 million cushion

Bleacher Report continues its onslaught on the traditional Internet sports domains, winning on Thursday Aug. 25, a $22 million cash infusion from Oak Investment Partners, Crosslink Capital and Hillsven Capital.  The money will be used to expand Bleacher’s production and distribution of sports videos and mobile applications.

The move is significant because Bleacher is already a leader in user-generated sports content, but it has established itself from the ground up. Using a content farm approach, where people submit articles, photos and commentary, Bleacher Report has become a go-to source for sports information about high school and obscure college athletes. Much of the information is impossible to find anywhere else. Where ESPN and others concentrate editorial efforts on the Andrew Lucks, LeMichael Jameses and Peyton Mannings of the world, Bleacher Report can provide you with information about your third cousin who plays right tackle for a rural high school in Indiana. That’s been a powerful formula that ESPN and others will be hard-pressed to duplicate.

At the same time, Bleacher is now chasing the big boys. It recently hired marquee sports writers Dan Levy, Matt Miller, Dan Rubenstein, Josh Zerkle and Bethlehem Shoals, and has stated that it sees no reason why it can’t compete on the national stage.

Led by CEO Brian Grey, a veteran of online sports information, Bleacher now has total funding of $40.5 million.

According to a report in TechCrunch, investors see online sports information as a big opportunity that has yet to be fully exploited. Here is what Oak general partner Fred Harman said to TechCrunch:

“Sports is a big opportunity and no one has gotten it right yet,” Harman says. “People are clearly as passionate and opinionated as they are in politics, and they are less inhibited to express their opinions. I’d argue Bleacher Report has done a far better job of embracing the capabilities of the online medium than the big sports brands have.”

Journal notes sports bar transformation

Geeks are taking over sports bars, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

It says live Internet broadcasts of professional science-fiction war games are proving a key revenue stream for sports bar owners, edging out traditionalists who prefer football, baseball, basketball and hockey games when they tilt back a few brews.

WSJ said ”Starcraft III” is the latest game drawing geeks to sportsbars, where multiple television sets normally dedicated to sports are used to cater to gamers. The game is part of the Activision Blizzard Inc. arsenal of games, and “Starcraft III” is specifically designed to appeal as a spectator sport, Activision publicist Bob Colayco told the Journal.

The Journal said the popularity of such games as “Starcraft III” leads some traditionalists begging. At a Washington, D.C. sports bar, the manager finally switched one of 26 televisions to a baseball game after one customer asked for “anything but this videogame,” according to the Journal. The “Starcraft” trend is of interest to mobile sports viewers because, if the geeks continue to take over pubs across the country, your smartphone or tablet may be your only option for catching professional sports.

Is 49ers vrs Raiders Fan Fight a Sign of the Times?

By now everybody that watches pro football is aware of the debacle that occurred at last weekend’s game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders; two shootings and a beating, with fan fights continually breaking out all over the stadium.

Sad to say I am not surprised. This is not an indictment on the fans of either team, but rather for one of the rare moments I am in agreement with 49er team president Jed York, who said that these are not our regular fans. The sad thing is that they may well soon become his regular fans, and the same with many other teams across the nation. ( I think KissingSuzyKolber was wrong on this one)

I was a 49er season ticket holder for 25 years starting with the first year of Bill Walsh’s head coaching career there. We eagerly went to our first preseason game as ticket holders only to find a huge fight in the section below our seats. A friend claimed that at a Rams game in the early 70’s a Ram’s fan, after constant harassment, pulled a gun and threatened the people around him.

Preseason games were always nightmares. A much ruder, coarser, drunker group of fans tended to go. I think that Friday and Saturday games, particularly when it is warm, encourages drinking. For most fans there is no work the next day. We always gave our tickets away and so did all of our friends that had season tickets, and in the teams great years everybody wanted them, but as they continued their slide to mediocrity, at best, it was hard to give them away.

Many I have talked to have simply blamed the Raider fans but while 49er fans had developed a reputation as “chardonnay drinks’, as labeled by former offensive lineman Randy Cross- who incidentally the fans took a dislike to due to his movement penalty in the Superbowl that almost cost the game- but prior to that were considered some of the worst.

Former quarterback John Brodie once wrote about warning Colt’s great Johnny Unitas about the need to wear a helmet when leaving the field due to fans throwing bottles. After the team erected chicken wire around the field entrance fans started heating coins to drop through, he said. That was at Kezar Stadium, a place literally surrounded by bars.

However I see this in some aspects as the new generation of fans. People my age now preferred top buy a big screen and a broadcast package that allows you watch games in the comfort of your home. No $12 beers, $35 parking and all of the other expenses that you get at games. At least one city last year charged to tailgate. It is younger fans that are starting to fill the parks, and they seem to have a rougher edge. NFL owners are to blame, for the most part, in my humble opinion.

Three years ago Bill Simmons wrote at ESPN a very good piece on how teams destroy the tailgating experience for their most loyal fans. As you realize how badly the team treats you, viewing you as simply an ATM there for them to tap, it just makes sense to enjoy the game elsewhere.

So while teams build new palaces with which to play the games, attendance has been declining overall in the NFL. Certainly there are a number of factors, poor economy, high ticket prices, a number of teams being perennial doormats etc.. but it is becoming clearer to the average fan that the sightlines and cost are much better at home. Last year it was estimated that attendance was at its lowest level since 1998.

However no need to worry about fights at future 49er/Raiders games- it looks like that series has been canceled for the time being.

Smartphones and a lotta’ Luck

Andrew Luck and beard

Stanford Cardinal QB Andrew Luck

It is one of the most compelling stories in the history of college football. Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, a mortal lock for the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL draft, instead decides to complete his senior year as the Cardinal signal caller. He is considered by some primed to have one of the 10 greatest seasons in the history of alma mater gridiron, and is the first really phenomenol story since the dawn of Twitter.

But what if he gets hurt? Or something strange happens in his personal life, like his recently revealed beard is really precursor to a move to Utah to start his own religious cult. And the most likely scenario, a single mental error or physical mistake costs Stanford an undefeated record and damages an otherwise perfect season. Wouldn’t you want to be the first to know?

Mobile Sports Report thought so, which is why we think following every Luck snap in 2011 is a must for every college football fan. Here are three good ways to wire in to Luck, and be the first to know if Luck will continue his rise to college immortal unabated:

KNBR is the official station for Stanford Cardinal football, and is as active as any radio station in the country on Twitter. Every snap Luck takes carries with it NCAA Championship implications, and KNBR is a way to stay wired wherever you are. 

The official line for information is Stanford Athletics, and it is worth a follow for anyone able to recognize the magnitude of the Luck story.  

Stanford gymnist Nicole Pechanec  is Luck’s No. 1 girlfriend. Although she’s not active on Twitter, she’s registered. And she’s worth a follow in case something heats up in Luck’s life and she has something to say.

Three College Football Tweets U Don’t Want to See

 

College football fans often use Mobile Sports Report to improve game experiences by setting up their smart phones with the twitter accounts of recommended athletes, announcers and other information sources in advance of a game. The live updates you can get from Mobile Sports Report’s top Twitter follows bring fans closer to the game-day preparations and on-field experience than ever before. But there’s a downside to everything, even too much information

Here, then, are three imagined tweets you should hope you will never see about your team during the 2011 college football season:

 

Sid's Tattoo Parlor

Sid's Tattoo Parlor in Santa Ana, Calif. uses this image on its Twitter profile

“Check out No. 34’s new tattoo. It is on his right tricep. I did it. Come on in. I’ll do you too.” Local ink artists may be proud of their new work, and cannot be faulted for doing a little promotion, but judging from the off season’s Ohio State debacle, it is a sure sign your program is headed for scandal. Most likely tattoo parlor to send this tweet: Sid’s Tattoo Parlor, Santa Ana, Calif., about talented University of Southern California tailback D.J. Morgan.

“The unsettled quarterback situation adds a lot of intrigue.” Your team’s columnist is paid to be endlessly enthusiastic and optimistic, but this tweet tells the starter sucks and you are going to be looking at a jittery freshman by the time you get into the conference schedule. Most likely columnist to send this tweet: Columbia Missourian football beat writer Harry Plumer, speaking of the Blaine Gabbert-less Missouri Tigers, who are depending on sophomore James Franklin to call signals and have redshirt freshman Tyler Gabbert No. 2 on the depth chart.

“My privates hurt and I want a pony.” – If you see this tweet from one of your team’s defensive lineman at any time during practice week, or on game day before kickoff, you can be sure he will be neutralized for 60 minutes. Most likely player to send this tweet: Mike Golic Jr., Notre Dame, who tweets like the rich kid he is.

The Friday Fanfare

I always love how I am always told that sports help bring people together, omitting that filling a building with two groups of fans that may hate each other seems to put the lie to the statement. While riots at soccer matches now seem passé, try wearing a Cowboy jersey to an Eagles home game. The international scene is just as bad- look at the “friendly” match between the Georgetown Hoyas and Chinese professional team Bayi Rockets. Then again a bench clearing brawl does bring the players together!

So you are a developer looking to create a sports app for the Android. Do you create a web-based app or one that is designed specifically for the mobile users. Well according to the latest research from market researcher Nielsen’s Smart Phone Analytics, mobile apps wins if the metric you are looking for is time used. According to the release on Nielsenwire, “the average Android consumer in the U.S. spends 56 minutes per day actively interacting with the web and apps on their phone. Of that time, two-thirds is spent on mobile apps while one-third is spent on the mobile web” Creating a popular app is also very important (no kidding), with the top ten Android apps accounting for 43% of all time spent by users.

For the few that might have missed it, Google has made its biggest potential acquisition todate with its $12.5 billion bid for Motorola Mobility, a $63% premium over the closing price of MM shares from last Friday. There are a huge number of reasons for Google’s move, starting with the more than 15,000 patents owned or filed by MM. Google has been complaining that rivals such as Microsoft, Sony and Apple are trying to squeeze it via their patent portfolios and the recently acquired ones they have gained via their $4.5 billion purchase of Nortel Networks. The newly acquired MM patents will help Google fight back as well as help the company expand into additional markets. I expect a decent patent war to break out between the different parties before they come to their collective senses and signs some cross patent licensing agreements a la the Intel/AMD deals of yore.

Today’s rant: I can force myself, on occasion, to watch preseason games. Football tends to be the one sport I do it the most for since I often attend baseball Spring Training. So why do the broadcast channels insist on overrunning the games with sideline reporters? It’s bad enough in baseball when the coach spouts a few clichés straight out of Bull Durham, but in the later part of preseason NFL games it seems that every star is interviewed when their time on the field is finished. I have yet to heard anything of interest, and since it takes away from showing the game, I often tend to drift off to another channel-ohh look Animal Planet has a feature on badgers! How about trying to supply some real analysis? Maybe talk about the formations and the players and who might have a chance to stick, you know, what I am always hoping a network will provide. End rant.