November 21, 2014

Who’s Going to Get the Tablet Rights for NFL Games?

We all know by now that the Super Bowl is going to be streamed live by NBC, and also to Verizon Wireless smartphones via Verizon’s NFL Mobile app. It will be interesting to see what the viewer metrics are after the fact. But the bigger item on the horizon is who will snag the tablet, aka iPad rights for NFL broadcasts going forward?

I was thinking about this potential conflict earlier today when I read a report from my ex-GigaOM collegue Liz Gannes who was covering a talk with ESPN president John Skipper at the D: Dive Into Media conference. Skipper’s crew seems like it has clear vision on what the Worldwide Leader needs to do with mobile, which as we heard yesterday is the prime platform ESPN develops for.

Inside the industry ESPN is unique since it not only is a network, it is also a content creator as well as a clearinghouse for overall information. The latter is mainly SportsCenter, its enormously popular highlights show that dominates the sports world. But more recently ESPN has become a content creator/provider by bidding for broadcast rights to games themselves, across all major sports and a lot of minor ones too.

While finding broadcasts on TV is fairly easy — you just look up to see which network is broadcasting the game — on digital devices the access has been murky. Verizon does have an exclusive deal to show live games on phones, but that’s only covered Monday Night Football, Thursday night NFL Network games and the Sunday NBC games. ESPN, meanwhile, retains MNF rights for tablets but won’t show the games on phones because of Verizon’s deal. DirecTV Sunday Ticket customers this year could opt for a package that gave them access to the Sunday Ticket via mobile — an interesting twist but as a subset of a subset not really a mass-market solution.

The big question still out there is who will get tablet rights for NFL broadcasts going forward? Right now Verizon can’t offer NFL Mobile on an iPad, which would seem to be a bit of a no-brainer except it isn’t. The tablet market, aka iPad, is getting bigger every moment and it will be interesting to see how the tablet rights get broken out, or whether they are bundled into the overall broadcast rights for a hefty increase in fees. According to Liz’s report, ESPN won’t buy rights without all platforms included:

Since 2005, ESPN has made sure that all its content deals include rights for every device. As Skipper put it, “We don’t cannibalize ourself, we use those platforms to cross-promote.”

After several digital stops and starts ESPN seems to have crystalized its mobile thinking behind the WatchESPN idea, where you download an app and have access to all ESPN programming — so long as you also have a contract with a qualifying cable provider. This is a smart move because it keeps the people paying ESPN the big bucks happy, while giving the cable customers the kind of access that is commonplace for all other kinds of media.

Maybe sometime in the future ESPN will offer a non-cable-customer price to access all its content digitally, but for now it seems content to keep its window open only to those customers willing to pay.

Here’s the link to Liz’s story again. Good stuff, wish I was at that conference.

Pac-12 Looks to Build ‘Digital Network’ for Social-Media Centric Sports Future

The Pac-12 conference, one year into its new broadcasting deal is now looking to expand its presence in other areas aside from broadcast television, a move that will encompass streaming media and other technologies broadcast to smartphones, tablets and other devices, mobile and immobile.

To spearhead the program the conference‘s wholly owned subsidiary Pac-12 Enterprises has hired David Aufhauser as vice president and general manager of digital media. He has been in various positions in the sports and social media market for almost two decades with his most recent position being Vice President, Media at Say Media where he managed the global ad network. Prior to that he led business development at Yahoo Sports and has a variety of positions at Citizen Sports, Evite and Netscape.

The job will entail all aspects of the digital media properties of the Pac-12 as well as the creation and management of the Pac-12 Digital Network. The Digital Network will be a unified web site that will provide world wide access to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets as well as computers and even television for a wide range of sports activities that the Pac-12 is involved in.

The group will handle hundreds of sporting events and provide original programming at all 12 major campuses. This will include live streaming, mobile technology and social TV capabilities, the world. The network is expected to be launched in late summer 2012.

Last year the conference entered into a major upgrade on its broadcasting presence by working with major cable companies to create six regional cable networks as well as signing new national deals with FOX Sports and ESPN. The Digital Network is expected to work with the television networks to provide a more unified presence for the league. The new effort will also handle all sponsorship, licensing and event management for the Pac-12.

His hiring is just the latest in a string of newly enlisted personnel, all seemingly with wide experience in both sports and an array of various media. Last August the conference hired Gary Stevenson as the head of the Enterprise group. Stevenson has more than 30 years in a variety of sports and broadcasting experience including working with the NBA, the PGA Tour and owning his own sports consulting firm OnSports.

The Pac-12 Enterprise has also hired Bill Cella as its chief revenue officer. Cella has experience in sales and marketing and will design and implement long term strategies and oversee the management of all revenue generation for Pac-12 Enterprises.

Expect this to be the tip of the iceberg and a move that is carefully watched by both rival conferences and the NCAA governing body. No school is going to let additional revenue slip through its fingers and we will probably see a number quickly emulate the Pac-12.

The NCAA on the other hand may want a bigger piece of the pie. When Major League Baseball teams started to move onto the Internet MLB itself was a bit slow to follow. When it did it moved everything under its own umbrella, and no doubt gets a larger cut for its effort.

Pre Play Sports Scores Subway Sponsor Deal for Super Bowl

Screen grab of a typical Pre Play app, where you predict the play before it happens.

In a field that’s going to become extremely competitive, predictive-gaming startup PrePlay announced a sponsorship deal with sandwich giant Subway, just in time for this Sunday’s Super Bowl.

If you’re not familiar with predictive gaming, don’t feel alone. It’s a new category of apps that allow smartphone or tablet users to challenge each other in trying to predict play-by-play outcomes of sporting events as they are happening live. MSR identified several of the players in the space last year, but with Subway sponsor dollars in its pocket Pre Play has clearly done something to attract attention. Even so, the company is using the Subway deal to “re-launch” its app, usually a sign that the initial iteration didn’t quite catch on.

The iOS-only Pre Play app can be freely downloaded from iTunes. Then you assemble a group of friends or family members with Apple devices and can compete to see who can better predict plays before they happen, earning points in the process for correct calls.

To perhaps better explain how it all works, here’s a Pre Play demo video. Maybe this is better than me screaming “FAKE! FAKE!” at the TV screen on every field-goal attempt. At least my neighbors might be happier.

NBA Wastes No Time Slamming Griffin’s Monster Dunk Onto Social Media

That didn’t take long, did it? Minutes after LA Clipper Blake Griffin completely posterized Oklahoma City’s Kendrick Perkins, the dunk of the year in all its glory was all over the web, even in a slo-mo clip embedded above on YouTube, courtesy of the NBA.

Remember when you had to wait for the next SportsCenter to view highlights? Or could only see somebody’s hazy shot of a webcam capture of a TV screen? Those days are so 2010. Welcome to the new era, where sports is served up immediately, social-media style. Right now Kendrick Perkins, #dunkoftheyear and Blake Griffin are all trending on Twitter and if you don’t get a link there just hit Google News and the NBA is already serving up league-approved clips of the dunk.

The takeaway, other than the fact that this dude is perhaps the all-time slam champion: Nobody’s waiting for TV anymore. The big screen might still be the best place to watch, but it’s no longer the first.

Of course, SportsCenter wasn’t far behind. This tweet hit a minute after our post. Glad to know they’re burning the midnight oil in Bristol. Or maybe down in LA where ESPN left coast hangs out.


#SCtop10 What name should we give Blake Griffin’s dunk over Kendrick Perkins: http://t.co/P75l8m71
@SportsCenter
SportsCenter

ESPN: We Design First for the Mobile Experience

There’s a lot of talk on the interwebs today about ESPN saying that it designs its content sites and programs first for the mobile experience, a statement that is not so surprising on its face but still probably somewhat of a shock to the general public who still thinks of ESPN as something you watch on a TV, either in a bar or in your living room.

But as our old pal Om Malik notes, with 400 million smartphones out there it’s pretty clear what’s going to happen. Om says:

With more than 400 million smartphones expected to be sold, it makes perfect sense for sports to get the mobile bump. I mean, don’t we want the baseball gossip, score updates or results of the F1 race when on the go?

The obvious takeaway from ESPN is: The future of fat profits in content is mobile, and we’re all over it. What that means for startups and established players looking to get into the mobile-sports arena is that your business plan better have a provision for what you will do when the WorldWide Leader becomes your competitor.

The design-for-mobile-first mantra is widespread in the sports content world — it is even part of our internal thinking here at humble MSR — but when big players like ESPN and Bleacher Report start talking about how mobile isn’t something in the future but something that is here now it makes sense.

For most desktop Internet connections, bandwidth, screen size and network latency generally aren’t problems when it comes to site experience. On a small handset with extreme variables in network connection, screen size and local processing power, how a site is designed has a huge impact on how it is seen. And you don’t need any exhaustive usability studies to tell you that people don’t come back to a site that doesn’t load or isn’t usable on a small screen. With development resources in demand everywhere, it makes sense to put an emphasis on mobile, which is growing fast and has the more-stringent demands.

At least it does to ESPN. If you’re a business looking at the mobile-sports space, the question is now: if the leader is already there, what are you doing to design for mobile?

The MediaPost recap by Mark Walsh of the keynote speech from Michael Bayle, vice president and general manager of ESPN Mobile, is worth a long read because it touches on a lot of places where ESPN sees mobile going. But a quick grab of a stat from the post should make it easily understandable why ESPN cares so much:

Bayle pointed out that its mobile audience across its mobile properties has surpassed 20 million, with users spending 45% more time with ESPN mobile content in 2011 than the prior year. ESPN Mobile now ranks as the company’s fourth-largest network and it has 150,000 people plugged into its mobile offerings at any given time.

Sounds like it’s more than just cowboys at horse troughs watching ESPN in a mobile fashion. And it will be more so going forward.

Mobile Sports Report TechWatch: Just a Feature or is it Malware?

Symantec is reporting that a bug is starting to infect Android-powered devices that is capable of receiving and executing some commands as well as stealing information from the infected devices.

Called Android.Counterclank the company said that it is a variation of a previous bot like threat called Android.Tonclank and has been grafted onto a range of applications availaboe for Android devices in a package called “apperhand”.

Symantec said that the malicious app is the most widely downloaded infection so far this year. Among the infected apps is Counter Elite Force, Wild Man and Sexy Girls Puzzle. Go here for a complete list.

Or is the Malware threat all hype?
A counterpoint to Symantec’s warning that there is a growing threat from Android.Counterclank comes from Lookout Security, as reported by Computerworld, which takes the position that the technology is simply a version of an ad network.

The company’s researchers do admit that the apps, 13 in all, do alter a browser and enters a bookmark in a user’s device but said that the moves were not malicious and just part of an ad network’s business model.

I have to say that if something I did not know was even present on my device then started altering my settings I would call that malicious. I wonder where this will end up because if it becomes common for apps to include a feature like this I believe that it will have a very detrimental effect on their popularity.

Wi-Fi Only Xyboards ready for the market
The Unwired View had a good catch by noting that Motorola has quietly started taking orders for the Wi-Fi only version of its recently released Xyboard tablets and said that the tablets are expected to ship this week.

There will be a pair of Xyboards available, all without cellular capability and without the co-branding with Verizon that is one the initial models that featured cellular. The models are the Xyboard 10.1 that starts at $499.99 for the 16GB model, the smaller Xyboard 8.2 that starts at $399.99 for the 16GB version.

Did Apple win big in Patent ruling?
Over at the Foss Patent blog the opinion is that a ruling issued by United States Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner could have a huge impact in the ongoing Apple/Android lawsuits in the US and in Apple’s favor.

Judge Posner ruled that agreed with Apple’s interpretation of the term, “realtime API”, in its ’263 patent and that it appears that Motorola, and by inference all-devices running the Android operating system are infringing on the patent.

However as the blog notes, the ruling on this issue has gone back and forth as it has moved up the legal chain and its next stop is the US Court of Appeals. However the ruling has to boost the confidence of the Apple legal team.

An Open Source Tablet is in the works
iTWire notes that KDE developer Aaron Seigo has announced on his blog the development of an open tablet, one that is operating on free open source code software. It will be on unlocked hardware and have open source content.

The 7-inch tablet will use the KDE developed Plasma Active interface and include a capacitive multi-touch screen and will have a basic configuration that includes a 1GHz ARM processor, a Mali-400 GPU, 512 MB RAM, 4GB internal storage plus an SD card slot. It will feature Wi-Fi connectivity.

Details as to availability and price are expected later in the week. No word if it will play Angry Birds.

ZTE 7-inch tablet details leaked
Slashgear has found that the kindly FCC has revealed details on the forthcoming 7-inch tablet from ZTE. The details on the device, which is listed as ZTE V66 include it running Android 3.0 powered by a 1.2GHz dual core processor.

It will include a 1200 x 800 pixel resolution display. It is expected to be on the Verizon network and will have full 4G LTE support. It looks now that there will be a growing competition in the 7-inch form factor in early 2012 (assuming this comes out in early 2012), and so Barnes & Noble and Google may get a run for their money in the near future.