October 23, 2014

USGA Continues Pioneering Online Coverage of U.S. Open

Eleven years ago, as the U.S. Open forged into its second century, the United States Golf Association simultaneously catapulted into new media technology.

It was only one hole with one announcer at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. But the occasion — live streaming (webcasting) — was a gateway for fans who weren’t in attendance or watching on television to still view the country’s national championship.

“The technology was there, but no one in sports at that particularly time was doing a webcast, especially at the major event like the U.S. Open,” said Bill Lacey, USGA Manager of Digital Media Development. “We had great fan appeal and that’s what led to the first webcast.

“The reason it was one hole and one announcer? It was all new to us. We were learning the technology. It was on the fly, basically. It was the USGA dipping our toes in the water.”

The first webcast, while experimental, occurred at the par-3, 175 6th hole of the 101st U.S. Open. The announcer was Roger Twibell, and the new adventure worked.

“We had about 200,000 streams, and we felt like it was an affirmation that this was something,” said Jessica Carroll, the USGA Managing Director of Information Technology and Digital Media, of the initial webcast.

Video streaming of the U.S. Open has steadily expanded since its debut. Two holes with two announcers were involved for two years, then bonus coverage on certain holes was featured.

Five years ago, “marquee” coverage of certain groups of golfers began. In 2008, for the Monday 18-hole playoff between Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines near San Diego, Calif., the site’s live stream “broke the Internet,” according to Lacey.

“We did 650,000 concurrent streams,” he said. “And basically one of the Internet backbone providers went offline the traffic was so heavy.”

Now, online audiences for golf are big and getting bigger, with the PGA claiming a half-million to a million streams for each one of the tournaments it operates its Live@ bonus coverage. The USGA, Carroll said, is seeing similar growth in online video consumption.

“Overall, if we’re looking at the broad spectrum, it’s just a constant upstream,” she said. “I don’t remember specific numbers from last year, but this year we’re up 100 percent.”

The second and final day of online-only marquee group coverage of this year’s U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco is scheduled at 7:44 a.m. and 1:18 p.m. Friday (both Pacific Time). The morning time will feature the group of Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell. The afternoon threesome will be Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson. The online coverage is also available via the U.S. Open mobile device app, in either the Android or Apple iOS version.

It’s yet to be determined what, if any, online coverage will be over the weekend. But according to the USGA, the big online watchers are those still at their own offices during the workweek.

“Our audience is really an audience at work; they don’t have access,” said Lacey. “They’re in their offices and they can’t watch the U.S. Open. But it’s going on while they are working. We went to where they are. They’re at their desks and we stream right to their desks.”

The U.S. Open is currently the only USGA event with a webcast. And while there are no current plans for additional events, it’s inevitable with continued increased Internet viewership and the advancement of other social media applications.

“When the stream goes on, people are staying on,” said Carroll. “It’s almost like they want to spend the day with us. They really stick with it. I think that’s just kind of an interesting concept. They become part of the U.S. Open experience, even though they’re not physically here.”

James Raia is a California-based journalist who writes about sports and leisure. Visit his golf site at golftribune.com

Timeout Tuesday: GoPro Signs ‘Kelly F*cking Slater’ — Many More Hours of Video Consumption Ahead

Over the last year or so, we’ve noticed that when we’re out skiing it’s not uncommon to see more and more people with the little boxy GoPro camera mounted on their helmets. But news from last week of GoPro signing 11-time surfing champion Kelly Slater to its team of athletes speaks to a bigger agenda for the cool-cam company: Hell, it’s already on its way to becoming a new media powerhouse of its own.

You want social, user-contributed content? GoPro’s got that in spades, using user-submitted videos in its national broadcast commercials. Those home-spun efforts trail the professional athlete/professional production videos GoPro puts out on its own, usually with some cool new music to boot. The company also gives away a bunch of GoPro gear every day. Is this the new way to sports media or what? I mean, I like SportsCenter as much as the next guy, but I could lose hours watching stuff like this:

And a million and a half people so far have watched the GoPro video of Holly Beck diving alongside a whale shark, and probably not just because she’s wearing a bikini while doing so:

Oh yeah and GoPro also earlier this year signed snowboarder Shaun White to its team of cool athletes. This isn’t something that’s going to happen, it’s already here. Call Slater a late jumper on the bandwagon. But we’re looking forward to wasting plenty of time watching him on the waves.

Bleacher Report Adds iPad Version of ‘Team Stream’ App to Address Growing Mobile Reader Base

A screen shot of the iPad version of the Team Stream app from Bleacher Report.


To better address the nearly 40 percent of its viewers who access its content via a mobile connection, Bleacher Report is launching an iPad version of its “Team Stream” app today, giving fans a better mobile viewing experience for the “stream” of news, Tweets, story links and other info that Team Stream helps them create.

Having a version of the app available for the Apple iPad will give Team Stream users a bigger screen to negotiate between articles and content items, and will also provide a “personalized dashboard” on the home screen with national-topic headlines as well as stories about the topics and teams selected by the user.

While the Team Stream app has gained its share of kudos and credits — if you’ve never used it, it’s incredibly simple and powerful, bringing you a mix of professional media content as well as athlete- and fan-generated content on the teams of your choice — what was more interesting to us at Mobile Sports Report was Bleacher Report’s claim that almost 40 percent of the site’s overall traffic is now coming from mobile connections, showing that sports fans are leading the way to content consumption on the go.

Here's what the smartphone version looks like.

“We really saw mobile happen in 2011,” said David Finocchio, co-Founder and vice president of content and product at Bleacher Report, in a phone interview. According to Finocchio, Bleacher Report — one of the top sports websites — started the year with just less than 10 percent of its traffic via mobile. By the end of the year that number was almost at 40 percent, making the “mobile future” something that was here, now.

Inside the mobile traffic number, Finocchio said readers using tablets “grew faster than any [device] segment, and it continues to grow faster.” That fact made development of an iPad version of Team Stream a no-brainer. Now fans who currently use the desktop or phone versions of Team Stream to compile tweets, stories and other info from around the web (curated by Bleacher Report editors) will have a larger screen mobile option, the better to watch video replays or view pictures.

Bleacher Report, which now claims 22 million monthly unique visitors and picked up $22 million in growth capital this past summer, is carving out its own space in the ever-expanding world of sports media with a unique focus, one that Team Stream helps deliver: Finding the best content, which is often local in origin, and then arranging it in one place to make it easy for fans to find.

“Right now it’s just too damn hard to go out and find all that information by yourself,” Finocchio said. “You should be able to go to one place.”

Lexus Partners with NBC on NFL Hashtag Twitter Game

Count Lexus as one of the first major brands to dive into the sports social media gaming space, as the luxury auto maker has partnered with NBC Sports to produce a game that allows sports fans interact with sports trivia and win prizes during the NFL Playoffs.

Called TweetDrive Engineered by Lexus, the promotion is essentially a “social media activation tool,” according to an AutoGuide report. Sports fan register with Twitter, follow the game during NBC broadcasts of NFL football games and tweet answers to trivia questions to #LexusTweetDrive. Each correct answer delivers yards toward a touchdown, and each touchdown enters fans into a drawing for two tickets to a 2012 NBC Sports sporting event.

The move is significant because it marks the expansion of brand advertising during sporting events into social media tie-ins. Super Bowl XLVI on February 5 will mark the first time Lexus has advertised during the NFL Championship game, and that it felt the necessity to include a Twitter tie-in is likely to be matched by other brands in the years to come. That means a growing number of consumers will not only be watching the game at parties in coming years, but interaction with a smart phones or tablet during the game will become a standard practice.

Lexus Vice President of Marketing Brian Smith announced the program.

“TweetDrive Engineered by Lexus offers a unique way to challenge sports fans to put their knowledge about football and social media to the test,” Smith said. “There is a lot of excitement about football this time of year and Lexus is pleased to join in the action through this program.”

In engineering the campaign, Smith moved quickly to put Lexus out front of social media promotion tied to Super Bowl commercials. He was named Lexus’ marketing chief in September after Toyota hired former Lexus executive Dave Nordstrom to head its social media strategies, according to a Lexus Enthusiast report.

Lexus VP of Marketing Brian Smith breaks new ground with social media campaign during Super Bowl

USA TODAY Poaches Former CBS Interactive Digital Exec

USA TODAY VP of Digital Mark Kortekaas

USA Today’s revamp of its Sports Media Group executive ranks continued this week, as it poached former BBC online technology group general manager and CBS Interactive senior vice president and CTO Mark Kortekaas.

At USA TODAY, Kortekaas will be senior vice president of digital.

USA TODAY Sports Media Group president Tom Buesse said in a statement:

“Mark has unique, battle-tested experience in developing platforms that provide a first-class digital offering for sports fans. He’s exactly the right person to help us build out a digital architecture that will present and deliver our content in the most engaging, user-friendly and relevant ways possible.”

The move continues the reshuffle of USA TODAY’s Sports Media Group.

In November, former Yahoo! executive Dave Morgan was named senior vice president and editor-in-chief, and former IMG Sports and Entertainment VP of sales Peter Lazarus was named senior vice president and head of multimedia sales, according to an earlier Mobile Sports Report article.

USA TODAY is expected to be a logical candidate to develop mobile applications that leverage its established brand, and provide consumers with advanced Fantasy Sports options, including the ability to switch players during games. In the gaming industry this is called “in-running,” and Mobile Sports Report has coined the name “In-running Fantasy Sports.”

Created in January, USA TODAY is a crucial element to the future of the media company. It manages the sports content of 81 daily media properties, 23 broadcast television stations, and HighSchoolSports.net, BNQT.com and MMAjunkie.com.

A laggard in recent years, USA Today’s new team faces the challenge of catching up to and then eclipsing the mounting competition. Such traditional competitors as ESPN, which is highly innovative in the mobile arena, and such upstarts as Bleacher Report and SBNation have outpaced the company in digital development.

However, there is a big market opportunity that nearly everyone in the industry is eyeing. Yahoo! Sports, which is still No. 1 in Fantasy Sports services, appears to be slipping with uncertainty in its executive ranks and the potential sale of parts of the company. If it begins to lose market share, USA Today and others could benefit.

 

Investors Pump $1.75 million Into Bypass Lane’s Mobile “Beer-Me” Application

After landing the University of Texas Longhorns, Stanford Cardinal and Philadelphia Eagles in August, Bypass Lane is attempting to establish itself as the leading developer of mobile electronic commerce applications used at live sporting events.

The Austin-based company announced today that it has raised $1.75 million in new venture capital with funds earmarked primarily for building a sales organization. Investors include former Minnesota Vikings owner Red McCombs, Wasserman Media Group chairman and CEO Casey Wasserman and business managers for bicyclist Lance Armstrong. The nine-person company selected the investors on the basis of their connections to the sporting world, and expects to be able to draw upon their expertise to better penetrate the live sporting market.

The Bypass Lane App

Available through App Store, Android Market and BlackBerry App World, Bypass Lane allows consumers to download its application during a live sporting event, store payment information, and order food, drinks and merchandise that is either delivered to their seat, or provided through a special window at the concession stand. There is no surcharge for the service. Teams license the Bypass Lane platform, and pay the company on a per-transaction basis.Fans typically spend 35 percent to 50 percent more using a Bypass Lane application than they do while waiting in line, which is one of the primary benefits sports teams get from a Bypass Lane license.

The concession market at live events are between $8 billion to $10 billion in the United States, according to Reuters.

Company president’s quote: Boom Goes the Dynamite!

In an interview with MobileSportsReport, Bypass Lane president Lloyd was on the money in explaining his company’s value proposition:

“It is a foregone conclusion in the industry that sports fans are going to use their mobile devices in the live-event venue, but how to monetize that is something all sports teams are wrestling with,” said Lloyd. “We offer something that allows teams to generate a return on investment in their first year. (Sports teams) can increase their average transaction size, capture sales that are lost to line deterrence, and a last-call feature allows teams to move excess inventory.”

Bypass Takes No Shortcuts to Momentum

Debuting in 2010, Bypass Lane found it slow going at the outset, but is beginning to establish itself as a category leader. Bypass Lane broke through during the 2011-2012 college football and National Football League season with the addition of the Longhorns, Cardinal and Eagles concessions. Other clients include the Texas Rangers, Carolina Hurricanes, Phoenix Coyotes and Minnesota Wild. To date, Bypass Lane is available in about 40 U.S. venues, and it should come as no surprise that Mark Cuban, one of the industry’s most tech-savvy owners, has it through a Bypass Lane agreement with American Airlines Center, home of the Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars.

“We spent 2010 solidifying fulfillment, and in 2011 we’ve been adding over two venues a month,” said Lloyd. “We expect to continue that pace for the foreseeable future.”

The other Lloyd: Not an NFL Wideout

Bypass Lane’s Lloyd has experience create start-ups. He launched Off-Campus Solutions in 2002, and sold the company to offshore investors a few years later. Lloyd is not the NFL wide receiver of the same name.