April 16, 2014

NBC and NHL provide TV Everywhere for Stanley Cup Playoffs

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The 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs are here and the NHL, along with its playoff broadcast partners are using a variety of mobile and digital strategies and programs to engage fans including streaming broadcasts of the games.

The highlights are probably having all of the games presented nationally across the platforms of the NBC Sports Group for the third year in a row and for the second consecutive year NBC Sports Live Extra will stream every game live. To fans that closely follow the games this might not be a surprise but for the casual fan this could be news.

The live streaming will reach a variety of devices that have downloaded the NBC Sports Live Extra app and can stream the events as they are shown on NBC, NBC Sports Network and CNBC. It will work with desktop and laptop PCs to tablets and smartphones as long as they are authenticated customers.

This is part of the growing push for “TV Everywhere” partnerships between cable providers, networks and sports leagues that all are starting to promote more aggressively. CBS and Turner Sports along with the NCAA saw strong online viewership growth for the recently concluded March Madness even when broadcast viewership slightly declined; and NBC’s push with cable partners during the Winter Olympics also produced large digital audiences. (Editor’s note: So maybe finally broadcasters are really realizing that online audiences are additive, not subtractive ones. Huzzah.)

In addition there will be a stronger social media push for this year’s playoffs including a very interesting deal with Magisto called Making Stanley Cup Movie Magic with Magisto. Magisto is a video creation and sharing app for both Android and Apple platforms and it will enable fans to create movies about experiences and events at the game such as the Blackhawks’ I Was There promotion.

The NHL and CBS are taking an interesting turn at Twitter as well this season. The @NHLonNBCSports twitter account will be handled by a variety of celebrity guests including CBS personalities, ex-players and celebrity hockey fans over the course of the playoffs.

That is just part of its much larger social campaign that also includes the basic news for the playoffs at #StanleyCup, an effort to highlight fans through photos that at #CelebrateStanley Photo Campaign for the Fans and the news and information site of NHL on NBC All-Access Social Media that is located at NBCSports.com/NHLonNBC.

It appears that select sports leagues and networks are increasingly coming to the realization that as an increasing number of fans are also cutting the cord to broadcast and cable TV the best was to reach them is via mobile digital media and programs like these from the NHL and NBC seem like the right approach to encourage that engagement.

Olympics great for NBCSN; Are mock NFL drafts worthwhile?

The Sochi Winter Olympics are now in the rear view mirror as the sporting world now looks to the next major event, the World Cup, yet NBCSN is ready to continue basking in the winter event’s limelight for just a bit longer.

The network reported its best ratings quarter ever with a 215,000 average viewership daily for the live events that it broadcast during the two-week run. This represents a 231% increase over its 2013 numbers. Even subtracting the Olympics it saw a 58% increase and may indicate that the little-known channel may finally be getting traction with viewers.

Dodger fans can’t watch Dodgers games
With the huge growth of regional sports networks it seems that every MLB team has its own, dedicated network to bring its games to its fans. Somehow it does not always work that way, as New Yorkers can attest from a few years ago.

Now it appears that the fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers are facing viewing issues as its RSN, SportsNet LA, has had issues getting cable players to air the games, causing as much as 70% of greater LA to be blacked out.

Unconscious bias by umpires?
An interesting piece from fivethrityeight.com looks at strike zones but importantly how it can change, and change dramatically in important situations as umpires striving to ensure that they are not a part of the game instead do alter the outcome.

The article can be a bit confusing for some when looking at the graphs but it has some interesting conclusions including that umpires seem happier to call a strike on a borderline pitch with three balls than ball four. Head over and give it a read.

WatchESPN on Amazon TV Fire
Amazon has recently entered the broadcast delivery business with its Amazon Fire TV, a platform that will vie against Apple TV, Roku and others, but sports fans need not worry because ESPN will be there ready and waiting if you adopt the platform.

WatchESPN is available on the Fire TV and using it fans can access a huge amount of live and recorded sporting events along with ESPN’s select offerings of the channels original sports programming such as E:60 and Outside The Lines.


Mock NFL Drafts

The NFL draft is less than two months away and so now is the silly season for a growing industry — NFL mock drafts. You know, when an athlete who has not played in months magically goes from a first rounder to a third rounder on someone’s big board for no apparent reason.

The good folks at Kissing Suzy Kolber have taken the industry to task and show why you should pay little attention to the mock drafts. They point out the inanity of the event and it has always seemed to be that the local beat writer for a team has a much better feel for what your team will do than some talking head in a studio will — that is unless the talking head is using other peoples’ work without recognizing it and we know that never happens!

Friday Grab Bag: 14 New ESPN Channels — mainly online

ESPN is launching 15 virtual networks for users of Apple TV and Roku boxes that provide Internet connectivity to their televisions as part of its ongoing WatchESPN initiative. The new channels’ programming will be culled from related conference programming from the network’s existing portfolio that includes ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU and others.

Some of the programming will include select live events including college basketball. Others such as college football will only be available via on-demand broadcasting. The channels will feature the ACC, America East, Atlantic Sun, Big South, Big West, Horizon, Mid-American, Metro Atlantic Athletic, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Southern, Sun Belt and Southland conferences. In addition there will be a combined channel featuring coverage of historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) and conferences including the Southwestern Athletic Conference, Mid-Eastern Athletic and Central Intercollegiate Athletic conferences.
Fox Sports 1 has new MLB show
Fox Sports will be broadcasting a new slate of games this year, with a preference for teams that have regional Fox broadcast deals, and it will have the opportunity to highlight its games with its new MLB Whiparound show.

Airing Monday-Friday at 10 pm ET (but 12 midnight on Wednesdays) the program will be up against one of ESPN’s flagship programs Baseball Tonight and the MLB Network’s MLB tonight, all of which start at the same hour.

The Raiders to Portland?
There are a few fans in Portland, Ore., who are running a campaign to get the state to encourage the Oakland Raiders to move north to Portland, a city that lost its Single A baseball team a few years ago due to lack of support.

While the Raiders’ owner has said that the team would look to move if Oakland does not solve its stadium issue (it wants a new one) it seems highly unlikely that Portland would be its first choice with Los Angeles open. However the mix between Portland hipsters and die hard Raider fans would be great to watch.


NBC had to provide make-good ads for Olympics

Advertising Age is reporting that the broadcast giant has to provide make-good ads to some of its Olympics customers because while it won the broadcast bragging rights for virtually every night it fell short of the projected ratings.

However the network feels good about the overall results and is optimistic about its next Olympics broadcast, the 2016 Summer games in Rio. It has already started to sell ads for that event.

Minor League Baseball team has selfie promotion
One of the great things about minor league baseball are the interesting promotions that many of the teams engage in. What is possible the first of the upcoming season comes from the Kalamazoo Growlers.

They are having a promotion centered around selfies called the Salute to Selfie Night this season. The event calls for fans to take pictures of themselves and submit them, from which the team will make a jersey with the images reproduced in collage form. So practice your duck face now!

Turner, March Madness app ready for NCAA tournament

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March Madness, one of the sports world’s iconic events is on the horizon and no doubt fans are already plotting out strategies to get out of the office or school to watch their favorite team attempt to advance in its bracket. However thanks to Turner Sports there is an alternative.

It has released NCAA March Madness Live, an app that will provide portable access to all of the games in the tournament, with a total of 150 hours available during the event. Even better the app will now be supported by three platforms, Apple’s iOS, Android and for the first time Microsoft as well. Now fans can use a smartphone or tablet as a second screen if at a bar or as a primary device if at work.

To use the app a fan and watch all of the matchups that will be broadcast on TNT, TBS, and truTV a fan needs to log in with their TV service provider information. Games will also be available online at various sites, including This year, NCAA March Madness Live will launch from more platforms than ever before including the NCAA March Madness page, CBS Sports, and Bleacher Report. There is no registration required for games on CBS. The app will also provide a temporary preview period giving fans access to live game streaming before login is required.

The app, Developed in partnership with the NCAA, Turner Sports and CBS Sports is a follow up to previous years’ offerings but it has made several major enhancements to the app since last year, aside from the Microsoft support.

Of importance to the fans of bracketology and seeing if they are winning in their office pool the app has a new interface that has been designed for work with the smaller screens that smartphones feature as well with the slightly larger screens on tablets. It allows users to go directly from this feature to a live game and includes broadcast times and schedules. It also has additional view modes for brackets.

The heart of the app might be the GameCenter, one of the features that has been redesigned. It is the central [point to find which games are currently live streaming as well as pre-game matchup analysis, live in-game stats, key social moments and fan chat.

To complement the enhanced features in the bracket area there is the almost obligatory bracket for fans, this one entitled Capitol One NCAA March Madness Bracket Challenge. The app developers have enhanced its social media functionality as well as supporting computers as well as smartphones and tablets. It allows for the formation of groups, sharing brackets and chat via Facebook.

There is also a general chat forum called the Coke Zero NCAA March Madness Social Arena that enables fans t converse about games and other events as well as follow game tweets, post and view Instagram photos and Vine videos. Fans can participate in the social commentary by using the hashtag #marchmadness.

Understanding that some fans might want to set up schedules to just see specific matchups the app now includes a TV Schedule that helps with planning. This feature can be accessed from various other features such as game schedule or bracket and provides the round, date, time and network for each game. Also new this year is a Tournament News feature that provides news and updates as well as highlights, recaps and additional information each day.

Following the broadcasting of all of the just concluded Winter Olympic events online by NBC hopefully this is the wave of the future. While MLB enables fans to watch a huge number of games either online or on their television via a subscription model the NBA and NFL trail well behind it.

NBC scores with huge online numbers for Olympic hockey, even with cable restrictions

The combination of some must-see competition — U.S. vs. Canada in ice hockey — led NBC’s Olympic online efforts to a couple days of record-setting numbers in terms of overall viewers. Friday’s men’s semifinal game will go down as one of those watershed moments in online sports viewing, with NBC reporting more than 2.1 million unique users of the network’s “Live Extra” online video. Friday’s totals followed Thursday’s 1.2 million online viewers of the women’s gold medal game between the same two countries.

While several factors probably contributed to the perfect storm of viewership on Friday morning — an important game, during the least important day in the U.S. work week — what makes the more-than-a-Super-Bowl total even more impressive is the fact that if you were watching the game, you almost certainly had a cable TV contract to allow access. While we give credit to NBC for its achievement, we can only wonder how big the online number could have been if NBC had opened up its Olympic online coverage to all viewers, not just those with cable validation.

In the wake of this week’s blockbuster $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook, it’s worthwhile to ask whether or not broadcasters are being too old school when it comes to monetization models for big events like the Olympics. I don’t know the answer to this, but how much money could NBC potentially reap if it tried a WhatsApp pricing model — say, $1 for all Olympic streaming coverage — instead of restricting it to current cable customers? Here’s another idea: How about a streaming channel that shows the prime time coverage, without commercials, without blabbering hosts, available at hours children can watch? Anyone else out there like me who would gladly pay an extra $5 for something like that? Of course, then NBC’s prime time numbers would fall even further than they have already.

So yes, cheer for the massive online numbers. But the fact that just about every big event keeps setting new mobile/online viewer “records” should be a message that there is possibly a bigger untapped audience out there, maybe even far larger than the conventional TV/cable audience. Remember, at the last Olympics WhatsApp barely existed. The current model of sports-content distribution reminds me more of the cellular carriers’ approach to text messaging (remember 10 cents a message?) than WhatsApp’s version. And it’s pretty clear who’s winning that battle. It’s not the team who never saw the competition coming because they played by different rules.

NBC sets online Olympic viewing record

NBC made a great deal of noise prior to the current Winter Olympics in Sochi talking about how easy it was going to be to watch events live via digital platforms as long as you subscribed to one of its broadcast partners cable or satellite package.

Then after the events started to occur a news blackout apparently went into effect, the network touted its broadcast viewership numbers, which initially were very impressive, but completely ignored the digital data.

I have yet to see a detailed breakdown but they are now providing some numbers that show that the effort to provide different types of viewer access to the Olympics, no real surprise.

So far there has been a total of 5.7 million hours of video viewed across all of the supported digital platforms. Of that total 80 percent has been viewers watching events live. The remaining 20 percent were for fans watching exclusive highlights.

It is kind of surprising as to what, well with maybe one exception, were the top highlights viewed. No medal winners really. They are: 1. Russian speed skater Olga Graf’s wardrobe near-malfunction: 2.6 million views; 2. Russian Police Choir performs Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” in Opening Ceremony: 1.7 million; 3. Luger Shiva Keshavan falls off sled, completes run: 1.5 million.

The Olympics started with record setting broadcast viewership and it is remaining strong for the most part, but has shown signs of weakening, possibly because of all of the news about warm weather and melting snow. However solid events like last weekend’s USA vs. Russia hockey matchup continue to be record setters.

Of course NBC has other concerns at the game as well. Talk has started as to who will replace Bob Costas as host in the future. As you probably know Costas missed some time behind the mike due to a very bad case of red eye. I may be in the minority here but I really do not care too much who is manning the booth for highlights and human interest stories — I just want to see competition.