JockTalk Gets Pub, Plans to Enter Crowded Sports Social Network Field

Since we haven’t yet talked to the folks behind JockTalk it’s hard to surmise exactly how their proposed sports social media network is going to be better than anything out there today. We read some of the stories, we get the basic idea — create a space for athletes and fans to hang out, and monetize on the traffic — but so far we have seen nothing in any of the stories in the media rounds the company has made that sets JockTalk apart from the crowd.

The idea that athletes should find a better place to monetize their social media presence other than just Twitter or Facebook isn’t exactly new. Here at MSR we have been closely tracking three such efforts, including PlayUp (which regularly hosts pro player “hangout” rooms online), Viva Vision and Gridiron Grunts. The leaders of Viva Vision, ex-NFLers Joe Tafoya and Kerry Carter, have been especially vocal about seeking to help individual players build their own online interaction centers, either for profit, charity or exposure. The Viva team is working on a prototype app for Dallas Mavericks star Jason Terry that is comprehensive, with lots of multimedia hooks and commerce opportunities.

And the Gridiron Grunts team, led by ex-NFLers Jeb Terry and Ryan Nece, already have an extensive crew of “grunters” contributing in a unique fashion, by simply calling in their takes on their phones so that fans can listen in a like fashion.

If JockTalk is able to create some kind of top-athlete commons that attracts a lot of traffic, it might be able to grab some space in the market. But from a fan standpoint when it comes to aggregation we like the approach taken by Bleacher Report, which curates the best content from anywhere on the web and presents it segregated by teams, which is how we think most fans still follow sports. So good luck to JockTalk, which we are excited to see. But do note that this game has already started.

YouTube Sponsorships an Opportunity for Sports Advertisers

Google’s move to further monetize its YouTube platform via the introduction of channel sponsorships for advertisers seeking select markets should be a great boon for sports teams as it will continue the evolution of the video sharing site into an established network for sports fans.

It seems like a no-brainer for companies that are developing products, sports related or not, that target the demographics that follow sports. It is obvious from recent events such as ESPN expanding its NFL coverage year round that football interest is now high all year. For New Balance or Under Armour grabbing a channel can mean a huge number of views at a fraction of the cost of an ad during an actual NFL game.

The use of YouTube as a de facto network is increasing and to be able to tack your name onto a channel can be a coup, especially if a rival is paying for the exclusive rights to the sports to a league that is related to that channel.

The basics of the program are simply. It will offer channel sponsorships to advertisers who can use display, overlay and pre-roll ads in the targeted markets. This enables them to have a very targeted approach for their efforts, and dollars, according to an article in Ad Week

Ad Age breaks down what the costs will be, and mentions a number of the types of channels that will be getting sponsorships, as well as some of the initial sponsors that have signed on. It claims that so far only minor deals in the $5 million to $10 million range have been signed, but that they are expected to reach $62 million for what it sees as premium content.

So far it has a few sponsors including Unilever, Toyota, and more interesting to sports fans is GM, which has signed on to sponsor Red Bull’s action sports channels, among others. It looks like YouTube will only place a percentage of the ads in a sponsored channel and the rest will be spread around its various channels.

Expect to see a growth in channels in an area like sports as YouTube appears to be breaking the major verticals down into smaller subcategories in order to maximize its ability to sell sponsorships. It is already offering a package of sports channels for $40 million with Music and pop culture being offered at $62 million apiece, per year.

This strikes me as smart thinking for a range of issues. Fans are increasingly filming short bits from events and the ability to see different angles than that which are broadcast is always interesting. Already using YouTube to follow a team or sport, you will probably be able to get push alerts in the future about new video from the sponsors when they are posted rather than constantly checking in to see what is new.

Bleacher Report Adds ‘Team Stream’ Feature to Home Page

A screen shot of the B/R home page with the Team Stream feature on the left side.

In a somewhat circular form of innovation, the functionality of Bleacher Report’s popular Team Stream mobile app — which surfaces a curated “stream” of news about a team or sport — is now an integral part of Bleacher Report’s main website home page.

Actually live since sometime last week, the Team Stream feature for B/R’s home page allows visitors to customize what stories they see in the strip that runs prominently down the left hand side of the page. And just like the Team Stream app, the Team Stream homepage feature will provide links to not just Bleacher Report content, but to content from sports sites across the web.

According to David Finocchio, co-founder and vice president of content and product at Bleacher Report, the not-written-here attitude is somewhat unique among major sports sites. “The idea is to provide fans with the most relevant information about their teams in one place,” said Finocchio in a phone interview this week. Though many leading sports sites are almost as bad as Bobby Knight and the word “Kentucky” when it comes to linking to competitors, Finocchio said that Bleacher Report’s web-era heritage makes prominent linking a no-brainer.

“We’ll link out to anyone providing the best content,” Finocchio said. “The challenge is creating an experience that people want to come back to.” So instead of worrying about keeping people trapped on a page, Finocchio said, “It’s about getting them to come back tomorrow.”

The basic premise behind Team Stream is that B/R’s team of web-watching editors will sift through everything that is out there and prepare a bundle of content centered around the teams or sports. Fans can then select which “streams” they want to follow, and a selection of items will appear in the stream on the home page, just like they do in the mobile app.

Sunday Sermon: Bleacher Report’s Team Stream Shows Us How to Share Content

I have seen the immediate future of sports content sharing, and if it’s not the ultimate winner than Bleacher Report’s Team Stream feature will be something others will quickly copy. The main reason why I think it will be so successful? The best part of Team Stream is B/R’s willingness to embrace content that isn’t solely its own, to better serve the fans. That sharing attitude is going to make Team Stream a go-to feature that may eventually be more popular than any single site’s collection of reporters and columnists.

If you haven’t seen Team Stream yet, just go to the B/R site and set up a “stream” for yourself. It works either online, in an email newsletter, and most importantly, on mobile devices. The basic premise is, B/R’s team of web-watching editors sifts through everything that is out there and sends you a bundle of content centered around the teams or sports you are most interested in. The key is that unlike other media outlets, some of whom won’t link or mention competitors, B/R provides links to anyone and everyone, from major content creators to bloggers and tweeters. That’s the secret sauce that will make Team Stream taste great.

A screen grab of a Bleacher Report Team Stream newsletter on golf.

My blogging mentor, Om Malik, had one big rule for creating content — don’t waste the reader’s time. Team Stream embodies that ideal perfectly. Instead of me having to maintain links to multiple web sites, follow multiple people on Twitter, I can just “stream” the best stuff for my teams and save myself a lot of hunting time. And after visiting the B/R offices last week to see their energetic, massive bench of editors engaged in finding the best content out there I’m pretty confident that they’re going to serve up enough good stuff every day on my teams and topics to keep me from needing to go everywhere else.

So far I’ve been following the Chicago Bulls and Golf Team Streams as a test, and I can say right off the bat the golf one is a champ. Today’s newsletter, for example, gives me links to stories from Bleacher Report itself, but also from Yahoo Sports, from, from and from the AP — a much better mix than any traditional newspaper or sports site, which primarily include content only from their own staffs or partner “wire services” like AP. And I haven’t yet tried the new iPad version of Team Stream but I can only guess that the bigger screen size will make activities like watching video replays just that much easier.

Keep your eye on Team Stream, and see how many folks try to copy what Bleacher Report is doing. The power of sharing and smart editing is a winning combination.

Thanks, TNT, for the Boss Alert Screen

Gotta admit — the folks at TNT have a little bit of humor skills. I like the “Boss Coming? DRAMATIC PAUSE” button which appears when you are watching NCAA Hoops online.

It gives you a mock spreadsheet which upon close review isn’t fooling anyone:

Of course, I am not sure whose employer even cares anymore. At MSR, having games on or watching on mobile platforms is “work.” And this morning I stopped by the offices of Bleacher Report, where there are something like 27 flat screens and today there was a food truck and cold beer.

But thanks TNT, for those folks who still have a misguided overlord overlooking their shoulder.

Bleacher Report Joins YouTube Parade, Adds 4 New Shows

We’ve been asking the question about whether or not YouTube is becoming the next big de facto sports network, and Bleacher Report seems to agree with the idea — at least the news today about B/R launching four new YouTube shows points in that general direction.

Here’s the quick take: The old impression of YouTube is bad cell phone videos and crazy cat stunts. The new impression is professional quality content, from the rights owners themselves, available 24/7 to an audience that might just be mobile. For Bleacher Report, which is already reporting that 40 percent of its traffic comes from a mobile viewing platform, more YouTube shows makes perfect sense. Distribution costs are low, it’s easy to find and connect, and younger Internet users are familiar with the format.

It’s also interesting to note that for its video shows and for its site in general, Bleacher Report is adding more professional writers and producers to augment the fan-contributed material that made B/R a different animal than existing sports sites.

UPDATE: YouTube’s own blog spells out some more sports programming on the video giant. (Thanks to @xpangler for the HT)