Friday Grab Bag: $1 Billion for perfect March Madness bracket?

Every year you hear, usually third hand, about somebody who correctly picked all of the winners in the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament. A side note is that they won an office pool with maybe a few hundred dollars in it.

Well Warren Buffett is changing the stakes to the game, along with Berkshire Hathaway and Quicken Loans. They are offering an award of $1 billion for the person that correctly selects all 63 winners. You can ask for that in either $25 million a year over 40 years or a lump sum of $500 million. Such tough choices.

More Thursday night games from NFL
Remember those games that the NFL said it was not going to be playing on Thursday nights. Well the networks have all started bidding on the rights to broadcast the games that will start this upcoming September and the deal is expected to be for one season.

In the mix are CBS, Fox and NBC and the rumored amount is in the $400 million and is expected to be for eight games. However it appears that the deals are not exclusive but rather the NFL will also broadcast the same games on its NFL Network.

More NASCAR changes coming
NASCAR does not seem to want to leave good enough alone and is once again altering the rules that establish who wins the championship each season. The sport has been tinkering off and on with changes since it established the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

More teams seem to be the answer, at least according to NASCAR, which is trying to recapture its former broadcasting ratings glory. SportsOnEarth does a very nice job tearing down the proposal and pointing out how the sports executives seem bent on destroying the unique nature of the sport.

MLB Advanced Media honcho looks into the future
MLBAM has gotten a lot of news so far in this young year, deals streaming the new WWE online channel and a relationship with Sony that will leverage the MLBAM’s technical know-how for its back end technology.

Now its CEO Bob Bowman is talking about where he sees streaming video going and what impact the recent high profile deals will have on MLBAM

X Games have started
The prelude to the Winter Olympics has begun with ESPN’s annual X Games, hosted in Aspen, Colo. Just prior to the start of the Winter Olympics. However it looks like a few big names will not be seen at the events.

One is 13-time gold medal winner Shaun White, who said that he needed the time to prepare for the Sochi Games. The other is Red Bull, one of the top sponsors for the event. Monster Energy has replaced it and Forbes speculates that this could be the start of Monster establishing itself as a rival to Red Bull in the sports action market.

Sharp goes big in tablet spaceIf the current generation of tablets, now edging out to 13-inches, is too small to meet your needs then you might want to take a gander at the latest from Sharp, the RW-16G1, that boasts a 15.6 inch display.

The tablet runs Windows 8.1 operating system and is seen as a tool for those looking for a powerful tablet to replace a desktop or laptop computer. Among its features are 128GB storage, 3200 x 800 screen resolution and is powered by an Intel Core i5 processor with 4GB RAM.

Pro surfing league brings ESPN, YouTube and Facebook on board for event broadcasts


We have been touting YouTube as an alternative sports channel basically since the inception of this site and it looks like it has taken another major step forward in that direction as part of a deal that includes the Association of Professional Surfers (ASP), ESPN and Facebook.

The 3-year deal will start next year and calls for ESPN to recap 26 ASP events in a series of 11 broadcasts, while the ASP YouTube Channel will show all 26 events live for surfing fans. Facebook will serve as the primary social-platform partner, with the important goal of seeking to drive fan engagement via both broadcasts and connecting fans to the athletes themselves.

A look at the role that YouTube plays shows how its importance is growing. Over the course of the season next year it will broadcast, along with a new ASP website, over 3,000-plus hours of exclusive programming, including 26 live-streamed events across the men’s ASP World Championship Tour (WCT), the women’s ASP WCT and the ASP Big Wave World Tour (BWWT).

The three way partnership also shows the growing impact that social media players are having on the broadcast industry. A recent deal between the NFL and Twitter is another example of how the two areas are starting to find common ground for growth. Major League Baseball has also been very active with social media partners including with Instagram where fans can tag photos of themselves at games.

These types of deals are good for both broadcasters and fans. There is obviously too much surfing coverage for just ESPN, with its already full plate, to handle. By partnering with someone such as YouTube, fans win by not getting shut out of viewing most of the events live and the two broadcast partners both help grow the interest in the sport. The ASP claims that it has 120 million fans worldwide.

The ASP deal for ESPN only holds for its U.S. broadcasts and the surfing association said that it is looking for related deals to bring the sports to the airwaves around the globe.

Polaroid Makes a Strong Move into Action Cams

Polaroid has expanded its presence in the growing sports action cam space with the addition of a trio of offerings that are designed to meet a wide range of uses and price points as the company moves more strongly into this space.

This is an interesting space, with these cameras used in place of smartphones at one end of the device spectrum and more dedicated camcorders at the other end. Often housed in at least water resistant cases and more durable than a phone or a tradition camera they are for users that wish to record their latest skiing, skateboarding, diving or off road biking experience.

The 1.6 ounce entry level XS7 has the ability to take 720p high definition video or still images at 1MP, 3MP and 5MP and has a 2-inch full color screen so that users can view video and images that they have just shot with the camera.

Its case is waterproof up to 30 feet and it, as with all of the new action cams, comes with mounting brackets that enable it to be used on top of a helmet or on a bike’s handlebars. The $69.99 camera supports Micro SD cards with capacities up to 32GB.

Moving up a step is the Polaroid XS20 that also captures 720p video as well as 5MP still images. It is waterproof to 65 feet so it can be used on dives and other more water based activities. Its three hour battery gives a user more time to record their activity while it is designed for use in all lighting environments including low light due to its 8 built-in LED lights. The $99.99 camera can even act as a security device due to built-in motion sensors.

The Polaroid XS100 is the high end offering and can not only record in 720p but also 960p and 1080p video as well as record 3MP, 5MP and 16MP still images. It has an ultra wide lens that can provide 170 degree coverage and while in camera mode it has adjustable frame rates like burst shooting mode, time lapse and fast and slow motion.

Polaroid is a well recognized name in imagery and has an established track record delivering quality cameras so it will be interesting to see how well it is accepted in this space.

There are some well established players in this space led by GoPro, which has deals that bring it into the forefront such as its relationship with ESPN’s X Games. Others are moving into the space such as Sony with its Bloggie Sports Camera. However Polaroid is a well recognized name in imagery and has an established track record

Timeout Tuesday: X Games Video Clips Overload

If you missed the Summer X Games a week or so ago, don’t fret. Of course it was all captured on video, and thanks to the wonder of YouTube we have a few clips to share with you. I can’t claim to know what the individual events really are (though it’s pretty easy to figure out something called “moto x freestyle”) but you don’t really need to know… just watch.

First up, Taka Higashino’s winning run in Moto X Freestyle:

Then from the folks at GoPro the “day 1 highlights” which are mainly cool for the point-of-view shots:

Not everything lands smoothly at the X Games. Here Toomas Heikkinen doesn’t get enough lift during RallyCross racing practice:

But then when tricks work… if you ever had these cars as a kid, like I did… you know it doesn’t always work. But you gotta love a real-world version of the Hot Wheels double-loop dare:

First, the live shot in real time:

Then, the edited version with in-car cams:

And… I know this isn’t from this year’s X Games but… Shaun White is one crazy skilled dude. Whatever that move is at :56 in… I don’t know its technical description, but… DAMN

(clips courtesy of X Games, ESPN and YouTube. Thanks!)

GoPro’s X Games Highlight Video: Simply Amazing

Did you miss the X Games last week on ESPN? If so the good folks at GoPro have put together a quick mind-blowing recap video, shot completely with their portable HD HERO2 cameras. Take a quick look here to see what the X Games looks like from the athlete perspective:

Friday Grab Bag: X Games Coming, Soccer Corruption in China, Bike Lojack

ESPN’s annual summer X Games will begin next week on June 28 and run until July 1. Fans and athletes will descend on Los Angles for the events that will start with the X Fest that runs from noon until 7 pm on the opening day.

ESPN will be spreading the 21 hours of live broadcasting, both on-air and online, between a number of its properties: ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC will have the on-air duties with HD handled by ESPN 3D. For online, the games will also be digitally streamed on and

Intel buys InterDigital patent portfolio
Intel has reached an agreement to purchase approximately 1,700 patents and applications from wireless technology developer InterDigital for $375 million. The patents primarily are in the areas of 3G, LTE and 802.11 technologies.

Intel said that the move will be a benefit to its development efforts in the mobile segment, and the unspoken part of the deal is that it will no doubt provide ammunition in the ongoing legal spats over patents that are common in the mobile space as well.

Vungle creates App Fund for developers
Vungle, a startup that seeks to provide a variety of advertising and promotional avenues aside from the traditional pop-up ads has moved to draw more players to its platform. In a very interesting turn the company, which just closed a $2 million venture round last month will use half of that money and create a fund for other developers.

The purpose of the move, according to TechCrunch, is to lure developers to its platform and so gain a boost for its approach to alternative advertising for mobile apps. It will be interesting to see how this works out.

Corruption in Chinese soccer — who knew?
The New Yorker, where I often go for my sporting news, had an interesting piece on corruption in the world of Chinese soccer. League executives, players and refs have all been hauled away and imprisoned due to an apparent widespread match fixing epidemic.

It seems that it has been ongoing for several years and that one top referee received $128,000 to fix seven matches. The country, which is seeking to win the rights to host the World Cup in the future, is cracking down to show that it will not tolerate this type of blatant corruption. What impact that will have on FIFA I am not sure.

Apple and Motorola get chance to push claims
The Apple vs Motorola litigants had the opportunity to speak their piece to US Circuit Court Judge Richard Posner. Apple apparently does not want Motorola to pay royalties but wants it to change its design and also claims that since Motorola’s patent is never used it has no value. Motorola obviously does not agree with either position.

Oracle taking Google lawsuit to next level
Oracle has agreed to accept zero damages for the copyright infringement claims that it ‘won’ in its case versus Google over Java technology. Oracle had been seeking big money in the case, claiming that it suffered up to $6 billion in loses.

However this is not the end of the affair. Oracle has said it will appeal its claims in the case once again, including both the patent infringement and whether its APIs can be copyrighted, to the Ninth Circuit appeals court.

Amazon App Store goes International
I have to say that I was surprised when I read that Amazon had not really extended its App Store to other countries and that it was primarily focused on the US market, a short sighted deal since one of its top developers of Android running devices Samsung is so strong internationally.

But anyway that looks to be a thing of the past as the company has now started opening it up and now developers in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Spain can release games and apps designed specifically for those markets and the company has promised that more nations will be opened up to the joys of apps in the near futire, according to Cnet.

Ever had your bike stolen? SpyBike GPS could track the next one
SpyBike is a product developed by Integrated Trackers that is designed to look like a normal headset cap. It is designed to be activated when the bike is locked and you use a simply arming key and if the bike is moved it starts sending out data via a GPRS message and uses GPS to locate the bike. If GPS fails it has a fall back technology to help locate it.

The device does not come cheap, at $153 as well as a per message charge. The company said that it costs a fraction of a penny per message, but that varies by country. It features a rechargeable battery that can hold a charge of months.

Microsoft is on a roll, but is it a good one?

PC Mag is reporting that the company only gave some of its top OEMs a few days notice prior to announcing its Surface tablet platform earlier this week. As a number of them have made a major investment in developing for the underlying operating system, Windows 8, this seems a bit shortsighted.

Then later in the week it talks about its Windows 8 for smartphones and reveals that customers that buy the current family of smartphones will not be supported by Windows 8. I am sure that cheers up Nokia which has made a major investment in promoting Windows Phone technology.