Can 120 Sports find a niche in sports streaming video market?

Without any examples of what they will do, it’s hard to guess where the new sports streaming video concern 120 Sports will fit in. But with content partners that include Sports Illustrated, Major League Baseball, the NHL, NBA, NASCAR and major colleges, it’s a good bet sports fans will find something to watch among the two-minute clips that give the site its “120” moniker.

Our pal Todd Spangler has a great writeup of the details of the 120 Sports launch over at Variety, but I wonder how (especially without any football content) the new site will make a name for itself, with its obvious competition being the worldwide leader, ESPN. With the technical chops of MLBAM behind it, 120 Sports is probably going to look great and perform well online. And as long as it’s free it will get some eyeballs. But if you read the press release you see there is talk about the “premium” version for pay somewhere down the road. That’s where 120 Sports will face its real test and right now I don’t see a compelling reason to pay for yet another sports outlet.

What I do foresee in the near future is some real shakeout between teams, leagues and broadcasters, because right now it seems like some leagues — the NFL mainly — are in danger of alienating their big-bucks TV contracts with their league-owned digital plays, like NFL Now. In the early days many sports fans will no doubt pay to see what’s on, but I don’t think there is a limitless budget for anyone when it comes to viewing sports. At some point (like what’s happening now with cell phones) sports fans are going to pick winners and losers, and my bet is that whoever has rights to live action and/or replays is going to be the big winner.

I like the idea behind 120 Sports, as short clips are definitely the way to go when it comes to online video. But do people really want a mix of features and other etcetera from a wide range of different sports? Or are they going to go to sports-specific or team-centric sites first? I just don’t see how 120 Sports is going to be significantly different from what’s available now but maybe they will show us when content is actually live.

Friday Grab Bag: Super Bowl prop bets, anyone?

Sure you have purchased a square or two in the office pool and made a friendly wager on the outcome of the game, but that is scratching the surface. Did you know you can bet on how long the National Anthem will be or if the singer will wear gloves? Will the game go overtime?

A look at which are good and bad can be found in a number of places but I liked the ones published in SportsOnEarth and one that was in Football Outsiders as they give some context to what you should and should not do.

Is the Super Bowl a boon on the local economy?
Every year we see a number of time-honored myths rolled out about the Super Bowl. Top day for avocado consumption. No. Top day for spousal abuse. No. That it is a financial boon to the host city/area. Maybe no as well.

A piece in the New York Times points out that since past predictions of prosperity by the NFL were destroyed once the methodology was public the same might be true now. The current estimate, between $550 million and $600 was determined in secret, they will not say who did it or how they arrived at that number. However advertisers are flooding the host city so that they can be seen prior to the event so maybe they know something they are just not telling us.

Winter Olympics broadcast schedule
In case you actually can watch the games from the comfort of your sofa or a cozy corner pub here is a complete viewers’ guide to the events, when they will be broadcast. It should be noted by figure skating fans that the first events take place prior to the opening ceremony.

For a breakdown on what will be interesting as well as the challenges that the broadcaster NBC could face look over to Sports Illustrated and a piece by Richard Deitsch. Will the network let possible bad news from the surrounding area taint its broadcasts?

Why no respect for American soccer players?
With the World Cup now looming on the sports horizon ESPNFC did a piece on why it seems that European based leagues do not value American players and why increasingly that feeling is being reciprocated.

The nice thing about the piece is that it does not jump to a conclusion but points out how different development systems, short earning window and other factors all play in the decisions that players make in where they want to play.

Another black eye for Sochi?
The upcoming Winter Olympics in Russia has received a series of bad news with intolerance, corruption and potential terrorism issues rising to the forefront. Now a recent piece from ABC shows that there could be another piece of bad news on the horizon.

They are saying that one of the key figures in helping Russia win the games over Austria and South Korea was a man named Gafur Rakhimov. The trouble with Rakhimov is that he is considered by U.S. authorities to be one of the top four or five people in the heroin trade and is under indictment in Uzbekistan.

Friday Grab Bag: Lots of NFL News and New iPhone 5 Next Week?

iPhone 5?

If you are a betting person it looks like a safe bet would be that Apple will be taking the wraps off of its next generation iPhone, the so-called iPhone 5. The company has started sending out press invites for an event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco on that date.

Originally it was believed that Apple would also introduce its next generation iPad at the same event but it now appears that the company will host a different event within the next month to launch that product.

Intel takes another shot at ARM
Intel has long coveted the handheld processor market but has been pretty well shut out of it by market leader ARM and its allies. Next week at its annual Intel Developer Forum the company is expected to fire its latest salvo in its battle.

It is expected to unveil a chip code-named Haswell that has been designed as a solution for developers that are seeking an ultra power-efficient chip, according to C/net. The company is seeking to make inroads in both the tablet and smartphone space with the processor, which is not expected until the second half of 2013.

Earn Rewards for Activity on
Are you always reading articles and commenting on them at the web site? Well now you can earn rewards for doing just that as the NFL Digital Media has launched a program entitled NFL Fans Reward.

Reading and commenting are not the only ways to earn rewards as a number of other activities are included including watching video or participating in what it calls Drives. The rewards are in the form of virtual coins that can be redeemed at the Rewards store.

Does Fantasy Football really cost employers $5.6 B?
That at least is the result of a study by Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas which made its estimation based on how much time employees spend on managing their fantasy rosters and general goofing off related to the fantasy team.

The report estimates that there are 22.3 million employees engaged in fantasy football and you can go to their site to see the overall math. I know reports like this come out each spring during March Madness and they tend to get rebutted by other studies that show that employees simply switch topics that they goof off on as the year progresses. So take the report with a grain of salt.

New smartphone rollouts from Nokia, Motorola beat Apple to the market
It used to be that hardware developers looked at the calendar and set their next product rollout based on the age of their current offerings as well as where the year is in relation to top selling season. Now it seems that the goal is to beat a rival to making waves with an announcement.

This week Nokia debuted a few new Windows 8 phones while Motorola Mobility unleashed 3 new phones, it’s first under Google. Why this week you ask? Apple is expected to release the new iPhone next week and they wanted to beat it to the punch. Of course Samsung seems to release products when it wants to and its Galaxy IIIS has already sold 20 million units.

Newbie to Twitter and want to follow the NFL? No problem!
Twitter has kindly provided a guide at its Blog for users that want to follow the NFL on Twitter. You would really have t be new to Twitter to not already know how to use the features but still it is a good idea because I know several people that have signed up for the service and then seem paralyzed when called on to use it.

Sports Illustrated takes the guessing out of NFL football broadcasting
The nice people at Sports Illustrated have taken the time to pour over all of the broadcasting teams, including personnel additions and subtractions, and made all of that information available in a nice little piece that can be found here.

I am not sure if the broadcasting teams are listed in order of how big a game that they will be broadcasting but I suspect that the top teams head each list. Also does ESPN really believe that we need two hosts, six analysts, seven reporters and a features person for its pregame show? Sometimes more is not better. And am I the only person that thinks with each passing season Jon Gruden looks more and more like Roger Goodell?

Speaking of Football, How cheap is your NFL team?
Profootballtalk ran a nice little piece showing how much each team in the NFL is under the salary cap. I was surprised at some of the results but expected a few teams that were in the top ten. Take a look and see why your team does not have a shut down corner.

Then hop over to ESPN and see how your teams’ ticket rices compare to the rest of the league. I was surprised that the NY Jets have not taken over the top spot in this area. Average cost is $78.38 and the average cost of a beer is $7.28.

Big 12 to sign $2.6 billion TV deal
The Big 12 is about to finalize broadcasting deals with ESPN and Fox Sports that will result in a $2.6 billion over the next 13 years, or approximately $200 million a year. Even for college that is real money!

Sports Illustrated and Instagram team up on NFL Preseason Camp Photos

Peter King interviews Andrew Luck

Ever wonder what a preseason NFL camp looks like? There are always plenty of reports on the players but if a photographer accompanies a reporter there may be two photos, at most, to accompany the article.

Now Sports Illustrated has taken a step in providing a better image for fans by promoting images, 20 in all, along with columnist Peter King’s report from the camps in the Aug. 20 issue according to a piece in Mashable.

The interesting thing about the idea is its origin. The magazine noticed all of the great shots that reporters down at the camps were posting to their personal pages, and apparently the little light bulb went off at corporate headquarters.

I am surprised that this type of idea has not occurred earlier, I imagine that professional photographers must take hundreds of photos at camps and very few ever see the light of day in SI or anywhere else. Instagram is an image viewing venue that is increasingly well known and so a n

atural place to display this type of work.

NFL fans are avid for news about their teams including individual players, and a host of photos on them would be a magnet to many fans, increasing traffic to the web site as well as sating fans needs.

Sports Illustrated’s official Instagram page is a great place to stop, particularly if you are an older sports fans. It has a number of new images from the camps as well as baseball and other current sporting events. But it also runs some of its iconic older covers and older articles.

MLB has had something Instagram going for its teams and you can visit sites that have team supplied photos and while not all of the teams are on-board the program, the plan is to have them do so in the near future.

Athletes themselves have realized the power of the platform as well with a shining example of the use of both Instagram and other social media coming from the recent Summer Olympics. Kevin Love gave a great insider’s view of the US basketball team. Hopefully this is just the start and we see this as a standard operating procedure for all teams and many athletes.


Bleacher Report Sold to Turner Sports

The rich get richer as Turner Broadcasting Systems has purchased Bleacher Report, a six year old sports news web site in a deal that has been estimated at being valued between $170 million and $200 million according to Forbes. Bleacher Report was founded in 2006 by four friends, Bryan Goldberg, Dave Finocchio, Zander Freund and Dave Nemetz. Three are still at the company but Freund left in 2009.

Turner said that it will use Bleacher Report as an additional outlet for its sports programming including highlight videos and breaking news. Turner has a vast spread of sports content and this will enabled to expand the scope of fans that it can reach.

Looking at different analytic tools shows that the site gets approximately 10 million unique viewers a month, although the total number of visitors including repeat, is significantly higher. Combine that with the other Turner properties that include the web sites for the NBA, NCAA and the PGA as well as a relationship with NASCAR as well means more potential upside for Bleacher Report.

Forbes points out that the new viewers that the deal brings in will nicely replace an almost identical number that it lost when Sports Illustrated bolted for a new corporate parent to host its web pages. Bleacher Report is also attractive because of its reach to mobile device users; according to the company thanks to innovations like its Team Stream app (which aggregates sports content from all over, not just from B/R writers) it was getting more than 40 percent of its audience through a mobile connection, a number that has likely since grown.

The merging of print and broadcast media with on-line and digital is getting more common it seems. The recent announcement of the creation of Sports on Earth site by Major League Baseball Advanced Media and USA Today being a very recent example of this trend.

The 2012 NFL Draft is in the Books-Did Your Team Win or Lose?

There is a nice piece in Sports Illustrated by Richard Deitsch that quite clearly shows the difference between ESPN and the NFL Network’s approach to covering last weekend’s NFL draft. It breaks down to one with a relatively minimalist approach (ESPN) and the other went with ‘kitchen sink” approach.

Of course over the course of three days the cast of characters changed a bit and the dynamics of the broadcasts changed with them. I tend to favor a smaller group because I find I learn more and hear more interesting bits of information when there are fewer people vying to be heard.

An interesting side note is that while the two networks had a gentleman’s agreement not to tip picks prior to the announcements, but that did not include Twitter. While the reporters for the respective networks did not tweet all of the picks, they did so on a number of them.

We found that following twitter was much better than following the broadcasts for the most part, not only because the information came fast and furious, but also you could much more easily cut out the noise from announcers filling air time.

There are of course a number of post draft appraisals available for fans to peruse but it is worth listing a few here. Bleacher Report did a nice job, I believe in rating the draft team by team. USA Today had very different impressions on a number of teams compared to the BR ratings so it is interesting to see why they differed and where they agreed.

In the past I have read a few, not from BR, that seemed to give everybody an A or B grade. Sorry, I don’t buy it. Some picks are just strange, and some teams seem like they went too far in breaking from group thinking. Of course it is hard to tell until a few years have gone by, for the most part, but you can make some informed statements based on what is already know about the players, and the teams they are going to.

For a general view of the draft I could point you back to Sports Illustrated and Peter King’s Monday Morning QB column where he talks about how there were a great many stories in the NFL draft. I would have never guessed. As a counterpoint you could always read Kissing Suzy Kolber’s rude interpretation of Peter King’s column instead.

I usually watch the draft switching between the two networks while looking at twitter. A buddy has two TVs going, using his computer to watch his favorite team’s war room and watching twitter feeds on his phone while scratching names off a list he keeps. Wonder what he will do until next year? Well now that the draft is over how long until training camp officially opens?