USA Today launches enhanced sports weekly app


While I often read USA Today online I did not realize that it had a separate sports app called USA Today Sports Weekly that is available for free from iTunes, Amazon Kindle and Google Play, and which has just been upgraded to include new interactive features.

USA Today said that the revamp was due to the changing viewership habits of its readers which are continually moving from the print copy to digital versions.

The app will feature pretty much what a user would expect from USA Today with coverage of all of the major pro and college leagues with a heavy emphasis on the NFL as well as a solid influx of news from international sports and leagues. There will be editorials, opinion pieces and polls and it will handle fantasy sports including tips and advice.

A new feature that came out with the latest rev is called Stream and it is a social feature that in real time enables a crowd sourced stream of user suggested sports news feed. It also enables users easily cut and send or save articles that interest them. This will be moderated by the community.

There are few things that a prospective user should be aware of if they download the free app, since it has that little + sign next to it, which means in app purchases ahead. The app itself is just a shell, like an embedded e-reader. To actually get the copy for each week requires an in-app purchase, which starts at $2.99 for a single issue. A three-month subscription will run a user $12.99 while the six-month version is $17.99 and the full year is $38.99. Each week provides a preview so that if you are looking just for one that focuses on a specific event or issue, say the NFL Draft, you can find that out prior to purchasing.

I will be interested to see how well the subscription model does for USA Today. While I read the publication’s sports section I also know that there are plenty of free alternatives on the web, ranging from local newspapers up to ESPN. In an age where you can find any number of dedicated bloggers that covers an issue very closely such as NFL cap issues and make their findings available for free why would someone pay for a generalists view?

MLB streaming comes to Google Chromecast

You can now add Google Chromecast to the platforms that stream Major League Baseball broadcasts in the U.S. Subscribers of MLB.TV who own one of the Chromecast sticks that plug into the back of many modern televisions will be very happy.

MLB.TV enables fans to watch home and away games of out of market teams and once subscribed can use not only the Chromecast but also smartphones and tablets to watch games. Be sure to check what qualifies as an out of market team since some areas such as Las Vegas are claimed by multiple teams.

English Premier League gains additional network partners for finals
The Premier League will now be available on additional channels as NBCUniversal has opened up its family of stations to the broadcast of the league’s finale that will consist of 10 matches held on May 11.

It now plans to simultaneously broadcast the games not only on NBC and NBCSN but also on Bravo, Syfy, Oxygen, USA, CNBC, MSNBC, Esquire Network and E!, channels better known for broadcasting anything but exciting soccer.

Rate the MLB announcers
It may be a bit late to join all of the fun but over at Awful Announcing they are having a contest to rate all of Major League Baseball’s individual broadcast teams. It has been ongoing for a few days but is still worth checking in to see how your favorite, or least favorite voices are doing. Do you like or detest homers, are some too bland, off message or just plain head scratching? Time to make your opinion known! The national broadcast teams on stations such as ESPN and Fox Sports will not be included in this poll.

Google lays out details for modular smartphone
Last year when Google first started talking about its “Project Ara” we did not pay that much attention since it was basically just some mockup photos and not much detail. Last week the company put meat on the Ara bones and started explaining what its intentions are in that area.

The goal of the project is simple but grandiose; it wants to revolutionize the smartphone market, and in 1 year. The idea is very simply, a phone that has a number of replaceable components that a user can select to include in their version of the phone. Think of a Lego phone as a comparable. Users could swap in processors, memory, storage and even type of connectors.

USA Today offers rare sports prints
USA Today has launched an endeavor called the USA Today Sports store and to kick it off it is offering customers a chance to buy a select number of images taken of Muhammad Ali early in his career that originally came from the Courier-Journal in Louisville.

While these images will be available for a silent auction fundraiser to benefit the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute this weekend there are a large number of images available at thestore.

USA Today gets into sports-event ticket business


I think fans everywhere agree that there are a huge number of sporting events that they would be interested in attending, at least once in their life, but finding out how to apply for tickets much less working your way through the red tape will always be an impediment.

Now leaping to the (possible) rescue is USA Today Sports Media Group which has teamed with QuintEvents to launch a joint venture called USA Today Sports Events that promises access to the biggest sports events.

The effort seeks to establish USA Today Sports as the go-to site for fans looking for tickets and packages to events such as the NFL’s Pro Bowl and Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby and the NBA All-Star game, among others.

It does not just offer tickets but much more in some cases such as access to players and coaches, the ability to walk a field or arena prior to an event, hospitality tent and parties access, and other amenities. The packages it offers are not third-party ones that cobble together hotels, seats and transportation but ones from the official sponsors of the events.

A look at the website shows it is offering tickets for the upcoming Super Bowl next year, with a clock counting down the days, hours and minutes. It has a link to different ticket packages, then a second to extras that can be added to your package, then a seating chart and so on. Currently tickets max out at $11,799 each.

The Level White Package starts with seats at $5,899 and has seats in the corner of level 100 at MetLife Stadium. The amenities include a $100 In-Stadium Super Bowl XLVIII merchandise coupon, preferred on-location parking (for an addition fee for the actual parking) and access to the NFL On-Location venue.

It does seem that all but well-heeled fans are increasingly phased out of the modern sports picture and while I like the idea of this and if I had the cash might actually try and use the service but increasingly fans of teams are the last that get served by the leagues when the biggest events come around, forcing them to try all sorts of maneuvers to get tickets. Maybe USA Today can also start a business finding bargain seats for real fans who aren’t loaded with cash?

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.

USA Today and MLB to Launch SportsOnEarth Web Site with Top Writing Talent

If imitation is the greatest form of flattery then ESPN and Grantland must be very happy with the latest effort from USA Today Sports Media Group and MLB Advanced Media which is launching Sports on Earth, a web site that will also focus on long form sports writing.

The site already has lined up a solid team of writers including Joe Posnanski, Tommy Tomlinson, Gwen Knapp, Shaun Powell and Mike Tanier. Some I have followed for a while others are new to me but it looks to be more than just a baseball site.

The site is sort of open, primarily with Posnanski writing from the Olympics but the site is expected top officially go live later this month. Of course, Posnanski also has a book soon to come off the presses, but it is already getting some heat. It will be interesting to see how the last chapter works out on his pending Joe Paterno biography.

The site is the first tangible result of the teaming of USA Today and MLBAM, a partnership announced at the start of the year. The plan when it was announced was to develop and deliver new content and products for sports fans and to be able to deliver the content to mobile and digital users as well as more traditional outlets.

I have high hopes. I have always found Posnanski a top writer and Tanier has the right combination of knowledge and snark in his writings on the NFL to always amuse me and he also thoughtful thoughtful. I also like longer-form stories that have substance rather than the three paragraph ‘get it out there now’ mantra that seems to prevalent in many online and print publications.

The NFL Metes out Punishment to Saints Players — This could be a Long Battle

After a week delay NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has come down on the New Orleans Saints players that were most active in the notorious bounty program installed by defensive coach Gregg Williams by suspending four players for various lengths of time.

Suspended without pay are Jonathan Vilma for the entire 2012 season, Anthony Hargrove (now a Green Bay Packer) was given an eight game suspension, Will Smith was suspended for four games and Scott Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns, was given three games. Vilma’s was the most sever because he supposedly put his own cash up for anyone that would injure Brett Favre in the 2010 NFC Championship game.

The four players are not taking this sitting down and have already pledged to fight the issue in the courts as well as appealing the ruling. I did a quick look and cannot find anybody that has won an appeal from Goodell, I guess that might be because he has to decide if his original ruling was correct and he goes with his first impression.

The court battle could be a protracted affair and I wonder of a judge will order the league to let the players participate n games while the matter is being disputed? I wonder how Goodell will react to being over ruled by a judge, if that happens?

On top of the lawsuit and the appeal, the NFL Players Association has issued a short release that simply said that the NFL has still not provided it with details or specific evidence of these players involvement in the pay-to-injure program.

There is one other interesting aspect to this mess, and that is the numerous lawsuits against the NFL regarding concussions will take a good look at this program At least one of the has already cited the bounty program, that only leaves about 50 lawsuits and 1,200 plaintiffs to go!