Friday Grab Bag: Here Comes Fox Sports 1, Huge ASUS Tablet Hybrid

Fox Sports is seeking to rebound to the national stage once again. While most fans see Fox for MLB or NFL games much of its sports empire is a series of regional deals, but that may change as it is once again pushing for a national sports cable presence that unifies all of its properties.

Now on Aug. 1, 2013 we will see that rebirth with Fox Sports 1, an all sports network that it will be launching. This is a direct shot at ESPN, and who knows, it might drive that network back to talking about sports rather than whatever it is doing now days.

White House supports cell phone unlocking
The recent ruling mailing it illegal to unlock cell phones and tablets may get beaten back as the White House has come out saying that unlocking phones should be legal. The practice of unlocking, which enables a user to use the phone on the network of their choice, was recently declared illegal.

A petition was filed to the White House and R. David Edelman, White House adviser on Internet, innovation and privacy, responded by saying the administration feels consumers should be allowed to unlock their phones without civil or criminal penalties, especially if the phones were purchased secondhand or as gifts. Congress is also starting to weigh in on the issue and a number of bills are being proposed that would make it legal.

Samsung Galaxy Note III to have larger screen
A report from the Korea Times, via Brighthand, says that the upcoming handset release from Samsung will feature a 5.9-inch screen and is expected to be released in the second half of this year.

The handset is seen as a replacement for the current Galaxy Note II, a handset that has a 5.5-inch display and has already sold over 10 million units since last fall.

News Corp. Enters Tablet Space with Amplify
When most people think of News Corp. they probably think of Fox News or the Wall Street Journal but you can now add educational hardware to the mix with the introduction of Amplify, a company that it has created to deliver digital products for the educational system.

The tablet is a 10-inch device that will originally be available only with Wi-Fi but a 4G LTE version is expected later. It will have a $299 price tag but also require a 2-year subscription that will be $99 for Wi-Fi and $179 for 4G. Amplify is not just a tablet but part of a larger program that will include new curriculum offerings that it claims will reinvent teaching and learning and the devices will ship with a host of programs preloaded.

Asus has huge Tablet hybrid
Asus has said that it will start shipping its huge Transformer AiO device in the second quarter of 2013. Designed to be used as either a tablet or as a PC the Transformer AiO is an 18.4-inch tablet that has 1920 x 1080 resolution.

The interesting thing is that in tablet mode it has an Nvidia Tegra 3 quad core processor, 32GB of storage and runs the Android operating system. Attach it to a dock and it now has an Intel Core i5 processor, 1TB of storage and runs Windows 8.

ESPN’s Digital Media a Powerful Presence


ESPN’s digital media is head and shoulders the most popular family of digital platforms currently used according to the most recent release from comScore’s Media Metrix Multi-Platform data that was released this week covering the first month of the year.

The program from comScore, is designed to track digital consumers over a range of digital platforms including desktop and laptop computers, tablets and smartphones. Introduced late last year the program is still in beta.

According to the report, in the Sports Category ESPN held a 29% share of all usage across the digital platforms that are tracked, and that it has a resounding 3x lead over the number two player Yahoo! Sports. It should be noted that overall Yahoo is the second most visited property on the web, according to the comScore while ESPN is 28th.

After Yahoo! Sports the lead gets even larger as ESPN’s market share is larger than the the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 sports properties combined. ESPN was No. 1 in the sports category across all key metrics, including average minute audience, unique visitors and total minutes of usage.

Some of the results give a pretty good view of how increasingly important digital media is to ESPN, not only in terms of viewership but also promoting its brand. In January the report said that ESPN had 62.6 million unique visitors, 24.2 million of which exclusively accessed content on smartphones and tablets. It also reported that mobile device users represented 41% of all time spent with ESPN digital content.

ESPN was increasingly aggressive in presenting a very wide array of options online for its mobile users last year, and that is probably a good thing as reports are that its old rival, Fox Sports, is planning to consolidate the vast array of different channels and programming under one roof and once again challenge ESPN, so the more ways in which you reach out to your audience the better.

Friday Grab Bag: Atlantic 10 Inks Broadcast Deals — Microsoft Surface/Windows 8 Date Unveiled

The Atlantic 10 Conference has just closed a pair of broadcast deals that will enable it to maintain a strong presence on broadcast television. The 9-year deal with NBC Sports calls for the network to nationally televise men’s and women’s basketball games on the NBC Sports Network, as well as select local games on NBC Sports Regional Networks. Included will be the ability to live stream games on for mobile users starting next year.

ESPN has also reached a new agreement with the conference, one that will extend the existing agreement to broadcast the conference’s men’s and women’s basketball games, including each conference championship. The agreement will begin with the 2013-14 season and conclude in 2021-22 and will continue to include extensive action on ESPNU.

ESPN’s Atlantic 10 programming will be available across the network’s multiple properties including ESPN, ESPN on ABC, ESPN2, WatchESPN, ESPNU, ESPN3, ESPN 3D, ESPN Mobile TV, ESPN Buzzer Beater, ESPN International, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Classic and

Google/Motorola drops a patent claim against Apple

Motorola Mobility has withdrawn a patent infringement claim against Apple that it had filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission two months ago according to a report in Bloomberg. However it has said that it does reserve the right to refile and that the withdrawal is not due to any agreement between the two companies.

Tablet Global Market sales expected to top $40B this year
Market research firm Global Information has estimated that the worldwide revenue for tablets this year will reach $40.4 billion and that due to a forecast growth rate of 29% year over year it will reach $181.5 billion by 2018.

Tablets have been in the news a great deal lately, with a bevy of new devices hitting the shelves soon from Amazon and Barnes & Noble while the Windows 8 and Apple iPad launches are in the near future. With all of this news it is probably no surprise how well they have been selling.

Samsung wins a small victory over Apple in U.S.
Samsung has convinced the trial judge that heard the case with Apple in the United States to lift the ban on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet. The tablet was one of many devices that Apple sought to have banned after it prevailed in its copyright and patent win in US District Court earlier this year.

Major League Baseball reaches 8-year TV deals with Fox and Turner
Earlier this week Major League Baseball announced an 8-year national media rights agreements with FOX and TBS, which coupled with the deal signed with ESPN earlier will make the teams’ owners very happy. The three contracts will deliver $12.4 billion over their life.

The new deals with Fox and Turner will start in 2014 and allows Fox to keep the All Star game as well as the World Series while the League Championship Series and Division Series will be shared across FOX Sports Media Group (FSMG), TBS and MLB Network. A plus for mobile fans is that the deals include a digital “TV Everywhere” rights to stream televised games and other MLB-related programming online and through mobile devices.

Microsoft confirms Oct. 25 for Windows 8 launch
So mark your calendar and prepare your ‘Is this the iPad killer’ story as Microsoft and its allies will be taking center stage in New York City to show you everything from Intel’s Clover Trail microprocessor to Microsoft’s Surface Tablet.

Intel has said that there are over 20 designs in works with its processor for the platform and showed a few last week, with Hewlett-Packard taking the wraps off of its offering earlier this week. Expect more details by the time of the event from other OEMs.

Microsoft to open pop-up stores next to Apple Stores
If imitation is the highest form of flattery Apple should be pleased with Microsoft. It was reported in Computerworld that Microsoft will start opening ‘pop-up’ stores at malls starting Oct. 26. Interestingly that is the day after it introduces Windows 8.

What makes it interesting is that all of these 32 temporary stores, which will be selling the Surface tablets, 29 are in sites that already have an Apple store. I guess customers will be able to get a good comparison that way.

YouTube and Gillette Team up for Soccer Channel

Gillette Football Club

YouTube continues to become an alternate source of sports programming for fans and its latest effort is in partnership with Gillette to create the Gillette Football Club, a channel that will focus exclusively on soccer and its fans.

The sports channel will deliver on demand high definition video to soccer fans and is designed to enable fans to register to follow their favorite teams and provides goal and highlights for the teams as well as other league highlights including stats from a player, team or league.

It allows you to follow the English Premier League, Ligue 1, Serie A (both Brazil and Italy), Eredivise, SPL, MLS, La Liga, Ligat Ha’Al, Ekstraklasa and Bundesliga players and teams and will also show select highlights from international matches.

However it provides much more including videos of interviews with top players and team personnel as well as other features including football shows. Several high profile teams are creating content for the channel including one called Copa90 Allstars where skills and ball handling tricks will be demonstrated by top footballers.

While the programming is free, all you need to do is register, the site will be filled with advertisements from Gillette, but that really seems a small price to pay.

YouTube has been increasingly pushing into sports as an alternative to broadcast sports and had a wide variety of the 2012 Summer Olympics events available in much of the world as part of its partnership with NBC and has invested approximately $200 million in marketing its growing number of channels.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, impact this has on broadcasters such as Fox Sports and ESPN, both of whom have been increasingly focusing on the growing interest in the US as well as trying to leverage the already great demand for the sport worldwide. It seems to me that the Gillette Football Club, with VOD, is a much better avenue for fans to get updates than to rush to their TV when a network has a scheduled program that does essentially the same thing.

Will we see an ESPN or Fox team with YouTube in the future or will they seek to launch their own rival highlights program online. Whatever happens it seems to me that fans will benefit from increased competition and the resulting growth in exposure the sport receives.

The War of Words begins between ESPN and NBC Sports

ESPN has had an emerging rival in the all-sports all day broadcasting model in recent days with the rise of NBC Sports Network, and while the two have not had much to say about each other that may be changing.

According to USA Today the war of words began earlier this week when ESPN President John Skipper made some comments about rival NBC during ESPN’s upfront presentation that on the face of them did not seem to extreme, but that lit the fuse.

NBC shot back deriding ESPN’s quality and the value they deliver for the dollar they charge, ESPN shot back that more people use its mobile app than watch NBC, and so it goes. I expect that this will continue for some time, mostly at events such as the upfront presentations.

For those of you with a long memory you will recall the battles between ESPN and rival Fox when Fox was working on establishing itself as a 24/7 sports network. They sniped at each other; put their logos over all sorts of images to prevent rivals from using them and a host of other actions, many of them infantile.

Ah, the good old days. First they seemed to come to an understanding and ceased over use of their respective logos and refrained saying trite and petty things about each other and then finally Fox eventually threw in the towel and dropped its efforts, although rumors have recently come that it might be reexamining the idea.

While in some ways this current fight has no impact on sports fans, in other ways I believe that it will have a positive one. Competition is good for fans because hopefully it means the players involved will raise their game. I think that the rise of MLB’s network has made ESPN raise the level of Baseball Tonight, for instance.

One issue is that there is little overlap, ESPN has a large range of premium sports and NBC does not, although it does have the upcoming Olympics and a few other sports such as the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, which are seeing a strong resurgence in viewership. Other events such as the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012 and the Amgen Tour of California, while very good, just do not have the viewership of or the range of games that ESPN rolls out.

Virginia is for Lovers, and this weekend NASCAR

Last week’s run in Kansas resulted in a nice win by Denny Hamlin, his second of the year by passing Martin Truex Jr. on the 31st to last lap and then hanging on for the checkered flag. Truex hung on for second while the rest of the top five was filled out by Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle.

Who would have believed that a little sunlight had that much of an effect on the race? For most of the race Truex was dominating in the cloudy weather and then as the conditions changed with the arrival of late afternoon sun, his car started performing poorly, becoming very loose while Hamlin’s #11 car had the exact opposite experience. Well they are once again under the lights this week.

Sprint Cup Standings
1) Greg Biffle
2) Martin Truex Jr. -15
3) Matt Kenseth -17
4) Dale Earnhardt Jr. -21
5) Denny Hamlin -23

The Track
This week they are running at Richmond International Raceway in the Capitol City 400 Presented by Virginia is for Lovers, a race that marks the 60th anniversary of racing at the RIR. The track is a ¾ mile D shaped oval.

Coverage begins at 7 pm ET on Fox

Twitter feeds
@RISinsider- Tracks official Twitter feed
@NASCAR-Official NASCAR feed
@NationwideNNS-Nationwide Official Twitter
@NASCAR_NNS-NASCAR Nationwide feed
@NASCARONFOX-Fox Sports feed
@AllWaltrip-3 Time NASCAR Champ and Fox announcer
@PRNLive-Performance Racing Network
@EdHintonESPN-ESPN Columnist Ed Hinton

Nationwide Series
The Nationwide Series also returns to the lights, this time on Friday night with the running of the Virginia 529 College Savings 250. The highlight of the race could be the debut of Travis Pastrana, at least he has been heavily touted by ESPN, which maybe not coincidentally is broadcasting the race.

Still he has taken an interesting road to get a car in Nationwide. He has been a winner at a variety of other tangentially related sports including supercross, motorcross, freestyle motorcross and rally racing.

He formed a partnership with Michael Waltrip to form the Pastrana-Waltrip Racing. He was originally expected to start racing last year but after one race was injured in an accident in the X-Games which put off his racing efforts until this year. It will be interesting to see how well he does and if his X-Games following will cross over to NASCAR. Anybody want to make a prediction?

Friday 7 pm ET ESPN 2

Nationwide Series Standings
1) Elliott Sadler
2) Ricky Stenhouse Jr -4
3) Austin Dillon -20
4) Sam Hornish Jr. -54
5) Michael Annett -64

Video of the week

Brad Keselowski is rapidly becoming my favorite racing personality. First he sends an in-track Twitter of an exploding race car and now I find this. He has a series of Q&As on YouTube that are just silly but well worth viewing, especially if you just need to perk up your day.