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The ninth annual Fantasy Sports Associations Sports Media & Technology Conference concluded yesterday at The Westin N.Y. Here are some highlights from the final sessions.
(l to r) Steve Byrd, Rick Wolf And
Rudy Telscher Discuss CDM Lawsuit
Panelist: STATS Exec VP Steve Byrd; Harness, Dickey & Pierce Principal Rudy Telscher; NBCSports.com/Rotoworld.com Dir of Business Development Rick Wolf.
The Issue: What will CDM be doing going forward?
The Skinny: Telscher: "CDM doesn’t really have to do anything at this point. MLB will likely file for an 8th circuit hearing en banc (full court), and if that doesn’t succeed, could file a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court.”
The Issue: What impact with the case have on the sports industry?
The Skinny: Byrd: “Over the last six months, we’ve seen double the number of new data clients, which are also startup companies, which have new fantasy game ideas. ... On the games side, we launched four or five new NFL games with other startup companies because there is plenty of venture capital money out there from places no longer afraid to get into the industry.”
Wolf: “Business plans are now more secure, meaning more venture capital is coming in because companies are more comfortable with the plans they can make.”
The Issue: What are some precedent issues here for other product lines in sports?
The Skinny: Telscher: "The big issue is contractual, because other companies may be able to get out of contracts with big leagues (like CDM with MLB). Certain contracts/provisions that attempt to monopolize an industry may be voidable because it may be in the public interest. ... We asked MLB to settle because we believed an adverse decision would open them up to other challenges.”
The Issue: In 1-2 years, will there be any drop in companies paying licensing fees to leagues?
The Skinny: Telscher: “There will be more of a push back by the serious players, who can now say this isn’t something we have to pay for any longer, but here is what we are willing to pay for now.”
Wolf: “Companies like Donruss wouldn’t have to shut down now.”
Greatest Hit: “Baseball itself actually took the exact opposite stance during a case a few years back when they were selling video, photos of retired players, and those players tried to get a fee for that. MLB said there actions were protected [by the] first amendment” -- Telscher.
(l to r) David Katz, Jack Flanagan And Jeff
Price Feel Online Measurement Needs Reform
Panelists: comScore's Jack Flanagan, former Yahoo Sports head David Katz, SI Digital President Jeff Price, Nielsen Online Dir of Product Marketing Scott Ross.
The Issue: Is the current system of online measurement, as Bob Bowman last week said in a keynote address to the Audit Bureau of Circulation, “simply horrendous, and rife with massive errors?”
The Skinny: Flanagan: "Absolutely. Where the key differences often lie is that in company’s internal log-file data there are key things about the pieces of information being produced, be it is about unique browsers or IP addresses, or whatever, that really distort in a site by site basis. For some of the sites out there quoting numbers on their total audience there is really some irresponsibility in terms of what they are truly reporting."
Price: "The system is very broken. Server data is not the only data to use. We need an auditing system. Panel data is important. You’ve got to be able to get demographic data.
Australia uses a blended approach, which seems to be working well."
Katz: "The frustration in general is that this data exists! Why can’t we use that to get to the promise of what the Internet was supposed to be, which is the accurate tracking of every possible link and every click that happens?"
The Issue: Is there a level playing field?
The Skinny: Price, to Ross and Flanagan: "Why wouldn’t you, for sports categories, be able to create some measurement that is standard so that everyone is playing on a level playing field?"
Ross: "The panel today is a level playing field because its based on the same methodology for everyone…."
Price (interrupting): "But it’s not. We could talk about the serious problems you have including the ‘at work’ sample. It isn’t necessarily equal for Yahoo or AOL or SI or ESPN."
Ross: "We do think the panel is going to get better. We’re going through the MRC process. Going through new methodologies. Certainly a bigger sample size will give us less volatility."
Eric Sahl (l) And Steve Bellamy Part Of Panel
On Creative Uses Of VOD, HD And Broadband
Panelists: The Ski Channel Chair & CEO Steve Bellamy, Comcast SportsNet VP/Business Development Russ Chandler, iN Demand Networks President & CEO Rob Jacobson, CSTV Exec VP/Content Tim Pernetti, EchoStar VP/Programming Eric Sahl, World Championship Sports Network President & COO Carlos Silva.
The Issue: What are you looking for beyond a linear network?
The Skinny: Sahl, on why EchoStar would do a deal with Big Ten Network and NFL Network, but not someone like The mtn or YES Network, “You’ve got to look at acquisition and retention, then, depending on timing in the market, you may do a deal.”
Jacobson: “Certain sports just don’t lend themselves to VOD. However, if you want to see a Bode Miller race, you don’t necessarily need to see that live. ... What HBO did around the De La Hoya-Mayweather fight was great, with the 24/7 program on linear, and also put it on the on-demand. Views for this on-demand on HBO went through the roof.”
Bellamy: “We’re going so hyper-targeted in the mobile area, that if you’re riding in a chair lift for seven minutes, we’ll have a whole portfolio of six-minute pieces of content. If you’re skiing in Vail, and you want to view a particular run, you pull it up, and someone like Jonny Moseley shows you how he likes to do that run.”
Silva: “We look to get our distribution as it comes, so we look online…..it’s about awareness and marketing that will back us into the linear channels.”
Greatest Hit: "The De La Hoya was the top fight we’ve ever had. We’ve actually done budget assumptions for 2008 around whether De La Hoya will fight one more time or not. We may end up paying him to get up there” -- Sahl.
The Issue: What is going to be the future of streaming games?
The Skinny: Chandler: “Leagues have taken the position to start that it is a separate right. When we bought the rights to the Cubs in Chicago, we believed this covered telecasts rights in the territory. The Cubs claimed the deal was only for TV rights. So now we need to worry about streaming online possibly cannibalizing TV ratings.”
Silva: “We got things like the downhill skiing for the ‘super fan’…but at the end of the day, you want to sit back on your couch and watch live sports TV.”
Jacobson: “We’re charging our fans close to $200 for out-of-market packages, and asking them to pay more for online streaming is a little unfair. Customers don’t care what screen they’re watching the game on, they only know what they paid the $200.”
Greatest Hit: "There is an ongoing battle between the living room and laptop, and eventually the cell phone”-- Sahl
The Issue: Are sports tiers a moot debate with the future of all this?
The Skinny: Sahl: “Linear space will always matter.”
Pernetti: “The sports tier business can be a successful business if distributors are willing to put their full weight behind it.”
EA Sports' Peter Moore Discusses
Future Of Videogame Industry
Greatest Hit: "Many people learn sports from videogames. Before they actually kicked a soccer ball or threw a baseball, they played a game. … Going past that becomes important for our industry” -- Moore.
Panel: "Growth of Fantasy Sports Outside of Football and Baseball."
Panelists: STATS Associate VP/Applications Group Jim Corelis, Sporting News VP & GM Online Jeff Gerttula, NBA Interactive VP Steve Grimes, CBSSports.com VP/Product Management & Marketing Patrick Herde, ProTrade Founder & CEO Mike Kerns, ESPN VP/Games Raphael Poplock, Fox Sports Interactive VP/Product.
The Issue: Where are we seeing the growth of fantasy sports?
The Skinny: Kerns: “The NBA jokes, but I think it’s actually true, particularly if you look at what these guys can do over in Asia, China.”
Poplock: “We’ve got tremendous assets in the ESPN international brand -- cricket, rugby, worldwide soccer.”
Greatest Hit: “We saw tremendous growth in our hockey game, which was largely fueled by Fins, Swedes and Canadians. The reasons were actually strange, because enough Fins came to our site, which led to more Fins coming, which eventually led to Swedes coming, which led to fights on the message boards, which led to more people" -- Gerttula.
The Issue: What has been seen with the growth of NASCAR fantasy games?
The Skinny: Tobin: “It’s a big deal for us because it helps with the TV coverage, and we work with NASCAR to promote it. It definitely has got some legs left in it. No doubt.”
Kerns: “We actually thought, given the structure of our game, that NASCAR would work really well, and it hasn’t. It didn’t grow. We actually had more traction with a weekly golf game."
The Issue: What has really busted?
The Skinny: Kerns: “We lost out on Facebook, with something we though would be huge, called the ‘Fantasy Sports Windfall,' where you essentially enter your fantasy roster and who you are going against that weekend. ... It just never caught on.”
Gerttula: “College games are a tough model to succeed with.”
Greatest Hit: “We haven’t made any missteps at Fox. But in my previous life we did a women’s NCAA tournament game that didn’t do well” -- Tobin.
(l to r) Will Leitch, Rich Libero And Chris
LaPlaca Offer Lively Discussion On Blogs
Panelists: TrueHoop.com/ESPN.com Senior Writer Henry Abbott, Islanders VP/Media Relations Chris Botta, ESPN Senior VP/Communications Chris LaPlaca, Deadspin.com Editor Will Leitch, NHL VP/Interactive CyberEnterprises Rich Libero.
The Issue: Deadspin earlier this summer posted an audio file of a voice mail that ESPN personality Scott Van Pelt had left for a woman he had met a bar.
The Skinny: LaPlaca: "Why was that news?"
Leitch: "It was funny."
LaPlaca: "It was funny because it wasn’t about you."
Leitch: "Like it or not, Van Pelt is a major sports personality. More people like and can name Scott Van Pelt than the forwards for the Columbus Blue Jackets."
The Issue: What’s fair game on blogs?
The Skinny: "If we are going to view these athletes as corporate beacons and say ‘We’re going to pay you a lot of money to tell us to eat this and buy this,’ than why are they not fair game? In any other industry besides sports, everything has always been fair game."
Abbott: "It depends. In theory, my bosses could kill a post, but they never have."
Leitch: "The editorial restraint I show is way more than others. Believe me, I’m the nice guy in the blog world."
Greatest Hit: "It used to be, long ago, when teams did media training, you’d show guys an Iverson tape, and say don’t do that. But that’s all changed. Even discussions in the locker room can get out now. You have to be aware of where you are at all times. There are cameras everywhere. It’s paranoia almost" -- Botta.