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The NFL and Twitter have struck a large-scale deal for the league to be part of Amplify, Twitter's emerging advertising platform. In the agreement, the NFL will embed highlights, news, fantasy content and other video material within the microblogging site, with individual clips preceded by short ads. The NFL and Twitter will share in ad revenue generated through the pact, with league sponsor Verizon signing on as an initial sponsor. Another NFL corporate partner will soon be announced as a second sponsor of the league's efforts on Amplify. While several other major sports entities, including ESPN and the NBA, previously agreed to participate in Amplify, the NFL historically has been very protective of its video rights and does not sign many external distribution deals beyond its primary network rights agreements. NFL execs described the Amplify deal as larger and "more robust" than other sports pacts to date on the platform, in part because of its plans to supply daily content on Twitter and operate a dedicated staff out of its L.A. media HQs to the project. Specific financial terms were not disclosed, but industry sources pegged the ad revenue to be generated through the partnership this season in the low eight figures.
INCREASING INTEGRATION: NFL Senior VP/Media Strategy & Development Hans Schroeder said, "We can easily see how this partnership is incremental and complimentary to our other mobile and other media offerings. This is an outfit that understands the value of premium content, and we think we're going to learn a lot." The highlight rights in the Twitter deal will include in-game clips from NFL Network's "Thursday Night Football" games. For other games, the NFL's existing TV deals dictate that highlights not show up on Twitter until after each telecast concludes. Twitter President of Global Revenue Adam Bain said, "Having access to this type of highly coveted content on Twitter will not only offer our users a unique programming schedule which will deepen their engagement with our platform, but will also provide sponsors with a value proposition that few other partners can bring to the table." The NFL-Twitter deal begins immediately and extends through the remainder of this season, with plans to revisit the partnership in the spring. The league's official @NFL Twitter handle, which has more than 5 million followers, will be a primary distribution point for the content in this deal, but Schroeder said other football-related feeds would be considered as the partnership evolves (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).
SUNDAY FUNDAY: AD AGE's Cotton Delo reported most of the tweets "will be published on game days, especially Sunday, though the plan is to sprinkle them throughout the week." Other video content distributed on Twitter "will include clips from Sunday and Monday night games that have already finished airing on network partners like CBS, news and analysis clips, fantasy football tips, and calls to action to entice people to vote in polls." NFL VP/Digital Media Business Development Vishal Shah said that multiple promoted tweets "will be published each day for the duration of the season as part of the program." He "expects the campaign to reach more than 20 million Twitter users." Shah said that the "incremental ad revenue from ad sales with Twitter isn't the NFL's main reason for entering this partnership." He said, "We know that the fans are on Twitter, and we know the fans are consuming on social platforms. What we haven't seen anyone else do is find the right way to deploy some of the crown jewels from a rights perspective and make sure the fans get the content to add context to all that social conversation" (ADAGE.com, 9/25). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Amol Sharma notes the deal "will significantly expand the audience that can view NFL content on mobile phones." Verizon subscribers currently "have the NFL Mobile app, and DirecTV Sunday Ticket subscribers also can get football content on their phones, but any Twitter user would be able to see the Amplify highlights." A source said that the league and Twitter have "pre-sold ad inventory, netting cash in the low eight-figure range" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/26).
NBC Sports Group in signing on to broadcast the America's Cup "got a great deal: it paid nothing for the Cup races -- the America’s Cup Event Authority bought time on NBC and NBCSN and sold advertising to its sponsors -- and used the race production that was hosted by the Cup," according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. But NBC "also got lucky, televising a remarkable comeback" by Oracle Team USA. The result "may entice NBC to carry the next America’s Cup." NBC and NBCSN showed "13 days of racing starting on Sept. 7." NBC averaged 1.05 million viewers "on the first two days; through the next 10, including Tuesday, NBCSN averaged about 165,000 viewers -- about twice what it usually attracts" from 4:00-6:00pm ET. America’s Cup races on NBCSN attracted more viewers than the net's MLS games (111,000), but "fewer than it received" for live Tour de France coverage (287,000) or F1 races (203,000). The "most viewed weekday was Tuesday, when an average of 182,000 watched Oracle win two races to tie the races at 8-8" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/26).
ENHANCED VIEWING EXPERIENCE: In London, Oliver Brown writes America's Cup viewing figures "engendered by last night’s mesmerising drama were nothing short of spectacular." In New Zealand "almost a million people" tuned in to watch. Thanks to "highly-nuanced coverage on Sky Sports, non-sailing aficionados" in the U.K. have followed the past 17 races with "unprecedented avidity." Brown: "Naturally, the fascination of the technology has helped. GPS mapping, alongside helicopter-mounted cameras, have allowed viewers to see every steer and grind of these 72-ft catamarans’ passage through the waves." Oracle was "equipped with 13 separate microphones." For those of "a cartographic bent the digital enhancements have lent remarkable clarity to wind direction, currents, course boundaries and mark-rounding zones" (London TELEGRAPH, 9/26).
ESPN finished with a 1.3 rating and 1.9 million viewers for its “Sunday Night Baseball” telecasts, up 8% and 6%, respectively, from a 1.2 rating and 1.8 million viewers in ‘12. Last year saw ESPN finish with its lowest “SNB” audience since ’05. However, the '13 "SNB" audience is still under 2 million viewers, a mark frequently hit in previous years. The top “SNB” telecast this season was Yankees-Red Sox on Aug. 18, as 3.1 million viewers tuned in to see Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez play at Fenway Park following the announcement of his PED-related suspension. That was the top “SNB” audience since the same matchup in August ’11 averaged 4.7 million viewers. ESPN had four Red Sox-Yankees “SNB” telecasts in ’13, averaging 2.5 million viewers, flat with last year’s three games (one rainout). The three Yankees-Red Sox matchups in ’11 averaged 4.2 million viewers and four games in '10 averaged 3.1 million viewers."SUNDAY NIGHT BASEBALL" ON ESPNYEARVIEWERS (000)'131,896'121,784'112,294'102,177'092,458'082,617'072,752
Monumental Sports & Entertainment's online broadcast of the DC United-Toronto FC match on Saturday will mark the first time a third-party network has streamed an MLS regular-season game. The opportunity to stream the game arose after DC United broadcast partner CSN Mid-Atlantic chose not to air it. The RSN is showing only 16 of the team’s 34 games this season -- second lowest of any MLS team. Fans in the DC market can go to MonumentalNetwork.com to get the free stream starting at 1:00pm ET on Saturday. The game also will be shown on the league’s “MLS Live” out-of-market package. MSE's online network launched in January, and company Exec VP & General Counsel Randy Boe said of Saturday's stream, "We’re really looking at it as, 'Can we produce a high-quality stream of sporting events that rivals what you’d get if you put on your TV?' And I think the answer to that is going to be that we can." The digital outfit has already streamed WNBA Mystics home games and World TeamTennis Washington Kastles matches, but Saturday will mark its first foray into soccer. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but DC United will receive a rights fee. Regular DC United broadcaster Dave Johnson will call the match alongside former player Santino Quaranta from MSE’s studio at Verizon Center. The company is using TSN’s feed to show the game instead of providing its own cameras. Boe: "It’s a significant effort for us because we want to do it right. We’re doing a lot of these things right now as a test. Like the DC United match: We’re excited about it -- we’re going to do a really good job with it -- but it’s probably one of the bigger undertakings we’ve had as a network.”
WHERE DOES RELATIONSHIP GO FROM HERE? Given that Saturday’s match features two teams firmly rooted at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, Boe said that he will be focusing more on the quality of the stream’s production rather than viewership numbers in terms of whether it is deemed a success. But he added, “Ultimately, viewership will be the big determinant.” MSE is currently just focused on this weekend’s game and is not yet evaluating whether to try to expand on a deal with DC United. However, Boe said if the digital outfit does try to add more games, “It’s going to be easier than people think, because we can address a much larger market online, and we can do it in a way, frankly, that TV can’t reach anymore.” DC United COO & CFO Michael Williamson said of possibly having MSE stream more games, “This is obviously currently a one-time business relationship. We’ll look to partner with them on other opportunities as they come about, as we always have over our club’s history.”
SI.com yesterday released its annual Twitter 100 list -- comprised of the top sports-related accounts to follow on the social media site. SI and SI.com staffers were polled to create the list. Of the names included on the list, 36% are media, league or team execs. ESPN and ESPN.com combined for 15 entries (SI.com, 9/25).
MEDIA, TEAM & LEAGUE EXECS ON SI's TWITTER 100 LIST
ESPN's J.A. Adande ESPN's Andy Katz National Post's Bruce Arthur TNT's Steve Kerr NBCSN's Michelle Beadle CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora Sports Writer Lana Berry TSN's Bob McKenzie ESPN's Matthew Berry ESPN's Buster Olney ESPN's Jay Bilas Turner Sports' Rachel Nichols NBC Sports' Ato Bolden ESPN's T.J. Quinn NFL.com's Albert Breer Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal ESPN's John Buccigross ESPN's Adam Schefter Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban NFL VP/Football Communications Michael Signora CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman ESPN's Bill Simmons GOAL.com's Ives Galarcep Yahoo Sports' Marc Spears Fox Sports' Jay Glazer ESPN's Marc Stein USA Today's Jeff Gluck ESPN's Scott Van Pelt ESPN's Jeff Goodman ESPN's Dick Vitale Fox Sports' Ariel Helwani London Telegraph's Henry Winter ESPN's Jemele Hill Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah Yahoo Sports' Greg Wyshynski
MAKING THE CONNECTION: SI.com Managing Editor Matt Bean said, “Twitter’s the platform of choice for athletes and coaches to share vital news about their health, their careers, and their lives off the court or field. Consider this: In the last year alone we’ve seen several Twitter holdouts from the sports world join up: Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson, and Mario Balotelli to name a few.” He added, “If stars of that magnitude are communicating directly with the world using the platform, then we’re duty-bound to incorporate it into our reporting and publishing strategy” (SOCIALTIMES.com, 9/25).
REACTION: SI’s Richard Deitsch wrote on his Twitter feed, “Props to @aliciakate11 and @iblend for design and development genius on #SITwitter100. Two talented people.” BC Place Manager of Event Sales & Corporate Partnerships Cameron Kusch wrote, “You could put just about anyone on the #SITwitter100 list. My one follow would still be @bruce_arthur. Has a way of speaking my conscience.” Former USOC Chief of Int’l Relations Bob Fasulo: “Dear @SINOW, I get that you're serving US readers but maybe you need to do a separate #SITwitter100 for int'l feeds. (Sports) world is big.” ESPN.com’s Darren Rovell noted his absence from the list. He wrote, “no its on purpose I'm sure.”