SBD/November 14, 2013/Events and Attractions

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  • SMT Conference: NFL, TV Execs Explore Ways To Improve At-Game Experience

    Locker room cameras and RedZone were discussed on the NFL panel

    The opening panel at Day 2 of the '13 Covington & Burling Sports Media & Technology conference featured a discussion among three NFL team presidents and two network execs on what is being done and what we can expect in relation to the in-stadium experience. NFL games are drawing fewer people to the stadium this year, but Chiefs President Mark Donovan said player intros on the team's boards, which have video from newly installed locker room cameras, "has been great content for our network partners." Donovan: "They want to see that. ... And it's amazing to see the response in stadium from fans." Jets President Neil Glat said you "want to bring the spectacle to the big screen so the fans can get something they can't get from a small screen." Glat: "First and foremost, we're looking for things that entertain all 80,000 who want to look up rather than having to look down." Fox Sports Media Group Exec VP/Programming & Research Bill Wanger said the net would like to see "lower camera angles to capture the speed of the game." He said, "At the stadium, you see that speed if you sit lower down, but with TV having higher camera angles, that speed sort of gets lost." Wanger added the net is also "looking at 4K, which is ultra HD, four times better than HD, and if we can deploy some cameras on the sideline or the goal line, it might help with some calls. It would enhance not only the at-home experience, but also the in-venue experience, because they can show those on replay."

    REDZONE AT THE STADIUMS: Donovan said the Chiefs show the RedZone Channel at Arrowhead Stadium during game breaks, but "received a lot of feedback from fans that said, 'Don't mess with the game. I want to see the game.'" Glat said RedZone is "terrific to show in-stadium before" a late-afternoon kickoff. "Fans are clamoring for it," he said. "You want to offer it in one shape or another. We do offer it from time to time on the big screen and the app. But you want to continue to have the excitement around the game." Glat also said that fantasy lounges are a "double-edged sword because while you don't want to stop the train of technology, you need to pour your resources into getting fan focus on the field. If all the fan is going to do is go into a fantasy lounge or a RedZone bar, then they honestly don't need to come to the game." Cowboys Exec VP, COO & Dir of Player Personnel Stephen Jones said, "One of the toughest things remains getting fans back to their seats after halftime." Jones: "Sometimes it won't be until halfway through the third quarter, especially in the club levels where fans are eating or watching RedZone and they're distracted." NBC Sports Group President of Programming Jon Miller said his game broadcast directors "want a full stadium all the time. The game is on our air because it's important."

    STADIUM CONNECTIVITY ISSUES: Donovan said Chiefs fans "want the connectivity" that comes with Wi-Fi capabilities, though they "don't tap into it all that often." Donovan: "But they want to know it's there and they want it to be efficient." Glat said beyond spending money on upgrades, "there are some laws of physics limitations on 80,000 people simultaneously trying to connect and get access." He noted, "It's a money issue in that we need to continue to invest in new technologies, but we might run into some physical limitations at some point." Miller added the NFL "may be the only league out there where 80,000 fans come to a stadium and expect [connectivity]." They expect to be able to access RedZone and their fantasy teams," Miller said. "I don't think you see that anywhere else. And the feeling is that they're paying for it through their ticket price."

    OTHER LEAGUE ISSUES: Donovan thinks the NFL flex scheduling policy is a "good tool for the league to make sure the right games are on the right showcase opportunities." However, he warned of "fatigue from season-ticket holders" toward primetime games. Donovan, speaking on good teams and teams in larger markets, said fans are "used to that Sunday afternoon experience. Then, all of a sudden, you're playing almost every game in primetime. There's a clamoring for a balance." Donovan, when asked whether the league can build Thursday night as appointment viewing for NFL games, said, "From what we see at the league standpoint, we can pretty much build any night as NFL night." Meanwhile, Miller discussed increased ratings for the league despite some traditionally strong teams struggling on the field and said, "The product in that case is almost bulletproof."

    Check our On The Ground blog for continual updates from the conference, including a podcast recapping the highlights from Day 1 of the event.

    Print | Tags: Events and Attractions, NFL
  • SMT Conference: Execs Discuss Whether The Media Rights Bubble Is About To Burst

    A roundtable discussion of industry experts toss around the questions of whether the media rights bubble will burst this morning at the '13 Covington & Burling Sports Media & Technology conference. SNY President Steve Raab said, "I don't think there's a bubble. Maybe there's a leveling off. A bubble implies something popping, and I don't see that." Sports Media Advisors Founder & CEO Doug Perlman said, "This is not irrational exuberance." He cited competition for creating value. However, DirecTV VP/Content Reagan Feeney had words of caution, saying, "Our average cost is already over $100. These costs are up and somebody is going to have to pay for them." Big Ten Network President Mark Silverman noted, "Sports is the last live place where you watch television. Certain sports properties generate more value. Premium properties are always going to be worth a lot." RBC Capital Markets Managing Dir David Bank asked, "Where is the bubble? I don't see it. I'm not paying a lot more. I'm getting a lot more." Feeney said, "We're already seeing networks make tough choices. There has been some disruption. You can see it." Raab: "The burden is on the partnership between the property and the rightsholder to justify the value and make it work."

    Check our On The Ground blog for continual updates from the conference, including a podcast recapping the highlights from Day 1 of the event.

    Print | Tags: Events and Attractions
  • SMT Conference: Digital Entrepreneurs Prep For Future As Best As Possible

    How to evaluate the potential sale of a digital startup was discussed by the panel

    Founders of digital businesses cannot predict when their companies will be bought or what will happen to them after they have sold their business, but there are several things they can do to prepare for that process and make it smooth. Speaking at a panel at the '13 Covington & Burling Sports Media & Technology conference titled “After the Sale: What’s Next for Digital Entrepreneurs,” former Fantasy Sports Ventures exec Christopher Russo said, “The sale is the end of the process. You can talk about what you did or didn’t do right in the last month or two months, but the reality is that a lot of the decisions you make years before affect that outcome.” Russo said investors a company takes on can affect when a sale is made, and partnerships a company strikes can affect whether a sale happens. Fantasy Sports Ventures did an early partnership with Gannett, which acquired the company years later for $30M. Shannon Terry, who sold his company,, to Yahoo, said that it is important to think in advance about what role you want in your company after it has been acquired. He said that he did not consider that during the sale and became a “father” figure afterward without an active voice in how Rivals was run. “From a leadership perspective, be true to yourself as to what your role is,” Terry said. “If you’re going in to integrate the asset, do that and understand that. As you enter the term sheet negotiations, have a plan and be true to it for yourself and your leadership group, so that you don’t build unneeded angst as you move onto the next thing.”

    NEED TO STAY FLEXIBLE: However, Peter Vlastelica, Senior VP/Digital at Fox Sports, which acquired his company, Yardbarker, said, "Be flexible with it.” Vlastelica: "I thought a year or two into the deal I’d be intellectually absorbed with something else. That had nothing to do with Fox. It had to do with this bias against big companies in general. But ... you could argue Fox Sports is the most successful startup of the past years. There’s a culture there I didn’t expect. ... It doesn’t feel like I’ve sold out and gone to work for the man.” Russo said that acquisitions are done in unique moments when other companies are looking to buy an asset. He added, “Your chance to get to the finish line are a lot greater if you don’t give yourself two months to make it happen (because you need funding).”

    ON TRENDS AND OPPORTUNITIES THEY SEE: Vlastelica: “I’m interested in enabling technology. Personalization is something we still all collectively have a long way to go in. Team Stream (an app from Bleacher Report) is a great personalized product ... but when you start to layer on other types of personalization ... there are different types of Lakers fans. There are Lakers fans who grow up in L.A. There are Lakers fans that didn’t. There are Lakers fans who remember Magic. There are Lakers fans who don’t.” Terry: “At the rate that mobile is ascending, there’s some help you can get from tablet and how it’s viewed, but I see mobile being two-thirds of usage very soon. We have to navigate that or slow it down.” Russo: “More tablets were sold in the last year than laptops or desktops. We’re just beginning that trend.”

    Check our On The Ground blog for continual updates from the conference, including a podcast recapping the highlights from Day 1 of the event.

    Print | Tags: Events and Attractions
  • SMT Conference: Leonsis Notes Digital Media Has Made Strides, But Not Digital Advertising

    Leonsis' long-term goal is expanding his Monumental Sports network

    Digital media has made huge strides since Ted Leonsis spoke at the first Sports Media & Technology conference more than a decade ago, but he said digital advertising has been slow to catch up. Leonsis, the subject of a one-on-one interview at the '13 edition of the conference, estimated that when he made that first appearance, people spent three hours a day online, and that amounted to 17% of their media consumption. But at the time only 5% of advertising was devoted to digital media. His goal was for that ratio to become 1:1. The ratio has improved today, but as more people are spending more time online, advertising spending is still behind the pace. He expects that to change. “Young consumers, first and second generation, are spending the majority of their time on the net ... but still the advertising and promotional dollars haven’t followed in lockstep,” Leonsis said. “But as these young people move into positions of management at agencies and companies, that will sort itself out and the floodgates will open.” Returning to the conference to speak this year helped Leonsis appreciate just how far digital has come from his days at AOL and his early days of sports ownership when he bought the Capitals 14 years ago. “We’ve gone from being a ‘new’ media to being ‘the’ media,” Leonsis said. “Everything centers around digital.”

    ENTREPRENEURSHIP TODAY: Leonsis said digital and online efficiencies today have made it a great time to be an entrepreneur because people can take traditional businesses and make them more efficient. His investment group, Revolution Growth, has invested in several online companies that are digital iterations of other businesses. Groupon is a company that digitized the coupon. Zip Car digitized the car rental business. And CustomInk, which just received a $40M investment from Revolution Growth, is digitizing the apparel business. “It’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur,” Leonsis said. “It’s never been a better time to start a company. The consumers are there. The devices are there. The tech is there. The capital is there. It’s just waiting for someone to launch these businesses.”

    MONUMENTAL SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT NETWORK: Leonsis said his long-term goal is to turn the broadband network behind the Capitals, Wizards and Mystics into a production house with “the ability to show something in our arena, in real time, in all the televisions in the arena and outside on the signs and in those virtual screens on everyone’s site and everyone’s phone.” Leonsis would like to see it broadcasting concerts, and pro, college and high school sports games that take place at Verizon Center. “We can look at all of that as ancillary opportunity for us,” Leonsis said. The Wizards and Capitals both have long-term rights deals with Comcast SportsNet -- the Wizards have seven years left on their deal, the Capitals have three. Leonsis said that he envisions doing one of three things with those rights when they become available. “One would be that we would partner in a big way with Comcast,” Leonsis said. “I certainly believe we should have ownership in that network and a large voice in the programming of that network because we know our fans and our community extremely well. Or we would launch our own network, the Monumental Sports & Entertainment Network, or we’ll partner with some other sports network.”

    TED'S TAKES: * Biggest inspiration: A 75-year-old Jesuit priest at Georgetown Univ. who helped Leonsis, an English major, use a computer to determine that Ernest Hemingway wrote "The Old Man and the Sea" in the '30s, not the '50s. Leonsis said, “I went from being a liberal arts major, an English major, to someone who understood algorithms.”
    * On sports ownership: “No other business gives you the psychic uplift like owning a sports team. But the down beat, you lose a game seven in the playoffs, it’s like death.”
    * His favorite part of ownership: “It’s the fan interaction. I’ve probably exchanged half a million e-mails. ... I’m an extrovert by nature, and I get a lot of energy from that. It’s absolutely amazing. ... People will come up to me in a mall or a restaurant and say, ‘Do you remember me? I sent you an e-mail in 1999.’ The passion and enthusiasm fans entrust in you is like no other business.”
    * The downside of ownership: “In sports, there’s one winner and 29 losers. The assets, from a business standpoint (of the teams I own), have dramatically increased in value ... but we haven’t won a Stanley Cup or NBA championship, so I’m a failure. That’s what this business is about. One winner and 29 losers.”
    * In his downtime: “I read an awful lot. I try to read in totally different areas. Getting outside your comfort zone is important. I’m trying to reinvent my way of thinking to be more data driven. I am an English major, so studying a lot of math and reading about a lot of math thinkers ... exercises important parts of the brain.”
    * Why he blogs: “It’s left-brain, right-brain. I’m outgoing. I’m creative. I grew up living my life on the net. ... It’s a natural way to communicate. In the second, other part of your brain, it’s a good business move to control your message. I’m a media company.”

    BY THE NUMBERS: * $28,000: His family’s maximum income growing up in Brooklyn where his father was a waiter and his mother worked at a chewing gum factory.
    * 200: Number of consecutive sellouts for the Capitals
    * $40M: Invested in CustomInk, a custom apparel company, by Leonsis’ investment group Revolution Growth.

    Check our On The Ground blog for continual updates from the conference, including a podcast recapping the highlights from Day 1 of the event.

    Print | Tags: Events and Attractions
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