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Bloomberg Sports has signed commercial agreements since December with 17 MLB teams for its professional scouting tools, marking a further advance for the company in its second year of work in sports analytics.
Already a dominant name in financial data and analytics, Bloomberg in partnership with MLB Advanced Media last year introduced a set of scouting tools tied directly to MLBAM’s real-time statistics and location-based data and video. Twenty-eight of 30 teams agreed to use the Bloomberg material on a trial basis, and the company has since converted more than half the teams in the league to paid commercial agreements. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Bloomberg’s analytics target teams and fans.
The scouting products sold to teams are coupled with a set of products, including trade analyzers and draft kits, that are aimed at fantasy baseball players, a push for Bloomberg that also is entering its second year. This year’s fantasy materials, being sold for $19.95 for the draft kit and seasonlong tools, include a simplified navigation structure and full integration with fantasy leagues on Yahoo!, ESPN and CBSSports.com. Reworked mobile extensions that include applications for the iPhone and iPad also are available.
The $19.95 price is a reduction from $34.95 last year.
“We learned a lot in our first year, have made a number of changes we think will be very effective, and are ready to take that next big step and really drive upward in terms of usage,” Squadron said. “Last year was a good year, but we’re now expecting big things.”
Additions this year to Bloomberg’s player-evaluation algorithms include contract-year status, frequency of injuries and what it defines as a “luck” factor.
Bloomberg additionally has struck in recent days co-marketing partnerships with Baseball Digest, baseball games operation Strat-O-Matic, and the Society of American Baseball Research, among others, similarly designed to drive user awareness and adoption.
“Our fanatics are the ultimate experts in baseball statistics, so we are sure that they will love learning about the unique approach Bloomberg Sports is taking toward baseball statistical analysis,” said Hal Richman, founder of Strat-O-Matic, which is marking its 50th anniversary this year.
The Bloomberg Sports baseball iPhone application, mirroring a football-related product introduced last fall by Bloomberg and representing a scaled-down version of the online-based products, will sell for $1.99. The iPad version is priced at $4.99.
Ad sales for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament are virtually sold out across the CBS and Turner Sports networks more than a month before the event is set to start.
In addition, ads for the popular online service March Madness on Demand are virtually sold out, CBS and Turner executives said, adding that most of the advertisers who bought TV spots also bought time on MMOD.
For the past two years, by comparison, CBS went into March with the tournament 90 percent sold. This year’s near-sell-out levels offer further proof of the strong overall ad marketplace for sports, where even the scatter market continues to be robust (see related story on Daytona 500 sales).
“Business has been really good,” said John Bogusz, executive vice president of sales and marketing for CBS Sports. “We exceeded all of our original goals.”
Rates are up in the high-single-digit percentages, CBS and Turner executives said. They would not disclose the actual cost of 30-second spots during the tournament. Last year, reports had 30-second spots in the Final Four approaching $1.5 million.
As with TV ad sales for other sports, the resurgent automotive category is driving sales for the tournament. Insurance and telecom categories also have been strong, network executives said.
The early sell-out levels should come as a welcome relief to CBS and Turner Sports, which combined sales forces to sell the tournament across four networks — CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV — resulting in greater inventory.
Turner and CBS teamed up last year to pick up NCAA tournament rights for the next 14 years. CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus called the partnership “the most complex and many-sided project that we’ve had at CBS Sports, certainly since I’ve been here.”
By all accounts, the ad sales performance has been an unexpected boom, and executives insist that the integration of the two sales forces has been seamless.
“The marketplace has accepted our combined sales efforts,” said Jon Diament, executive vice president of Turner Sports Ad Sales and Marketing. “I can’t think of one incident where we had a lack of communication with CBS during this process.”
This will be the first time all the tournament games will be telecast in their entirety. Start times will be staggered throughout the tournament. Advertisers generally did not buy the same ad position across all of the networks, but an ad purchase in a specific time period, such as the early games, for example, will run across all networks.
Network executives do not have clearance yet to announce specific advertisers other than three NCAA corporate champions and nine corporate partners, but they did announce that Infiniti will be presenting sponsor of the “NCAA Tip Off” studio show, with AT&T picking up sponsorship of “At the Half” and Buick purchasing presenting sponsorship of the postgame show “Inside March Madness.”
Using the sales mantra “new season, new surface,” Fox’s sales team has sold 85 to 90 percent of its inventory for the Daytona 500 and expects to sell out this week.
The combination of strong demand across the sports marketplace, where NFL, NCAA and NBA inventory has sold out, and the repaving of Daytona International Speedway, which had two lengthy delays during the 2010 Daytona 500 because of potholes, drove the Daytona ad sales. Prices of individual units during the Daytona 500 broadcast have seen modest increases, according to sources.
Ad sales for the rest of the network’s 13-race schedule are pacing ahead of last year’s levels, as well. Fox benefits from having four of its 13 races air in prime time.
“There was a huge demand for sports product throughout the whole NFL season and that’s carried through to NASCAR,” said Neil Mulcahy, Fox Sports’ executive vice president of advertising sales. “The autos are back. The money is up. Right off the bat, that’s great news.”
Fox expects to sell out its Daytona 500 inventory, and other races are ahead of last year..
Ad buyers said that corporate advertising demand for NASCAR was more tepid than for other sports such as the sold-out NFL, NBA and NCAA. They added that ratings decreases and attendance decreases have given some companies reason to pause before buying NASCAR inventory, but companies committed to the sport still are expected to advertise heavily.
“There’s a lot of demand out there for inventory, and NASCAR, regardless of the dynamics, is still providing a big number,” said Jeremy Carey, U.S. director for Optimum Sports. “We’ll see some estimates adjusted. Pricing will probably be adjusted as well.”
But Carey said the demand would be there for the 2011 season, especially for this weekend’s Daytona 500, which had the potential to do a 9 or 10 household rating.
“This weekend will tell us a lot,” Carey said. “It’s going to do a big number in a space that’s a big sports weekend.”
Mulcahy said for the first time in two years all four NASCAR manufacturers — Dodge, Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota — are advertising heavily. Auto sales tripled in 2010 from 2009 and are up again this year.
The network also saw strong sales in the wireless, beer, movie and quick-service restaurant categories. Advertisers such as GoDaddy.com and Subway will return. Wal-Mart and other retailers will advertise, as well.
Fox’s most notable new advertiser will be Pizza Hut, which will be the presenting sponsor of the “NASCAR on Fox” pre-race show. The deal puts the pizza chain in the same advertising window it opted for during the Super Bowl when it exchanged inventory during the game for pregame inventory — a move it hoped would boost pizza sales.
Some 2010 advertisers won’t be back this year. Aflac and Tylenol, which declined to renew longtime partnerships with NASCAR, won’t advertise, and Nationwide, which titles NASCAR’s second series, declined to buy because it didn’t see the performance it wanted from its buy in 2010.
“We’ve come to expect a natural rate of attrition,” said Rick Kloiber, vice president of ad sales for Fox Sports. “You expect guys going out, you hope to find guys coming in. We’ve done that.”
After more than five years overseeing both news and sports for CBS, Sean McManus last week shed his news responsibilities to focus exclusively on sports. Last week, McManus was named chairman of CBS Sports, a role that will see him oversee all aspects of the sports division. McManus spoke last week with staff writer John Ourand, where he described his expectation to be much more hands-on in the division than he used to be.
When you were named president of both CBS Sports and CBS News in 2005, did you always know you’d come back to the sports division exclusively?
McMANUS: I had no timetable when I took the job. But I knew that for the company and for me personally, this wasn’t a job that I could do for the rest of my professional career. I’m very proud of what we accomplished at CBS News. But I’m also really excited about getting back to what has always been my professional love — and really is my foundation and my background — which is sports television.
Sean McManus is “really excited about getting back to what has always been my professional love.”
McMANUS: More than 50 percent was going toward news because of the 24-hour nature of the business.
Now that you’re devoting all your time to the sports division, how will your role change?
McMANUS: I delegated a lot during the last 5 1/2 years. I will be probably delegating a little bit less. And I will be focusing on growing the division.
What do you mean when you say that you’re going to be more hands-on?
McMANUS: It’s being in the studio and serving as executive producer. It’s watching every game that we do in the studio and talking to producers and talent. It means that if I’m not in the studio, I’m watching at home. I try to watch everything that we put on the air. I’m calling the studio probably many more times than our head of production, Harold Bryant, would probably like. It’s just giving thoughts and comments. It means dealing directly with everybody in the division. It means having the best relationship I possibly can with all of our rights holders at different levels. There is virtually no talent deal that’s done — even for a freelance panelist on rodeo — where I don’t have at least the knowledge of it. I try not to micromanage. That’s always a danger. But I love this business so much and I love CBS Sports so much that I want to be involved.
Where are the biggest growth opportunities?
McMANUS: CBS College Sports is a large opportunity for us. There’s growth in revenue. There’s growth in subscribers. And there’s certainly growth in the quality of the events that network is now carrying. It’s not going to be easy. There’s a lot of competition in that space.
Do you want to expand it beyond college sports?
McMANUS: Right now, we have agreements with the cable operators that limit us in some ways. That’s certainly something we will look at very carefully.
Where else do you see growth potential?
McMANUS: Further integrating CBS Sports with CBSSports.com will be a priority also. I have great respect for what CBSSports.com has become. I think they can be even better if the integration is more seamless.
It seems that “60 Minutes” has run more sports stories since you’ve overseen CBS News. How can you make sure that will continue?
McMANUS: That actually began before I came to CBS News. Sports stars have always been an important part of “60 Minutes.” I would love to take credit for that, but it really wasn’t my concept. It became a little bit easier. If anybody noticed, there might have been a few more promos in football for “60 Minutes” when I got involved with CBS News. If “60 Minutes” came to me again and said they’ve got a great sports profile coming out of an NFL football game or the Masters, that would be great for CBS Sports. If anything, it helps our ratings, and it’s great for CBS News and the network.
United Kingdom-based digital sports outfit the Perform Group is readying a major American initiative with the release of its ePlayer online video streaming service in the U.S.
Perform has signed rights deals with MLB Advanced Media, the NHL, NBA, PGA Tour, MLS, UFC, ATP and WTA to syndicate online video highlights, creating a centralized source for U.S. sports video content. Perform will then distribute the video content through its local media clients, within initial partners including the New York Post, The Seattle Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. Content will be free to users from those media outlet websites.
The company has been developing a similar video highlight syndication model in other parts of the world, particularly in England with English Premier League rights. But Perform, competing against domestic-based firms such as CineSport developing similar models, is eyeing major gains in the U.S. with its deep battery of rights. Perform’s deal with MLBAM, in particular, is an exclusive pact for third-party syndication rights.
“We still have a lot of ground to cover, but we definitely expect the U.S. to be one of our biggest markets worldwide,” said Juan Delgado, Perform’s North America managing director.
Financial terms for Perform’s rights deals with the sports properties were not disclosed, but generally involve a mix of up-front rights fee payments and revenue-sharing agreements. The leagues also in most instances retain some ad inventory to insert themselves. Perform does not have video rights to the NFL or NASCAR, but is pursuing both properties.
Ad sales will largely be handled by Silver Chalice New Media’s newly formed network, Season (SportsBusiness Journal, Feb. 7). The acquisition of the Perform inventory marks a major victory for the Chicago White Sox-owned Silver Chalice, as Perform bypassed many larger digital ad sales firms to align with Season.
“They’ve put together a great package of rights that already has been a big boost in what we’re trying to do putting together digital assets and marketers,” said Brooks Boyer, Silver Chalice chief executive and White Sox vice president and chief marketing officer.
Sports Illustrated is projecting a 41 percent increase in revenue this year from its iconic Swimsuit franchise, with the total boosted significantly by an array of new digital extensions.
Specific financial figures were not disclosed, but the print magazine, being released Tuesday, will be joined by a return of an iPhone application that saw more than 1 million downloads last year, new iPad and Android applications, a new model selection show on DirecTV that was to debut last Friday, and a partnership with Sony to bring Swimsuit video in both 2-D and 3-D through the PlayStation Network and Sony’s Qriocity video-on-demand service.
Swimsuit returns to iPhone, and adds iPad and Android apps.
The diverse delivery of Swimsuit content also speaks to a changing mind-set within the 57-year-old sports magazine. Over the past year, Sports Illustrated has begun to embrace new platforms such as the iPad and Google’s Chrome Web browser, but Swimsuit in many instances is serving as a test case toward potentially even larger digital extensions for SI.
“Swimsuit in a lot of ways is the test pilot in pushing SI in new directions,” said Mark Ford, Time Inc. Sports Group president. “There’s also a case to be made that Swimsuit is truly the original multiplatform program in the publishing world. The digital opportunities are absolutely great, but being on TV is also a big, important step for us.”
Ad pages in the print edition of the Swimsuit issue will reach 90, up from 72 last year and many of them with custom-designed creative for the issue. The total, however, is still down from about 100 in the peak days of print magazine advertising.
Swimsuit overall will represent 7 percent of SI’s annual revenue, and the 41 percent year-over-year revenue leap for the franchise is SI’s biggest one-year swing ever. Newsstand sales were about 925,000 for the 2010 edition; historically, the issue has sold about 1 million copies at newsstands each year.
Among the major advertisers in the issue are DirecTV, GMC, Chanel, Nissan, Lexus and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
The iPhone and Android mobile applications will work on a freemium model in which there will be some free content, and then a $1.99 fee to access premium material. Twelve percent of the Swimsuit iPhone downloads last year were converted to premium-level purchasing, a total SI expects to grow significantly this year. The iPad application will sell for $6.99, the same as the print newsstand price, and feature additional photos, Web links, social media integration and more.
Speed recently closed a deal with Wal-Mart, giving the network nine sponsors for its Daytona Speedweeks coverage.
The sponsorship total is the highest ever for the network during the two weeks of NASCAR competition at Daytona International Speedway and increases Speed’s advertising sales during Speedweeks by 35 percent compared with last year. Network executives said the increases were driven by a boost in price and volume that resulted from a strong sports marketplace, the return of the automotive sector and momentum from last year’s dramatic three-way finish in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
“NASCAR RaceDay Built by The Home Depot” will be back for a fifth year on Speed.
“We’ve been very consistent preaching one simple message: Speed is the home of the NASCAR fan, and we are the most cost-efficient way to connect with the core NASCAR fan,” said David Safran, Speed’s vice president of sales. “That message is really resonating with advertisers and clients.”
Wal-Mart is Speed’s biggest new corporate partner. The company will be presenting sponsor of Speed’s “Trackside” show, which premiered at Daytona in 2004. The show will be hosted Friday night from the Speed stage at Daytona International Speedway.
NAPA, Best Western and the AARP, which last year signed a primary sponsorship with Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 car to promote its Drive To End Hunger campaign, are Speed’s other new associate partners for 2011 Speedweeks coverage. Goodyear also returns after several years as the presenting sponsor of the Daytona NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, which will be held this Friday.
In addition to new partners, Speed retained previous sponsors Geico, Gillette and Toyota.
Toyota plans to use Speed’s Speedweeks coverage to promote its third Sponsafier campaign. The online contest allows fans to submit a design for a car and then see that design featured on the pace car at an upcoming race. The promotion received 180,000 submissions in 2010, and Toyota is bringing it back this year. It plans to tease the campaign with 15-second spots on Speed and then reveal it with a 60-second spot during the Daytona 500.
It’s not about the production of the game or the sight lines at Cowboys Stadium, or anything like that. Those were fine.
It’s about hospitality. Network executives almost unanimously described Dallas as unprepared to host such a big event, particularly after the weather turned.
“The city just isn’t set up to entertain in a winter environment,” said one media executive, who asked not to be identified.
Networks use Super Bowl week to entertain clients that have financially supported league broadcasts. Fox, the host broadcaster, and ESPN each had hundreds of their best advertisers, vendors and cable/satellite operators in Dallas and Fort Worth. The NFL’s other network partners, CBS and NBC, entertained smaller contingents.
Their hospitality plans in Dallas and Fort Worth turned into a fiasco.
Dallas is shoveling out from criticism that it was unprepared to handle the Super Bowl.
There are two images that will stick with me for a long time because they illustrate the problems so well.
The first was when I landed on Thursday. Inside the airport terminal, I saw at least five executives toting golf clubs even though the city was suffering through subfreezing temperatures and ice-covered freeways.
The other image is from the next morning, when I woke up to five inches of snow on top of the ice that was already on the ground. I walked outside to see a hotel worker using a garden spade to clear the sidewalk. It would have been just as effective if he had used a broom.
These scenes show that while the NFL’s biggest clients were expecting a warm-weather event, the city was incapable of dealing with problems when the weather turned bad.
The complaints may seem petty, but when the league’s biggest clients aren’t happy, the NFL should take notice.
Fox had to cancel four days of golf outings and, instead, scrambled to send its hundreds of clients skeet shooting and bowling. They set some up at various spas.
That created a level of annoyance network executives didn’t have last year in Miami. It’s a level of annoyance they won’t have next year in Indianapolis, either. They’re not even thinking about golf in Indy or New York, which plays host to the Super Bowl in 2014. They’re expecting cold weather in those markets, and they’re confident those cities will handle cold and snow better than Dallas.
Hospitality fits the weather. In Detroit in 2006, for example, ESPN rented out stadiums to play basketball and showed premieres of Disney movies. Its activities were indoors.
This year, ESPN had rented out the golf course at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth for a corporate outing on Saturday. The snow and ice made playing impossible. Still, they made due. Golf course employees wound up putting heat lamps on the driving range, melting snow on the tee and letting ESPN’s clients hit balls into snow banks.
That’s hardly a corporate event worthy of the Super Bowl.
Media executives also complained about how spread out the Dallas-Fort Worth area is, distances made much longer by the poor road conditions.
ESPN was based in Fort Worth, and the NFL office for the game was in Dallas. Yet some ESPN executives never made it to Dallas for meetings because of the distance and conditions.
Fox hosted hospitality at two Dallas hotels that were just three miles apart, but trying to get from one to the other, given the snow and ice on top of a taxicab strike, took much longer than anyone expected.
Media and sponsor executives aren’t involved in picking the Super Bowl city. Given the amount of money they provide to the league, though, it’s clear they hold sway with the owners who do pick the sites.
My bet is that Dallas doesn’t see another Super Bowl for at least a decade.
John Ourand can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Ourand_SBJ.