SBJ/June 6-12, 2011/Media

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  • ESPN rolls out Women's World Cup promos

    The 30-second television spots show footage of the U.S. women’s team practicing. They are the top-seeded team in the Women’s World Cup.
    ESPN will break its Women’s World Cup marketing campaign today with a series of spots highlighting the U.S. team’s biggest stars.

    Under the tag line “Eleven vs. the World,” ESPN’s initial campaign will run through June 22, just four days before the tournament starts. Afterward, ESPN’s World Cup messaging will revolve around tune-in campaigns for specific games.

    Wieden & Kennedy, N.Y., developed the spots. ESPN would not disclose how much the campaigns cost, saying that they are similar in size and scope to the marketing campaigns around the NBA playoffs. In addition to the 30-second television spots, ESPN is planning a multiplatform effort with print and digital outlets.

    “This campaign was designed to build awareness and create excitement,” said Aaron Taylor, vice president of marketing for ESPN. “We want to expose our fans to the No. 1 team in the world and show that they have great expectations and great challenges.”

    The campaign aims to fill in the blanks between the 1999 World Cup winning team, best known for Brandi Chastain’s tournament-winning penalty kick, and this year’s group, which is entering the tournament as the top-seeded team. In fact, Chastain’s goal, and her ensuing midriff-baring celebration, is featured in all four 30-second spots viewed by SportsBusiness Journal.

    The campaign will run through June 22, just four days before the start of the tournament.
    “That was an iconic moment in American soccer, not just women’s soccer,” Taylor said.

    The campaign’s first two spots feature a voice-over that says, “It’s been over a decade since the U.S. has won the World Cup.” Later in each commercial, the voice-over says, “Now this U.S. team is poised to change that story. Their plan is simple: Beat everyone.”

    Both spots show footage of the U.S. team practicing. One voice-over talks about how the
    U.S. has never won a World Cup in Europe.

    The next two spots show goals from past World Cup games. One ends with the on-screen message: “Any team can. Only one will.” Another ends with the on-screen message: “History can’t predict the future. Eleven vs. the world.”

    The campaign features the entire team, but highlights two U.S. players in particular: Abby Wambach and Hope Solo.
    The campaign also hopes to educate viewers about other teams and other stars, including Brazil’s Marta and Germany’s Birgit Prinz.

    ESPN plans to show all of the tournament’s 32 games live on ESPN and ESPN2. They also will be simulcast on ESPN3 and available online through ESPNnetworks.com and via mobile on the WatchESPN app.

    All telecasts will have on-site commentators and pregame, postgame and halftime studio shows.

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  • MLB Network welcomes draft's uncertainty

    GETTY IMAGES
    Commissioner Bud Selig spoke during last year’s MLB draft at MLB Network’s Studio 42.
    With no bona fide standout candidate in this year’s MLB draft, which starts tonight, MLB Network executives think they have received an additional level of suspense to the event.

    MLB Network is televising the draft for the third time from its Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J., after an initial run on ESPN2. Unlike the past two MLB drafts, led by the Washington Nationals’ selections of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, respectively, there is no player already identified as the consensus top pick. The Pittsburgh Pirates hold the first selection in what is widely thought to be a historically deep talent pool this year, and as of last week were still evaluating several players.

    The Tampa Bay Rays, in part because of substantial player losses through free agency last winter, also have amassed 10 of the top 60 picks in the draft.

    “We’ve definitely picked up a layer of intrigue this year,” said John Entz, MLB Network senior vice president of production. “As a viewer, it’s pretty exciting to not know what’s going to happen right from the top. The draft is always full of last-minute changes, but since no one knows how this is even going to start, it unquestionably takes on more of a truly live feel.”

    GETTY IMAGES
    Bryce Harper was picked No. 1 by the Nationals last year, to no one’s surprise.
    While still not operating at the same stature and prominence as the NFL and NBA drafts, MLB’s draft continues to grow in importance as more teams commit greater resources to developing and retaining homegrown talent. As a result, MLB Network and sister entity MLB.com again have added programming elements in and around the draft.

    MLB Network will have expanded access into about 23 team draft rooms this year, and perhaps a few more, up from 20 last year. A one-hour preview show will precede the live coverage, and the network last week ran several draft preview segments.

    “We’re still learning, as before, there wasn’t really an established process on how you cover this event,” Entz said. “But we’ve figured out that it’s really a year-round effort to prepare and do it right.”

    MLB.com will run its own preview video and simulcast MLB Network’s live coverage of the first and supplemental draft rounds today, and then continue with exclusive live coverage of the second and third days of the draft. The site is reviving its DraftCaster, an interactive online application that includes scouting reports, video highlights and other data for every draft-eligible player.

    For the third consecutive year, the 30 MLB clubs will be represented tonight in Secaucus by a mix of former players, coaches and executives, including hall of famers Rod Carew, Roberto Alomar, Gaylord Perry and Jim Rice. A smaller group of those representatives; Joe Torre, MLB executive vice president of baseball operations; and MLB Network talent was scheduled to ring the opening bell this morning at the Nasdaq Stock Market.

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  • Three media issues we’ll be watching at the Cable Show

    John Ourand
    The top three sports media topics that should be most closely followed at next week’s Cable Show in Chicago (June 14-16) are:

    TV EVERYWHERE

    When reporting this week’s story about the rising cost of sports rights (see Page 1), I was prepared for sports executives to say that more competition among TV channels is a main reason prices are going so high. It was also no surprise that executives would talk about higher ratings for live events — particularly sports — as another contributing factor.

    What wasn’t expected, however, was that executives would bring up TV Everywhere as a reason for the increases. But almost every executive interviewed for the story cited the concept of being able to watch live sports from any device: linear TV, broadband or mobile.

    The debate over whether TV Everywhere is the right concept for broadband and mobile video has ended. The TV Everywhere concept is coming. The idea that sports properties can sell linear TV rights on their own, without a digital component, seems archaic.

    When asked to identify ESPN’s last linear, TV-only deal, ESPN’s Sean Bratches said: “It was well before the current management regime was in place.”

    Not so long ago, cable operators viewed Internet video as a threat, especially as some broadcast and cable networks were making their programming available online. But TV Everywhere cuts cable operators into the action and protects the carriage fees networks like ESPN are getting. Because they have to be viewed live, sports are driving the TV Everywhere concept, allowing fans to watch games live on any device wherever they may be.

    “People are realizing that in order to maintain the important revenues that come from traditional television distribution but still to capitalize on the new media opportunities and to service fans … a TV Everywhere solution makes a lot of sense,” said the NBA’s Bill Koenig.

    THE OLYMPICS

    The cable industry really doesn’t care how much the winning network pays for Olympic rights this week. Cable operators do care about who wins, though.

    Since the mid-1990s, NBC has used Olympic rights to drive distribution and carriage fees for its cable networks. Every four years, cable operators would gripe about having to pay the “Olympic surcharges” that NBC would attach to its cable channels. It’s no coincidence that NBC now has four cable channels that are fully distributed, and those four cable channels have carried Olympic content in the past (USA, CNBC, MSNBC and Bravo).

    If NBC wins the bid, what will happen to a channel like Versus, which has been stuck in around 75 million homes for the past year? What would the fact that golf is coming as an Olympic sport mean for Golf Channel, which is in 83 million homes? These are questions cable operators will be asking.

    If Fox wins the bid, expect channels like Fuel (currently in 31 million homes) and Fox Soccer (39 million) to carry some of the Olympic action, which certainly will drive distribution of those channels.

    An ESPN win could drive distribution for some of its cable channels, too. But ESPN would use Olympic programming to drive its TV Everywhere product, which has deals with Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Verizon. It also will push for added distribution of its 3-D channel. Look at how ESPN used the FIFA World Cup to expand distribution of ESPN3 as a blueprint.

    The winning bid should be announced about a week before the convention. I expect cable operator gripes to come shortly afterward.

    TIME WARNER CABLE SPORTS

    I expect David Rone to be one of the most sought after cable executives in Chicago next week. Last month, Rone was hired as president of TWC Sports, a newly created division within Time Warner Cable. His appointment is a sign that Time Warner Cable wants to be active in acquiring sports rights, like it did with the Los Angeles Lakers in February. Just how serious the MSO plans to be — and what model it plans to follow — are questions programmers and distributors alike will have for the former CAA Sports executive.

    John Ourand can be reached at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.

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  • Wimbledon media rights drawing interest

    A potential bidding war is developing for Wimbledon’s media rights, with NBC/Versus, ESPN, Tennis Channel and Fox expressing some interest.

    Wimbledon’s rights deals with NBC and Tennis Channel end after next month’s tournament. The tournament’s deal with ESPN runs for two more years, ending after the 2013 tournament.

    GETTY IMAGES
    Wimbledon’s rights deals with NBC and Tennis Channel end after next month’s tournament.
    NBC’s current four-year deal averages out to $13 million per year. It’s not known how much the All England Club is seeking in the new deal.

    Tennis Channel’s rights appear to be most at risk. Tennis Channel holds a secondary cable package that gives it an exclusive prime-time window to re-air matches that occur earlier in the day. On occasion, Tennis Channel has shown some live matches during the past several years when ESPN did not have the shelf space to carry them all.

    NBC is seeking to pick up that package for Versus, believing that it would be easier to share content between the two Comcast-owned channels. Such a move would position Versus as more of a legitimate competitor when ESPN’s package is available.

    NBC Sports President Ken Schanzer is handling the NBC negotiations. Schanzer announced his retirement May 26 but has told Comcast that he would stick around through the summer, in part, to close the network’s Wimbledon negotiations.

    NBC has drawn fire for its strategy of showing many Wimbledon matches on tape delay. Sources said any new broadcast contract would mandate that matches be carried live and in-progress.

    ESPN has been making noise about trying to pick up NBC’s package and move it to cable.

    Last week, ESPN signed a four-year deal for the Australian Open and French Open. It will cover the finals of the Australian and through the women’s semifinals of the French.

    Fox has not carried professional tennis before on its broadcast network. Its executives have looked into crafting a deal, but any deal with Fox would be considered a long shot.

    Staff writer Daniel Kaplan contributed to this report.


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