Pistons challenge fans to virtual game USA Swimming appeals to listmakers People: Executive transactions From the Field of Management Earnhardt open to career in broadcasting Yormark, Cooper form naming-rights venture Faces and Places Cartoon: The real winner The Sit-Down: Felix Palau, Tecate Skipper: There’s no liberal bias at ESPN
SBJ/August 15-21, 2011/MediaPrint All
The San Francisco 49ers are using a new tablet-based ticket and suite sales product developed by multimedia company Channel 1 Media Solutions that digitizes the marketing and contract processes.
The 49ers’ tablet presentation includes high-end digital brochures, simulated views from the team’s proposed new stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., seat manifests and contract documents. Purchasers sign for their seats right on the tablet using a stylus, rendering the whole process paperless.
Sales representatives for the 49ers and partner Legends Premium Sales have used the tablet product for their suite sales for the new stadium, and are looking to branch out to club and general ticket sales next year.
CHANNEL 1 MEDIA SOLUTIONS
The system from Channel 1 Media Solutions provides electronic documents ready to sign.
“Going out with traditional paper pieces of sales collateral or a standard PowerPoint presentation just didn’t have the ‘wow’ factor, particularly in this market where seemingly everybody has got a tablet of their own of some sort,” Guido said.
Development of the 49ers’ tablet-based sales product began in June over drinks at the Association of Luxury Suite Directors conference in Los Angeles. It is designed to run on any of the major platforms, including Apple’s iOS and Android.
Legends and 49ers executives declined to outline how many suite sales have been closed using the tablet product. But overall, more than $150 million in suite revenue has been generated in presales, even before final approval and financing for the stadium have been secured. Having the immediacy of electronic documents ready to sign has also been useful in closing sales with buyers who may have wavered otherwise, Guido said.
The deal continues a strong run for Toronto-based Channel 1, which now counts 100 major league sports teams as clients, for projects including website development, electronic brochures and DVD production. “We’ve quietly built up a lot of momentum,” said Channel 1 President Evan Karasick.
The ACC is starting to use technology to help TV stations access conference highlights and press conferences more easily.
Denver-based Thought Equity Motion is supplying the Web-based platform that will enable local stations to get more timely ACC video content. The technology will replace the old method of sending out press conference interviews and highlights via satellite feed.
“The world of local and national news has changed so much, and we’re trying to do a better job of serving the needs of those stations,” said Scott McBurney, the ACC’s assistant commissioner of advanced media. “We’ve relied on the traditional satellite feed for as long as I can remember, and this will change the dynamic of how we get our message out to media outlets.”
McBurney said TV stations in the ACC’s footprint don’t travel to events as frequently as they used to, and, like newspapers, they have lost resources and suffered staff cutbacks. But it remains vitally important for the conference to have its highlights, interviews and information on those nightly sportscasts.
The content will be available to those outlets in both high definition and standard definition.
The old method of distributing the content via satellite feed was slow and cumbersome. The satellite feed was available only once a week, and it dumped a huge amount of content — sometimes 45 minutes or more — that wasn’t tagged.
As the ACC moves to Thought Equity’s password-protected system, which is similar to retrieving video or photos from an FTP site, highlights and interviews will be broken into smaller segments that can be previewed through a Web browser before being downloaded. The local stations typically use this content to preview games.
The ACC also will be able to update its offering more often rather than making it available once a week. “The end result will hopefully be that it’s used more frequently and in more abundance,” McBurney said.
The ACC’s headquarters and its 12 member schools expect to save money because they won’t be shipping videotapes back and forth to each other. The video service is provided for the media at no cost, but the ACC did not say what the cost would be to Thought Equity — an amount the conference ultimately will pick up.
The conference also anticipates using Thought Equity’s technology to distribute content during the basketball season and for the conference’s championship events in Olympic sports, something it rarely did when it relied on the satellite feed.
“By having access to the ACC’s archives and our ability to quickly digitize it, it opens up a bunch of uses like this,” said Dan Weiner, Thought Equity’s vice president for marketing and products.
The new site is expected to be up and running this week.
ESPN will debut a new studio set for “Baseball Tonight” tonight, marking the first time the network has built a permanent set on its campus solely devoted to one sport.
JOE FARAONI / ESPN
The new studio set is the first
of its kind at ESPN.
For the last six months, ESPN has been building a 5,000-square-foot studio on its Bristol, Conn., campus that will be much more spacious than the show’s current studio. Housed in Studio A, which opened in 1995, ESPN executives compared it in size to ESPN’s “SportsCenter” studio.
The set will have a Camden Yards feel — “brick, stone and mortar,” said Noubar Stone, senior creative director for ESPN’s creative services department. It will have 19 40-inch LCD monitors and seven 70-inch vertical ones. Each of these screens can be fed separate video streams.
One feature sure to get a lot of play will be a raised pitcher’s mound. Stone suggested that the added space and life-sized mound will allow ESPN’s baseball analysts to be more comfortable giving on-camera demonstrations. The set can hold as many as four people who are on the air.
ESPN plans to launch up to a dozen college-specific websites by the end of the year that will focus on high-school recruiting.
The first two sites will target BCS powerhouses the University of Southern California and the University of Texas. ESPN hopes to add four more sites by early fall, and plans to end the year with as many as 12.
The sites mainly will focus on basketball and football recruiting news at the schools, niche content often outside the scope of mainstream sports outlets.
The move appears to be a direct competitive challenge to Yahoo!-owned Rivals and 24/7 Sports, both market leaders
in the area. Like those established sites, much of ESPN’s recruiting offerings will be behind a pay wall available to its premium Insider subscribers as the content targets highly avid fans and will be primarily monetized through a subscriber-based model.
ESPN, though, plans to make some bigger stories available for free on its various sites, from its local pages to ESPN.com.
ESPN executives played down competition with sites like Rivals and 24/7 Sports, saying its plans represent an extension of its local online strategy, which in the past two-plus years has seen the company launch market-specific local sites in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and New York. The first site launches will occur in areas where ESPN already has launched local sites: USC (ESPN Los Angeles) and Texas (ESPN Dallas).
ESPN’s local strategy also led to the “Heat Index,” when the media company embedded a team of reporters last season to cover the Miami Heat. Two “Heat Index” columnists, Michael Wallace and Brian Windhorst, were the two most-read columnists on ESPN.com’s NBA section for the year. ESPN executives believe those stats show that even the most local stories can become popular nationally.
The college website launches also represent an extension of ESPN’s recruiting business, which started in 2006 with the acquisition of Scouts Inc.
“The tipping point was the ‘Heat Index’ that we launched last year,” said Patrick Stiegman, ESPN.com’s vice president and editor-in-chief. “We’re in this for the long haul. We’re not going zero to 60. This will evolve over the course of the next two or three years.”
Shannon Terry, founder and president of 24/7 Sports and a key executive leading Rivals.com to its $98 million sale to Yahoo! in 2007, said ESPN’s brand power will undoubtedly attract an audience. But he added the company will face a stiff challenge within the recruiting space.
“They’ve been planning for this for at least a couple of years,” said Terry. “And leveraging off the local sites, which have been really successful for them, is a smart play. But I don’t know what they can offer that’s different from what’s already being done. … It can be more difficult for big companies to build highly specialized products like this and be as laser-focused.”
In most cases, ESPN plans to hire local writers and editors to staff the new sites. It is planning to move an ESPN.com editor from its Bristol, Conn., headquarters to Texas and has made offers to up to three Texas-based reporters. ESPN would not identify the reporters, since the deals haven’t been finalized.
But at USC, ESPN is partnering with the local site WeAreSC.com, which already has a staff in place. The WeAreSC.com website already describes itself as “an ESPN affiliate.”
Stiegman said ESPN will hire editors and reporters to staff new sites, rather than partnering or acquiring existing sites.
In deciding where to launch college sites, ESPN also will look into alumni population, interest level and available talent, Stiegman said.
The sites will be independent of the schools; ESPN will not need to obtain rights to launch these sites. But Stiegman said it’s important for ESPN to maintain good relationships with the schools it covers.
Stiegman said the sites will feature news, video and message boards. He doesn’t foresee any problems of the sort that have affected Longhorn Network, which has been criticized for plans to show high-school games.
“The high school coverage and video coverage we will include will be entirely independent of what happens with Longhorn Network,” he said. “We will be an independent voice covering the team.”
MLB.com generated 51 percent of its total traffic in July from mobile devices, the first time the site and perhaps any other major online sports destination has gained more than half of its overall traffic from mobile.
The total, compiled from internal MLB Advanced Media data, is a sharp jump from the 37 percent of typical monthly traffic MLB.com derived from mobile devices last year, and the figure was just 8 percent in 2008. But the rapid proliferation of smartphones and tablets, MLB Advanced Media’s strong presence in iTunes, and baseball’s flow of daily games has led the site to cross the 50 percent threshold at least several months ahead of internal projections.
“The trendline is irreversible,” said Bob Bowman, MLBAM president and chief executive. “More and more, mobile is how our fans want to consume our content.”
ESPN, arguably MLB.com’s biggest rival in terms of wireless sports content, in recent months has gained about 76 percent of its traffic from the wired Internet and 24 percent from the mobile Web and its battery of mobile applications, according to its internal data.
Bowman said the shift is somewhat bittersweet: Broadband Internet traffic is now the minority share for MLB.com just as it gets a better handle on metrics there. MLBAM, like other major sports sites, has been working with comScore Media Metrix in recent months on new measurement technologies to supplement traditional panel-based methods.
As a result, MLB.com traffic in comScore’s sports ranking for July was 17.4 million unique visitors, up sharply from 12.1 million in July 2010 and less than 10 million in several other recent months. July’s comScore numbers were the first published using the new methodologies. But privately, active work on the issue between MLBAM and comScore has been happening for several months, and during April, May and June, the new comScore measurement methods yielded an average 81 percent increase in monthly uniques.
The change is expected to help boost MLBAM’s ad sales business.
“It’s definitely more accurate now, and it is helpful as it relates to our ad business, perhaps for the postseason, and certainly for next year,” Bowman said.
Third-party mobile traffic measurement is much more unsettled. In particular, many of the tracking technologies used for broadband have been shown to slow the delivery of mobile content to unacceptable levels.
Outside industry executives were not surprised by MLBAM gaining a majority of its traffic from mobile, and called the shift historic.
“There’s very soon going to come a point, if we’re not already there, that what you choose to do in mobile, as a property or publisher, is more important than your core website,” said Tom Richardson, president of industry consultancy Convergence Sports & Media LLC.
PrestoSports, a small technology company that runs athletic websites for mid-major universities and small colleges, is coming out with a new stats program that it will offer free to its school clients.
Presto is trying to take on CBS-owned Stat Crew, which dominates the market with more than 1,000 college clients and 100 conferences. But Maryland-based Presto knows the underdog role well, having carved out a space in the athletic website business, where the CBSSports.com College Network and NeuLion own most of the market.
Presto’s angle with its athletic website business is low cost, and it will take a similar approach this month as it starts pushing its new stats software for free.
Stat Crew, which is coming out with a new Windows-based version this year, charges $400 to $565 per year for each sport. The Presto product will run on most operating systems, including Windows, Macs and iPads. It initially is introducing software for soccer, field hockey, ice hockey and lacrosse, to be followed next year by football, basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball.
“We’re a small, innovative company trying to get into the market, and we’re prepared to offer it for free,” said Serge Knystautas, Presto’s founder and CEO.
Schools use this software to compile stats during the course of competition for media outlets, scoreboards, in-arena and in-stadium feeds, and real-time game trackers on the Web.
Knystautas said he’s willing to give away the stats software as a way of getting Presto’s foot in the door for its other services, such as it athletic website business.
Presto’s website clients include mostly lower-level NCAA Division I schools, as well as Division II and III schools that can’t afford to spend tens of thousands on their websites.