SBJ/May 8-14, 2017/Media

Stadium adds round-the-clock component to over-the-air sports

Stadium combines assets from 120 Sports, Campus Insiders and American Sports Network.
The forthcoming debut of Stadium, the multiplatform national network formed by merging assets from Sinclair Broadcast Group, 120 Sports and Silver Chalice’s Campus Insiders, represents a sizable boost in the amount of live sports content available both on over-the-air television and on Twitter.

The unusual alliance was quietly announced last month prior to the Easter holiday and involved the Baltimore-based broadcaster, the Chicago White Sox-owned Silver Chalice, and 120 Sports’ collection of owners that include Silver Chalice, Time Inc. and several pro sports leagues.

Stadium will be the new brand name for not only Sinclair’s 3-year-old American Sports Network but also 120 Sports, which also debuted in 2014, and Campus Insiders. The venture will collectively offer more than 3,000 live college events per year, along with pro and college game highlights, archival content and studio programming.

When Stadium makes its scheduled debut this summer, its 24-hour feed will particularly target over-the-air broadcast TV and Twitter that both have been homes for live games and appointment-based content but not round-the-clock sports programming.

“We think there’s a sizable space for us to play in and that the [over-the-air TV] area is completely under-addressed for sports,” said Scott Shapiro, Sinclair Broadcast Group vice president of corporate development. “There are a lot of competitors out there that are primarily cable plays, but this is going to be freely available to anyone with a digital antenna.”

Nearly 15 million U.S. homes rely exclusively on over-the-air broadcast signals for TV service, according to Nielsen, with other research suggesting even higher numbers. That population continues to grow as cord cutters, cord shavers and cord nevers become more common. The Consumer Technology Association said sales of TV antennas are rising about 9 percent per year and neared 8 million units alone in 2016.

The American Sports Network reaches about 40 percent of U.S. TV households through Sinclair’s station holdings around the country, and Stadium will also be available through a series of as-yet-undisclosed cable and satellite distributors.

The new brand name of Stadium for the network was disclosed last week during Twitter’s first NewFronts presentation in New York. And for Twitter, the creation of Stadium and its continual programming represent a significant step forward from a growing series of live pro games and scheduled programs shown on the social media platform. The constant stream of Stadium on Twitter will represent a key digital component of the network.

“We’re taking premium, professional, TV-quality video and pairing it with the speed, the interactivity and the access of Twitter,” said Matt Derella, Twitter vice president of global revenue and operations.

The deal to create Stadium ends months of industry rumors of financial distress and even possible shutdowns for both the American Sports Network and 120 Sports. Prior collaborations between Silver Chalice’s Campus Insiders and American Sports Network on efforts such as college bowl game broadcasts formed part of the basis for the larger deal.

“Over the past six to nine months, it became evident that we were really on the same page and that there was a much bigger opportunity to chase down,” Shapiro said. “By relaunching the linear and digital components as a unified, all-platform brand, we each gain things we didn’t have before.”

Financial components of the deal were not disclosed, but Sinclair, Silver Chalice and the other 120 Sports investors will each be equity stakeholders in Stadium. None of the individual partners holds a majority position.

Additional details for Stadium, including specific programming, programming schedules, launch sponsors, additional distribution partners and staffing are expected in the coming weeks. Silver Chalice will take a lead role in the programming for Stadium out of its Chicago headquarters, and company vice chairman and 120 Sports President Jason Coyle will lead day-to-day operations for the new venture. Silver Chalice declined to comment.

Given the varied provisions of rights agreements of the content coming into Stadium, there likely will be some differences between what is available on TV and what will be shown digitally. Campus Insiders holds relationships with Conference USA, the Mountain West Conference, West Coast Conference and Patriot League. American Sports Network’s college alignments include the American Athletic, Atlantic 10, Big South, Western Athletic and Sun Belt conferences, among several others, and it holds its own relationship with Conference USA.


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