• Faces in the Crowd: Morning Networking

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    Here are some of the people we spotted networking at #sbjsmt. Click any image to start the slide show.

    Tags: CES, ING, GE
  • SMT Panel: Sports media headlines of the day

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    Perspectives from the Top

    Bill Daly, NHL
    Lenny Daniels, Turner Sports
    Paul Fichtenbaum, Time Inc.
    Brian Rolapp, NFL Media

    The latest developments, trends and technologies that affect sports media was the main topic of during an opening panel of the ’13 Covington & Burling Sports Media & Technology conference this morning. On the heels of a conference interview with Twitter COO Ali Rowhani, NFL Media COO Brian Rolapp discussed the league’s recent deal with the microblogging platform and said the collaboration “creates an immediacy and a scale,” and that Twitter has a “monetization model that fits well with ours.” Time Inc. Sports Group Editor Paul Fichtenbaum said of possible pitfalls with Twitter, “It has taken a little bit of accountability out of sports reporting.” Turner Sports Exec VP & COO Lenny Daniels said the company has put old Lakers games on NBA TV, with Kobe Bryant live-tweeting the game, and “all of a sudden there is interest in a game that happened 10 years ago.”

    Hot topics:

    TECH COMPANIES BIDDING FOR RIGHTS? Rolapp said companies like Google or Apple are “so flush with cash they can do whatever they want. It’s really a question about developing a model that works for them. We haven't seen that yet.” Daniels said many of these tech companies work because they are “hyperfocused on what they do.” Daniels: “There would really need to be a shift at these companies to where they feel they needed to be a media company. I just don't know that it is in their DNA.”

    NEW WAYS TO CONNECT WITH FANS: NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said the league is now serving fans “in ways they never had been able to before,” including player tracking technologies on NHL.com.

    ANOTHER THURSDAY NIGHT NFL PACKAGE? Rolapp said there is “no timetable.” Rolapp: “Nothing is off the table. ... I don’t think it’s eons off, but it’s more in the near future.”

    MOBILE USAGE, MONETIZATION: Fichtenbaum said a recent surprise has been that people are “reading long form” more on mobile, with about 51% of those types of stories being consumed via mobile devices. Fichtenbaum: “The level of engagement was really off the charts for some stories that I never would have thought would have worked very well on mobile.” Daniels said mobile monetization “will take time for people to figure out.” Fichtenbaum: “It depends on the content as to whether it will be a moneymaker. A subscription model can work.”

    Rolapp said that “if you don’t have a wired stadium, if you don't have an information highway where people can get this content, it’s irrelevant. But first, it would be nice if you could just make a call or send a text. You have to start there. It requires short-term action if you’re going to get ahead.”

    Rolapp feels there was “a lot of information swirling around, some informed, some not. … The facts are not out yet and you have a lot of opinion and commentating.”

    Daniels and Fichtenbaum both said NCAA reforms. Daly said the conclusion of the NHL’s Canadian TV rights deals. Rolapp said the story to watch is more consolidation in pay TV.

    Tags: Media, NHL, Turner Sports, NBA, NFL, Twitter, NBA TV, Google, Apple
  • Twitter COO Ali Rowghani on the company's IPO, new opportunities and sports media

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    Rowghani: "We feel that the pressure of being a public company will make us better."

    When its IPO was launched, there was something noticeably different about Twitter headquarters in San Francisco. “We had basically the entire workforce — about 1,000 employees — all showing up at 6 in the morning,” said Twitter COO Ali Rowghani during Wednesday morning’s second featured interview at the 2013 Covington & Burling Sports Media & Technology conference. “Our engineers often come in after 10 a.m. That was the only thing that felt different. Otherwise, internally at Twitter, you would be surprised at how it was business as usual.”

    Rowghani said there was a reason for that. “It sort of speaks to the ideology of the company,” he said of the staff-wide reaction. “We see the IPO not as an end, but as a means to an end.” Rowghani insisted that the IPO, with the mandate of quarterly reporting, is a positive for the creative output of Twitter. “There’s no place to hide,” he said. “We feel that the pressure of being a public company will make us better. It’s a quarter-to-quarter challenge for management to keep its eye on the long term. It comes down to our discipline as a management team, how we manage for the long term and not get too caught up in a short-term vision.”

    Quick hits:
    On what Twitter can do better: “I think that we can make Twitter easier. It’s amazing to me that the hashtag is essentially a mainstream notion. The hashtag was invented by a Twitter user to help make sense of it all. Now you can't watch 'SportsCenter' without the anchor saying the word 'hashtag' multiple times. It's like 'www' 20 years ago. Having said that, there's a jargon and syntax that makes Twitter difficult and too inaccessible for a mainstream audience. We want to make that easier.”

    On one of Twitter’s new developments: “We announced a set of rules to allow any publisher to pick the best tweets of any given subject, from the best cat jokes on Twitter to the best content about the typhoon in the Philippines — from something mundane and trivial to something very important. You can put the best content in a custom timeline and put that timeline anywhere you want — on a website, on a mobile app, wherever. One of the challenges of Twitter is that it’s just a torrent of content. This is a more curated, more organized experience. Twitter doesn’t want to be in the business of curating content. Our role is not an editorial one. We want to create tools that help people curate their content.”

    Why Twitter stands out in social media: “The space has gotten very competitive, and I’m sure it will continue to. We are the only platform that’s the combination of being live, public, conversational and publicly distributed. No one else has those four things. You have to make that differentiation valuable to your consumers.”

    Tags: Twitter, Media, ING, Ally, SEC, GE, ACC, CES, Audi
  • DirecTV CEO Michael White talks Sunday Ticket, SEC Network and the sports media landscape

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    White, on making a new deal for Sunday Ticket: “We’re talking lots of money here, so these things take time.”

    Michael White is well aware of the image that comes to fans’ minds when they think of DirecTV in 2013: Peyton and Eli Manning in wigs, rapping to a hip-hop beat, touting “Football on your phone.”

    Before the featured interview that kicked off the ’13 Covington & Burling Sports Media & Technology conference, the chairman, president and CEO of DirecTV took the stage while the beloved spot featuring the Manning brothers played on two big screens. “They’re both incredible athletes, but they’re great to work with,” White said of the Mannings. “They really got into it. They picked out the clothes and the wigs. It re-enforced our new message — about our mobile.”

    Of course, what everyone wanted was an update on negotiations between DirecTV and the NFL for future seasons of Sunday Ticket. “We’re talking lots of money here, so these things take time,” said White. “I’m optimistic that we'll get an exclusive deal done. There are always complications with a deal of this size, like with digital rights. We’re a good partner. We want to continue to build the franchise.”

    White explained why the NFL-DirecTV relationship is a mutually-beneficial partnership. “We’ve got two million subscribers that pay for Sunday Ticket, so that’s good for the NFL,” said White. “The highest-rated content of any kind these days is sports. Being linked with the NFL differentiates us from the rest of the competition.”

    Quick hits:
    On DirecTV’s surcharge for certain, large regional sports networks charging more than $7 a month: “We only put it on 15 percent of the country. This is one of those things where our industry is screwed up. You look at some of these mega-markets and it’s a big number on the bill. We had to pass it through to pay for the rising cost of sports in those geographies, so we charged something like $2. The money has to come from somewhere. Ultimately, it comes from the customer.”

    On where DirecTV is seeing an increase in customers: “We’re growing aggressively in Latin America. We’re growing internationally.”

    On negotiations with SEC: “We haven’t started to look at it yet.” Referring to fans in other parts of the U. S. who are not the slightest bit interested in the conference, White said, “One of the issues will be, who am I taxing?”

    On cord-cutting by consumers: “It’s a changing world out there, but so far, I don't see a significant trend in cord-cutting.” Still, pointing to the continued struggling economy, White added, “There are some significant consequences down the road that we better think about.”

    On how DirecTV’s negotiations have changed with sports leagues: “We’re looking at ratings and we're assessing their value. It’s a much more data-based negotiation than it has been. You have to try to understand, What can the consumer bear? Every now and then, you have to take a tough stand.”

    On the rising cost of sports rights and, ultimately, the cost for consumers: “I have to speak on behalf of our 20 million households that aren’t happy with their bills right now. Our average bill is $100 a month, and there are a lot of people who cannot afford that bill. There is no easy answer. Ratings in sports have never been higher. But the cost of sports is up. The challenge for us as a distributor is that we have to pass that through. I can’t cover that. That’s the real challenge for us in the industry.”

    “Sports is best when it appeals to everyone.”

    Tags: DirecTV, Media, NFL
  • Highlight Reel: Top execs on how sports sponsorships have changed in recent years

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    How have sports sponsorships changed in the last few years? 2013 Sports Marketing Symposium sponsor CSE put that question to executives at this year's conference, including NBC's Mark Lazarus, MediaLink's Michael Kassan, the NBA's Emilio Collins and CSE's Adam Zimmerman. Click the video player for highlights of the interviews conducted by CSE's Laura Rea.

    Tags: OTG Video, In The Studio
  • TV Timeout: Handle With Care

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    ESPN's Keyshawn Johnson said, "I like the way that Stephen Ross is handling the situation because he can't say too much and I also like the way (NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith) is handling the situation. … They have to let due process take place, but at the end of the day, I think there will be some serious consequences on both sides, both from the NFLPA (and the Dolphins)" ("Monday Night Countdown," ESPN, 11/11).

    CHILDS’ PLAY: FS1’s Trevor Pryce: “The locker room is a place that we’re not going to have much change because we are grown men paid to behave like children. You should not be playing any game once you become 18 or 21-years-old. You're done playing games, you're a grown-up” (“Crowd Goes Wild,” FS1, 11/11).

    : ESPN's Bomani Jones said the "more we make this about Richie Incognito, the more we ignore the big issue and something that's much larger with the Miami Dolphins from the general manager on down.” He added, “This seems to be an institutional issue" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 11/11).

    HELPING HAND: PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said of Birdies for the Brave, a military outreach initiative supported by the PGA Tour, “Our job is not to provide the services, our job is to raise resources" (“Golf Central,” Golf Channel, 11/11).

    NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Former MLBer Tom Glavine said of the Braves’ plans for a stadium in Cobb County for ’17, “Atlanta is growing. Everything is going north, so much of the fan base is up that way and I think it makes sense” (WXIA-NBC, 11/11).

    END OF DAYS: Cobb County Commission Chairman John Eaves, on the Braves’ proposed new stadium: “Hopefully, there can be enough community backlash and some potential second-guessing by the Braves, but I think that to me, Atlanta has been the Braves and the Braves have been Atlanta in terms of the renaissance of this city going back to the 1960’s and so why abandon us now?” (WSB-ABC, 11/11).

  • TV Timeout: In Poor Spirit

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    CBSSN’s Adam Schein, on Spirit Airlines’ “Don’t be bullied by high fares” ad campaign: “It’s distasteful, any time you’re going to capitalize on something that’s so insensitive and a racial slur; that’s beyond poor taste, that’s unacceptable” (“That Other Pregame Show,” CBSSN, 11/10).

    PARTING WAYS: RCR Owner Richard Childress, on Kevin Harvick, who won yesterday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup AdvoCare 500 and is leaving RCR for Stewart-Haas Racing in ‘14: “We’ve got a real good understanding between us and we’re looking forward to Homestead and Vegas. … It’s one of those bittersweet deals. You hate to see him go, but you’ve got to be looking forward to next year too.” (“NASCAR Now,” ESPN2, 11/10).

    BLAME GAME: N.Y. Daily News columnist Mike Lupica, said of the Dolphins’ bullying issue, “Blame the one who got harassed to the one doing the harassing. Blame the bully or try turning the bully into a victim as some people are trying to do. This is the latest version of Clarence Thomas versus Anita Hill, just with offensive lineman” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 11/10).

  • SBJ/SBD Podcast: The media landscape and ESPN

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    SBJ Podcast

    Media reporter John Ourand and Executive Editor Abraham Madkour discuss the media rights landscape, ESPN's dominance and upcoming topics for this week's SMT conference. Among the highlights:

    On the SMT conference: "I think it's going to have a different feel than the past several years."

    On the NBA's upcoming rights negotiations: "I think the NBA is sitting particularly pretty."

    On competition among sports networks: "ESPN is at a different level right now. Their ratings are right now about four times higher than the next highest, which is ESPN2."

    Tags: Media, ESPN, ING, NBA, SBJSBD Podcast
  • SBJ/SBD Podcast: Blackmun's contract renewal

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    SBJ Podcast:
    Tripp Mickle talks about the challenges Scott Blackmun faced, the job he has done and how his salary stacks up to the rest of the sports industry.

    Olympics writer Tripp Mickle and Assistant Managing Editor Tom Stinson discuss the USOC renewing Scott Blackmun's contract through the 2016 Rio Games, as well as the job Blackmun has done, the challenges he faced when he took over and how his salary doesn't seem to match up with comparable positions in the sports industry.

    Tags: Olympics, ING, USOC, NTRA, GE, SBJSBD Podcast
  • The NHL Shift: Numbers and notes, 11/8/2013

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    A look at the past week in the NHL and a glimpse at the week ahead.

    3: Franchises accounting for 16 of the 19 least-attended home games this season through last night’s games: Florida (with six), the New York Islanders (five) and Phoenix (five). The Panthers and Coyotes were purchased by new owners just before this season, while the Islanders are playing their final two seasons at outdated Nassau Coliseum before moving to Brooklyn in 2015.

    77: Number of consecutive sellouts for the Los Angeles Kings after last night’s game. The team has surpassed the Gretzky-era franchise record established between 1990 and 1992.

    Distance in miles from Toronto to Ottawa, which will be the relocation route for former Toronto FC vice president of business operations Paul Beirne, who will join the NHL Senators on Dec. 1 as the club’s executive vice president of ticketing. Beirne, 47, was Toronto FC’s first employee prior to the club’s launch in MLS in 2007. The Senators, who played at 101 percent capacity last season, are averaging almost 2,000 fewer fans per game so far this season.

    Photo by: TERRY LEFTON / STAFF
    The number of Stanley Cup popcorn makers sold by Pangea Brands since the start of the season. The product (MSRP: $99.99) received a nice pop this week when the Chicago Blackhawks presented one to President Obama during their visit to the White House.

    WEDNESDAY: NBCSN’s successful “Wednesday Night Rivalry” tentpole has Pittsburgh hosting Philadelphia. While the Penguins are a Cup contender and the Flyers are, um, fighting it so far this season, the battle should be good for ratings: Their Feb. 20 game last season drew 901,000 viewers, one of the best NHL numbers in the network’s history.

    Tags: On The Ground, Leagues and Governing Bodies, Media
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