• The NHL Shift: Numbers and notes, 11/15/2013

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


    “2 to 12”: That, according to a source, is new Sabres President of Hockey Operations Pat LaFontaine’s time frame, in terms of weeks, to hire the team’s next general manager. LaFontaine, the popular former Sabres player, was hired by owner Terry Pegula in a shake-up Wednesday that included the firing of GM Darcy Regier. LaFontaine, whose only team front office experience had been a six-week stay as an adviser to New York Islanders owner Charles Wang in 2006, is expected to be methodical in his approach. His first step will be asking for permission from other teams to interview their executives on his list of candidates. Why a maximum of 12 weeks? The two-week Olympic break begins Feb. 9, so 12 weeks gives the new general manager time to settle into the position before the NHL trade deadline on March 5.

    15: The number of franchises (from the league’s total of 30) that have played to 100 capacity six weeks into the 2013-14 regular season, through last night’s games. Maxing out tickets in the realigned Eastern Conference are Montreal, Detroit, Philadelphia, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Washington, Boston and the New York Rangers. In the West: Chicago, Calgary, Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Jose, Minnesota and Winnipeg.

    12 – 15 – 20 – 100: Those are some of the positive business metrics for the surging Phoenix Coyotes, who are off to a 13-4-3 start on the ice in the first season under the new ownership of George Gosbee, Anthony LeBlanc and their partners. The Coyotes signed a 12-year broadcast rights agreement this week with Fox Sports Arizona, on the heels of reaching a 15-year concessions deal with Levy Restaurants. According to LeBlanc, the team’s co-owner, president and CEO, ticket sales are up 20 percent, and suite sales are up almost 100 percent. “We’re also tracking towards having the best year in Coyotes history in corporate sponsorships,” LeBlanc said. “Now, of course we started from a lower number, but it’s going great.”

    8,620: The weight, in pounds, of the Minnesota Wild’s new Zamboni once it is filled with 277 gallons of water for ice-resurfacing. The Zamboni, unveiled this week, will be wrapped in advertising by Toyota, the club’s official automotive partner. Officially known as a Model 546, it’s the first new Zamboni purchased by the Wild since the club debuted with the Excel Energy Center in 2000.

    8: Start time for the first originally scheduled prime-time regular-season NHL game on NBC since NBC Sports re-acquired NHL rights in 2006. The Coors Light Stadium Series game from Soldier Field on Saturday, March 1, between the Blackhawks and Penguins was moved this week to NBC from NBC Sports Network, with game time set for 8 p.m. ET. (The 2011 Winter Classic aired in prime time on NBC, but that was after the game was postponed because of rain from its originally scheduled afternoon start.)


    MONDAY: Expect details on the NHL’s upcoming “24-7”-style access show to be divulged. The program, which will run on NBCSN and CBC, will spotlight players from their participation in the Coors Light Stadium Series through the Olympics (SportsBusiness Journal, Sept. 9-15).

    Tags: On The Ground, Leagues and Governing Bodies, Media, Franchises
  • SMT panel: Viewers Sound off to TV Execs

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    TV Focus Group

    Jed Drake, ESPN
    Perkins Miller, WWE
    Mike Mulvihill, Fox Sports

    During a unique panel at the Covington & Burling Sports Media & Technology conference, a small group of media execs were joined by a group of sports fans for a focus-group setting during which the fans outlined how they consume sports content. The fans described their experiences and shared opinions on a variety of content, including ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” and FS1’s “Fox Sports Live” show. The four fans, between the ages of 21 and 37, provided insights on content, viewing options, and which devices they use.
    ESPN Senior VP & Exec Producer Jed Drake responded to questions about how analysts are chosen and evaluated, saying, “There is no real science to this. It’s more art. The one thing with analysts is that they come from a world where performance is defined absolutely and positively by statistics and they go into a profession where there are no real statistics. … There is a fair bit of research and focus group work, but in the end, you have to go with your gut. What I generally tend to think is that the people entrusted with these decisions have made more right decisions than wrong ones over a period of time. That’s how we ended up with [“MNF” analyst] Jon Gruden. … And when you have the sort of natural magnetism that he has, I think that draws people in.”
    Fox Sports Senior VP/Programming & Research Mike Mulvihill, discussing the new talent hires for FS1 and FS2, said, “I think every property is different. You’re looking for something different in college basketball vs. UFC vs. baseball vs. a studio show. The studio shoes we have are pretty varied, and a person that makes sense for ‘Fox Football Daily’ might not make sense for ‘Crowd Goes Wild.’ In all cases, we’re looking for people who are dynamic, who are storytellers and can be informative and concise. They’ve got to be people that you want to hang out with. I think we can lose sight of the fact that people are inviting us into their homes. We’ve got to make sure we’re putting people into their living rooms that they would want to have in their own house.”
    The fans also gave their opinions on the proliferation of advanced stats being used in sports broadcasts, to which WWE Exec VP/Global Digital Media Perkins Miller jokingly said of the company’s “Monday Night Raw” program, “I can promise you a stat-free zone on Monday nights.”

    Tags: Media, People and Pop Culture, On The Ground
  • SMT Panel: How Disruptive Technology is Changing the Fan Experience

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    Changing the Fan Experience

    Noah Fischbach, NFL
    David Jurenka, Xbox Entertainment Studios
    Scott Rosenberg, Roku
    Gerard Waldron, Covington & Burling

    Focusing on the synergy between sports and emerging entertainment technology, the 2013 Covington & Burling Sports Media & Technology conference brought together execs from the property, technology and legal fields for panel entitled, “Disruptive Technologies: How Connected Platform Devices Are Changing The Fan Experience.”

    A major focus of the panel was the new deal between Microsoft and the NFL around the company’s Xbox One launch. Noah Fischbach, vice president of emerging products and technology with the NFL, said that having league apps on Xbox One at the outset is “additive” for the league. Fischbach: “The fantasy experience is a great example. You’ll now be able to watch your Sunday afternoon game on CBS or Fox and have your fantasy experience right there. … You won’t need to go get a second device. … For us, we think it’s going to be really interesting to see how much more people consume our content. … The Xbox One was built for this next generation and you can really do multiple things at once.”

    David Jurenka, vice president and executive producer at Xbox Entertainment Studios, on which live sports will be on Xbox One at its launch: “We’ll have the NFL and ESPN at the launch. … But we’ve also had UFC pay-per-view events over the last few years, as well as partnerships with the leagues — NBA, MLB and NHL with their out-of-market packages.

    Scott Rosenberg, Roku’s vice president of business development, content and services, on having most of the major pro leagues on the platform, said, “It’s a nice growing vertical for us. We’ve got great relationships with the leagues. Sports is a complex business, but it’s one that we continue to lean into more and more as we add league or sports news apps to the experience and bring networks on.”

    Rosenberg, on the need to improve network architecture, “We’ve broken service providers around live events because they didn’t anticipate demand. But that is mostly a failure to plan.” Jurenka: “That certainly happened to us during the first year of showing ‘Sunday Night Football.’”

  • TV Timeout: Can You Believe What He's Wearing?

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    FASHION POLICE: ESPN's Tim Legler, on the short-sleeve uniforms many NBA teams will wear during Christmas Day games: "I just can't do the sleeves. I'm sorry, I can't. I know that it’s become sort of popular over the last few years to try to figure out ways to tinker with what is the traditional basketball uniform. But I just don’t get into the tight-fitting, sleeve look for a basketball player." Legler said the jersey looks like something you'd wear "if you were going to ride a bike" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 11/14).

    GLOBAL GROWTH: Golf Channel's Rich Lerner, on creating opportunities in Latin America through the PGA Tour: "They are intent on growing their Hispanic fan base; demographics demand that they make every effort. Hispanic population in the United States, as you know, is growing rapidly. Economies here in South America are expanding at a quick rate, the Olympic Games come to Rio in 2016, and I think the idea with this 14-event, eight country NEC series, places like Chile, Uruguay, Colombia, the idea is to maybe produce a singular star because stars, in the opinion of Tim Finchem and I think I would agree, stars attract potentially new fans to the game" (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 11/14).

    Elsewhere on the tube today:

    • Joe Torre's Safe At Home Foundation will profiled on Saturday's "CBS This Morning"
    • UFC President Dana White appeared on "SportsCenter" to promote Saturday's 20th anniversary event in Las Vegas

  • SMT Panel: The Realities of TV Everywhere

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    Realities of TV Everywhere

    Matt Murphy, Disney & ESPN Media Networks
    Matthew Strauss, Comcast Cable

    A decade into a video-on-demand landscape that now includes TV Everywhere options from more than 100 major programmers, executives for Comcast and ESPN said the concept of TV Everywhere remains in its infancy.

    “We’re really just beginning to scratch the surface,” said Matt Murphy, Disney & ESPN Media Network senior vice president of digital video distribution, speaking at the 2013 Covington & Burling Sports Media & Technology conference. “It’s going to continue to grow. We just need to continue to reduce the friction in the authentication process.”

    Murphy and Matt Strauss, Comcast senior vice president and general manager of video services, said the next iteration of TV Everywhere will be to overlay additional enhancements and services beyond just supplying digital video on an anywhere, anytime basis.

    “Time shifting has now become fully integrated into everything we do and how we watch TV,” Strauss said. “But the next iteration of TV Everywhere is going to be about live content, and what we’re now working on is how we incorporate additional experiences around this. What that’s going to be exactly I don’t know. But I see a lot of creativity happening around this. Video itself is almost sort of table stakes at this point. The question now is, What is the experience we’re going to create around this?”

    Quick hits:

    * Last year’s London Olympics remain the most popular TV Everywhere to date for Comcast. “It was really the first time many consumers watched a live event on a mobile device,” Strauss said. “There were a lot of learnings there.”

    * Piracy and sharing of TV subscriber passwords remains an issue as TV Everywhere expands, and Comcast even goes so far as to monitor Craigslist postings for improper sales of subscriber log-ins. “It’s an issue to some extent,” said Strauss. “We obviously watch it, and there are business rules that govern this. But our hope is that as personalization increases, the desire to share passwords should lessen.”

    Tags: ATT, ESPN, Media, Comcast
  • SMT Panel: Will the Media Rights Bubble Burst?

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    The Sports Bubble

    David Bank, RBC Capital Markets
    Reagan Feeney, DirecTV
    Doug Perlman, Sports Media Advisors
    Steve Raab, SNY
    Mark Silverman, Big Ten Network

    “Will the Media Rights Bubble Burst?” was the question debated during a roundtable discussion of industry experts this morning at the 2013 Covington & Burling Sports Media and Technology Conference.

    Some thoughts from the panel:

    Steve Raab, SNY president: “I don't think there’s a bubble. Maybe there’s a leveling off. A bubble implies something popping, and I don’t see that.”

    Doug Perlman, founder and CEO of Sports Media Advisors: “This is not irrational exuberance.” Perlman cited competition for creating value.

    Reagan Feeney, vice president of content for DirecTV, had words of caution: “Our average cost is already over $100 [for the consumer's monthly bill]. These costs are up and somebody is going to have to pay for them.”

    Mark Silverman, president of the Big Ten Network: “Sports is the last live place where you watch television. Certain sports properties generate more value. Premium properties are always going to be worth a lot.”

    David Bank, managing director at RBC Capital Markets: “Where is the bubble? I don’t see it. I’m not paying a lot more. I’m getting a lot more.”

    Feeney: “We’re already seeing networks make tough choices. There has been some disruption. You can see it.”

    Raab: “The burden is on the partnership between the property and the rights holder to justify the value and make it work.”

    Tags: Media, DirecTV, SNY, Big Ten, Big Ten Network
  • Day 2 Networking at the 2013 Sports Media & Technology conference

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    Here are more images of attendees we spotted networking at the 2013 Covington & Burling Sports Media and Technology Conference. Click any image to start the slide show.

  • SMT Panel: How NFL Programming is Driving Viewership

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    Focus on NFL Programming

    Mark Donovan, Kansas City Chiefs
    Neil Glat, New York Jets
    Stephen Jones, Dallas Cowboys
    Jon Miller, NBC Sports
    Bill Wanger, Fox Sports Media Group

    The opening panel at Day 2 of the ’13 Covington & Burling Sports Media & Technology conference was a discussion among three NFL team presidents and two network execs on what is being done and what we can expect in relation to the in-stadium experience.

    WHAT’S WORKING: Chiefs President Mark Donovan said that player intros on the team’s boards, which have video from newly installed locker room cameras, “has been great content for our network partners. They want to see that.” Donovan: “And it’s amazing to see the response in stadium from fans.”  Jets President Neil Glat said that you “want to bring the spectacle to the big screen so the fans can get something they can get from a small screen,” and that “first and foremost, we’re looking for things that entertain all 80,000 who want to look up rather than having to look down.”

    WHERE NETWORKS CAN SEE ADDED VALUE: Bill Wanger, Fox Sports Media Group executive vice president of programming and research, said that the network would like to see “lower camera angles to capture the speed of the game. At the stadium, you see that speed if you sit lower down, but with TV having higher camera angles, that speed sort of gets lost.” Wanger said the net is also “looking at 4K, which is ultra HD, four times better than HD, and if we can deploy some cameras on the sideline or the goal line, it might help with some calls. It would enhance not only the at-home experience, but also the in-venue experience, because they can show those on replay.”

    REDZONE AT THE STADIUMS: Donovan said that the team shows RedZone Channel at breaks, but “received a lot of feedback from fans that said, ‘Don't mess with the game. I want to see the game.’” Glat said that RedZone is “terrific to show in-stadium before a [4 p.m. ET kickoff]. … Fans are clamoring for it. You want to offer it in one shape or another. We do offer it from time to time on the big screen and the app. But you want to continue to have the excitement around the game.” Glat also said that fantasy lounges are a “double-edged sword because while you don’t want to stop the train of technology, you need to pour your resources into getting fan focus on the field. If all the fan is going to do is go into a fantasy lounge or a RedZone bar, then they honestly don’t need to come to the game.” Stephen Jones, Cowboys executive vice president, COO and director of player personnel, said “one of the toughest things remains getting fans back to their seats after halftime. Sometimes it won’t be until halfway through the third quarter, especially in the club levels where fans are eating or watching RedZone and they’re distracted.” NBC Sports President of Programming Jon Miller said his game broadcast directors “want a full stadium all the time. The game is on our air because it’s important.”

    STADIUM CONNECTIVITY ISSUES: Donovan said that Chiefs fans “want the connectivity, but they don’t tap into it all that often. But they want to know it’s there and they want it to be efficient.” Glat said that beyond spending money on upgrades, “there are some laws of physics limitations on 80,000 people simultaneously trying to connect and get access. It’s a money issue in that we need to continue to invest in new technologies, but we might run into some physical limitations at some point.” Miller added that the NFL “may be the only league out there where 80,000 fans come to a stadium and expect [connectivity]. They expect to be able to access RedZone and their fantasy teams. I don’t think you see that anywhere else. And the feeling is that they’re paying for it through their ticket price.”

    FLEX SCHEDULING: Donovan thinks the NFL flex scheduling policy is a “good tool for the league to make sure the right games are on the right showcase opportunities.” However, Donovan warned of “fatigue from season-ticket holders” toward prime-time games. Donovan, speaking on good teams and teams in larger markets, said that fans are “used to that Sunday afternoon experience. Then, all of a sudden, you’re playing almost every game in prime time. There’s a clamoring for a balance.”

    EXPANDING THURSDAY PACKAGE?: Donovan, when asked whether the league can build Thursday night as appointment viewing for NFL games, said, “From what we see at the league standpoint, we can pretty much build any night as NFL night.’

    TEFLON LEAGUE?: Miller, discussing increased ratings for the league despite some traditionally strong teams struggling on the field, said, “I think the product in that case is almost bulletproof.”

    Tags: NFL, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys, NBC, Fox, Media
  • Faces in the Crowd: Networking at #sbjsmt

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    Here are some of the people we spotted networking at the 2013 Covington & Burling Sports Media and Technology Conference. Click any image to start the slide show.

    Tags: CES, ING, Media, GE
  • SBJ/SBD Podcast: Recapping SMT Day One

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    SBJ Podcast

    Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and media reporter John Ourand recap Day One of the 2013 Covington & Burling Sports Media & Technology conference being held yesterday and today at The Crowne Plaza Times Square. Highlighting the discussion are their thoughts on DirecTV CEO Michael White's featured interview — "It was a real sobering message. … He essentially compared the market today to the real estate bubble of 2006, 2007." — as well as their thoughts on Ted Leonsis' address.

    Tags: Ping, ING, Media, DirecTV, CTV, GE, Ally, SBJSBD Podcast
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