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Volume 24 No. 156
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Live Sports Still Viewed On "Best Available Screen" Despite Increase Of Potential Options

NBC Sports Regional Networks President David Preschlack thinks TV is “going to continue to be the best available screen” for live sports despite the many options available for today’s fan. Speaking at the ’17 NeuLion Sports Media & Technology conference, Preschlack noted that in terms of consuming content on TV, there is a shift, but said, “I don’t think there’s a mass exodus.” Preschlack: “When we have a live event (on an NBC Sports RSN) ... it’s 1, 2 or 3 in the market on television.” Preschlack noted NBC Sports has in some cases taken a programming philosophy from TV, such as using the same camera angles, and attempted to use it for mobile, but “that has not been really fruitful for us.” Preschlack: “It all gets back to, you have to serve fans where they are, and the fact of the matter is, not all fans are in front of a TV.” Preschlack said the NBA has been “terrific” at reaching fans with its multiple camera feeds for live games streamed on mobile devices. Preschlack: “It puts a premium on having the right type of mobile or portable offering, and it puts a premium on experimenting with new products and new business models on new platforms to figure out how to best serve fans.” MLB Giants President & CEO Larry Baer said mobile offerings for sports fans are additive and not a replacement for TV. “The way we look at that young person working at Twitter at 8 o’clock ... when they get home, they will watch. But for the period of time when they’re in transit or they’re taking a dinner break ... it’s an additive. Not a replacement.” Preschlack also made a point to note that viewing habits for sports fans are different than for those watching television series or movies. Baer agreed. “I don’t think I’m going to binge-view ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ on my phone on my way home,” he said.

STEP INTO REALITY: Baer felt strongly about the possibilities of intertwining virtual reality and augmented reality into games. He noted whether coming from the manager in the dugout to the player in the on-deck circle, there are “different perspectives that could have a truly transformational impact on the viewing experience.” Preschlack was not specifically bullish on AR and VR, but said, “I’m bullish on trying new things in technology.” Preschlack: “You just don’t know how these things are going to pan out. We all remember when we saw HD for the first time, it was a watershed moment. At the same time, 3D came and that was all the buzz, and then it wasn’t. AR and VR, who knows how they’re going to pan out? But you’ve got to participate.”

AN ONGOING ISSUE: Password-sharing has been a growing issue in the industry, and Preschlack noted policing it is “really what the problem is.” Preschlack said password sharing has “been able to run rampant across sports and entertainment content,” and no one “benefits from that.” Preschlack: “But it almost feels like certain companies are hesitant to draw a line in the sand because they’ll get backlash from consumers. I’m not sure that’s the best way to deal with an issue that, at the end of the day, is rewarding bad behavior.” He did note the issue provides a “unique opportunity for many different parts of the business to come together.”

WORKING TOGETHER: The Giants own a 33% stake in NBC Sports Bay Area, and Baer said it has been a “seamless partnership.” Baer: “There’s a lot of things that aren’t in the contract that happen that are very important.” He also noted the team’s lengthy sellout streak, which ended earlier this season after a record 530 games, likely would not be possible without the partnership with the RSN. Baer said, “If we didn’t have Comcast at our side, all the promotion they do, I don’t think we would have had the power in the brand to sell out a cold night in April.”

NO DEAL YET FOR CUBS: Preschlack said he had nothing to announce as it relates to a new local TV deal with the Cubs. The team’s current deal with NBC Sports Chicago ends in ’20. “It’s a market we like and one we’d love to stay in,” Preschlack said.