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Volume 21 No. 1

Leagues and Governing Bodies

It’s probably not correct to say money is no object when discussing the expansion of MLB instant replay to a challenge-based system. But it’s not far off, either.

As the league prepares to give managers unprecedented latitude to seek video reviews of disputed on-field calls beginning next season, the estimated startup costs for the program hover around $1 million a ballpark. Those costs cover capital expenses such as cameras, related technology, a further building out of the league’s central replay-monitoring station at MLB Advanced Media’s Manhattan headquarters, and additional staff salaries. And it’s part of why expanding instant replay has taken more than two years of study and internal debate to get to this stage.

The league is preparing for a video replay system to settle close calls.
Owners will not be presented with all the details and will not be asked to render a formal vote on the developing program until November. But for clubs, which will be funding the project either directly or indirectly through a diversion of other central fund revenue, the focus is more on improving instant replay than what the final bill looks like.

“The primary goal is, and should be, getting the calls on the field correct,” said one team executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. “That’s the priority, and we’ll be able to figure out the rest.”

DEE BACK IN BASEBALL: Newly hired San Diego Padres President Mike Dee made his first appearance at an MLB owners meeting in more than four years, part of his return to baseball after his high-profile stint as chief executive of the Miami Dolphins. Dee, a former Padres and Boston Red Sox executive, said the shift felt “very natural.”

“The NFL experience is something I’ll always treasure, particularly being there through the whole lockout and CBA process. But baseball is who I was when I started in the business, and it’s where I cut my teeth,” said Dee, who recently turned 50. “And I want this now to be my last stop. It’s rare to get opportunities to go back like this.”

As he did last month, Dee said the departure from Miami was not related to the Dolphins’ failure earlier this year to secure public financing to renovate Sun Life Stadium. But Dee inherits a stiff challenge looking to revive the Padres under new owners Ron Fowler and Peter Seidler. The club plays in the highly competitive NL West, where the Los Angeles Dodgers are earning and spending money at historic levels, and the San Francisco Giants hold two of the last three World Series titles.

“We play in a very intense division, and those are obviously very formidable opponents,” Dee said. “But I feel the landscape is wide open, and competitive balance in baseball is here to stay. And I think the full impact of this ownership group and what Petco Park represents has not yet been felt.”

RYAN RETURNS: The Cooperstown meetings were also a homecoming of sorts for new Astros President Reid Ryan.

Houston Astros President Reid Ryan, shown in May, is no stranger to Cooperstown.
The meetings represented the first such session for Ryan, the son of Rangers Chief Executive Nolan Ryan and a longtime minor league baseball team executive before he took the Astros post in May.

But the younger Ryan has plenty of experience with Cooperstown, having accompanied his hall-of-famer father on several trips for festivities there. Reid Ryan also was a minor league player for the Hudson Valley Renegades of the Class A New York-Penn League in 1994, making road trips to play the Oneonta Yankees, 25 miles from Cooperstown.

“It’s sort of Old Home Week being back here,” the younger Ryan said.

The PGA Tour doesn’t want drivers taking their eyes off the road, but the tour does want them to know who’s leading their golf tournament.

In a novel approach this week, the tour is taking its live leaderboards to digital billboards on the side of heavily trafficked highways across the country.

The PGA Tour will update the leaderboard from The Barclays on billboards along major U.S. highways.
Photo by: PGA TOUR
The leaderboard from this week’s first FedEx Cup playoff event — The Barclays — will be broadcast across parts of the country on CBS Outdoor digital billboards. CBS broadcasts the weekend rounds from the tournament, which runs Thursday through Sunday.

The boards will have real-time, up-to-the-minute scores and prominently feature the event’s title sponsor. “It provides a nice way in multiple markets to create awareness and exposure for title sponsors,” said Ty Votaw, the tour’s executive vice president and chief global communications officer.

The tour has experimented with live leaderboards on billboards a few times previously in local markets, but this is the first time a playoff event has been featured, and it represents the most extensive effort across the CBS Outdoor billboard nationally.

For The Barclays, the tour will use 36 digital billboards in and around Jersey City, where the tournament is played at Liberty National. The leaderboards will be in other major markets across the country as well, including Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, Phoenix and Tampa.

“A lot of it is based on availability,” Votaw said. “We may have five boards in one market and one board in another, but on major thoroughfares. On average, it comes out to 10 million to 12 million impressions. It’s not something we’re looking to do every week, but we will look to match up CBS’s availability with select events.”

The tour did not specify how much the billboards cost to run from Thursday to Sunday, but at least part of the CBS Outdoor fee is being traded for with hospitality at PGA Tour events.

In addition to providing more exposure for the tournament and its title sponsor, the billboards also can flash tune-in announcements for TV coverage of The Barclays.

This is not the first time a sports entity has provided real-time updates via digital billboards. Stephen Freitas, chief marketer for the Outdoor Advertising Association, said the Olympics used billboards to update medal counts in 2012, and the NCAA issued score updates on billboards earlier this year.

“The reason advertisers find the digital billboards so appealing is that they’re nimble,” Freitas said. “You can change the content and the creative instantly. It’s the perfect media match because it’s mobile and it’s out of home. It also has the ability to supercharge the TV elements as well and tell more people about a golf program.”

The tour has discussed the possibility of adding live video to the billboards, but it hasn’t moved in that direction yet. Concerns over driver distraction and the cost of delivering a feed to the billboards are central to that decision. CBS and NBC/Golf Channel broadcasts already are streamed online.

This year, the tour featured the Memorial Tournament leaderboard on billboards in a dozen markets, mostly around Dublin, Ohio, where the tournament is held each May. Previously, the tour has had leaderboards on billboards for the 2012 WGC Bridgestone and the Players Championship only in the local markets. The tour hasn’t had anywhere near the coverage nationally that it will have this week.

Growing the advertising to more than just a few tournaments a year likely will require a sponsor to cover the costs of the boards, Votaw said.

“We’d like to add one to two events a year, but that would depend on sponsorship for the overall program,” he said.
The real-time leaderboard information for the digital billboards will come from the tour’s ShotLink technology.