Ex-coaches urge fans to turn down game volume, hang out with them in new Pilson venture
Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.
These days, former Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer watches Sooners games from a cabana that is next to a swimming pool in his backyard in Norman, and former Oklahoma State coach Pat Jones watches Cowboys games from a bar in Tulsa.
Well, these ex-coaches are betting that fans will want to join them in watching games — via broadband — as they analyze plays, second-guess decisions and socialize on camera with old players like Oklahoma’s Brian Bosworth.
A quartet of sports industry veterans, led by Switzer and former CBS Sports President Neal Pilson, have launched the second-screen
|Former coaches Switzer, Sherrill bring their well-known candor to the second screen.
The idea is for CoachesCabana.com to capitalize on the growing trend of people who use second screens — computers, tablets, smartphones — while watching live sports on TV.
It’s also a way for companies to capitalize on popular live sports events without holding rights to them.
Switzer, Pilson, longtime Switzer business partner Mike Henry and Oklahoma businessman Joe Tippens recently formed a company called Second Screen Sports Media, which launched the CoachesCabana.com project.
On Aug. 31, it produced six shows around college football games, where fans go to www.coachescabana.com and choose from a menu of 14 teams they wish to follow. Last weekend, it did three games. And starting this weekend (Sept. 14), it will produce a nearly full schedule.
“We’re trying to combine the excitement of college football with the sense that coaches and well-known personalities can provide a unique perspective on the game,” Pilson said. “Ultimately, we’d like to do the top 50 schools.”
If successful, Pilson envisions the company getting into other sports, like NASCAR, college basketball and hockey.
“We’re providing an entertainment option,” Pilson said. “We think there’s an audience out there.”
CoachesCabana.com will use Jackie Sherrill for Texas A&M games, Johnny Majors for Tennessee games and Pat Jones for Oklahoma State games. It plans to use Jay Paterno for Penn State games later in the season.
The coaches will analyze the games from different sets: Switzer from his cabana by his pool; Jones at the local bar. Each show will have guests — former players and friends who will talk about the game as it plays out live. In addition to a former coach, each set will feature a host, two cameras and a producer.
Pilson said the site does not operate on a delay when viewed from a desktop. Users with some Apple mobile devices have experienced delays, he said.
The company hired Front Row Marketing, a subsidiary of Comcast-Spectacor, to handle national ad sales. Executives blame a late start for the lack of national ads. As of last week they had not signed any company to a national buy. Front Row came on board in April.
The company has had more success on the local level, selling more than $1 million worth of ads, mainly to restaurants and bars. National brands such as Bud and Coke have bought locally, Pilson said. Advertising mainly consists of product placement and banner ads. It has the ability to do pre-roll 30-second spots into the shows.
The group tested the system last year with Switzer doing six shows. The high mark came during the Cotton Bowl, when 30,000 users accessed their coverage.
Second Screen Sports Media is self-funded. Executives would not say how much is being invested into CoachesCabana.com. Participating coaches earn a salary and have a stake in the company, the company’s executives said.
Second Screen Sports Media is promoting the site through traditional regional marketing (radio, TV, print) channels, as well as through social media. Yahoo’s Rivals.com will promote the site, as well.
It may seem ironic that a former TV executive who once was charged with staffing broadcast booths now would be pulling viewers away from the broadcast. But Pilson said CoachesCabana.com should be seen as a complement to television, pushing people to watch the game even if they turn the sound down.
“We’re not trying to cut out TV,” Pilson said. “This technology didn’t exist five or six years ago. Every 20-something fan is not just sitting in front of his TV set anymore.”