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Volume 21 No. 2


The Washington Mystics quietly have been testing a mobile app this season, becoming the first professional U.S. sports team to stream live games locally via an interactive mobile app.

Developed by the New Jersey-based company Kiswe Mobile, the Mystics Live app allows viewers to watch the team’s home games live using six camera angles, replays and real-time statistics. Users can watch the main television feed and listen to the TV broadcast booth, as well. 

The WNBA’s Mystics are leading the way on mobile streaming, using an app by Kiswe Mobile.

There’s no extra charge to download or use the app.

The existence of the app could be an important step as leagues, teams and media companies look to roll out local streaming services. Unresolved issues around how much these streaming rights are worth — and who owns them — have stalled efforts to roll out local streaming services in other leagues, like MLB, the NBA and NHL.

It’s easier to test these kinds of services in the WNBA because they don’t have the same restrictions as some of the bigger leagues. By design, the WNBA is far more open in a business sense, allowing teams to implement these kind of services more freely.

The local RSN, Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, does not pay a rights fee to carry Mystics games, cutting one potential roadblock for the local mobile streaming service.

No money changed hands in the agreement between Kiswe and the Mystics. Kiswe executives were coy about how its business model around the app would develop.

Mystics executives think the app could be a way to enhance the at-game experience, allowing fans that hook into Verizon Center’s Wi-Fi to follow the TV telecast, call up replays and see real-time statistics.

Kiswe Mobile executives see the app as useful for fans who can’t be at the arena. App users can watch Mystics games only within a 75-mile radius of Washington.

The Mystics are the only WNBA team using this mobile app, but Kiswe executives hope to cut similar deals with other WNBA teams.

“The interplay between TV, mobile and social is the next wave of media,” said Wim Sweldens, a former Bell Labs executive who is president and CEO of Kiswe Mobile. “Mobile networks can be more than just another broadcast. It allows users to personalize and individualize the experience.”

Another of Kiswe’s founders is former AOL executive Jimmy Lynn, who teaches at Georgetown University. Lynn, who is a vice president at Kiswe, used some of his students as focus groups for the app. Lynn and Sweldens were surprised to learn that many of the students preferred the camera angle from behind the basket because that is the angle they’re used to seeing when they play video games.

The app can be downloaded from Apple’s app store for free. It requires at least iOS 7.0. An Android version is expected to be ready in a month. 

“The app creates deeper engagement with fans and appeals to a younger demographic,” Lynn said. “The digital Internet revolution of the 1990s is now the mobile revolution.”

According to social media metrics, forwards Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey are the new faces of American soccer as the national team begins its 2014 World Cup run in Brazil. The combined Twitter and Instagram followers of Altidore surpass 775,000, while Dempsey has almost 500,000.

The controversial absence from this year’s roster of Landon Donovan leaves a young team that has the potential to bring exposure to a new generation of players. Donovan would have been the most popular player on the team on Twitter with nearly 925,000 followers.

Clint Dempsey has nearly 500,000 followers across Twitter and Instagram.

The FIFA World Cup Facebook page has more than 20 million followers.

World Cup veterans like goalkeeper Tim Howard and defender DaMarcus Beasley are also found in the top five. Of the top 10 most popular U.S. players on social media, seven of them currently don’t play in MLS, with the exceptions being Dempsey and Real Salt Lake members Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando.

On the international side, Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo remains the most popular player in the world


SBJ Podcast:
Staff writers John Ourand and Tripp Mickle analyze World Cup rights holder ESPN's commitment to soccer and what the network means to the sport.

by a large margin with more than 111 million fans combined on Facebook and Twitter. In a compilation of players participating in this year’s World Cup, his closest competition is Argentina’s Lionel Messi, who has nearly 58 million Facebook fans but does not participate on Twitter. Neymar, the 22-year-old Brazilian star, rounds out the top three as he participates in his first World Cup.

On the property side, the World Cup is expected to be a big social media event globally. The official FIFA World Cup page on Facebook already had more than 20 million followers before group play began. On the domestic side, U.S. Soccer’s social media platforms across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram had a combined 2.3 million followers, while the World Cup on ESPN Facebook page had more than 1 million fans for its final broadcast of the Cup before it moves to Fox Sports in 2018.

Numbers were compiled on June 10.

Soccer On Social Media

U.S. Men's National Team

  Number of followers  
Player Twitter Instagram Total Position Club
Jozy Altidore 649,327 126,882 776,209 F Sunderland (England)
Clint Dempsey 356,423 142,401 498,824 F Seattle Sounders FC
Jermaine Jones 195,901 23,548 219,449 M Besiktas (Turkey)
Tim Howard 68,975 73,415 142,390 GK Everton (England)
DaMarcus Beasley 109,955 19,469 129,424 D Puebla (Mexico)
Brad Guzan 92,692 10,982 103,674 GK Aston Villa (England)
Alejandro Bedoya 73,649 16,253 89,902 M Nantes (France)
Geoff Cameron 54,788 21,043 75,831 D Stoke City (England)
Kyle Beckerman 52,452 22,812 75,264 M Real Salt Lake
Nick Rimando 42,274 17,451 59,725 GK Real Salt Lake
Omar Gonzalez 41,760 17,734 59,494 D LA Galaxy
Graham Zusi 41,862 14,229 56,091 M Sporting Kansas City
Mix Diskerud 39,852 15,532 55,384 M Rosenborg (Norway)
Matt Besler 35,016 11,103 46,119 D Sporting Kansas City
Aron Johannsson 33,883 10,501 44,384 F AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands)
DeAndre Yedlin 32,283 10,740 43,023 D Seattle Sounders FC
Brad Davis 32,624 4,103 36,727 M Houston Dynamo
Fabian Johnson 24,127 12,261 36,388 D Borussia Mönchengladbach (Germany)
Chris Wondolowski 35,652 0 35,652 F San Jose Earthquakes
John Brooks 18,020 4,939 22,959 D Hertha Berlin (Germany)
Julian Green 20,897 1,504 22,401 M Bayern Munich (Germany)
Michael Bradley 0 0 0 M Toronto FC
Timothy Chandler 0 0 0 D Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany)

International Top 10

  Number of followers  
Player Twitter Facebook Total Country
Cristiano Ronaldo 26,614,143 84,551,264 111,165,407 Portugal
Lionel Messi 0 57,924,285 57,924,285 Argentina
Neymar 10,812,792 23,422,716 34,235,508 Brazil
Wayne Rooney 8,817,902 20,796,319 29,614,221 England
Andrés Iniesta 8,696,359 20,025,467 28,721,826 Spain
Mesut Özil 5,844,866 19,849,205 25,694,071 Germany
Gerard Pique 8,486,377 12,330,058 20,816,435 Spain
Iker Casillas 1,674,126 19,122,166 20,796,292 Spain
David Villa 5,929,530 14,191,710 20,121,240 Spain
Robin van Persie 5,116,287 9,219,285 14,335,572 Holland

Notable Soccer Properties

  Number of followers  
Property Twitter Facebook Instagram Total
FIFA World Cup 2014 1,056,064 20,121,949 33,259 21,211,272
FIFA 3,076,768 905,880 0 3,982,648
U.S. Soccer 711,112 1,356,412 237,046 2,304,570
World Cup on ESPN 0 1,048,845 0 1,048,845

Note: American star Landon Donovan, who did not make the U.S. squad, has 924,994 Twitter
followers and 30,400 Instagram followers for a total of 955,394.
Compiled by: Ryan Baucom, SportsBusiness Journal research

Over dinner during the recent upfronts, a TV ad sales executive asked why I wasn’t writing about C7, the television industry’s move to eke an additional four days of viewing credits out of DVR viewing.

While the move from C3 — ratings for commercials during live broadcasts, plus three days of DVR playback — to a C7 currency certainly will bring more ad dollars to broadcast dramas and sitcoms (the genres where most time-shifting occurs), given that more than 95 percent of TV sports are watched live, it seems that the new standard will have almost no impact on sports programming.

But the executive suggested I take a longer-term view.

There’s certainly no threat today in a market where live sports is the most popular programming on TV. But what about a couple of years from now, especially if the move to C7 significantly builds up the audiences for dramas and sitcoms? Cable operators already can insert new ads into their video-on-demand streams and keep on-demand viewers from fast-forwarding through them. As nontraditional viewing continues to grow, so too should the audiences for dramas and sitcoms and, in turn, audiences for C7 advertising.

If those genres start skimming more money from advertisers, the fear is that some of it will come from live sports. It’s a market view that, if it ever comes to pass, is still probably a decade away.

Today, the early returns show that ratings and ad dollars are proving to be scarce with the move to C7.

The first C7 deals this year, notably with Group M, show relatively small increases over C3 deals. Per Nielsen, over the course of the 2013-14 broadcast season, the bump from C3 to C7 resulted in an average increase of just one-tenth of a ratings point in the all-important adults 18-49 demo.

I was talking with my friend, AdWeek’s former TV advertising reporter Anthony Crupi, about why so few scripted series see a big lift between C3 and C7. Crupi pointed out the popularity of fast forwarding through commercials among DVR users.

“People generally don’t watch commercials when they’re time-shifting content,” he said. “And that’s what C3 and C7 measure. It’s a blend of average commercial ratings and three or seven days of time-shifted deliveries.”

Still, it’s clear to see that viewers are embracing time-shifting more than ever. As many as 36 prime-time broadcast shows had a higher time-shifted rating than live rating during the 2013-14 season, according to ratings information provided by Horizon Media.

Take a show like the NBC drama “Revolution.” It saw a 163 percent increase in its live-plus-seven-day DVR playback over its live rating within the adult 18-49 demo this season, according to Horizon Media research director Brad Adgate.
Prime-time TV’s top show, NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” saw only a 5 percent increase from its live rating to its C7 rating within the 18-49 demo, Adgate said. With sports, live viewing is all that matters.

So far, viewership increases from C3 to C7 are not significant enough to merit any raised eyebrows — and they certainly have not been big enough to mitigate the advantage of live sports. Put it this way: Ratings for “Sunday Night Football” increased just 1/100th of a ratings point upon application of C7 data over C3 data.

“Even if you go with C7 and you get a higher rating, there’s still a value for watching it live that advertisers love,” Adgate said.

Excluding sports, from September 2013 to March 2014, C7 ratings increased around 4 percent over C3 ratings, Adgate said. For example, ABC prime time posted a 1.70 C3 rating and a 1.76 C7 rating during that time period. Fox moved from a 1.63 C3 rating to a 1.72 C7 rating.

“There just isn’t that much of a surge from C3 to C7,” Adgate said.

Nobody doubts that C7 will bring more viewers to dramas and sitcoms. But one network ad sales executive argued that the C7 move will benefit sports TV by putting more of a premium on live viewing.

The executive suggested that live sports will get a disproportionate amount of advertising from movie studios, which traditionally are more time sensitive. Car companies and retailers that depend on specific sales also could court a live audience.

The C7 system will attract advertisers that have evergreen messages.

The problem is that it will take years before the industry will realize whether C7 helps or hurts TV sports advertising.

John Ourand can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.

After spending the better part of three decades helping popularize soccer in the United States, soccer executives are hoping ESPN’s commitment to the beautiful game doesn’t fade.

In recent years, the sports network has lost the English-language rights to the sport’s highest-profile events. The World Cup and Champions League went to Fox. The English Premier League landed at NBC. La Liga fell to beIN Sport.


SBJ Podcast:
Staff writers John Ourand and Tripp Mickle analyze World Cup rights holder ESPN's commitment to soccer and what the network means to the sport.

ESPN, which once televised all of those properties, has been left with nothing but the rights to Major League Soccer, some U.S. national team games and the 2016 European Championships.

ESPN's last World Cup until at least 2026 opened Thursday in São Paulo.
“Their coverage of the World Cup [from 1998 to 2010] kept the embers burning and now [soccer has] caught fire,” said Charlie Stillitano, CEO of Relevent Sports’ soccer division, which is bringing a host of European soccer clubs to theU.S. for exhibition games this summer. “It’s ironic that ESPN won’t benefit.”

Soccer executives feel indebted to ESPN, and more specifically to soccer fan and ESPN President John Skipper, for promoting the sport so heavily to English-speaking sports fans over the last decade. Since 2006, when ESPN bested NBC for the World Cup rights in 2010 and 2014, the network featured soccer highlights on “SportsCenter” and brought soccer stars such as Alexi Lalas onto popular shows like “Pardon the Interruption” to discuss the sport in front of general sports audiences.

For its part, ESPN has been public about its desire to stay involved in soccer. Last month, ESPN committed to an eight-year deal to carry MLS games, betting that the league will grow domestically. Skipper has said that ESPN plans to bid on EPL rights when those come up, probably next year. And Skipper’s top lieutenants say that ESPN will be aggressive in trying to pick up rights to other top leagues.

As quickly as ESPN lost its live soccer rights, it sees an opportunity to get them back in the next couple of years.

“The European league deals are done on three-year cycles, and those three years come up pretty quickly,” said Scott Guglielmino, ESPN’s senior vice president of programming. “I wouldn’t worry about our commitment in that regard.”

Of course, there’s no certainty that ESPN will regain any of those rights, especially now that it’s not the incumbent broadcaster. Money talks, and ESPN found its bids for soccer’s biggest properties to be lacking over the past several years. It’s not common for ESPN to be outbid for sports it wants, such as the NFL, Major League Baseball and college football.
In 2012, NBC won the EPL rights over a joint bid from ESPN and Fox. A year earlier, Fox outbid ESPN for the World Cup, and just six months ago, Fox outbid ESPN for the UEFA Champions League.

Still, ESPN’s involvement in those bidding processes placated some soccer executives.

“It’s not from lack of trying, and that’s the first thing that’s important,” Stillitano said. “ESPN bid on these heavily and lost to other rights holders. That is a good sign that ESPN is not saying, ‘Forget it. We’re not going to bid on this stuff.’”

Observers see no sign that ESPN is cutting corners in producing the 2014 World Cup.

Another encouraging sign is coming from Brazil this month. Soccer observers are taking notice of the commitment ESPN is making in producing the World Cup. ESPN does not appear to be cutting corners on its production of the event — something some soccer observers find surprising given that the network can’t carry the tournament again until 2026 at the earliest.

“It’s an excellent sign they don’t seem to be pulling back in the nature of their coverage from Brazil,” said former ABC Sports executive David Downs. “If I were in their shoes, I would be tempted not to do that knowing I was boosting it for a competitor four years from now. But I see the opposite. They seem to be doing it more lavishly.”

ESPN’s involvement is important to soccer observers, who believe the network’s marketing muscle has helped fuel the sport’s growth in the U.S.

Stillitano recalls having breakfast about a decade ago with sports marketer Frank Vuono, who at the time was not a big soccer backer. Vuono was complaining that ESPN was trying to force soccer on American sports fans by including its highlights in the top 10 plays on “SportsCenter.”

“It may seem insignificant but it’s wholly important,” Stillitano said. “It was really a sign that ESPN was taking soccer very seriously before anyone else was. … ESPN reached the American sports fan better than anyone else did during these lean times.”

It will be harder for ESPN to reach those fans without live rights. But Guglielmino said ESPN is committed to covering the game through ESPNFC, its website devoted to soccer that launched nearly two years ago.

“Live rights are king — they draw the largest audiences,” Guglielmino said. “But soccer is a perfectly suited sport for digital, given the different leagues and time zones. ESPNFC is going to be a big part of our soccer voice and our coverage for the fan going forward.”

In 2013, its first full year of operation, averaged about 843,000 daily visitors and had 250 million video starts.

The success of ESPNFC is something that staff at the network will be watching closely, as well.

Longtime ESPN anchor Bob Ley, a host of the network’s World Cup coverage, has lived the growth of the sport at the network, which he joined in 1979. He regards ESPN’s coverage of the U.S. men’s national team game against Mexico last March as a testament to its commitment to soccer. Not only did it have an hourlong pregame show, but the scoreless tie became the featured story on “SportsCenter.”

“There was a time when a nil-nil game would have been the focus of derision,” Ley said. “From the amount of time ‘SportsCenter’ gave it, to the size of the pregame show, all of these are editorial and financial decisions that underscore the importance of the sport to ESPN.”