Stadium sees hope in over-the-air delivery
|National network Stadium will deliver the Mountain West and other live programming.
Stadium, a new multiplatform national sports network created earlier this year by a merging of assets from 120 Sports, Silver Chalice’s Campus Insiders and the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s American Sports Network, debuted last week on Twitter, Pluto TV and the company’s own watchstadium.com. That will be followed by mobile extensions and a planned Sept. 6 launch on over-the-air linear TV.
ESPN has been steadily losing subscribers, Fox Sports’ FS1 has gone through several major strategy shifts, and the list of failed attempts at building a mainstream sports network is long. Stadium thinks it can not only survive but thrive by attacking those white spaces.
“I think people are tired of just having opinion dressed up as news,” said Coyle, who previously led 120 Sports and was a founding member of Silver Chalice nearly a decade ago. He is overseeing a Stadium staff of 125. “And we certainly believe there is a pent-up demand for the kind of delivery and programming we’re going to have.”
That delivery involves taking advantage of distribution avenues outside of the traditional cable and satellite TV ecosystem. Stadium represents for the first continuous 24-hour sports programming on Twitter after the social networking platform has aggressively sought out live game rights across numerous sports over the past two years.
Also, the network will base much of its TV presence on over-the-air signals that are growing more prevalent as cord cutters and “cord nevers” continue to grow in number. Nielsen earlier this year said its diary-based measurement indicates more than 25 percent of viewership to broadcast stations coming from over-the-air reception, and other research has suggested even higher numbers.
Stadium will debut on TV in 53 markets, including Los Angeles, Houston and Seattle, with more to come by year’s end.
The network will offer a mix of studio and highlight shows, and more than 3,000 live events, predominantly in midtier college sports. The network’s signature studio show, “The Rally,” is a carryover from 120 Sports, and will run three times a day with a mix of game highlights, news, commentary, field reports from local correspondents, and social media content from Twitter and elsewhere.
Most of the Stadium content will be free across all platforms, but the network is also experimenting with a premium-level offering, Stadium Plus, with additional live events, classic games and program re-airs at $4.99 a month.
For midmajor college conferences such as the Mountain West, the arrival of Stadium represents an experiment in a quickly changing media landscape. The Mountain West has relationships with ESPN and CBS for football and men’s basketball that expire in 2020. But it is also working with Stadium to distribute some additional games in those sports as well as many others such as volleyball, soccer and baseball.
“We had been with both Campus Insiders and the American Sports Network before, so when they got together, we were all for it,” said Craig Thompson, Mountain West commissioner. “This really gives us a good opportunity to explore some of these emerging media platforms before our traditional deals expire in three years.”
Initial Stadium sponsors include Comcast, Best Buy, Bank of America, Wendy’s and New York Life, and the network also has relationships with large advertising firms such as Publicis. Stadium additionally struck a deal earlier this summer with California artificial intelligence company GumGum to aid it in ad tracking and media valuation across its disparate distribution.
“We’re certainly a challenger-based brand in a saturated market. But we’ve really re-engineered our approach of how we go to market,” said Dan Scalia, Stadium senior vice president of revenue. “We’re a digital-first operation that extends into TV as opposed to a TV-first business that happens to extend into digital.”