Sports Business Wake-Up!: Day 2 of SMT
With rainy skies in New York City, Wednesday was a great day to stay inside and listen to some of the top minds in the business inform, debate and argue about technology, fantasy games and, of course, the future of the bundle and OTT. There will be a little more sunshine today, which should brighten the mood despite the home-town team losing big last night in Game 2 of the World Series. So you won’t need your umbrella as you make your way to Day 2 of the 2015 NeuLion Sports Media & Technology conference at the Crowne Plaza Times Square. All sessions will be held on the 4th floor of the hotel, which you can access using the escalator from the lobby.
MOONVES IN THE HOUSE: Expect a full house for an appearance by the always colorful Leslie Moonves, who sits for a 40-minute one-on-one with guest interviewer Ben Grossman. Moonves is sure to touch on cord cutting, the skinny bundle, the state of CBS' sports portfolio and the strength of the network's impressive NFL ratings. And Grossman will also push on the future of the NFL's "Thursday Night Football" package, which has quickly emerged as one of the top packages on television, as well as on whether there are too many TV shows, dealing with frenemies in the business, the disconnect between media companies and Wall Street, where sports rights are headed, and the latest on Super Bowl 50. Moonves is always provocative and his relationship with Grossman, who started his career working for SportsBusiness Daily, goes back to Grossman's days as editor of Broadcasting & Cable magazine. Should be a fun one.
ENTOURAGE: Moonves' entourage from CBS is likely to be smaller than normal. We hear that both CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus and CBS Sports President David Berson will not be able to attend the session featuring their boss. Both were scheduled to be in Foxboro last night for dinner with Patriots owner Robert Kraft before tonight's Dolphins-Patriots AFC East tilt.
THE REALITY ON FANTASY: DraftKings CEO and co-founder Jason Robins will participate in a one-on-one interview with Staff Writer Eric Fisher, discussing what has been one the most notable stories this year in the entire sports industry. Robins' 2015 has already included high-profile partnerships with MLB, ESPN, NASCAR and several NFL teams, a massive $300 million funding round led by Fox Sports, a large run-up in users, as well as the current scrutiny around the entire daily fantasy sports business.
TAPPING INTO eSPORTS: With the increasing profile of eSports, we’ll end the conference with our first-ever panel devoted to the topic. Among the questions we’ll look at as we explore the effect that eSports is having on the industry:
— What’s behind the flurry of deals and investments?
— Can eSports break into mainstream media, and does it need to?
— What can other sports and leagues learn from the success of eSports?
MAN ON A MISSION: ESPN President John Skipper had a lot on his mind — and a lot that he wanted to say — during his one-on-one session with Executive Editor Abe Madkour yesterday. Skipper was firm throughout his 30-minute interview, continually engaging the audience with point after point about ESPN's achievements. And he was more than ready to counter the current headlines about subscriber erosion and talent loss in Bristol. "We don't have a talent drain,” he said, adding, "We miss those people and their contributions. We wish them well. Sort of." But it was apparent that continued comments from Bill Simmons claiming a lack of support and resources for Grantland have perturbed the ESPN boss. Asked about the perception that Simmons lost his job over criticism of Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL, Skipper responded: “That's completely wrong. Of course it's wrong. … That is an inaccurate narrative. He left to pursue other opportunities, which I believe he will succeed at. … I do not appreciate his suggestion that he did not get supported. That is just inaccurate. … We had a very robust staff on Grantland. I'm very proud of what those people did. I appreciate what Bill did, as well. It is tiresome to have to continue navigating the noise around that, and I think that's my final word on that today."
Next year, let's get IAC Chairman Barry Diller and Skipper on the same stage. Skipper didn't mince words when asked about Diller's comments accusing ESPN of operating in a “false economy” in which a few viewers get a subsidized ride from a mass of cable subscribers who don’t watch ESPN. “That is an inaccurate, inappropriate, woefully uninformed narrative. I believe, at this point, that it is willfully inaccurate,” Skipper said. “I would ask that he stop flapping his lips.”
CUTTING THE CORD: There’s no doubt anymore that more consumers are exercising their right to cut the cord, but our first panel of the day didn’t seem too worried about it. At least not yet, though Time Warner Cable’s Melinda Witmer noted that cord cutting “is accelerating, and it feels like the pace of acceleration is taking people by surprise…” Tennis Channel’s Ken Solomon said he views cord cutting as a chance to reach a new audience, but one that may not sit on a couch and watch linear TV. As if to make the point, he held up his smart phone, which was streaming the WTA Finals from Singapore. More from the panel HERE.
WHEN CONSUMERS GET CHOICE, WILL THEY LIKE IT?: Needham & Co. analyst Laura Martin, who impressed the audience with her frank and contrarian stances, said the proliferation of OTT and more consumer choice is a case of “be careful what you wish for.” Martin: “The consumer says, ‘I don’t like three bundle choices. I want more choice. I want over-the-top choice.’ And the problem is where that takes you in the logical extreme is you have a thousand channels of choice. … As we unbundle the TV ecosystem, we’re moving into chaos, which is a synonym for innovation, but it’s going to create havoc with the consumer, too.” Look for more from the panel in today’s SBD.
DISRUPT OR BE DISRUPTED: We ended the day hearing from Microsoft Chief Evangelist Steve Guggenheimer on transforming sports with technology. The examples of data use were fascinating, and if you missed his talk, or just need a refresher, Guggs put much of the info in a blog post.
— — — COMING NEXT WEEK: MOMENTUM SPORTS MARKETING SYMPOSIUM: Our lineup for this year’s conference includes top marketers on the challenges of technology and changing consumer patterns, top sponsors on structuring flexible and creative deals, and a Hollywood insider on bridging the worlds of brands, entertainment and sports. We’ll also have our own version of “Shark Tank,” with five emerging companies pitching their products to win the votes of the audience and a panel of judges. For agenda and speaker details, or to register for the event, click here. — — —
QUOTES WE LIKED:
— Skipper: “We do not have a narrative problem. What we have is an internal narrative of continued dramatic success.”
— Witmer: Cord cutting “is accelerating, and it feels like the pace of acceleration is taking people by surprise, more than that it is happening.”
— PGA Tour’s Rick Anderson: “Our social media platform is skewing WAY younger,” though he conceded that “younger” is relative. “Twenty-five is way younger for us.”
SEEN, HEARD AND EATEN: A full room of nearly 60 people attended last night’s SBJ/NeuLion Speaker Dinner at Del Frisco’s private wine room. Guests dined on Del's Salad and blue cheese lettuce wedge, with entrees of filet mignon, salmon fillet with Tchoupitoulas sauce or roasted chicken breasts with Provencal sauce. Sides were shared chateau potatoes and steamed broccoli, with desserts of chocolate mousse and cheesecake with strawberries. The parting gift from NeuLion was a cool, branded thermos. Among those spotted were Yahoo Sports' Ken Fuchs, HBO's Shelley Brindle, Twitch's Andy Swanson, legal eagles from Proskauer and Covington & Burling sharing a table (including Proskauer's Rob Freeman and Sean Alford dining with Covington's Doug Gibson, Bruce Wilson and Peter Zern — no inside scoop on what legal scoops were discussed!). They were also joined by Raine Group's Colin Neville. The conversations were loud and lively, and, of course, the World Series was playing for the sports-loving crowd (except for Table 5, which got shafted a little bit by being placed UNDER the TVs). No truth to the rumor that some wanted to watch the GOP debate on CNBC instead. Hot topics of conversation included the future of eSports, which will be prominent on today’s agenda, and Skipper’s forceful delivery of his talking points, with one notable attendee telling us how impressed he was at the way the ESPN boss handled some potentially uncomfortable topics. There was also talk about New Jersey’s push to have legalized sports betting. (Later in the evening, the state’s governor, Chris Christie, had perhaps the line of the night in the Republican presidential candidate’s debate. Responding to a question of whether daily fantasy should be regulated, Christie fired back, “We have $19 trillion in debt. We have people out of work. We have ISIS and al-Qaida attacking us. And we’re talking about fantasy football? Can we stop? Can we stop?”)
At the same time as the Speaker Dinner, Omnigon’s Dave Nugent and Sports Media Advisors’ Doug Perlman were hosting another post-SMT dinner not far away. About 15 guests enjoyed the food and company at Bryant Park Grill, then walked over to Proper West to watch the game.
THE THIRST FOR DIGITAL: Conference sponsor Microsoft will take a deep dive into digital after lunch today, featuring a workshop and panel discussions about reaching fans on all devices, and on how tech innovations are affecting fans, coaches and athletes. Be sure to drop off your business card for a chance to win a Surface Pro 4 or a NASCAR driving experience at the NASCAR track of your choice.
LIVE FROM NEW YORK: For the second year, through our partnership with NeuLion, we’re doing interviews with key speakers and panelists throughout the conference and providing them on demand. To access our SMT Live content, visit https://smtlive.neulion.com and sign up to see interviews on your PC, smartphone and tablet. Interviews available now: Tennis Channel’s Solomon, Time Warner Cable’s Witmer and BTN’s Michael Calderon.
There was lots of social action around the conference. You can view the tweet stream on Twitter by searching the hashtag #sbjsmt. Among the tweets we liked:
@SloaneKelley: The mood after the Bills/Jags live stream was like an election night at a precinct as teams waited for final numbers.
@PCasarico: (On the Skipper interview): This was definitely a highlight at the #sbjsmt. Felt a little like a congressional hearing.
@mike_burch: Seems we’re demanding more transparency from daily fantasy industry than we do from wall st.
@joefav: Great line from Paul Speaker @wsl: “we are in business when the waves come.” Not something stick and ball sports worry about, lol
@TheWilliamMao: Is #TVEverywhere login misuse “not an issue” bc it isn’t material, or bc behavior isn’t accurately tracked + measured by operators?
@jbgreen3131: very astute comment. How do you stop cord cutting. “Stop having kids” good content wins out
And a special thanks to a few people who really helped keep the conversation going: @emmettknowlton, @CUSportsBiz, @MikeFlynn826 and @joefav.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: All the information you need about the conference — agenda, speakers, venue, etc. — can be found in the conference app and program guide. You can download the app from the iTunes store or the Google Play store, and you can use any device to view our digital program guide.
SEND US YOUR QUESTIONS: If you’re in the room today, we hope you’ll contribute to the conversation. You can send questions to our session moderators throughout the day using the SMT app or by texting ‘SBJSBD’ to 22-333. If you are posting tweets or photos, be sure to use the conference hashtag: #sbjsmt.
— — — DON’T MISS NEXT WEEK’S SPORTS MARKETING SYMPOSIUM: Our lineup for this year’s conference includes top marketers on the challenges of technology and changing consumer patterns, top sponsors on structuring flexible and creative deals, and a Hollywood insider on bridging the worlds of brands, entertainment and sports. We’ll also have our own version of “Shark Tank,” with five emerging companies pitching their products to win the votes of the audience and a panel of judges. For agenda and speaker details, or to register for the event, click here. — — —