Saturday, February 14, 2015

Facebook Launches Sports Desk, AOL Teams Up with Players Tribune

Two of the world's biggest publishers of content made major moves this past week to solidify themselves as destinations for sports fans.

Facebook, the top referrals site on the web, announced the launch of a new social sports desk. The social network will be taking the desk to big events. The desk could potentially host Q&A's, such as the sessions currently posted with Harrison Barnes, Victor Cruz and Lolo Jones as well as other supplementary programming which will help promote major games while providing user engagement via video between famous sports figures and their fans. The new initiative was introduced during Facebook's first ever sports summit.

The most interesting thing about the desk, as pointed out by CNBC, is how similar the look is to traditional TV and offerings that are already available such as "SportsCenter" and "Fox Sports Live." But according to Facebook, they are only looking to strengthen their relationships with sports leagues and the network partners who own their rights. This is not an attempt by Facebook to compete against them but rather a way to collaborate with them.

You're more likely to see a Facebook sports desk program feature personalities from ESPN, Turner or Fox than Facebook hiring a slew of it's own sports journalists. Facebook will also only use the desk and produce sports video for the site as needed. The sports desk will not be a daily feature added onto the site.

 

The first big example of Facebook's foray into sports since the announcement was a partnership between Turner Sports, the NBA and Facebook. Turner hired comedian JB Smoove to interview some of the NBA's young rising stars in quick 5-7 minute clips and ran the interviews on the NBA's Facebook page to promote the 2015 All-Star Game. The interviews included questions submitted by fans.

Turner Sports previously collaborated with Facebook during the MLB Playoffs last season and helped integrate content being posted by players and fans on FB and Instagram onto Turner's pre- and post-game broadcasts. Facebook has also partnered with Sky Sports and BT Sport, two rival British sports TV networks, to promote their sports programming via video chats hosted on their Facebook pages which gave users a chance to interact with the two networks' own respective hosts and analysts.
Facebook wants to give fans a chance to feel more connected to the action and is partnering with leagues and networks on a non-exclusive basis. This new initiative is also being established to help grow their original video content production. While these partnerships are non-exclusive and the leagues/networks have free reign to partner with other social networks, the content and videos they post on Facebook as well as broadcasts in which the social sports desk is being included will be exclusive to their Facebook pages as well as Facebook's sports website, "Sports on Facebook." The company also announced that they will be turning on their "trending hub," which curates content about a specific topic, for all NBA and NHL games for the rest of the season.

AOL also made a huge step in it's push for sports content by teaming up with Derek Jeter's website The Players Tribune.
As part of the partnership, AOL will distribute The Players' Tribune content on AOL.com and across AOL's network of 92M monthly unique viewers*; co-produce exclusive content on both platforms; and co-produce sporting events together throughout the year to bring the offline experience to life for fans online.
With this collaboration, AOL could solidify its place as a must-see website for sports fans given their access to ESPN highlights combined with exclusive access from players who play the games courtesy of The Players Tribune. 

AOL is also on the verge of launching its own sports show featuring the winner of the "AOL Sports Search," Nick Creegan. The show will aim to be the internet's version of "SportsCenter" but will focus on the social, viral side of things. Could this new AOL/Players Tribune partnership provide AOL Sports' new show with access to star athletes for exclusive interviews which they may not be inclined to give to another outlet?

This is also a huge move for T.P.T. Why? Because they've been lacking on the video side. AOL is an experienced producer of online video content and also has a wide distribution base which will help any videos from T.P.T spread like wildfire across the web.

Right now, Facebook and AOL seem solely interested in helping drive the conversation for sports fans instead of airing live sports. Facebook has confirmed to Sports Business Daily's John Ourand that they will not bid for the NFL game being offered over the top while AOL hasn't given any indication that they're interested in bidding either. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

NFL Could Livestream A Game on Google or Yahoo


Sports Business Journal's John Ourand broke some interesting news this morning:
The NFL is preparing to negotiate with digital companies (think Google, YouTube or Yahoo) to distribute one 2015 regular-season game via an “over-the-top” webcast.
Goodell surprised media executives during Super Bowl week when he announced plans to stream a game next season over-the-top. 
“It would be carried on broadcast stations in both team markets, but it would also reach a worldwide audience, including millions of homes that do not have traditional television service,” Goodell said during his annual state of the league presser. 
NFL executives are convinced they will be able to find a willing partner to buy the rights. “It would have to be a partner who would get behind it promotionally and make sure that people are aware that the game’s available and be able to reach a big audience,” said Hans Schroeder, NFL senior vice president of media strategy, business development and sales. 
Until the league figures out the digital company with which it will partner, it will wait to decide who will produce the game and handle ad sales.  
As for which game gets streamed? The most likely scenario would be one of the three London games on the 2015 schedule, which start at 9:30 a.m. ET. The NFL has not made a final decision, but sources say it is looking closely at the Bills-Jaguars game in London on Oct. 25.  
“That 9:30 a.m. time slot is interesting internationally when you start to think of parts of Asia, where it reaches into Sunday night, as well as parts of Europe,” Schroeder said. The one-off, over-the-top game is more of a test to see if digital companies can handle the large audiences that watch NFL games. 
“We really want to figure out if the landscape is ready for digital-only distribution of a game,” he said. “A lot of this is trying to anticipate, as the world changes, who our partners are going to be and who may be interested in NFL game rights when we look seven or eight years down the road, or potentially earlier, with ‘Thursday Night Football.’ Is there nontraditional media who would be interested in those games?”
How did they choose the Bills/Jaguars game?

As mentioned in the article, the 9:30 a.m. time slot is ideal for international audiences. I also think with CBS already investing so much money in TNF, the NFL didn't mind taking 1 game off of it's hands to do some experimentation. The ability of the NFL to take a game off of CBS's hands might've been written into their recent TNF contract where it says:

"The programming relationship between the NFL and CBS will expand to include, among other elements, the development of new programming initiatives across the various CBS and NFL platforms."

I wouldn't be too surprised if CBS ends up playing a role in this game by helping out with production, promotion and/or letting whoever wins this game borrow some of their talent. I also think CBS doesn't have much to lose by letting the NFL re-sell this game since it's the Bills and Jaguars playing versus a Patriots/Broncos game which are usually ratings monsters.

Don't be surprised if we see more CBS Sunday afternoon games used by the NFL as labs for experimentation with virtual reality, referee cameras, GoPro cameras and other technology which could evolve the way fans watch games.

Who are the contenders?

Google and Yahoo are the contenders being reported but I wouldn't be surprised to see Apple, Netflix, Facebook, Perform Sports EPlayer, Verizon, ESPN, Turner Sports. Google and Yahoo are the favorites since they both have strong relationships with the league and have experience live streaming big events. Google recently launched the NFL's first official YouTube channel while Yahoo signed up as an official partner of the NFL's over the top network, NFL Now.

Apple, Netflix and Facebook could use the game as a way to promote their new products (Beats streaming service, House of Cards and Facebook's video service respectively) while Verizon could use it to launch an OTT service of it's own. ESPN and Turner Sports could use it boost their newest online offerings such as ESPN's new OTT network with the NBA or B/R's expansion into video. Perform Sports EPlayer would be able to distribute the game online to a large audience reach through their syndication deals and also has a relationship with the league through Sporting News.

How would the game look like on Google or Yahoo?

Google and YouTube don't have an official team producing sports programming for them but they have relationships with sports content producers such as The Whistle, Vice, SB Nation, Bleacher Report, Fox, ESPN and could rely on one of them to help produce. They could also rely on NFL Network who already produce all of the content for the NFL's YouTube channel. The other option would be to hire a brand new staff of producers, production crew, graphics staff and talent for the one-off event but that might be a waste of money if they won't serve any purpose with Google other than this game.

I'm sure Google would enlist a slew of YouTube stars to promote the telecast if they won the rights to this game just as they've done in the past with other big events like their interview with President Obama. Google has done a great job of hosting video content on their site but hasn't produced much original programming of their own, something which will be a big focus for them in 2015. This game would be a great way to cajole talent looking to join an MCN or move to another video service like Vessel or Vimeo that they should stay with Google.

Unlike Google, Yahoo has a sports team full of a production crew and talent that could participate in this game. Their team probably isn't as large as the crew in charge of producing an NFL regular season game but they could borrow folks from their partners at NBC Sports or NFL Network to help out. I wouldn't be surprised to see CBS helping out either, as mentioned above.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

ESPN Acquires World Cup of Hockey


The NHL recently announced that it is bringing back the World Cup of Hockey, a tournament of national teams from Canada, the U.S. and Europe who are competing to decide the best hockey country in the world. This new competition, which starts in 2016, has led to speculation that the NHL will ban its players from the Winter Olympics in 2018.

The tournament will begin before the NHL season in September and will be telecast nationwide in the United States and Canada. The only question hockey fans had was where these games will be seen. Canadians got their answer last week when the NHL signed its rightsholder, Rogers Sportsnet, to a deal. Fans expected TSN to win after they lost NHL rights to Rogers and executives at the network thought they submitted the higher bid. It is believed that Rogers matched TSN's offer and that the NHL never gave TSN a chance to send a counter offer, according to The Globe and Mail (owned by TSN's owner).

The biggest shocker came in the United States when a reporter from TSN tweeted that ESPN outbid Fox and NBC for the rights to the WC of Hockey in the United States. It was expected that ESPN would put a bid in but the real competition was believed to be between Fox and NBC since Fox only has one marquee winter sport (Big East college basketball) and NBC is the current NHL rightsholder for years to come.

ESPN has been criticized in the past for neglecting hockey during its talk shows and on SportsCenter. No one really believed ESPN had real interest in anything hockey-related since their schedule is already so packed.

This is not the first time ESPN has "cooperated" with the NHL since ending their partnership in 2004. They've recently allowed their singular hockey analyst, Berry Melrose, to analyze games during the NHL Network's studio shows over the past couple of years.

This new partnership has more questions than answers but I'm sure we'll learn more details as the day progresses.

1. Will ESPN promote the NHL more during their talk shows and SportsCenter as part of this deal? Coincidentally, Tuesday night's (February 3rd) episode of SC featured an NHL highlight at the top of the show and a run through of more NHL highlights at 11:20 p.m.

2. Could this deal end up helping NBC inadvertently? If ESPN is able to build WC of Hockey into a legitimate fan favorite, it could draw more interest to hockey and its stars who play during the regular season on NBC. Given NBC's relationship with the NHL, I wouldn't be surprised to see them promoting ESPN's WC of Hockey telecasts. NBC's EPL coverage benefited after soccer's World Cup on ESPN because of a fan desire to watch more high quality soccer. 

3. Why did ESPN acquire this property? I believe this is a direct effect of ESPN losing NASCAR rights. It also shows that despite being a juggernaut, they're not complacent.

4. Why didn't NBC or Fox bid more? NBC spent a tonload of money on the Olympics and is probably saving up for EPL while Fox is saving money for Big Ten rights in 2016. I wonder if the NHL's threat of pulling athletes from the Olympics had anything to do with NBC submitting a lower than expected bid?

5. Fox is the biggest loser. Their two Canadian gems, Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole, will now lose yet another opportunity to make their mark on the network and won't get a chance to take part in covering their beloved national sport. They also needed this property in order to bolster FS2. Will it be the final factor which pushes Jay and Dan to another U.S. network or back across the border?

6. Where will these games air? I anticipate ESPN2 being the main carrier of these games with ESPN3 carrying first round games. I'm not sure if ESPN2 will be willing to preempt their talk shows for the WC of Hockey until the ratings prove themselves as worthy of preempting their popular shows. ESPNEWS is another possibility. Two wildcards? Fusion and the ESPN/NBA OTT 24/7 network which needs other sports to bolster its necessity besides the NBA.

7. Will any supplementary programming come out of this? 30 for 30's based on hockey? EPIX documentaries? All-Access documentaries similar to HBO's show? Does ESPN bring back NHL Live? Would this programming air solely on ESPN or would it be seen on NHL Network and/or NBC Sports Network as well? Any online or social media collaboration?

8. Did ESPN win because the NHL was threatened by the NBA's expanded relationship with ESPN? Under ESPN's new deal with the basketball league, NBA talk will increase on TV and radio exponentially throughout the Worldwide Leader's airwaves. Without this deal, the NHL could've become even more cut off from ESPN's ecosystem than it already is.

Whether Fox and NBC want to believe it or not, ESPN still controls sports conversation and what fans care about. Once in a while, sports radio hosts or an online commentator or someone from one of the league-owned networks or TNT's Inside the NBA will say something which stirs attention but majority of the time it's ESPN which shapes what sports fans are talking about.

I wouldn't be surprised to see more hockey topics on shows such as "First Take" and an actual set at the Stanley Cup Finals after this deal is finalized.

9. Both ESPN (through the X Games and Jon Gruden) and NHL have deals with GoPro and I expect the device to be utilized during ESPN's telecast of games. Shots from GoPro cameras will become content which is easily shareable on the NHL, GoPro and ESPN's massive social media pages.

10. Is NBC's deal with the NHL under threat? No. I think it's the opposite. NHL's ability to get back to ESPN shows how good of a job the Comcast-owned network has done with the sport. Worst case scenario? ESPN and NBC split hockey rights. But that's not until 10 years down the line.

Fans on Twitter are wondering whether Gary Thorne, who only calls college hockey for ESPN nowadays, will make a triumphant return for these games. I'm sure today is a good day for some of ESPN's puck lovers such as Steve Levy, John Buccigross and Linda Cohn. 

Michelle Tafoya Prefers Men Calling NFL Games


There is no doubt in my mind that Michelle Tafoya is one of the greatest sideline reporters and sports journalists to ever work the craft. 

The Sunday Night Football reporter who just finished reporting for the Super Bowl on NBC spoke with TheFootballGirl.com about her career and had some interesting things to say when asked about whether she ever wants to do play-by-play:

My personal belief is that at this moment in history NFL fans want the sport - it’s a kinda violent, kinda rugged, very masculine sport – and I think that calls for a male voice to narrate it for you. That’s just me and I may make a lot of people, a lot of women, angry with that statement. It’s not a sexist thing. To me, the voice I want accompanying this sport is a male voice.

When asked whether she would ever want to participate in the analysis of a football game in the booth, she said:

I would love to be part of a three-person booth. Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and me in the booth, and I can chime in.

I'm surprised at how honest she was. She unfortunately spelled out the realities of the typical football fan and the way they perceive sports commentators of a different gender. Pam Ward, who calls college football games for ESPN, is ridiculed and criticized on a consistent basis. The only women I've seen break the mold and do something different on sports television are Ashley Fox, an ESPN reporter who does analysis on NFL Insiders as well as Anita Marks and Amy Trask, who analyze plays on CBS Sports Network's TOPS.

How long will it take before sports fans stop caring about eye candy and start caring about intelligence and poise on camera? We're starting to see a movement towards this direction but it's taking longer than expected. If there's anyone more prepared to call or analyze games, I think it would be Michelle Tafoya.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

NFL Renews Thursday Night Football Deal With CBS, Begins New Programming Alliance


Thursday Night Football is back on CBS! The announcement was made late Sunday morning before the league's last four remaining teams faced off for a chance to play in the Super Bowl. 

The package of games was plagued by lopsided victories but that did not stop CBS from putting on a spectacular production each week and it didn't stop people from watching. CBS's primetime package performed better than ESPN's Monday Night Football and dominated ratings each week. CBS's promotion even help NFL Network's ratings improve during their slate of games in the second half of the season.

Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and Tracy Wolfson will continue to call the action and all of CBS's top production personnel will continue in the same places they were in last year. CBS will pay $300 million which is a little more than the $275 million they paid before but I'm sure they won't mind based on the Nielsen ratings which these games generated for the network in the past.

The one big loss for CBS is that their new OTT app, CBS All Access, will not be able to stream the primetime action according to The LA Times:
The new deal does not include digital broadcast rights to the games, meaning that CBS' new streaming service still will lack live NFL prime-time action.
I wouldn't be surprised if we saw changes in the studio crew for next season's games. James Brown was definitely a great force to steer the night but Bill Cowher and Deion Sanders didn't seem to have much chemistry on set, even though it was clear that they did respect one another. I predict that we'll see more Tony Gonzales, the former tight end whom CBS is grooming to be a mainstay at the network.

The most interesting part of the new deal is the following:
The programming relationship between the NFL and CBS will expand to include, among other elements, the development of new programming initiatives across the various CBS and NFL platforms.
In other words, both sides are still trying to work out what this means. Here are some ideas/predictions for what I think these "programming initiatives" will entail.
  • Joint promotion and possible simulcasts between CBS Sports Network and NFL Network during Super Bowl Week (since Super Bowl 50 will air on CBS)
  • More NFL programming on CBS Sports Network which will include game highlights and NFL Films footage
  • "The Rich Eisen Show" simulcasts on CBSSN?
  • Joint web shows which air on CBS Sports' website and the NFL Now app and feature personalities from both networks
  • Weekly chats on NFL.com/NFL Now and CBSSports.com with Nantz and Simms answering questions previewing TNF from the NFL's Facebook page?
  • NFL's podcast network will be distributed via CBS' new podcast platform, play.it
  • NFL Network personalities either get their own shows or make more appearances on CBS Sports Radio and local CBS Radio sports talk stations
  • CBS Sports produces filler programming such as "We Need To Talk: NFL Edition," "TOPS" or "NFL Monday QB" and documentaries for NFL Network
  • "NFL GameDay Morning" gets a chance on CBS
  • "Inside the NFL" might move it's production to LA or use a cast from NFLN which already has experience together since last season's cast didn't mesh well together
The bottom line to this last paragraph, in my opinion, is that the NFL wants more content for it's mobile app and TV network that will make it distinctive from the chatter fans hear on ESPN. CBS has been producing that kind of programming on sports network but nobody has it on their cable lineup. By airing that content on NFLN and NFL Now/NFL.com, CBS's talk shows get more exposure and the NFL has more video to super serve it's fans with.

My big, bold prediction which is extremely unlikely to happen but possible? CBS will experiment a "ESPN CFB Playoff Megacast-type" of option for one of it's TNF games, regular season Sunday games or playoff games with the NFL Network. This could possibly mean a SpiderCam or GoPro simulcast on NFLN with the same commercials but from a different angle, a Film-Room type of simulcast on NFLN or NFLN and CBSSN get the radio calls to each respective team playing. 

It's also possible but extremely unlikely that CBS and NFLN collaborate to simulcast the Super Bowl. NFLN may get a Spanish-language simulcast with the same production from CBS or one of the options from above could be implemented as well. Who knows?

UPDATE from David Barron of The Houston Chronicle:
CBS and the NFL also will work to develop programming on CBS, NFL Network or CBS Sports Network, McManus said. Details of that agreement have yet to be determined, but NFL Films has worked in the past with ESPN to sponsor such projects as “Lost Treasures of NFL Films” and “NFL’s Greatest Games.”

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Kane Show Launching Video Podcast

Intern John, Rose, Danni and Erick 
Radio is one of the most consumed mediums of media in the United States but as the media landscape continues to become more congested, it has become harder to attract loyalty among listeners.

Luckily for radio hosts like Kane, this doesn't seem to be a problem. According to the most recent radio ratings in Washington, D.C. from DCRTV.com, Kane's station Hot 99.5, is number four beating rivals such as WPGC, WKYS and WRQX. But when it comes to social media rankings, WRQX, home of Kane's former co-host Sarah Fraser, is beating WIHT by a smudge.

In order to continue momentum among his listenership and build upon listener loyalty, Kane recently announced that he will be launching a video podcast live after-show together with his co-hosts which will be uncensored, utilize social media and be seen on UStream.

A listener texted into the show on January 5th asking the morning crew why they don't have their own reality show. Here is how the radio host responded:

"You know it's funny, I did a test of the system yesterday. I think we're gonna do an after show uncensored webcast - anything goes webcast - soon. Possibly starting as early as this week because we can have it so you guys can be over my house, you guys can Skype in from anywhere and we have phone lines and everything else set up. 

But I think we're going to do a Kane Show after show. But here's the thing, we're going to retain control over it so that it can be our own content meaning the company won't necessarily....not associate with the company so that we can talk about what we want to talk about. Not in a bad way. It's just we can really go into a little more detail than we do on the air."

Kane alongside Pharrell and his co-hosts
Kane would not be the first IHeartRadio host looking to expand their reach recently. Elvis Duran of The Elvis Duran Morning Show on Z100 in New York is launching his own reality show on Pop!, the TV network formerly known as The TV Guide Channel. Ryan Seacrest also uses YouTube and Snapchat extensively to post extra content and bits from his 102.7 KISS FM radio morning show.


The show would exist on kaneshowtv.com, which has been previously used to live-stream the show on Hot 99.5's website as well as post-show web chats about the weather with NBC 4's Doug Kammerer. 

UStream also hosts other radio shows and podcasts on it's website such as The Joe Rogan Experience, Dr. Drew's Loveline and Kidd Kraddick in the Morning. The streaming site is growing exponentially after partnering with Sony to broadcast video game match ups straight to the website through the PlayStation 4 console. Artists such as Wale, Soulja Boy, Ashanti and Joe Jonas also use the site to stream behind the scenes footage to their fans.

No word yet on when the show will officially launch. The video stream previously displayed a timelapse of cars driving on a highway but as of now, it is offline.

This show could help serve super fans who want more content besides the four hour morning talk show. I'm not sure how believable it is that the show will be disconnected from IHeartMedia since they are the faces of that company's top station in D.C. but it makes sense for them to create an uncensored version of their show which is already pretty racy. It'll bring a new authenticity to the product.

The only question is if the crew will be willing to work for free for an extra couple of hours which will not get counted into their paychecks. I'm also sure IHeartMedia execs are questioning how this move would benefit them when their stars are broadcasting content on another platform which is technically a rival.

LeBron James Launches His Own Sports Website


One of the world's most famous athletes is breaking ground on a new project he hopes will bring sports fans closer to the players they adore and root for.

LeBron James, Maverick Carter and James' company Springhill Productions are collaborating with Turner Sports' Bleacher Report to create a new website known as "Uninterrupted." According to James' own respective website, "Uninterrupted" will give fans "direct access to hear and see what their favorite athletes have to say, straight from the athlete" with no commercials or pop-ups.

More likely than not, this site should remind you of Derek Jeter's venture known as The Player's Tribune. Just like Jeter's site, "Uninterrupted" will give players a chance to be their own primary sources without reporters playing the role as middleman. The only difference is that these first hand accounts are on video rather than in text and they last between 1-2 minutes, which is longer than the time limits enforced on popular video sharing apps such as Instagram and Vine.

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LeBron James featured on Bleacher Report's new initiative "Uninterrupted"

Despite the threat it poses to journalists, NBA reporters seem to have embraced the new idea. CNN reporter Rachel Nichols and ESPN NBA reporter Dave McMenamin have each tweeted out clips from the site in the past. Turner Sports has also developed a strong relationship with the NBA's best player, who sat down for lengthy interviews with NBA TV and CNN during All-Star Weekend in 2014 and before the 2014-2015 season started. "Uninterrupted" only strengthens that relationship.

The site, which launched it's Twitter account on January 8th, began with a soft launch on December 14th, 2014. Johnny Manziel filmed a video discussing how pumped and ready to go he was before his first NFL start as the quarterback for the Cleveland Browns against the Cincinnati Bengals. Unfortunately, his time on the field didn't go well as the Browns were shut down 30-0 and just like all the hype surrounding Manziel that weekend, his reflection video disappeared.

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Richard Sherman on Bleacher Report's new initiative, "Uninterrupted"

LeBron James became the first face seen on his new website in it's current iteration. In a video posted on Christmas Day 15 minutes before he stepped into his team bus, James reminisced on the fun times he had in Miami playing for the team he was about to face for the first time since he left.

The videos on the site appear to be shot using mobile devices which has affected the quality of some of the content posted. A video diary from Johnny Manziel reflecting on his rookie season, for example, is shot vertically rather than horizontally, leaving major chunks of black space on Manziel's left and right side. The lighting on the video is also not the best as you can see below. At times, sound is also hard to hear and lower than the typical high-quality TV show or online video you would watch.

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Manziel in his hotel room before the Browns' last game against the Baltimore Ravens, as seen on Bleacher Report's new initiative "Uninterrupted."

Athletes who have been featured besides Manziel and James include Carmelo Anthony, Richard Sherman, Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr. It is unknown how each person was chosen or which athletes should be expected to appear in the future but it's no secret that all of the selected players have some type of affinity to James.

Manziel is signed to James' management group, Anthony and James are well known best friends and Sherman was defended by James on Twitter after the Seahawks cornerback faced criticism for his hostile interview with Fox's Erin Andrews (Sherman also had a previous relationship with Bleacher Report).

Meanwhile, Cruz is signed to James' friend's sports agency (Jay Z and Roc Nation) and told USA Today that he knew he "broke through" when James tweeted about him, and Beckham Jr. looks up to James as one of his role models. It also helps that each of these athletes are signed to endorsement deals with Nike, James' long-time partner.

If you're expecting news to break on this new platform, change your expectations. James did reveal via video diary before Tuesday night's game against the Phoenix Suns that he was returning after missing a couple of weeks of play and Anthony hinted to fans that he could miss the rest of this season. But based on the other posts online, it doesn't appear that star players will use this stage often to give news about their own careers. This is more about athletes giving their personal reflections and connecting with fans on a human level.

As of now, this new venture does not appear to have affected Bleacher Report's reporting on any of the athletes chosen especially LeBron James and Johnny Manziel, who have both been mired in mini-controversies since this venture came into fruition. Turner Sports' interactive sports hub has covered Manziel's "putrid start," and rumors surrounding his habits off-the-field while LeBron's struggles on the floor, rumors of his early departure and the Cavaliers struggles have also been extensively covered.

A major advantage of teaming up with Turner rather than starting on the site on your own is the promotion they can provide during NBA telecasts. James' website was first revealed during the Christmas day edition of "Inside The NBA" on TNT.
This isn't the first time Bleacher Report has worked with athletes to form a platform under their banner. The website also works with TXN Sports, a group of ex-athletes turned TV analysts, to produce an online series known as "Behind The Mic." The show, starring Phil Simms, Cris Collinsworth, Boomer Esaison, Howie Long, Cal Ripken Jr., Nick Faldo and other analysts who work for Turner Sports, originally aired on Sports Illustrated's website but moved to Bleacher Report after it was acquired by Turner.

"Uninterrupted" is just one of the many things which the Cavaliers All-Star is working on to expand his media brand/empire.

  • "Survivor's Remorse," described as a dramedy by the Washington Post, just finished it's first season on Starz TV 
  • "Becoming," is a sports documentary series aimed for kids about the childhoods of some of the world's biggest athletes. It airs on ESPN's sister channel, Disney XD.
  • "Rehab Addict," a home building show on HGTV, featured James' foundation 
  • James' animated series, "The LeBrons" continues to exist online
  • James is slated to star in two movies helmed by Kevin Hart and Judd Apatow respectively


So far, social media buzz about James' new online venture has been positive:




We'll see as the site develops, whether the quality of videos changes. We'll also have to wait and see if this site ever intends to make money or whether Bleacher Report is paying LRMR for access to these athletes in exchange for more traffic to their site (LeBron's video announcing his return was the number one clicked story late Tuesday night). NOTE: JMan's Media Zone first covered "Uninterrupted" back on December 30th. Our speculations seem to have been correct.

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