Tuesday, December 16, 2014

2014 Media Predictions - What's Right and What's Wrong?

About one year ago, I made a list of predictions about how we would see the media transform in 2014. Here is an overview of what I got right and what I got wrong. Unfortunately, my track record wasn't the best but hopefully I have more luck in 2015!

1. BuzzFeed will be acquired. NOPE

2. New media will invest into the New York Times. YES! Vimeo partnered up with the New York Times to produce video together.

3. Bloomberg will consider selling it's TV network to go exclusively digital. NOPE!

4. CBS News will partner with Microsoft to launch digital network. NOPE! But CBS did launch a digital news network known as CBSN.

5. CBS will consolidate with another media company. NOPE!

6. Time Warner Cable will be sold to Comcast. YES! But it hasn't been approved yet.

7. Deadspin will be sold. NOPE!

8. Ann Curry will leave NBC. NOPE!

9. Democrats aim to start their own Fox News-type outlet with Bill Clinton as the star. NOPE!

10. ESPN uses Olbermann more. YES! He re-signed with the network and his segments air on SportsCenter.

11. Turner Sports will launch an 11pm sportscast on CNN. NOPE!

12. Piers Morgan changes timeslots, Bill Weir moves into primetime. YES/NO - Piers Morgan was cancelled but Weir will be airing a show in primetime in 2015

13. George Stephanopoulos talks to CNN about replacing Wolf Blitzer as it's new face. NOPE!

14. Josh Elliott, Lara Spencer, Robin Roberts will all re-sign with GMA. 2/3rds of the way correct. Elliott left ABC to join NBC.

15. "Today" will take over again as the top morning show. NOPE!

16. Natalie Morales will leave "Today". Tamron Hall will replace her while Robin Meade will also join NBC News. NOPE! But rumors circulated about this happening all year and a new boss considered these moves until he was fired (Jamie Horowitz).

17. Fox will look at changing strategy of MyNetTV. NOPE! Fox acquired the off-network rights to "The Walking Dead" for MNT.

18. Another sports TV network will launch. YES! Back9Network launched on DirecTV and Fantasy Sports Network launched on Cablevision in New York.

19. Chris Fowler named as replacement to Brent Musburger, renews as host of College Gameday. YES!

20. Dan Patrick moves to NBC Sports Radio, Yahoo Sports ends partnership with Gow Broadcasting. NOPE!

21. NBA rights - ESPN and TNT split NBA Finals, keep their respective nights. FS1 acquires 20-30 game slate from RSNs. ABC keeps XMas games, occasional Sunday game/playoff game. Some online broadcasts on Bleacher Report/YouTube. YES/NO. ESPN/TNT are not splitting Finals (ABC has them), ESPN/TNT did keep respective nights, FS1 did not acquire 20-30 games, ABC did keep XMas games/Sundays/playoffs, Bleacher Report did get extended rights but ESPN got extra exclusive online games for a new OTT network.

22. NFL Thursday night games - NBCSN or Turner. NOPE!

23. Big Ten rights - ESPN and Fox. NOPE! Rights haven't been sold yet

24. MLS rights - NBC and ESPN. NOPE! ESPN/Fox/Univision 

25. Howard Stern will consider launching his own TV network NOPE!

26. IHeartRadio will partner with AXS.TV to broadcast concerts live. NOPE!

27. Viacom will try to convince Nick Cannon to launch a modern day UPN to replace "VH1 Soul", known possibly as "NCredible Network". It'll serve as BET for a younger demographic. YES/NO. Cannon signed a contract with NBCUniversal to produce and host shows for them but he will continue contributing to Viacom through TeenNick and MTV2's "Wild N'Out." Cannon will be launching his own network via his own app on his own tablet brand in 2015 which will be known as "NCredible Network."

28. Fox will not renew "The X-Factor". It will become an online-focused competition on YouTube with a televised finale. NOPE! Cowell did launch an online competition show but it wasn't associated with X-Factor

29. This year will mark the last season of "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" NOPE!

30. CBS will buy AMC Networks. NOPE!

31. Discovery and Scripps will merge. NOPE!

32. Netflix and Hulu will be available on set-top cable boxes. YES!

33. Starz will be sold. NOPE!

34. DirecTV and Dish Network will merge. NOPE!

35. Aereo will win in the Supreme Court, broadcast networks will bluff on moving to cable-exclusivity.
NOPE! Broadcast networks won

36. Katie Couric will replace Barbara Walters on "The View", while her daytime show will finally get cancelled. YES/NO! Couric's show was cancelled but she signed with Yahoo. 

37. Tim Tebow will become the face of the SEC Network and the SEC Network will have one of the best rated launches in cable history. YES/NO We don't know SEC Network's ratings because it is unrated.

38. Jay Leno will take a break and then choose between a CNN weekly talk show or a daily show on Fox in the Fall of 2014. NOPE!

39. Changes will happen at "New Day". NOPE!

40. Michelle Beadle will move on from NBC Sports while continuing at Access Hollywood. YES/NO. Beadle left NBC to re-join ESPN

41. Ryan Seacrest will accept another full-time job, will depart "American Idol" YES! He hosted a fashion show for CBS

42. NBC Sports will consider buying Sports Illustrated OR will further develop their partnership while also keeping their deal with Yahoo Sports. NOPE!

43. Sinclair will be approved as the new owner of WJLA-TV and NC8 but will be forced to sell other stations. YES!

44. More scripted shows are coming. YES!

45. ESPN is slowly going to take over ABC. YES! Tony Reali joined "GMA," ESPN personalities such as Jay Williams contributed and hosted ABC News' online shows, Hannah Storm served as a correspondent on 20/20, ABC and ESPN are teaming up for a new Father's Day promotion, ESPN personalities contributed to Fusion's World Cup coverage

46. Robin Meade to CNN. NOPE!

2015 Media Predictions

2014 was an amazing, trans-formative year in the world of media. My prediction? 2015 will be even crazier! I'm excited to see all of the new things which take over our lives in sports media, news media and entertainment media. Before you read this, let me warn you that alot of the things predicted here will be totally random, out of the blue and all over the place. Click here to see what I got right and wrong in 2014.

1. Univision will spin off into an IPO - I don't think there's any company which Univision fits into. The companies that Univision does fit into don't have enough room in their portfolio for them.

2. CBS Radio will sell all of their radio stations or spin them off - CBS needs money if they want to acquire another company or merge, the best way to get that money would be to remove their radio stations.

3. Disney will not spin off ABC - BUT, they will enter into a joint venture with another company to operate O&Os.

4. “Kelly and Michael” repeats will be aired on a cable network

5. ESPN and Univision will move some sports properties to Fusion - The ABC/Univision joint venture needs programming which can draw young viewers.

6. Tribune will acquire a stake in the CW Network - Peter Ligouri has stated in the past that he's not happy with The CW's performance. What better way to fix that than to be directly involved?

7. Starz will be acquired by a large conglomerate 

8. Sinclair will launch NewsChannel8 nationally via cable or multicast 

9. Syndicated television shows will make a move to smaller cable networks in need of original programming - Access Hollywood and TMZ have already moved two of their shows to ReelzChannel, we’ll see other syndicators make the decision

10. Station groups will continue to produce original syndicated programming that serve as a local-national hybrid 

11. NBC will debut a new graphics package for the Winter Classic and Super Bowl - NBCSN has already used new graphics for their college hockey and basketball coverage

12. Universal Sports will shut down after NBC decides to leave the venture. - IOC’s new OTT network will partner with NBC to broadcast Olympic sports on NBCSN and the OTT network. NBC will help IOC market the network just as they do with the NHL Network but will not take an ownership stake. The OTT network will live on NBCOlympics.com in the USA and NBC News or Peacock Productions will help IOC produce documentaries for the network.

13. Pivot Network will shut down their linear network and become an OTT network, partner with a conglomerate to market itself better. 

14. Fusion will become a more powerful online news source but lose more clout on its linear service - Fusion will shift away from news and will be filled with hours of ABC News, Univision and ESPN documentary repeats, YouTube shows moved to television.

15. Vice will launch a 24/7 news network in conjunction with A&E

16. HLN’s social media rebrand will not work and the network will dabble into reality television. They may also sub-license time to HuffPostLive - OR the network could be acquired by AOL while continuing a news-sharing agreement with CNN + re-transmission negotiations alongside Turner networks? 

17. CNN will venture into scripted programming about historical events - potentially acquire off-network rights to House of Cards.

18. MSNBC will invest in different types of programming including documentaries, concerts, lifestyle shows, advocacy shows, and entertainment. Ronan Farrow’s show will be cancelled with Farrow becoming an online reporter for MSNBC.com - This has sort of already happened after MSNBC's recent announcement of their own digital video network.

19. Fox News will stay the same, might add some Christian values programming 

20. Al Jazeera America will take more of a political stance, possibly add opinion hosts 

21. A major media company invests in an online video satire news network to compete with Comedy Central - Funny or Die has launched a news division, they could heighten their video production in this department in 2015 or someone else may decide to jump in

22. CNN enters the podcast game 

23. Alisyn Camerota to “New Day,” Kate Bouldan to “SOTU” 

24. Jon Stewart joins CNN - continues to make fun of CNN relentlessly

25. Jimmy Kimmel loses ground to Stephen Colbert in the fall 

26. Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show launch their own video portal -  posts videos from the show before YouTube, extras not available on YouTube, archive clips from Late Night and clips from Jimmy Fallon’s new show on Spike TV. If not their own video portal, NBC sells online rights of Tonight Show to an exterior website who gets access to video before YouTube. Fallon will also make a play for some type of ownership.

27. Tonight Show repeats air on Esquire Network, Jimmy Kimmel also sells repeats to a cable network 

28. GMA will continue to dominate Today Show - NBC News will make some on-air personality changes to the show

29. ABC launches an extra hour of “GMA.” - They could either move “Kelly and Michael” to 10am or ABC stations could choose to not renew Rachael Ray or they could re-brand “The View” at 11am or the extra hour of “GMA” could live on a cable network

30. The NFL will opt out of contract with CBS -  but will re-sign a longer deal with The Tiffany Network; the deal will include NFL games airing on CBS All Access app and an ownership stake in the app for the League.

31. The NFL will add two new wild card playoff games which will be sold separately between rightsholders. - CBS/NFL Network will take one game, ESPN will take the other.

32. NBC renews rights to Premier League soccer 

33. ESPN and Fox acquire Big Ten rights together - ESPN commits some marketing resources to BTN and BTN2Go

34. WatchESPN and Fox Sports Go create joint portal

35. Howard Stern leaves Sirius to launch an online startup - show changes to podcast format recorded in the afternoon

36. Bill Simmons stays with ESPN 

37. ESPN launches an ACC Network - Raycom remains ACC’s digital partner. ACC Network affiliates turn to Sinclair’s American Sports Network for programming

38. World Cup will not change locations, Fox will be forced to sublicense games to ESPN 

39. ABC Family will be re-branded 

40. Twitter will launch its own video player - blocking out all of the other Twitter video clients. Sports rightsholders will sign deals with Twitter to launch feeds specifically for video highlights, GIFS, Vines of games. Rightsholders will also create segments specifically for Twitter. (The NFL did this with Twitter before launching NFL Now) Rightsholders will also claim copyright whenever highlights are posted without permission on Vine

41. SportsCenter or Fox Sports Live will launch mini-editions of their shows for Snapchat 

42. Media companies will repurpose content and produce new content exclusive for Snapchat and Twitter 

43. Keith Olbermann will anchor an episode of SportsCenter 

44. HBO’s subscription service will malfunction when it starts, will contribute to a decline in Netflix subscribers 

45. AXS TV merges with another entertainment network - OR aligns itself with a conglomerate to gain more carriage

46. Ann Curry leaves NBC 

47. American Idol goes on hiatus 

48. Hillary Clinton will announce she is running for President on social media/YouTube - conduct her first interview with Univision/Fusion’s Jorge Ramos

49. Advertisers will begin to produce multiple television programs for cable networks - Under Armour is already helping to finance a high school sports online network and an exercise block on NBC Sports Network, we'll see more of these types of partnerships beyond sponsorship

50. Television advertising will continue to take a downturn as online advertising emerges 

51. Showtime and HBO partner up for Pacquiao/Mayweather PPV on May 2nd in Dallas, Texas - undercard simulcasted on CBS/TNT/TBS; major promotion during March Madness including a contentious interview between the two during Final Four pregame show

52. CBS talks to Viacom and Time Warner about merging, buys Lionsgate. Alibaba buys Sony. 

53. Yahoo finds a way to air Katie Couric’s news programs on television through CNN, Fusion or HLN 

54. CNN Center is used solely for CNN International and Turner Sports, all HLN and CNN programming move to New York - Studios are leased out to another media company, Turner Sports builds a bigger studio for NBA TV and NBA.com.

55. Amazon moves Twitch into a subscription format 

56. Roc Nation gets into television and film production

57. Keith Olbermann finds a way to return to politics

58. Ryan Seacrest leaves NBCUniversal - launches his own digital network in conjuction with IHeartMedia, stops hosting on the red carpet but continues to produces shows for E!

59. Simon Cowell re-launches X-Factor OR launches another franchise online - The You Generation hasn't gotten much buzz so Cowell may have to team up with another MCN network or TV network to gain viewership

60. Robin Meade and Nancy Grace will leave HLN

61. Nikki Finke and TMZ expand their coverage to Washington, D.C. - TMZ breaks a major political story about the 2016 election

62. The National Enquirer/Radar Online owners increase video - This could include new YouTube channels or a TV pilot

63. Imus announces his retirement

64. Showtime will launch an OTT subscription service

65. Jim Rome will join The NFL Today - Bart Scott and Boomer Esaison will be removed. Scott will go back to CBSSN, Esaison will return to calling games.

66. If CBS renews TNF, they will re-do the studio team - James Brown will stick around but they may go with a rotating set of analysts.

67. Facebook will expand digital video

68. Vessel will provide some extreme competition for YouTube

69. The Young Turks will get increased investment or possibly acquired - They will also make a return to television

70. Major athletes partner together to start their own social network/app or media company - Derek Jeter and Sage Rosenfals have already launched their own websites, SportsBlog.com is based on athlete blogs but I think we'll see big marquee name stars from different sports teaming up to do something of their own. I wouldn't be shocked if LeBron was involved either. The closest we've gotten to this is Grabyo, but the athletes only invested in the software and it isn't wholly owned by the athletes involved.

71. ESPN will produce programming from a non-affiliated network - It will be a network that isn't owned by Disney.

72. MSNBC will change their graphics package

73. Dan Patrick will be named as Alex Trebek's replacement on Jeopardy in 2017, Patrick leaves Sunday Night Football and is replaced by Josh Elliott - Patrick will contribute essays and will continue to host his radio show and host NBC's Olympics coverage

74. Sports Jeopardy will air on television via Game Show Network or a sports network

75. Mike Francesa will move to MSG TV

As I think of more predictions, they'll be posted here.

76. Stephen A. Smith will re-sign with ESPN

77. Jamie Horowitz will join Fox Sports 1 - He will re-do the network's afternoon lineup and replicate it after ESPN2.

78. Rex Ryan will be fired by the Jets, sign with ESPN as a Monday Night Football commentator

79. Yahoo will not merge or get acquired by AOL or anyone else, Marissa Mayer gets one last chance to prove herself

80. A live network centered around YouTube stars will launch - it will most likely be an online equivalent to HSN or QVC. OPEN.tv and QYouTV are two examples of these types of channels launching but they aren't full fledged yet.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Bold Prediction: Keith Olbermann Back In Politics By 2016 Election

Keith Olbermann recently contributed "play-by-play" to Bill Maher's stand-up special on HBO. Olbermann didn't make any political references since he's banned from talking politics by his current employer, ESPN, but there's no doubt in my mind that he misses the game best played in Washington, D.C.

When asked about it by SI's Richard Deitsch, here's what he said:
The direct answer is – and I know I never give one – yes and no. I do miss that marinating process and no, I don’t need to do it again.
I'm sure he doesn't need politics in his life but I'm sure he would love it if it played some type of role in his life once in a while.

My prediction? Olbermann will find a way to get back into politics. I don't think it'll mean leaving ESPN or ending his show either.

ESPN and Olbermann will find a way for him to either contribute to 2016 election coverage on ABC News or another news outlet.

Maybe Olbermann contributes video content to CNN or Al Jazeera America (since his bridges with MSNBC/Fox are beyond broken) or an online website like Slate or Yahoo. Maybe he produces weekly special comments for FiveThirtyEight, Grantland or Fusion. Maybe he becomes a contributor to ABC's "This Week." Maybe he becomes a guest blogger for the Huffington Post or a left-wing publication.

Maybe ESPN and ABC News form a partnership/online hub with contributions from Olbermann, Nate Silver, some of ESPN's online writers like Jason Whitlock and members of his website together with ESPN/ABC News' political sports podcast.

I don't know how it happens but there's no way Keith Olbermann's voice remains silent during the hoopla surrounding the 2016 election. As ESPN and Olbermann develop more trust for one another, the freedoms he's allowed to have will expand.

Olbermann just has to continue behaving for the next year.

Questions Loom For ESPN's New OTT Network

Last week, the NBA announced an extension of their TV rights deals with ESPN and Turner. Both entities will keep their package of games (Wednesday/Friday: ESPN, Thursday: TNT, Sunday: ABC) and will receive some added perks as well.

Turner will now have expanded digital rights for the Bleacher Report which means they can launch shows and video segments using NBA highlights. B/R will also stream all of TNT's games to authenticated viewers. TNT adds 12 extra games to it's schedule after the All-Star Game which will be flexed in, as well as, an end of the season awards show.

ESPN will add 750 new hours of NBA programming to it's schedule year-round, extends it's deal with the WNBA, increases the games it broadcasts internationally and adds D-League games as part of it's deal.

But, the biggest perk to ESPN's new deal is a brand new over-the-top network. The NBA will own an equity stake in the new network and has granted ESPN permission to broadcast "out of market" games. According to Reuters:
ESPN offered the equity interest to the NBA as an incentive for the league to choose the streaming service - rather than a new programming partner such as Fox - for certain games, the sources said. The games being made available are those not already being shown on television ESPN and Turner as part of the rights renewal package, they said.
So basically, ESPN paid for three different packages of NBA games (ABC TV, ESPN TV and new OTT network). This portion of the deal also tells you how much the league trusts ESPN with their product.

The NBA chose to launch a brand new online television network with the Worldwide Leader rather than sell this package to a desperate bidder like Fox or NBC, who would've probably overpaid for the games and would've made the owners even MORE money.

ESPN and the NBA haven't released much information on this new network because they're also still working on it's framework. But here are some educated guesses/predictions about what this network will look like.

When and how many games will air on the OTT network?

The magic number might be 30 games since that was the guestimate of games which many speculated Fox would be receiving if they bought their own set of games. 30 games would be enough to convince a cord-cutter/young person/internet TV watcher to become a subscriber without encroaching on local TV rights or ESPN and Turner's games. I would also have to guess that these games would air on the OTT network on a night which ESPN/Turner aren't on the air like Saturday or Monday.

Will the NBA games be exclusive to the OTT network?

They'll most likely be exclusively nationally to the OTT network meaning they wouldn't be available on League Pass, NBA TV, TNT or ESPN but I'm sure the local RSNs of the teams playing would be able to air the games based on how ESPN's previous deals with the NBA have worked.

How much say will the NBA have in this new OTT network?

It sounds like this will be 100% operated by ESPN. The NBA will have a vested interest financially-speaking but I doubt they'll be involved with editorial control of the network. I wouldn't be surprised to see NBA Entertainment co-produce a documentary and/or a talk show with ESPN for the network but I don't think they'll have much say in it's daily operations.

What will be the network's format?

ESPN has no idea at this time and neither do we. We might see some on-demand content surrounding the games or we might just see the games.

What do you hope the format of this network is?

I hope we see a mix with a little bit of everything. I hope this network has a library of documentaries, ESPN's talk shows, classic ESPN shows like "Dream Job" and "Stump the Schwab," instant classic replays and old ESPN Classic programming combined with a live feed of unique comedic talk shows aimed at a younger audience which supplements the live games.

Basically, if you were to combine ESPN Classic, Netflix's sports section, live sports games and funny live talk shows together; that would be my dream OTT network. I wouldn't be surprised if Grantland moved their video podcasts from YouTube to this network or if Jason Whitlock's new website produced longform video for it as well.

I would also expect a lot of league-specific programming which might not fit on TV schedules to appear on this network. My other ideas include:

  • Live after-shows to some of ESPN's popular programs like "First Take" 
  • Video component to some of ESPN's most popular podcasts like "His and Hers"
  • Reality sports shows which might not fit ESPN TV but could interest younger fans like a sports versions of "Pawn Stars," "Dancing with the Stars," "Parts Unknown," "Dirty Jobs," "Cribs," "Top Chef" etc. 
  • Alternative camera viewpoints during ESPN's sporting events such as All-22 during college football games (I doubt NFL would grant ESPN those rights for MNF games) or a coaches/stats alternative broadcast
  • NBA edition of RedZone 

What other sports do you expect to appear on this network?

The only things that pop up in my head are the ACC, Big Ten and MLS. ESPN could decide to move ESPN 3's free ACC games to this network in exchange for the ACC's own equity stake. The Worldwide Leader is also in negotiations with the Big Ten to renew their deal and a portion of games could be dedicated to this new network, although the chances of that are slim since the Big Ten has their own OTT network which they just launched in conjunction with their TV network.

I'm almost 100% sure that ESPN will include MLS games on this network since they bought all digital rights to the league in their latest deal. Here's more from Reuters:
ESPN is considering selling online access to live Major League Soccer games to consumers without pay TV subscriptions, an experiment that could help the sports network find ways to generate revenue outside the traditional pay television system.
Sounds a lot like ESPN's agreement with the NBA, right?

Will games be sold individually?

If ESPN did that, they would be diluting the OTT network's price.

Will the network have ESPN branding?

If I were them, I would pursue branding which differentiated the network from ESPN but still made it clear that ESPN was the kingmaker behind the network just like they do with Grantland/538.

Even though ESPN pays a boatload of money to the NBA, you don't want to give off the impression that the league has major influence over ESPN's operations. By branding this NBA co-owned ESPN OTT network with ESPN's name, that's the perception which may emanate.

ESPN is also the king of cable and the reason cable bills are so high. By branding this network as a cheaper ESPN, the Worldwide Leader would make it's core business vulnerable to a subscription drop which would certainly make pay TV providers like Comcast and DirecTV extremely unhappy.

Which name would you use?

The Ocho.

Who is hurt most by this new network?

120 Sports and NFL Now. 120 Sports was planning to launch a subscription service in their 2nd year of operation (when ESPN/NBA's OTT network will likely launch) while NFL Now already has a subscription service available for $2.99.

Both networks have rights to sports highlights (120 Sports: NBA, NHL, PGA and MLB; NFL Now: NFL). But that's it. Why would I pay for either service when I can get sports highlights on ESPN.com, Twitter/Vine, YouTube or one of the league-owned websites?

If I were 120 Sports (co-owned by SI, NHL, MLB, PGA, Silver Chalice), I would try to negotiate for a couple of NHL and MLB games which aren't covered by television deals. It may involve both league's TV partners paying less for their rights or asking for extra perks but it would be worth it because the leagues would be building for the future.

I'm sure the leagues would like to start developing direct-to-consumer relationships before TV rights run out in ten years and by building 120 Sports into a must-have app for sports fans, you're doing just that.

Maybe 120 Sports and NFL Now should merge together or offer a joint subscription package? They both need each other. NFL Now won't be a destination for viewers once the off-season begins because there are so many other options available for fans to get their NFL off-season fix. 120 Sports, on the other hand, needs highlights to America's most beloved game in order to sustain itself for the future.

In my opinion, both entities should use the highlights rights they have to their advantage. There's a bunch of different shows which can be launched based around highlights with themes such as: wackiest plays, best plays, breakdowns of how teams won or lost, coaches' shows, players' shows, stats shows etc. You could start shows based on all those formats around each team in each league and maybe someone will see the value of understanding sports from an analytical standpoint and decide to willingly pay money for a subscription.

How much will ESPN charge for this OTT network?

It depends on whether it'll be advertiser-supported or not. If there's no commercials, I would expect it to be more expensive and vice versa. Hopefully it's around $10-$20 but it could also range between $40-80 depending on whether ESPN can sell this new network as a non-threat to cable/satellite providers.

Will the OTT network sublicense programming from other content providers?

I wouldn't be shocked to see this network sublicense games from other networks who have excessive rights to a sporting event (Fox recently sublicensed some Champions League games to ESPN).

I also wouldn't be shocked if documentaries/shows were also sublicensed from a TV network. ESPN and HBO have a history and HBO hasn't been afraid to sell online rights in the past (Amazon deal) so I wonder if HBO would consider selling Costas Now/Real Sports/24-7/Boxing and documentary archives to ESPN's new network.

Maybe Epix, which just signed a deal to produce documentaries for the NHL, signs a distribution deal with ESPN through this new OTT network?

Or maybe a Dan Patrick reunion with "Sports Jeopardy" (which has been streamed 1 million times) coming back to it's former home.

Will this OTT network use it's own talent or use ESPN talent?

It all depends on their programming strategy. If they're trying to make this distinct from ESPN, then you'll see mostly brand new talent. I predict it'll be a mix of new talent and ESPN's talent.

Why is ESPN doing this?

ESPN wants to kill all alternative outlets before they can launch. They want to own all anti-ESPNs. This is why they've invested heavily in ESPN2's programming schedule, Grantland, 30 for 30, 538 and now this new OTT network.

By investing in ESPN2, you provide a loudmouth Fox News-type alternative to ESPN; Grantland serves sports fans who dally into pop culture; 30 for 30 serves the sports fan who love documentaries; 538 serves sports fans who love statistics and this OTT network prevents the Google's/Apple's/Netflix's of the world from entering sports television.

ESPN has become the main source of consumption for sports fans and has taken over all of the niches which could've possibly been Fox or NBC's mantras for their own respective networks.

Peter Kafka says it best:
ESPN loves its position as king of the pay TV bundle, and it doesn’t want to do anything to weaken its status — or the long-term distribution deals it has locked up with the pay TV guys, which generally run for seven to ten years.
BUT as John Skipper told Kafka at a media conference.....
We think about, are there sports events we could offer, where the consumer would pay us directly 
Who knows if cable TV will exist 10 years from now? If it does, ESPN will continue to dominate the scene. If it doesn't, ESPN wants to be ready to broadcast sports on whatever new online technology takes precedent as the main way Americans watch television. Even if cable TV and online TV do co-exist 10 years from now, it's better for ESPN to dominate both mediums than to cede power on an emerging medium to a rival.

Where will this subscription channel be hosted?

Most likely on ESPN's website but I think it would be interesting to see whether Disney tries to build up their Maker.tv site and places the network there or if ESPN teams up with Verizon to launch a TV service which includes other non-sports cable channels as WSJ suggests.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Bloomberg Buying Yahoo?

Courtesy: Bloomberg
The rumor mill is churning at another big media merger which could possibly be going down soon. According to an anonymous Twitter account which posts rumors that New York City cab drivers hear from their passengers:
Bloomberg Media has secretly offered $33 Billion cash buyout of Yahoo
Bloomberg's offer would be just under Yahoo's current market cap (total value of shares) of $38 billion. Both companies have been hard at work trying to increase the amount of media content they own.

Yahoo recently started producing sitcoms which are set to debut in the fall, saved critically-acclaimed series "Community" from extinction, signed a deal with Live Nation to air one free concert a day and is beefing up their news department by signing Katie Couric among others.

Jon Heilmann and Mark Halperin, courtesy: Yahoo (ironic)
Ironically, Couric's first interview for her new web series on Yahoo was with Michael Bloomberg in which the duo discussed Bloomberg's transition away from New York mayor to private citizen.

That transition has been anything short of quiet. Mr. Bloomberg, in a spectacle captured by the New York Times, went from solely focusing on his foundation to taking over as the head of Bloomberg Media once again.

Along the way, his foundation helped organize a summit between Africa's head of states and President Obama while his media company signed political journalism superstars Mark Halperin and Jon Heilmann as the head honchos of their own political vertical and their own political version of ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption." The next big project for Bloomberg Media is a business vertical which will be aligned with BusinessWeek.

Katie Couric and Mike Bloomberg, courtesy: New York Post
As Alex Weprin points out in Capital New York, Bloomberg Media has many different outlets but it lacks mainstream luster. If this rumor turns out to have some validity, this could be Mr. Bloomberg trying cure all ills with an acquisition which is expensive but less of a hassle to deal with compared to the other mainstream companies with luster which are available for acquisition such as Time Warner, Viacom and CBS.

Bloomberg Television could easily add Katie Couric as it's lead anchor with Yahoo's other experienced journalists added to the fray as well (Matt Bai, Michael Isikoff, Bianna Golodryga, David Pogue). Bloomberg's web content (specifically it's successful online video division which sees 27.4 million global video streams as of 2013) would also have a larger platform to flourish in.

We could even see Bloomberg TV transform as a network. There might be more of a focus on general news and entertainment in order to compete better with CNN, MSNBC and Fox. Yahoo's resources and video rights, although tailored for the internet, could prove beneficial for the network if they make this sort of transition because Yahoo will put Bloomberg on the negotiating table with some of the biggest brands in entertainment (ABC, NBC, Live Nation, IHeartRadio, Sony, Broadway Video, NFL, BuzzFeed etc.), a luxury which they probably didn't have before.

Yahoo could benefit as well because they'll finally have an outlet of their own to branch out into television with. They won't need NBC Sports Network to produce fantasy sports shows with nor will they need "Good Morning America"'s TV-ready content to distribute on their website for female readers because they could produce all of that television content on their own if they wanted to (Although I suggest they keep their deal with "GMA" if this transpires because it never hurts being associated with the #1 morning show on TV).

Marissa Mayer, courtesy: Joy A. Martin
The most intriguing part about this potential deal is whether Bloomberg wants to acquire Yahoo because of Yahoo or because of the shares of Alibaba which Yahoo owns. Does Mr. Bloomberg have a grand scheme of his own ideas of how he wants to use Yahoo's new-found treasure chest?

Marissa Mayer may be at the precipice of the biggest business decision in her lifetime. The decision she makes could make or break Yahoo and her career. Would she really want to cede all of that control, power and potential success to Mr. Bloomberg even though she's under some of the most intense pressure of her life right now?

Courtesy: CNN/KCRA
On a sidenote, Ms. Mayer: don't buy AOL. It would be like having the choice between buying a Benz and a Maserati. AOL is the Benz. It will keep Yahoo smooth sailing, it'll help Yahoo increase it's video library and advertising business but it won't transform your company into what it once was. It's not a sexy acquisition.

Which company is the Maserati? That answer is above my pay grade but I know it's not AOL. It is most likely a video company of some type because video is the future for the internet. I just don't see any video companies which are worth acquiring. No one stands out as a YouTube alternative. DailyMotion and Vimeo are doing an excellent job competing with YouTube but they're not going match YouTube's gravitas anytime soon.

My idea: Yahoo should save that money to buy some NFL rights (Thursday night rights expire next year, 2 playoff games possibly being added) which would reside alongside the TV-style sitcoms and series which the company has already invested in. It could help turn those shows into franchises which you can sell to television networks across the world. Yahoo could even sublicense television simulcasts of their games (assuming the package of games they would acquire would be exclusive to Yahoo).

It's worked before for Fox and I don't see why it wouldn't work for Yahoo's video player as well. Production companies would be flocking to get their content next to the NFL. Yahoo already has an "in" with the league since they are a distributor of NFL Now programming, now it's time to take their relationship to another level.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Why Bill Simmons Isn't Leaving ESPN

Courtesy: TMZ
The tension between ESPN's management and Bill Simmons has reached an all-time high. Although there have been many tumultuous incidents during Simmons' tenure with the Worldwide Leader, as depicted by Deadspin, none of his fights with his bosses have been as controversial as the fight happening this time around.

But in my opinion, both sides will eventually reach cooler-heads and will continue to co-exist. Here's why. Simmons has nowhere else to go. Don't believe me? Let's go down the list.

FOX - 

The positives: Fox is based out of L.A. just as Simmons is. 

The negatives: Fox doesn't have the rights to anything which Simmons is interested in covering like the NBA or NCAA Tournament basketball. Not to mention, Simmons doesn't like Fox very much after they tried to prove to the general public that they would be better than ESPN because they'd be more "fun." Fox's online presence isn't that great either. 

Fox recently signed a deal with Sporting News to share online content and while they recently ranked as the #1 online sports video destination combined, they still haven't found a way to garner pageviews on their articles from various columnists. Simmons will bring in his own base to the site but it's going to be difficult to change the habits of a regular sports fan who occasionally reads Simmons because he's on ESPN's website. Would that kind of reader be willing to add Fox Sports to their diet or would they just stick with ESPN and find another writer to read?

Turner - 

The positives: TNT has rights to the NBA and Simmons could play a role on "Inside the NBA" or on NBA TV.

The negatives: Simmons is not fond of the Bleacher Report much either. Simmons would also lose the major television presence he's getting on ESPN because NBA TV and "Inside the NBA" don't reach the same amount of viewers on a daily basis which ESPN does.

NBC - 

The positives: Simmons could work on "Sunday Night Football" as an essayist and could possibly get his work distributed to Yahoo Sports through NBC's deal with Yahoo. Simmons could also call Boston Celtics games on Comcast SportsNet Boston.

The negatives: No NBA rights and limited air time. "SNF" already has a gazillion faces, would they really want to add yet another face? Also, NBCSN has nowhere near the same reach which ESPN does. If you don't believe me, just ask Michelle Beadle

I doubt CBS would consider him because they're a very reserved, conservative organization that doesn't sign firebrand names. In fact, they've been getting rid of many online writers who have transferred themselves over to ESPN. 

I'd also take Yahoo out of the equation even though they're the highest read sports website in the land. Other than their partnerships with "GMA" and NBC Sports, they don't have any television presence and it is very unlikely that either of those two outlets would ever cease airtime or editorial control to Simmons without getting a piece of the pie which could prove too bureaucratic for Simmons' tastes. We also haven't seen much come out of their recent Katie Couric deal (although a devil's advocate could argue that it's still pretty early).

So where does this leave Simmons? Well, The Big Lead is reporting that Simmons could start his own venture backed by a bunch of rich investors with contributions from Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla. But could that type of outlet ever have much influence without a mainstream media backer? Carolla doesn't reach many people other than his superfans. He's able to make enough money to gain a profit but he doesn't have a voice which most Americans know or have heard of. Does Simmons want to risk becoming a misnomer among sports fans by going independent?

We know that Simmons is popular (hence why a #FreeSimmons trend was started on Twitter after news of his suspension was announced) but is he popular enough to have consistent customers who will support the advertisers who sponsor his page or will pay a monthly subscription fee if he goes that route?

At the end of the day, ESPN is the lesser and most dependent of two evils. Simmons has founded his own website, has an extremely popular podcast and produces some of the best sports documentaries ever all courtesy of ESPN's dime. Does he really want to take on all of those financial headaches and obligations independently? And even if he were to find another mainstream partner besides ESPN, would they ever be able to attain the reach which the Worldwide Leader has? I doubt it. 

Bill Simmons needs ESPN more than ESPN needs Simmons. 

The Boston Sports Guy can survive without ESPN. Dan Patrick has and he's doing extremely well. So has Rich Eisen, who will soon have a small little empire of his own courtesy of Patrick's partners at DirecTV (another contender for Simmons' services). 

But, Simmons might end up ceding his crown as America's most popular sportswriter without ESPN's backing, support and reach. There's no one in the sports media industry as extravagant and huge as the four-letter network.

What does Bill Simmons think? I guess we'll find out after his contract expires next year.


Bill Simmons Out At NBA Countdown

New Details on CBS News Digital Network

The Hollywood Reporter recently came out with a profile of Les Moonves, the CEO of CBS Corp. Hidden inside of the article are some new details about the CBS News channel which is supposedly their answer to CNN.

Moonves inadvertently admits that if Fox had bought Time Warner and had spun off CNN, they would've most likely bought the struggling cable news network. Now, since that option is no longer available, CBS is beefing up their digital network to compete with the big boys in cable news.
Dressed in his Manhattan uniform — black suit, bold tie — he settles in beside his boyish news president, David Rhodes, 40, who has come armed with polling data for the November elections. The two huddle over an iPad as Rhodes walks his boss through a mock-up of the 24-hour digital news network, CBS' answer to CNN, which they're hoping to launch in October. (Since Time Warner rebuffed 21st Century Fox's acquisition attempt this summer, buying a spun-off CNN no longer is on the table.) They go over potential titles and the plan for on-air talent, which will skew younger and more social media savvy than those fronting the network's current news shows. CBS correspondents Elaine Quijano and Jeff Glor will be among the anchors, Rhodes tells him, noting that there will be more names coming. Moonves, leaning forward, voice booming, likes what he sees.
As Jim O'Neill of Ooyala says, "The online news channel would live stream content, news CBS already gathers but can’t fit into its current news outlets."

Moonves tells Bloomberg that he hopes to eventually turn this network into an authenticated online channel for pay-TV subscribers.


CBS News 24 Hour Streaming Network Launches In October

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