Sunday, October 25, 2015

What to Expect From The NFL on Yahoo and Future Implications

We now have a clearer picture of how Yahoo's broadcast of the first ever exclusively live streamed football game wi transpire. Fortune reports that coverage will begin at 8 a.m. with a pregame show focused on fantasy football.

The pregame show, Yahoo's Fantasy Football Live, is the self-proclaimed longest running fantasy football show online and will see its biggest stage ever on Sunday morning. The pregame show will feature a preview of the game, an interview with Bills legend Jim Kelly, stories from Yahoo News global anchor Katie Couric and the fantasy implications of Sunday's game. The actual game broadcast will be produced by CBS Sports with Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon and Jamie Erdahl calling the action from London.

Yahoo is also offering an alternative broadcast which is meant to serve as a more relaxed call of the game. Yahoo Sports' Shaun King, Larry Beil, Kirk Morrison, Jaguars insider Charlie Bernstein and Bills insider Chris Trapasso calling the game live from Yahoo's studios. The idea is similar to ESPN's yearly tradition of offering an alternative audio feeds to the College Football Playoff final. It is interesting to see Yahoo integrate personalities from other media outlets (Morrison works at Fox, Bernstein at Football Insiders and Trapasso at and CBS) onto their pregame show despite Yahoo's deep bench of NFL writers.  Some writers don't necessarily translate well into television commentators but I also believe Yahoo wanted experts of both teams on set rather than general personalities who haven't been following either team as closely. NFL Network's Dan Hellie, Heath Evans and Terrell Davis will also contribute to the pregame show live from NFL Network studios in Los Angeles.

The halftime show will be handled by CBS Sports with James Brown, Bart Scott, Tony Gonzalez, Boomer Esaison and Bill Cowher anchoring live from New York followed by a postgame show with the Fantasy Football Live team. There will also be a Spanish audio option available.

The telecast will done using CBS-style graphics without any branding from CBS. Yahoo has even created a mockup "NFL on Yahoo" logo which looks like a re-creation of CBS's own respective logo. CBS is being placed in charge of production because they already have the infrastructure available to do a football telecast unlike Yahoo. They are also the network which would normally broadcast from this game anyways because it is an AFC matchup. Although it has not been said publicly, I wouldn't be surprised if this was part of CBS's deal to renew Thursday Night Football. 

Part of the deal includes this clause:

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.

So far, this has included promoting NFL Network's programming on CBS (a live look in to NFL Gameday during NFL Today on Week 1, airing NFL Network's new show "Undrafted" in primetime, NFL Network commercials during sports programming and primetime). But it would also make sense if the NFL used some of CBS's games to experiment with their future. This is why besides having CBS produce all of the NFL Network's games and Yahoo's game, the NFL is letting CBS expand their streaming capabilities to test the future of live streaming online.

CBS has also played a minor role in promoting Sunday's Yahoo game. Besides running promotions about the game throughout their football telecasts last week, they also had their late night host James Corden come in studio to record funny segments for the NFL Network and NFL Now. One of the segments ran during the pregame show of Thursday Night Football two weeks ago while the others ran on NFL Network and NFL Now this week in order to promote the London flair which this game exemplifies. 

Unlike the Sunday and Monday football telecasts on Fox, NBC, ESPN and CBS; Yahoo's telecast will be co-produced with the NFL's media arm just as CBS's Thursday Night Football games are. This has helped Yahoo promote their game on various platforms which reach millions of football fans that Yahoo wouldn't normally have access to. NFL Media has also used their talent to promote the game on sports talk shows across the nation throughout the week. NFL Now even produced a multitude of short, sweet and funny online segments promoting the game which aired throughout the week on their site and raised awareness for the game.

Yahoo Sports sent their reporters to find different angles of the game and the teams playing which resulted in different in-depth news pieces and debates. The biggest investment Yahoo and the NFL made in promoting this game was teaming up with NBC's soccer duo, Men In Blazers. The soccer enthusiasts travelled to Buffalo and Jacksonville and got to know players, coachers and key staff members from both teams and interviewed them in a course of videos that were released daily over the past month. These men were chosen because of their connection to London and the online audience they reach.

Some soccer teams also got involved with promoting the game. Fulham FC, owned by the Jaguars' owner, released a Twitter video urging fans to #WatchWithTheWorld while the NFL's partner in Europe Tottenham Spurs teamed up with the Bills to release a Mortal Kombat parody of a Spurs player being talked by an Bills players. The Spurs typically feature NFL stars on their popular YouTube account to provide young fans of both sports an opportunity to connect with both brands. Expect more crossover videos to occur in the years to come now that the NFL and the Spurs are building a stadium together and will be attempting to gain a share of each entities fans around the world.

Some observers were surprised that Yahoo didn't take more risks with this telecast and didn't attempt to innovate the fan experience online versus on television, according to Mobile Marketer.

"In terms of significance, the NFL continues to be one of the most prestigious media plays in the traditional broadcast realm, delivering massive, highly engaged audiences around a core passion area," said Gian LaVecchia, managing partner of digital content marketing lead at MEC North America. "Although streaming will also exist on the NFL app, I think Yahoo still provides the unique value proposition of audience scale combined with an elegant video playing experience on both PC and mobile.

"In terms of the ad model, it is certainly replicating traditional formats but there appears to be a rational and valid reason, organic pauses in gameplay create downtime so it creates a natural aperture for brands to have a role," he said. "That said, I think there is certainly opportunity for greater innovation and creativity behind video ads. 

"Interactive games, deeper analysis, behind the scenes footage, multiple camera views etc., could help drive greater interactivity that could enhance the viewing experience."

Yahoo says they will be offering fans a chance to ask their fantasy experts questions through Twitter but it is a bit surprising to see that there will be no Twitter integration into the actual game telecast where fans could either follow tweets about the game or even tweet while watching without leaving Yahoo's page. 

Even if Yahoo didn't want to integrate with Twitter, they have a huge social media platform they own which is used by football fans which isn't seeing much integration other than the actual live stream also being available on its homepage - Tumblr. Yahoo should offer viewers a feed of what Tumblr's football fans are posting without having to leave the stream's page.

It is also surprising there is only one alternative feed being offered considering the vast amount of talent available to be used at both Yahoo and the NFL Network who could've hosted a feed with deeper analysis. An All-22 cam would've also been innovative. Even an option with just the natural sounds of the game or a fan cam or announcers who are British natives (maybe even the Men in Blazers themselves). 

The way in which the advertisers were integrated onto the broadcast seems so bland and traditional as well. I was expecting some branded content tailored to football fans but instead we're just getting the same old regular commercials you find on television already which no one pays attention to because they turn to Twitter.

I'm even surprised Yahoo Sports' GIF Maker isn't being integrated somehow.

I think many such as myself just expected a tech company to think a little more about changing the way fans have been watching football for decades through a web experience.

As CBS's Thursday Night Football games go up for bid next season, should we expect those games to go digital? No. Re/code's Peter Kafka puts it perfectly saying:

More likely is that the NFL sells off its Thursday games to a traditional TV network, and offers a few more low-stakes London games to digital outlets for the next couple of years. If Apple, or Google, or someone else with deep pockets and big ambitions wants to stream NFL games, they’ll probably end up waiting a few more years before it’s a reality.
If Yahoo's stream goes successfully, expect Yahoo to bid again against Google, Apple and Verizon for digital exclusive rights to next season's London games which the NFL will convince their network partners at Fox and CBS to give away. Also expect those digital brands to flirt with TNF in order to get the prices up for bids. CBS will end up winning out.

Next year will be an intriguing year for NFL rights among the digital outlets as Google continues to grow YouTube's subscription service, Verizon continues to grow its new app Go90 along with AOL and Huffington Post and Apple launches a TV service which is trying to draw users away from cable. 

Yahoo doesn't necessarily have a media strategy yet but has a knack for streaming live events even though they haven't become a huge revenue booster for the company. Will Yahoo be as incentived to carry NFL games as the other digital outlets when their own future is kind of blurry at the moment?

Photos: @alanspringer

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Dan Patrick Reports Rams and Chargers Moving To LA? NFL Network Studios to Hollywood Park?

Dan Patrick spilled some major gossip on his show regarding the NFL's future in LA as well as how it could affect the NFL Network. According to what Patrick's sources are telling him, the Rams and Chargers will be moving to LA soon and the NFL Network will get their own new studios built together with the stadium.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

ESPN2 Picks Up New York Cosmos Exhibition In Cuba

On a day overshadowed by shameful behavior among the leaders of the world's biggest game, some good news transpired for the NASL and their most popular team - national television exposure.

The New York Cosmos will be spreading some American love to Havana, Cuba through a display of sports diplomacy by competing against the Cuban men's national soccer team in an exhibition matchup on Tuesday. The game will be produced by One World Sports, an international sports network which shares common ownership with the Cosmos. Sports Video Group recently covered the small network's buildup to the big game and mentioned how OWS has used ESPN's expertise to better prepare themselves:
The match marks the first-ever live sports production involving a U.S. team and originating out of Cuba to be produced in HD and the first of any kind since ESPN produced a U.S.-Cuba FIFA World Cup qualifier in SD in 2008. As a result, ESPN was one of One World Sports’ first calls when it came to coordinating production facilities in Havana.  
“Our colleagues at ESPN were very helpful, and they walked us through some of the challenges they had,” says Feld. “We thought from the beginning that we would have to put a truck on a boat from the States or somewhere else or figure a flypack and build the facilities from scratch.” 
This partnership has now extended into a simulcast on the ESPN family of networks. The English-language broadcast airing on OWS will be simulcasted live to a much wider audience than OWS reaches through ESPN2 and ESPN3. ESPN Deportes will also use OWS's video feed to provide fans with the action but they'll enlist their own troupe of broadcasters for the Spanish-language version.

ESPN will also increase the exposure of this game to its audience through reports and analysis on SportsCenter before the match. This should come as no surprise since ESPN3 already has a deal with NASL to carry 1 game each week and it helps the league gain some prestige despite their connection with FIFA's corruption scandal (Traffic Sports, a marketing company which owns part of the league, has been charged with not negotiating soccer TV deals in good faith).

The game's much broader reach will also expose many American sports fans to One World Sports for the first time. A good quality performance in producing this game may be enough to convince cable operators to carry the network for their subscribers to access in the future. JP Dellacamera will be calling the exhibition and is a top notch soccer announcer who used to call World Cup and MLS game for the Worldwide Leader and he will definitely give a solid performance.

It might also doom them if something goes wrong on-air or if an operator questions the act of simulcasting the network's big ticket events on another channel.

OWS has already set a precedent of simulcasting their high demand matchups on channels with bigger audiences when they aired Yankees' player Mashiro Tanaka's Japanese professional baseball league games on the YES Network. Will an operator want to pay a carriage fee if their valued programming will already be available anyway?

Expect a feature piece from OWS at halftime which will disseminate soccer's current impact in Havana as well as a documentary covering the Cosmos' journey to Cuba which will air exclusively on OWS, according to Sports Video Group. Overall, it will be a great day for US/Cuba relations, One World Sports and soccer. It also shows ESPN's continuing commitment to soccer despite losing World Cup rights to Fox Sports, who will begin their own journey with FIFA in the next few weeks with the Women's World Cup.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Discovery Channel Was Interested In Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee

Last week, Wikileaks published over 30,000 pages of leaked emails from Sony's offices for public consumption. Among the most interesting things to surface is the amount of interest Jerry Seinfeld's latest venture received from other television networks.

Discovery Channel's Velocity, DirecTV's Audience Network and YouTube's newest competitor Vessel were among the outlets interested in second window rights to the hit online series which has been streamed over 25 million times. Dan Russell, vice president of programming for Discovery Channel's automotive programming network Velocity, tried to sell Sony Television president Steve Mosko on the network's ratings advantage over league-owned sports networks last July:
Velocity has been around since October 2011, is in 70M homes, and has been steadily moving up the charts in attracting Men 25-54 and Men 18-49.  Velocity out-delivers other notable male-skewing channels such as MLB Network, NBATV, NFL Network, Golf Channel, Fox Sports 2, CNBC, HLN, and Esquire.  Moving forward, we’re looking to attract a bit more women too, without alienating the men who love our channel.  That’s where your series, Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, comes in.
Russell noted that his colleagues had tried to reach out in the past but received no response in return. He asked for sublicensing rights to older episodes and guaranteed that Seinfeld's show would be treated as the top show of the network. Discovery would also heavily promote new episodes of the show airing on Crackle and would occasionally air Velocity's reruns on Discovery Channel. Despite Discovery's generous offer, Sony wasn't interested:
Thanks for the note....we aren't doing anything right now...we are keeping it exclusive to crackle....if anything changes we will let u know.
DirecTV, which was also in talks with Sony about a potential OTT offering as well as acquiring a second window of Dan Patrick's Sports Jeopardy, also wanted rights to reruns of CCC but they were denied. CBS and Lionsgate's entertainment network, Pop! (known at the time as TVGN), was interested in airing clips of CCC during a Paley Center interview they planned to broadcast between Seinfeld and David Letterman but just like the other network execs at DirecTV and Discovery, they were denied the opportunity.

In his interview with Letterman, Seinfeld mentions that he doesn't want CCC to air on television because “I was really thinking what would be a good tv show for a phone, because you don’t have to follow a story.”

In early 2014, Jason Kilar's short form content service Vessel, which has received the blessing of another famous comedian with a huge fan base - Ellen DeGeneres, wanted to license clips from the 90s hit Seinfeld along with CCC but it doesn't look like this idea picked up steam at the Sony offices because of the harm it could do to a larger, expansive SVOD deal with multiple episodes of Seinfeld. It also in direct competition with Crackle, which already showcases clips from the New York-based series.
They want to license Seinfeld and CCC clips.  Clearly we can't do that, but will explore other options.
Despite Sony's lack of interest with Vessel, the same can't be said about their feelings towards CBS All Access, the new SVOD service offered by the Tiffany network. Sony attempted to initiate discussions about CBS acquiring Seinfeld for the new service with extra marketing done of Jerry's part:
Nice move on streaming ...just an FYI..We are in discussions with the obvious players on Seinfeld for subscription and some of your more direct competitors... Series has not been offered on subscription to date and it's available jerry would do some marketing case you were putting out a broader offering I wanted you to be aware. 
On another note, it sounds like Jerry Seinfeld was in negotiations to acquire an equity stake in Crackle. It is unknown how far those talks got.
How about something like this?:We come up with an overall deal relationship like Jerry's commitment to promote/market Crackle, first look at his digital programming, shut down CCC site, maybe take a little more fee on CCC (any money that moves over to Crackle increase its value), etc - we'll come up with a list.Jerry gets a 5% economic interest in increased value of Crackle ie 5% of increased asset value over today's value, call it $200 mil. We'd do a fmv put/call after five years so he could sell or we could buy. If Crackle's worth $400 mil in five years, it's worth $10 mil to him. Likely to be worth a lot more than that.I think this might get us a lot more value and get Jerry the "skin in the game" we discussed

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 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. 

Search Here!!