Monday, December 30, 2013

Sports Media Post: New Ways To Watch Football in 2014 and Beyond, New Home for the UFC?

The game of football continues to grow it's reach and audience every year. Although the Super Bowl experienced a ratings drop last season, there is no other sport on television which draws the audiences which football does. Because of this, the fees which the NFL receives from FOX, CBS, NBC, NFL Network and ESPN to broadcast those games continue to exponentially increase and the deals last for a long stretch of time (current deals don't expire until 2021).

As the amount of cable networks and online networks dedicated to men and sports increase, expect the ways of watching football to increase and expand in different ways through 2014 and beyond. Here are some ideas which I could see coming into fruition on a screen near you.

1. Sky Sports Soccer Saturday - Sky Sports News in England covers soccer in a unique way as Awful Announcing describes:
Soccer Saturday features a variety of analysts and on-site reporters that watch and offer commentary on games while they happen.  (Yes, it means you're basically watching people watch games.)  While the concept may seem ridiculous and pointless to some of you, it actually produces crazy television when everything is happening at once across England.
If your team isn't playing and you can't afford NFL RedZone, how cool would it be to have a panel of former NFL analysts with the chemistry of "Inside the NBA" analyzing various games which they're watching live while reporters are on the scene describing the atmosphere, environment, the latest injuries and talking to fans in the crowd? Here's an example.

2. RSN/Local Feed - As the NFL Network was launching in the early 2000s, three organizations (Cowboys, Bucs and Falcons) had already established regional sports networks of their own to give fans maximum access to their team. But the NFL feared that these local RSNs would stop the NFL Network from spreading to more homes so they banned teams from starting them and forced the established RSNs to cease existence. With the NFL Network now reaching more viewers than it did as it was launching, maybe the NFL will allow teams to start their own networks again? And maybe the NFL could give fans the option to listen to their local radio feed synced with video live on these RSNs? (Very unlikely given how much CBS and Fox pay for rights UNLESS CBS and Fox start the RSNs themselves or teams pay CBS/Fox to simulcast feed. A man can only dream, lol.)

3. Multicast - NBC already offers various camera angles of the game online and it's only a matter of time before CBS and Fox start doing the same thing with their feeds, potentially broadcasting them on their own national cable sports networks if the NFL allows them.

4. Fans View - Two dedicated and well known fans from opposite teams calling games and reacting to the action together and live in real time would be a pretty cool option for fans. Fireman Ed and Barack Obama calling a Jets-Bears game would be unconvential and intriguing, wouldn't it? How about Michael Phelps and Wiz Khalifa calling a Ravens-Steelers rivalry game?

5. Fantasycast - A panel of fantasy experts constantly giving updates of various, key players would help fantasy owners adjust their lineups and keep track of where their team stands. It's an angle of analysis which the normal, regular football telecasts don't give much of, if any.

6. Match of the Day - One of the best sports shows to debut this year was NBCSN's "Match of the Day" which provided extended highlights and analysis of every single match played that day in the English Premier League. Why not have extended highlights of NFL games which exclusively feature the announcers as they called the game and the crowd noise without any hosts setting up the action for you? When you watch a quick 5 minute snippet of highlights, you've missed a lot of the intricacies of the game.

With extended highlights, you get to re-live the game and find out how the big plays were set up with less amount of time than if you were watching the game live but more amount of time than the game may be allotted on "SportsCenter". You'll understand what happened in the game and how a team won or lost more if the highlights are 15 mins. long vs. 3-5 minutes long.

2. WGN America = Possible Contender for NBA Rights? Tribune is currently in the process of rebuilding it's national cable network, WGN America, into a replica of TNT/TBS/FX/AMC etc. They want a general entertainment network with original high-brow dramas, high rated re-runs and some sports on the side.

For those who are unaware, WGN America is a superstation, defined as a broadcast station which spread it's reach beyond it's home city across the country via satellite. The FCC would later ban superstations from existing because the superstations affected local affiliate ratings since they were broadcasting a lot of the same programming. WGN America was one of the few superstations grandfathered in and allowed to continue operations which meant that they could continue airing White Sox, Cubs and Bulls games nationally.

While this usually helps their ratings, they're limited to the amount of games they can broadcast due to restrictions put on by the MLB and NBA respectively. Could Tribune be willing to pump out a ton of money to acquire a package of NBA games which could help increase the number of cable carriers the network has as well as the carriage fees which they take in? The NBA games would serve as a great promotional tool for their original programming. It's the same strategy which TNT has used all these years to increase their value.

WGN has a close relationship with the White Sox/Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf for obvious reasons. Reinsdorf happens to own an up and coming sports media company known as Silver Chalice. Would Reinsdorf be willing to flush out a bunch of money together with WGN to acquire NBA rights which could be produced and broadcast on both WGN America and Silver Chalice's sports websites? Right now there are no talks which are known to be occurring between WGN and the NBA but who knows what the future holds?

3. UFC Expanding Broadcast Partners? - UFC 168 brought out some interesting partnerships with other media partners other than Fox. While FS1 aired the "prelims" and FS2 aired a post-fight show, ESPN played a major role in UFC's promotion of the fight on Twitter. Dana White live-tweeted his take on the Rousey-Tate/Weidman-Silva matches as they were happening on @SportsCenter's Twitter page. AXS TV, Mark Cuban's network, was also a major sponsor of some of the early fights on the pay-per-view card.

Fox's contract with the UFC is nowhere near expiring and Dana White has publicly expressed that he is very pleased with the way Fox treats the sport. But it is no secret that the ratings are down in all of Fox's UFC programming (Prelim fights, "The Ultimate Fighter" etc.) Could this simply be the UFC trying expanding it's reach through promotion and inclusion of other networks or could this be a sign of things to come in the future?

Maybe in the UFC's next contract, they'll split their rights between more than one network? Or maybe I'm just making a big deal out of nothing. ESPN is a sports powerhouse and it would be stupid to promote your sport exclusively on one network if you're trying to reach as many sports networks as possible. And if AXS TV is willing to pay the UFC advertising money then it would be stupid for the UFC to not accept it.

To play devil's advocate with my devil's advocate thoughts though (lol), the UFC doesn't do many appearances on other sports networks such as NBC Sports, Turner Sports or CBS Sports, so why promote on ESPN? Also, why would the UFC let AXS TV sponsor an event when AXS TV is basically the home to every other MMA promotion not named UFC or Bellator?

In terms of the future, I wouldn't be surprised if the UFC started a minor league division to give it's talent time to develop and sold those rights to AXS TV. I also wouldn't be surprised if the UFC let AXS TV simulcast the prelims and international fights which air exclusively online. But I don't think Fox's relationship will be ending with the UFC anytime soon no matter how much money ESPN may throw at them. Dana White seems to be the type of person who respects loyalty.

4. Live Streaming From The Super Bowl - Back in 2011, I covered the amount of web streams which were taking place live from the Super Bowl in Dallas. With the big game taking place in New York this year, expect the amount of live streams available to be bigger than EVER. Many more companies are throwing Super Bowl parties/concerts/festivities etc. this year than in years past and I'm sure they'll be itching to live stream their events to showcase the athletes and celebrities who endorse their products.

Expect to be livestreaming the sights and sounds from New York. They have already sold advertising on their live stream and as the broadcast home of the big game, Fox will be doing as much as it can to promote Fox Sports as the new worldwide leader in sports both online and on television via FS1.

Other websites who will be live-streaming content from the Super Bowl:

  •, which will include interviews from radio row with various NFL Network personalities
  • OCNN, if Chad Ochocinco still works for them. NFL players who've been eliminated from the playoffs usually participate in press conferences and live stream content through OCNN
  •, where Chad Ochocinco works
  •, which will feature live streaming interviews with Mike Florio
  •, which will feature interviews from Yahoo Sports Radio
  • NFLPA, who normally live streams red carpet festivities from their annual Super Bowl party
  • UStream, which will feature live streams of radio row interviews from various radio stations nationally

Stay tuned to this page as we continue to update you on all the various live streams available to give you an all access pass to all the pandemonium surrounding a cold weather Super Bowl.

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