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 Now and 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,
  • 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/, 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, 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, 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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