Brandon Costa on the Past, Present, and Future of Digital and Social Video in Sports

On episode 119 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Brandon Costa, Director of Digital for Sports Video Group.

What follows are some snippets from the episode. Click Here to listen to the full episode or check it out and subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher.

Posted by Neil Horowitz

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Sloan Sports and Analytics Conference 2018: Day 1 Twitter Recap

In February 2018, the annual Sloan Sports and Analytics Conference, bringing together thought leaders from throughout sports business and analytics to discuss the topics of the day.

What follows is a collection of the best quotes, images, insights, and observations shared via Twitter on #SSAC18 from day 1 of the event.

Thanks to all those whose tweets helped fuel this recap!

Preston McClellan is helping to grow the PGA Tour through players, content, and experiences

On episode 111 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Preston McClellan, Senior Brand Marketing Manager for the PGA Tour.

What follows are some snippets from the episode. Click Here to listen to the full episode or check it out and subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher.

Posted by Neil Horowitz

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Mark Burns Summarizes What Sports Business Experts Think of VR, AR, OTT, esports, and more for 2018

On episode 110 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Mark J. Burns, founder of Sports Business Chronicle.

What follows are some snippets from the episode. Click Here to listen to the full episode or check it out and subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher.

Posted by Neil Horowitz

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Sports Media Adapting to the Modern Fan

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Sports media outlets used to be just about content. The games on the channels were more important than the networks broadcasting them. It’s not like consumers had a plethora of choices from which to get their sports content in the past.

But that has all changed. It’s no longer just ESPN and the local paper. Or even a half dozen sports content websites. It’s thousands upon thousands. So how do the big guys maintain their place at the top of the mountain, particularly in the free-for-all world of digital and social?

They build brand.

Cultivating a brand, and having an active brand presence on every platform on which fans are consuming is an increasingly important concern for players in the social media game. These notions were recently elucidated at the annual Sports Business Journal World Congress of Sports, held April 20-21, 2017 in Dana Point, CA. (Check out a recap)

“SportsCenter is not a show, it’s a brand,” said ESPN Executive Vice President of Programming and Scheduling Burke Magnus. “It lives online, social, mobile, our OTT [over-the-top] apps.”

ESPN has long been more than just a set of TV channels, and nowadays they recognize the need to be that omni-channel brand that fans know and trust. As the cable paradigm continues to diminish, too, sports media brands like ESPN know it may be a direct-to-consumer play, not protected by the bundle.

President of Turner David Levy emphasized the need to ‘control platforms’ and not to dice up the distribution, especially in sports. Appreciating the shift in the ways fans are consuming content was a central motif of the conference’s opening panel. Michael Neuman, Executive Vice President, Managing Partner, Scout Sports and Entertainment – ‎Horizon Media, noted in a tweet: “[The] Biggest theme of opening panel is “decentralization” of media consumption and inability of youth to embrace current delivery.”

So how are sports media businesses seeking to combat this conundrum? Build a unique brand, of course.

For Turner and Levy, it means serving a cross-section of the interests of their fans, earning more of their attention every day. “The definition of a network is changing,” stated Levy, specifically speaking about Turner’s brand now including Bleacher Report. “The future of B/R is a cross between sports and culture (music, fashion) and maybe live games.”

Perhaps the best manifestation of finding success with a unique brand in sports media is Barstool Sports. Their irreverent, authentic, informed, unfiltered take on sports stories and content has found some startup success in an increasingly crowded sports marketplace. They’ve done it by letting the punch line that are Internet takes and memes drive much of their hyperbolic content.

“We are SNL [Saturday Night Live] if it were born out of the Internet,” said Erika Nardini, CEO Barstool of Sports: “We have the fan base and loyalty…

“Brand has to be part of the conversation.”

The lesson lies in the fact that fans are no longer coming straight to you in droves. Consumer have so many choices for content and their attention must be earned; you’ve got to make yourself easy to reach and then you’ve got to them want to come to you.

Why Sports are Still Growing and Glowing Beacons: Leaders Insights

Big picture thinking. Thinking about not just what’s next, but why it’s next. Taking the time to think beyond going through the motions and transactions.

At the annual Leaders Sport Summit, these were among the themes and traits, backed up by insights, by stats, by where their own leagues, sports, and teams and organizations are going. Below are some of the themes that stood out at the event where leaders from sports leagues, teams, and related businesses spoke; along with facts, quotes, and stats shared at the event via #Leaders17. This is Part 1 of 2. [See Part 2]

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(Also see the Leaders Day 1 and Day 2 recaps)

How Sports are Upholding Models, while the Models are Changing

One of the panels opened with the notion that the reason sports is thriving across media platforms is because it is content that is made for multi-platform consumption – the best available screen. As is often stated, too, it among the last bastions of content that must be consumed live, another factor behind multi-platform engagement. All this results in making necessary unique partnerships, such as Turner and CBS teaming up to maximize revenue from rights to NCAA March Madness games, selling ads across platforms and cross-promoting each other. The multi-device platforms also enhances sponsor activations.

However, as it was stated, all the ways content and media can be shared and consumed means, as it was stated, contracts have gone from 14-16 pages to 250+ pages. Yeah, the media landscape is a bit more complex now.

The metrics can’t keep up, either. Nielsen is trying, but it was lamented that their cross-platform measurement isn’t there yet.

Turner is excited about early eLeague results

Executives from Turner were there, talking about the auspicious results of their eLeague, an eSports league they’ve invested in and gotten fully behind for linear and digital programming. With 50 million esports players in the US, which was a stat dropped, Turner had high hopes and they have been exceeded. Ratings, they said, are matching those of regular season games in the NHL, MLB, and MLS. Turner sees it as a way to reach younger, more digitally savvy audience. In fact, 90% of eLeague consumption is happening via digital, with just 10% on TV. Live events are growing quickly in esports, as well as other leagues. Turner will have even more company in the space soon.

On Sponsorship

There were a couple speakers from Dow Chemical and AT&T, two bug business that are very active in sports sponsorship. They offered some excellent high-level insights, offering a better understanding of the keys to successful partnerships. Joe Harlan of Dow Chemical put it succinctly: “You need partnerships, not transactions. That means you’re in it for reach other.”

Harlan continued on how teams can approach their partners; it’s about finding the mutual benefit point, the intersection of interests. “Focus on what you do and what you deliver. Then the conversation is about relevance, not price.” For example, they worked with PGA Tour to reach business execs, who are among the golf demo, and also had great success leveraging opportunities to test technologies as a NASCAR partner.

Along with recognizing the value of the brand – fit and what it adds to the other brand — the point was made to USE the access partners are granted within sports, as sponsors. This simple, but succinct point is oft-overlooked.

Why and What with Sports?

There was additional insight shared on sponsorship and how and why to activate it. Citi’s Tina Davis noted the importance of sports providing a ‘live audience at scale,’ while AT&T’s Ryan Luckey pointed how sports partnerships rally the organization itself. The way these sponsorships are being put into practice have undergone immense change.

AT&T, Luckey said, doesn’t think of themselves as a phone company, as in decades past. They are a video/content company, with Luckey noting that 60% of AT&T’s traffic is video. Further, as it pertains to sports sponsorships, Luckey emphasized the now seemingly obvious point that, with only 5% of fans actually attending games, on-site activation is not nearly sufficient.

Twitter’s big bet on sports

Twitter COO Anthony Noto gave an enlightening look into Twitter’s past, present, and future with sports. The NFL content seemed to be a perfect fit when they noticed the huge spikes in Twitter activity, affected by NFL games and topics. Marrying conversations seemed logical. The results were promising, with Noto making note of deeper data, like the fact that 30% of the Thursday Night Football audience was from outside the US and exhibited higher female viewership than traditional TV.

But Twitter has ambitions to make hay with “under-served fans,” citing investments in sports like darts and lacrosse. (200,000 fans followed/viewed Darts competitions apparently). Unlike linear TV, Twitter has “unlimited shelf space,” they boasted. Twitter is also looking to their international audience, specifically noting sports fans in the UK and Japan, as places of interest at the moment.

In Q4 2016 alone, Twitter had over 600 hours of live content, and 55% of it was sports. Twitter is not out to challenge linear TV when it comes to mainstream sports streams, like TNF, either. “We are very happy with bringing an incremental audience,” said Noto. “There is a younger audience that doesn’t want to pay for TV. We can serve that audience.”

How will Twitter monetize all this content? Noto said they’re considering all economic models, including charging for live content. But there was no clear indication of any immediate plans.