Social media unveils context-rich narratives behind games, highlights and headlines

Did you know Ron Howard is the narrator in Arrested Development? It was one of those facts I thought I knew at one time, then found out again, and was just as blown away the second time I "learned" it. What does it have to do with this post? Relatively little. But Ron Howard is a brilliant guy, so I took note of something I recently read and watched in regards to what he thinks is wrong with ESPN.

This is, oddly, plucked from a Grantland article on fixing the dunk contest


Just take that first part again:

It gets back to Vin Scully...Vin is constantly explaining to you who these people are and where they come from. And I think that the more we understand what's going on with the players, what makes them tick, and what could be motivating some of the decisions that they might make, on or off the field, the more engrossing the programming would be.

 

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Backwards we go: cable subscription required for non-CBS games on NCAA Tournament app

For a while there, it felt like the future. All it took was one incredibly-reasonable payment and you could have access to every single NCAA Tournament game, and you could watch them on your computer or your tablet or your phone. It was remarkable: one of the biggest sporting events of the year had the most forward-thinking broadcast model. Above all, it felt like an inspiring example of the sports industry as a whole moving forward.

As it turns out, it was too good to last:

Unlike last year, when iOS viewers could make a $3.99 in-app purchase to watch all 67 games, for 2013 they are required to authenticate with their pay-tv provider logins before they can watch games that air on TBS, TNT and truTV. Games aired on CBS will not need authentication. However, users will get a four-hour 'preview' window to watch games without authenticating. Live streaming will be available over 3G, 4G, and Wi-Fi.

My first thought: "OH COME ON—WHY?!?!" But then I calmed slightly, my second: "But seriously. Why?"

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Anecdotal--but heartfelt--evidence of the impact a great blogger can have on sports fandom

The walk between Safeco Field and the heart of Seattle's Capitol Hill is two miles, or about 45 minutes if you're doing the uphill trek at a somewhat leisurely place. I could stretch it into an hour if I stopped off for a late dinner at the taco truck-like joint holed up in an old KFC or the Dick's Burgers down the street. During the 2010 and 2011 seasons—during which the Mariners lost a combined 196 games—I made that late-night walk roughly 100 times. And it felt like three times out of four it was following a 3-1, 2-1 or 4-2 loss.

When I arrived home, usually around 11, I knew I had roughly an hour to an hour and a half before I'd be able to sleep—regardless of how exciting or dull the game may have been. So I'd fill it with some ESPN3 highlights of the XBox, random reading and then climb into bed for the last of the usual postgame routine: looking over game highlights on the iPad and, if I hadn't passed out yet,  reading the regular game recap to come online from Jeff Sullivan at Lookout Landing.

For myself and many other Mariners fans, reading those recaps and the other regularly-outstanding writing and analysis put forth by Jeff  was as much a part of the Mariners fan routine as the games themselves. For some, it was even more-so.

So it came as quite the blow to the entire Mariners community when Jeff announced he'd written his last post for Lookout Landing, citing the desire to make following and writing about the M's feel less like a job and more like the hobby it was intended to be—to make it fun again.

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A la carte digital content could've been a powerful weapon in FOX Sports 1's battle with ESPN

For as long as the recently-announced FOX Sports 1 has even been rumored to exist, it's been widely assumed its ultimate success would be determined by one thing: can it topple ESPN? Ad spending, subscriber count and ratings are all mile-markers along the road to the eventual goal of providing a viable alternative to ESPN and, in an ideal world, supplanting it.

In the press release accompanying the extravagant event announcing the channel—which joins CBS and NBC in the competition to challenge ESPN—Fox Sorts Media Group co-President and co-Chief Operating Officer Eric Shanks was as clear as as one could be in a medium as manufactured as this one. Emphasis is my own.

Fans are ready for an alternative to the establishment, and our goal for FS1 is to provide the best in-game experience possible, complemented by informative news, entertaining studio shows and provocative original programming.”

Though what I'm most interested in here isn't the channel as a whole, but a particular product that's launching along with it—one that could've been much more and sent The WorldWide Leader a message it couldn't ignore. I'm referring to FOX Sports Go, mentioned way down in the very last paragraph of the press release. Again, emphasis added:

 

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NCAA figures out what everyone else knows: Twitter improves television viewership

I don't know why it took them this long.

Yes, Twitter can drive higher television ratings and increased fan engagement. For this reason, the NCAA has rescinded its previously-instated limits on how many times members of the press can tweet during a live sporting event.

Though there are other reasons for the change—including enforceability—the biggest one is its impact on broadcast viewership. See, the restrictions were put in place so those tweeting updates wouldn't be infringing on broadcasters' exclusive rights to reproduce depictions of the game. Well, the broadcasters wised up and realized they didn't at all. Taylor Soper of GeekWire has the story

 "The NCAA (agreed) that broadcast rights holders would actually love to have people Tweeting about the game,” [Associated Press Sports Editors President Bruce Ahern] said. “That’s not going to get people to turn the TV off. That’s going to get people to watch the game and actually turn the TV on. [Tweeting] is a good thing for the broadcast partner."

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Vine gets video sharing right--and it's perfect for sports

For nearly as long as users have been able to share photos on Twitter, there have been companies and products trying to push them to share video as well. In the early days there was Twitvid (which became Telly) and Yfrog, then the Shaq-backed Tout and even YouTube has recently attempted to get in the social sharing game with Capture. But none have replicated the early success of Vine.

With Vine, it's all in the nuances. As much as I want to credit Twitter (which acquired Vine before it even launched) for creating new user behaviors, the service is essentially an Instagram clone operating with a different medium. Instead of filtered or over-saturated photos, it's looping six-second video clips—somewhere between an animated GIF and the portraits in Harry Potter.

Vine's success lies in that format. Six seconds isn't enough time to say anything of substance and, if it were, do you really want it looping back over and over again? Plus, on the web, audio is disabled by default. Another nuance: Vine users can create compilations, but they must do so in one take. You create a post in Vine by holding the screen to record. You can use just a part of the allotted six seconds and add to it later, but you cannot go back and edit.

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Gawker's new reader-driven blogging platform would make sense for sports teams

I've long advocated for sports teams to launch their own independent publications. Independent from their websites— distancing content marketing intended for the most passionate fans from the overt marketing—and independent from other social media ventures. Other social media efforts would be integrated, of course, but this would be stand on its own. A hub, so to speak.

In looking for examples, KnicksNow immediately comes to mind, as does Duke's Blue Planet. They're highly focused, they are deeply integrated with Twitter and Facebook, they produce a wealth of interesting content (especially video) and they're powered completely by professionals associated with their respective teams.

That last note, though, has some downside as it limits the amount of content being published. The cost of each piece of content is equal to the internal resources required to produce that piece of content.

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