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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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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It's time: bring on the crowd-sourced sports broadcasters

During halftime of the Super Bowl, my girlfriend asked me for the identity of the individual who was providing 'analysis' at the moment. She'd already stated earlier that she hated these NFL studio sets, and this individual wasn't doing anything to sway her opinion.

"That's Bill Cowher. He was actually a really good coach."

It didn't matter. It never matters. Cowher and the rest of the guys on these sets have a trove of information to draw on, war stories that none of us could even dream of, but again, it doesn't matter. They revert back to the same clichés, give that tired narrative a little more fluff, then point and yell a little before it's their turn to talk again. It's pointless.

And all this was before the blackout—which, as Drew Magary describes it for Deadspin, showed us "how truly worthless NFL broadcasters are."

This blackout should serve as the turning point, the moment in history when a network executive finally puts his foot down and says: "Why are we doing this? Why do we spend gobs and gobs of money on ex-players and ex-coaches who can't f*cking talk?" What is the point of Dan Marino?...A decade ago, The New York Times estimated that Marino makes $2 million a year from his broadcasting duties. That's $2 million—more than 70 times the median annual wage in America—for nothing.

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Google Glass presents an absurd number of possibilities for spectator and participation sports

When the iPad first came out, I didn't want to take mine out in public. Now, I didn't get it at launch or anything like that, probably a month or two later. But even so I didn't want to be that guy out in public using a piece of technology that at the time was some luxury nerd device—one that many didn't see the purpose of, beyond just "something different." 

Imagine what it's going to be like when Google Glass hits the streets. This isn't something you just pull out of your bag in a coffee shop either; you, presumably, wear these all the time. At least when you're not too self-conscious. The thing is, while I may have been skeptical at first, they (or a Google Glass-like device) may shake up the world even more-so than the iPad, possibly much more.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, or can't remember because these were mentioned a long time ago, here's a look at the Google Glass launch video. More of a hypothetical than a demo, but you get the ideo: visual/contextual data right in front of you.

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Easily-browsable Instagram geolocations would be incredible for sports. How soon will we see them?

Ever since Instagram reached an adoption level Google+ would kill for, it's become my favorite social network. I don't know if it was the Android release, Facebook's acquisition or some combination of both that got them there, but since it reached the point that there were enough people on there to pay attention to an always-cool—albeit relatively simple—concept, it's become social networking at its purest.

Like Twitter in the early days, Instagram starts with a very simple premise and lets users decide how they'll use it. But still, it conveys all the same things and allows you to keep up with friends/family/acquaintances/strangers just as easily as on other social networks, but always with images.

Oh you like a band? There's a photo of you at a show (or the more 'meh' "Now playing" screencap). You're at a restaurant? No need to "check in," just show me. You did what this weekend? There it is in an image. You're a huge fan of a sports team? There's you at the ballgame. It's that simple; it really is social networking purified.

The thing is, that was never really the point.

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Google+ Homecoming Tour with NBA stars is a strong move for the social network

Social technology is defined, more than anything, by the people who use it. Harking back to days long ago, I vividly remember there were two specific groups of people when I was in middle school: AOL Instant Messenger people and MSN Messenger people. It wasn't based on their technological preference, but sometimes really came down to what type of person they were. Even now, it never surprises me when ask someone which they used after raising this observation.

You can even see it now. Facebook is the everyman's social network; there's a lot of noise but you can use it effectively to stay in touch with friends and family, while also creepily monitoring the activity of acquaintances. Twitter, on the other hand, is the network for content producers, for celebrities and members of the media.

In order for Google+ to be successful, and not go the route of Wave, Buzz and whatever, it has to be the social network of someone, even if it isn't the one they use exclusively. With the announcement of the Google+ Homecoming Tour, they seem to making creative efforts to get move in that direction.

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Twitter at the ballpark--curation and geolocation could be key for teams

For me, getting scorched in the dome with a foul ball borders on being inevitable. See, when I go to Mariners games I usually sit about 20 rows up from third base and spend an inordinate amount of time on my phone because, in-between batters and innings, I am constantly checking my Twitter list of Mariners writers and bloggers.

Now, I'll be the first to acknowledge that if Ray Kinsella were sitting to my left, and Terrence Mann to my right, they would not approve. But in today's age, how different is this than keeping score? I'll admit it isn't as traditional or romanticized, but it keeps me engaged in the game and gives appropriate context to eveything that's going on. Whenever I tell someone about this practice, someone who also utilizes Twitter a bit, they give it a shot and usually enjoy it. It's such a great addition to the game, like those people who listen to the AM radio, but it's better. It makes the games more enjoyable and it makes me a better fan. The obvious question then is, how can marketers spur this kind of behavior?

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All sports teams and leagues should allow embedding of online video

It seems as though every time I venture onto a NBA or NFL team's official site, I'm shocked by the amount of video content I find. I don't know why I should be; with the number of interviews, behind-the-scenes access and other stuff, that's probably about the amount of content I'd have up there if I were somehow running the show. But still, I'm shocked. 

The probable reason: I don't expect to find all this video because I simply don't come to official team sites to get my news. There's too much other stuff going on there. I'll come to team sites to buy tickets, check the schedule, see what promotions are going on and maybe even peruse through the team store, but will not go straight there for my news. Team websites, for most purposes, are overt marketing material. I'm not going to dig through that for my news.

The solution, as mentioned, is allowing users to take team or league videos and drop them in whatever site I would like.

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Three types of sports content I'd enjoy seeing on Facebook--and other observations

There's been a bit of buzz this week spurned by the UFC's decision to air a fight on Facebook and the ensuing coverage of this development in FastCompany. As someone who's a huge fan of airing live events online, and especially for free, I find it odd that I feel like some of the excitement on this is a bit unwarranted.

As background, here's the lede for that FastCompany article, written by Gregory Ferenstein.

In a move that may break television’s sleeper hold on sports events, the Ultimate Fighting Championship will exclusively live-stream an anticipated fight on Facebook, available to anyone who “likes” their fan page. This is the first time a major sporting event has offered exclusive content through the social networking king, and, if successful, could make Facebook center stage for the Super Bowls and World Cups of the future.

Following up on that, he later speaks with the much-respected sports and social media whiz Amy Martin of Digital Royalty; the excerpt:

Martin, who works with a broad sports portfolio of social media successes, from Shaq to the LA Kings, tells Fast Company that so-called "like-gating" is "absolutely" the future of live sporting events. "We don’t have a network today that reaches the same global audience that Facebook does ... We’re taking the content to where fans want to be and where they’re spending their day."

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Mike McCarthy to show Packers fan-created YouTube video prior to Super Bowl XLV

Today is a big day. I'm a Packers fan and today we are playing in a Super Bowl. The last time this happened, I was 11 years old and John Elway helicoptered his way to a first down inside the 5-yard line that would seal a victory. Despite watching them win a title the previous year, I was crushed. I had to hide from sports coverage for weeks and when it did manage to jump out at me, I hoped it'd reveal that somehow on account of a technicality (Maybe all the Broncos were all on steroids...? Please? Anything?) the Packers would be awarded the Super Bowl. The only other pro team I followed at the time was the Chicago Bulls. I didn't know any better, I figured my teams only won titles and their best players were always named MVP.

It's been since those Bulls that any professional team of mine has played for a championship. As a result, I've been consuming any piece of Packers media I can find this week. That includes the following video put together by Michael Neelson of Madison and Austin-based Storyfirst Media.

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Why ATDHE, in its current state, can be good for sports teams and leagues

ATDHE.net was shut down earlier this week as their domain name was seized as part of a Homeland Securities investigation. What streaming live sports has anything to do with defending the safety of the United States of America, I have no idea; but while the ferries I take at least once a week have no security whatsoever for walk-on passengers, we have a special agent chasing down those who aren't committing copyright infringement, just spreading it. Here's the image now in place on the old domain, while the site is back in place on a different domain.

A month ago I sung the praises of ATDHE for sports fans. Being completely honest, I went a bit too far. Sports fans absolutely cannot get by on using sites like ATDHE alone. And, for sports teams and leagues, this in-between ground where fans can check out games from time to time, but not get by on the service by itself, it is absolutely perfect.

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Does social media make sports fans more whiny?

The single greatest thing about the Internet is the ability to find whatever interests you and then other people who are interested in the same thing. If I'm the type of person who effing loves Jello molds, I can find someone else who does as well. Or, a little closer to reality, if I'm caught up in the Packers playoff run and need my fix on the daily, I can find that from any number of outlets.

As the latter example happens to be true, I came across the excellent Green and Gold Today podcast hosted by Jason Wilde and Bill Johnson of ESPN Milwaukee. In one of these recent podcasts, as the pair discussed Mike McCarthy's clock management and playcalling abilties, Bill kind of lost it and claimed "social media has turned Packer fans into a bunch of whiny bitches." He also said clock management rarely impacts the outcome of football games. At first, I thought those were two of the dumbest things I'd ever heard. Now I'm not so sure. Well, on the first point.

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Everyone knows about ATDHE.NET, right? Watch live sports online for free

ESPN recently released a study saying that everyone is really overreacting to the notion that people might start going without cable television. According to their study, only 0.28% of American households have cut their cable cords in the past three months. This seems lower than it should be.

Plain and simple, I watch sports as much as anyone I know and I've gotten by just fine for more than a year without paying for cable. That said, I don't not pay for TV. Of the things I pay for, there's MLB.tv, NBA League Pass Broadband and an XBox Live subscription so I can watch ESPN3. I get what I want (aside from in-market MLB games), and nothing I don't. Taking all that away one can see quite a lot of sports for free.

"How?" you ask: ATDHE.net.

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MLB.tv, NBA League Pass Broadband leaving more than money on table with local blackouts

I've been to approximately 20 Mariners games so far this year and as much the hydroplane races annoy me, there's one jumbotron regular I find even more irritating. That'd be the constant barrage of ads for MLB.tv. While the ads are dumb, this isn't what annoys me, it's the fact that they're lying in the face of everyone there.

You know what the 2010 slogan is for MLB.tv? Go ahead and Google it. Yeah, that's right: Baseball Everywhere. For those who have used the service—and I have for the past two years—it's easy to see this is untrue. Now, I knew full-well about the MLB's blackout restrictions going in, and everyone else should as well, but for Major League Baseball and those affiliated to continue to tout the product as a premier or perfect platform for fans is wrong.

As an anecdote, I can watch the Seattle Mariners anywhere...as long as 'anywhere' isn't home in downtown Seattle. Or all of Washington State. Or when I was at school in Missoula, MT. I could travel to as far away as Fairview, Montana (1,100 miles) and still not be able to watch the Mariners.

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Why banning iPads at baseball games doesn't matter

I'm a satisfied iPad owner and have always been an advocate for the device's usefulness to sports fans. In a perfect world, they'd be the idyllic accompaniment to a ballgame. As things stand now, they're almost useless. Honestly, there's no use fretting about other stadiums doing as Yankee Stadium did and banning the device. Here's a few reasons why:

  • A majority of stadiums don't offer wifi. This, in itself, is a huge problem if stadiums want fans to share their experience with others. Up until recently, the wifi version of the iPad was the only one available. If one wanted to enjoy the great content put out by the MLB AtBat App, they couldn't. If one wanted to do anything other than look at photos or listen to music, they couldn't. Now, Apple does offer the 3G version but that's equally useles. Why?
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Disney CEO (think ESPN) says iPad 'has a lot of potential'

The iPad is coming and, as disappointing as it is at first glance, some people will inevitably buy it. To satisfy those people, developers will need a little bit more than blown-up iPhone applications. Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger isn't discouraged by the initial responce and is thinking big when it comes to the iPad, saying it "has a lot of potential" and "could be a game changer in terms of enabling us to essentially create new forms of content."

Iger, speaking during a conference call with analysts, said that the iPad's portability and interactivity create the the possibility of something different than what is available on a typical computer or TV set. "With ESPN," he said, "you have ScoreCenter, which is a great app on the iPhone and provides rudimentary information and scores. Suddenly we have a platform where you can really make those scores come to life."

Business Insider highlights the possibility of using the iPad/ScoreCenter to watch replays and monitor other scores while watching games on TV. Of course, this is a possibility, but so is using the iPad at live sporting events.

We've already seen similar devices taking advantage of technology that allows stadiums to add to the experience of attending a live game. As far back as 2007, Seattle Mariners fans owning a Nintendo DS couls use it at Safeco Field to watch the live broadcast, check out replays and even order beer and beverages from their seats. There's no reason to think that if a Nintendo DS—not even the most technologically advanced handheld gaming system—could handle tasks like this three years ago, the much more advanced iPad should be able to handle this and more.

This isn't even any more advanced, but I'd be more than content using the iPad to listen to the radio broadcast while using a 'scorecard' app to keep score and check stats. Unfortunately, the iPad isnt capable of doing two things at once. Let's get it together Apple.

What the iPad means for sportswriters and sports fans: not much right now


The big day has come and gone with the landscape of print media staying exactly the same. Shocking, huh? While others focus on how the iPad has been a colossal letdown to all of humanity, I'll choose to focus on the segment of that audience who is interested in sports.

I'm bummed. I had big expectations for how this could affect the daily life of a sports fanatic like myself. While some of those expecations were a bit unrealistic and others may even be met, I—like almost everyone else—come away from the announcement disappointed.

To be fair, the iPad does do some things that make it a valuable device, but are those really all that great? Let's look at what the device can do and where those abilities fall a bit short.

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NBA League Pass Mobile: a review

Before I launch into this, let me say the fact that technology like this even exists blows my mind. NBA games are being broadcast from arenas all over the country to my phone. Live. Maybe I'm more impressed than other sports fans but I've told almost everyone I cross paths with about this straight-out-of-2035 technology. I know, I know, it's been around since the beginning of the season. But this weekend it was free.

There's two reasons I decided to give this app (I'm on an iPhone) a try now. One is that I live on the West coast (Seattle) so if I do anything between work and home (the gym) I miss all of the East coast games. Sure, I can catch the recorded version but they show me the score as I pick the game and it's just not the same.. The second reason is that this app had previously been $40 and I already own League Pass Broadband. I couldn't justify spending $180 on NBA games. This weekend it was free and afterwards will be just $20.

While this app, and the concept, are for the most part amazing, there are a few flaws worth noting.

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Seesmic Look has major potential for sports fans

I've always advocated the use of Twitter for commentary during a sporting event. I'm sure there are others who don't agree but I think beat writers and bloggers provide a deeper and more entertaining level of analysis than the jocks/talking heads who use volume, not reason, to make a stronger point. But Twitter is still foreign to most people and even those who are on it may not use it with a great amount of depth.

The more you put into Twitter by creating groups and running searches on teams, games and players, the more you get out of it. Well, some people don't want to put that much effort into it. Seesmic Look enters stage right.

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The Apple tablet and how I'd use it as a sports fan

January 2010 appears to be the month of 'The Tablet' as online journalism and tech chatter shifts from summarizing the 'aughts' to speculating what Apple's rumored tablet could mean for this year and beyond.

Some claim it will save print journalism while others struggle to see where it will fit in amongst the smartphones and laptops. I have to say I fall somewhere in-between. Apple's tablet certainly has the potential to be a game-changing device but do I really need one? Not quite yet but it isn't impossible to imagine a time when Apple tablets become very prominent, not only as an e-reader or some other kind of middle device, but one that could compete with traditional laptops.

It's hard to get an exact feel for what the tablet could be capable of with most speculation revolving mostly around the hardware. However, The Wonderfactory and Time, Inc. put together a great video showing what Sports Illustrated could be like on a tablet.

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