Monday, September 9, 2013

NFL Controlling Its Own Highlights?

September brings us even more instances of sports leagues and organizations gaining too much control over content which reaches the fans or uses modern technology in some form.
Now comes word that Sporting News Media has a multi-year contract directly through the NFL regarding distribution of NFL video highlights through several newspaper web sites using a specific video player. This online video player is seen through sites such as,, (Houston Chronicle) and Upon further review, the announcement about this goes on to reveal that SNM also has "deals" with the NBA and NHL for highlights distribution.

Having game highlights available through these and other sites is a wonderful service, actually. Yet, my question is why Sporting News Media needs an agreement direct with the NFL in order to provide this. The game highlights they "distribute" are games shown by TV partners Fox, CBS, NBC, and ESPN. Since these networks pay a hefty sum for the rights to air the games live, shouldn't those same networks be the ones making the "deal" to make their telecast highlights available?

The fact that there is NFL control for these highlights should be a cause for concern. Suppose there is a negative incident of some sort, which for whatever reason is not positive publicity for the NFL. It could be anything ranging from a fight among players to a wardrobe malfunction to a coach or player saying something inappropriate to a mostly empty stadium.

To put it another way, there could be something very newsworthy to the major newspapers and their web sites. If the NFL has "control" over the highlights deal, do we know for sure that readers would be able to see such an incident unfold by visiting the very website that is there to "report" about it?

If such an incident happens, for example, on a Fox Sports NFL telecast, showing the "highlights" might not be positive for the league, but it would be positive for Fox Sports which would have been the only network to show that particular NFL game live, and would be credited for it.

However, if I'm understanding this "deal" correctly, this would be under NFL control and NOT the individual networks.

Also within the week, USA Today Sports Media Group announced a new "platform" they launced on NFL opening week which provides "real time" news and analysis of NFL games, called "The Q".

This is a mobile platform which Quickish (the technology company) hopes to expand to other sports, likely as a companion for televised game viewers.

Week 1 of the NFL season also saw Sports Illustrated starting its own online half hour weekly series which airs on Thursday mornings to preview the coming weekend's games. Although this is not a league control concept, it does mark SI's increasing use of technology to provide NFL related content, which, in this case, could be a good thing.

While this was going on, the NBA announced that the league is overseeing the installation of multiple "motion tracking" cameras into every NBA arena in time for the upcoming season. Initially, the purpose of these cameras is for individual team and league use, with these cameras focused on individual players and game officials to be used for evaluation purposes. The press release for this feature did mention that there is also likely to be a portion of this video available to fans, perhaps for instructional purposes, but that was not specified.

This concept is in conjunction with STATS Inc. (which tracks extensive player and team statistics for individual teams, player agents, and TV networks) and will include software to help teams with player performance analysis.

In this instance, it is not about positive or less-than-positive player performances which now may be caught on video. My question is why the NBA itself is involved in contracting for this. Again, what about the networks paying hefty rights fees? The NBA already has Turner Sports handling some of its more complex online content, as well as televising a national package of games.

Shouldn't the NBA be working with TNT or ESPN's resources about such a service? The fact that the league itself is bypassing its multi-million dollar existing partners to do what these partners do should be a concern. The league's focus should be on selling tickets, improving the appeal of the game, and all of the marketing it has become so efficient at over the years. Not doing what is essentially its own private telecasts.

To sum it up, there is something about pro sports leagues, and for that matter the NCAA to an extent, becoming technology and marketing entities ahead of governing bodies for their respective sports that makes me uncomfortable. Thoughts?

Back at all of the sports networks, this announcement about Big East Conference college basketball is a pretty funny reflection on two of them if you ask me.

CBS Sports and CBS Sports Network have acquired "up to" 30 Big East game telecasts, starting with the upcoming season, with 25 games airing on CBS Sports Network after this coming season's 18 telecasts. Why is this "funny"?

It is because CBS actually "acquired the rights" from Fox Sports! This is the same Fox Sports that just started not one, but TWO national networks even though most of the overflow sports programming it has acquired doesn't even start until 2014. So, instead of making use of its own facilities to show even more Big East games, they farm some telecasts out to CBS and collect the revenue instead. Probably means more of Bulgarian Tiddly Winks or whatever FS1 and FS2 are showing until the bigger sports they are adding show up. If they survive that long with such a small audience.

Chalk up still another sports radio network for former NFL QB Sean Salisbury, although he is running out of room. Formerly with ESPN Radio and CBS Radio, Salibury will be co-hosting "The War Room" with John Harris from 2 to 4 ET on weekdays. However, this is on Yahoo Sports Radio. At least Salisbury will have an audience in Dallas, where he continues his pre-game analysis for Fox Sports TV in the Dallas area prior to Cowboys games.

With the latest radio ratings being released late last week and this week, let's just say that play-by-play continues to rule the roost, especially in Ohio. Cincinatti's WLW 700 continues as that market's top rated overall radio station, increasing its ratings significantly this season as the Reds stay in contention. Before the season started, WCFN "The Fan" 100.3 debuted and showed with a 0.1 in both the June and July ratings. At the end of July, that station went back to music, and already jumped up to a 1.5 share since dumping sports talk. In Cleveland, WTAM, the flagship station for the Indians, showed higher ratings than April, while WKRK-FM "The Fan" dropped to less than one-third of the overall audience that news/talk WTAM now has.

It's not just limited to Ohio, however. In Kansas City, Royals' flagship KCSP 610 Sports went up a full ratings point in just one month, while the CBS Sports Radio affiliate again didn't even do a half a point.

MIAMI: WAXY 790 The Ticket will add an additional and exclusively local hour for Dan LeBatard starting on September 30th. Dan will be local to Miami from 3 to 4 PM and then his ESPN Radio show will air from 4 to 7 PM. In addition, the station has already begun its 7 to 10 PM show with Jorge Sedano and Mark Schlereth, known as "Sedano & Stink". Sedano is the former Program Director and host of WQAM.

ATLANTA: After two months since needing to replace the "Mayhem In the AM" morning show, WQXI The Zone 790 has introduced its new morning team of J.P. Peterson and (former Falcon) Alge Crumpler. Crumpler has served as an NFL analyst for The Zone in the past and also on Fox Channel 5 in previous seasons.

MINNEAPOLIS: The Ticket 105 FM, which has roughly 10% of the overall audience as KFAN, has decided to air what has been a live podcast from 6 to 7 PM. The podcast has been with Tom Barnard, who in real life hosts the KQRS "Morning Show", and Don Shelby, formerly of WCCO Radio. Barnard admitted that he is not getting any money from The Ticket, but is seeking the exposure to his daily podcast. As of this week, The Ticket, which actually consists of three limited range signals at 105.1, 105.3, and 105.7, has also begun an afternoon drive local program from 3 to 6 PM with Mike Morris and Bob Sansavere, giving the station its first local weekday programming.

The University of Minnesota has moved its football game for Saturday Sept. 21st against San Jose State to an 11 AM start so that it can be shown live via ESPN. Might be for more of a home field advantage than a media move when you consider it means a 9 AM start for the San Jose State fans and players. Let the jokes about "getting up for a big game" begin.

FARGO: Minnesota Vikings radio affiliate KRWK 101.9 FM decided to drop its talk format and become "Rock 102". Figuring that reaching the Vikings audience it attracts would be a good starting point, the station switched over following the Vikings' opening day game (on 9/8) and is spending this week playing 2,000 songs in a row. This is primed to last until this coming Sunday's (9/15) broadcast of the Vikings game against the Chicago Bears. I'm sure that Rock 102 didn't count on the Vikings losing their opener to the Detroit Lions and probably not having much of an audience sticking around by the time that debacle of a game ended.

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