Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What You See Beats What You Get

It's wonderful to see even more of the technology available being used to help us as sports fans, especially in terms of game coverage. We have seen two more instances within the past few days.

Let's start with NBC and how it helped viewers to watch the all-important New England vs. Denver game this past Sunday night (11/29).

Perhaps as important as the result (with New England losing its first game of the entire season) was how NBC used its virtual "field technology" to show viewers the yard line numbers over a snow covered field. Fans in attendance could not see any of the yard line numbers as they watched, while millions of viewers could. While we certainly understand that the networks use virtual technology a lot more often to be able to change advertisements only visible on the telecasts, using it to enhance the actual game telecast made a big difference.

Another use of game related technology is being implemented by Rogers Communications for NHL fans, targeting its NHL GameCenter Live feature. Granted, this is a subscription service (at this time) enabling fans who stream out of market NHL games not available via TV at the time.

Some will say that this adaptation of the technology is intrusive, and that is a valid argument. Some fans will love this. Rogers Communications has a deal in place enabling the targeting of users who are online but not currently watching an NHL game by "targeting" ads which say "See the goal you just missed!" within seconds after a goal has been scored.

The company is experimenting with this feature at pre-determined times each week through December and plans to re-evaluate. From here, this is a great idea but needs to be used differently.

This could be better used as a separate feature, either subscription or advertiser based, for which fans could sign up for and be able to track favorite teams and/or fantasy players.

Either way, this is another positive use of available technology by the sports media.

Although advertising a movie is hardly sports media, it is most interesting to note how the major networks which spend billions for NFL telecast rights are generating income from taking ads for a movie which the NFL will not like. The movie, "Concussion", which opens on Christmas, focuses on a doctor who fought against the NFL with his research on the effects of long term injuries and medical issues on former NFL players.

Yet, research by agency shows that the movie has already spent more than $1 million for ads on CBS, and more than $900,000 for ads specifically on ESPN, including inside of NFL game programming. Commercials are also appearing during NFL games on NBC and Fox, as well as during select college football telecasts and some NBA games.

Thanksgiving NFL proved to be red hot for NBC and CBS last week. The Carolina vs. Dallas game on CBS came in as the most watched NFL game of the season thus far, including prime time. (Fox certainly isn't happy about that, considering that they would normally have had this NFC matchup, but it was moved to CBS because of the "all NFC Thanksgiving".)

The prime time matchup between Chicago and Green Bay then finished with the largest Thanksgiving prime time audience ever (with this being the 10th year of the prime time turkey matchup). It now stands as NBC's 2nd most viewed prime time game, being only the memorable 2012 battle between Dallas and Washington for a playoff spot.

BOSTON: Going back to last week, it's interesting to note that sports radio continues strong like no other market, with the two sports stations again holding down two of the top five stations in the market for the October-November radio ratings. WBZ-FM Sports Hub is now #3 overall even with a slight drop from the previous ratings period. WEEI-FM also dropped from the previous month, but holds at #5 in the market.

Word is, via the Boston Herald, that WEEI-FM is in the process of re-working its deal for the Red Sox games, which reportedly has been costing the station upwards of $17 million per year. Nothing official yet, but this story came out just days before the Red Sox signing of free agent David Price at a price of well over $200 million dollars over the long term.

Given the fierce competition between WEEI and WBZ for the sports audience, and this major expense for the Red Sox, it will be interesting to see how far the current negotiations go, and how much WEEI can spend to retain the broadcast rights. One more factor is the replacing of Don Orsillo in the TV booth with Dave O'Brien from the radio booth. Looks like WEEI may be facing its biggest challenge in quite some time.

MIAMI: Whatever the reason, Marlins fans are disappointed at the team's (reported) decision to drop Tommy Hutton as an analyst for its telecasts on Fox Sports Florida after 19 seasons. Fox Sports Florida issued a statement claiming the decision was a "joint decision" between the network and the team, while Hutton immediately indicated he does not plan to retire, even with more than 50 years in baseball including his playing career.

MILWAUKEE: The Bucks are setting up for a local media battle with their new "official" participation with The Fan 105.7/1250 along with sister (music) stations WMYX 99.1 and WXSS 103.7. The Fan will air all Bucks games which conflict with other local play-by-play airing on current and long time flagship WTMJ 620. With the new agreement, The Fan will also air extended Bucks post-game shows and will be adding regular Bucks related programming, including scheduled coach and player appearances.

The team reportedly buys its air time to appear on WTMJ again this season, but also sees the promotional benefits of partnering with the group of stations.

However, WTMJ continues its strong ratings over the years, and is dominant in the team's target audience. Our thinking is that if (or when) the team moves over to The Fan and the other group, that WTMJ would be likely to minimize its coverage of the Bucks and cost the team the significant local exposure it currently receives. WTMJ would be able to cover a lot more of the Brewers and Packers, and barely mention the Bucks, giving the appearance that interest in the team has faded.

We will find out within the next year is WTMJ goes along with a more beneficial deal for the team in order to maintain the Bucks flagship status, or lets them go and dumps the coverage.

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