Clash of the Titans

Today’s guest post features an infographic from Sophia Barber via Sports-Management-Degrees.com, a leading online platform of education concerning business attributes of sports. The Sport Management degree guides and gives information to build a career in the field of sports industry and to achieve the unique positions within all sectors, including professional sports organizations, college athletics as well as in recreation management field.

For years, ESPN has enjoyed a stranglehold on the market as the dominant sports broadcasting company.  Fox Sports 1 aims to change that.  For an inside look at the competition facing Fox, please view the infographic pasted below (click here to see a full size image).  It will be interesting to see how it all plays out!  The spirit of competition is, after all, why they play the games… 🙂

Watching National Sports vs. Regional Sports Telecasts

The average sports fan who watches a few games on occasion may not notice any considerable difference between local and national broadcasts of sporting events, but for regular viewers the differences can be stark.

Watching sporting events becomes a ritual for many fans, and any change to that ritual can be unnerving at times. This is one of the reasons that some fans do not like national broadcasts, as they alter the standard ritual of watching the fan’s favorite team play a game. The announcers are different, the graphics are different, and somehow the whole experience seems a little different.

This does not always have to be a bad thing, especially depending on the quality of the usual cable tv deals, but it is certainly a different thing. So, what are the differences between local and national broadcasts, and is one preferable to the other?

Commentary Crews

  • In baseball especially, due to the sheer number of games played each season, the commentary crew for the local team becomes almost like a group of old friends to the fans who watch games regularly. Legendary voices like Vin Scully, Harry Kalas and Ernie Harwell have meant as much to the fans of their respective teams as the players on the field. This can lead to some discontentment for local fans, when they have to listen to an unfamiliar group of commentators from out of town. National commentators are also supposed to be objective in the way they call the game, which can dampen the excitement of the local fan that is used to the excitement of home team commentators.
  • It’s not just familiarity with the commentators, either. Even nondescript local commentators have an advantage over their nationally-based counterparts, since they have a deep, daily knowledge of the team on the field. The best national commentators are able to combat this with careful study of the teams that are playing in a given game, but not every national commentator makes the added effort. This can lead to misstatements which go largely unnoticed by casual fans, but which can drive the hardcore fan crazy. Even in cable tv deals, the quality of commentary varies greatly by market, but the issue becomes magnified during a national telecast.

The next time you find yourself calling the plays before the commentators, consider sports broadcasting as a career. Many affiliate broadcast, and cable tv deals encourage internships as a learning experience.

Production Values

  • Some sports telecasts, both national and local, have moved in the direction of providing all of the information, all the time. This can be grating for fans who just want to sit down and enjoy a game without all the added graphics and statistics. In football broadcasts especially, fans are constantly bombarded with information, social media updates and advertisements. Sports are a big business, obviously, but many fans appreciate the often more toned-down style of cable tv deals.
  • One advantage national telecasts bring is a general increase in production value. cable tv deals have grown by leaps and bounds in this regard, but national networks simply have the money necessary to go the extra mile. The differences are often subtle, but noticeable – more camera angles, better sound quality, improved picture, etc. In a sport like baseball, the differences can go unnoticed, but extra cameras in football and hockey can really make a positive difference in the viewing experience.

Broadcast Extras

  • Every national sports telecast seems to be preceded by a pregame show with a studio full of analysts and former players. These broadcasts are often interesting and stimulating for the casual fan, which can catch up on the latest information about the teams involved before watching the game. For the more dedicated fans, however, these shows can seem like a lot of noise, presenting information the viewer already knows well.
  • Many cable tv deals are also moving toward this model, but with more success in regards to the dedicated fan. The difference between a local and national pre- or post-game show is that the local show focuses in great detail on the local team, leaving out general information and league-wide statistics.

Overall, sports fans will watch sports, no matter what type of broadcast is presented. The differences between local and national telecasts can be boiled down to a matter of preference. Most fans are more than happy with a mixture of both.

Around the Horn: May 24th

Fewer people tuned in to watch last Saturday’s Preakness Stakes on NBC than last year’s race (viewership declined by 8%). Many had actually expected to see a ratings increase with the stage set for another potential showdown between Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another and runner up Bodemeister, but apparently the budding rivalry was not enough to attract more eyeballs.

It isn’t all bad news, however, for NBC.  According to Fang’s Bites (a website that analyzes sports media), overall viewership for the Preakness Stakes on NBC is up an average of 63% in the last 11 years compared to the previous 8 years’ of race coverage on ABC.  NBC should also expect to see a nice boost for its coverage of the Belmont Stakes.  Interest in the race has spiked as I’ll Have Another pursues the coveted Triple Crown.  According to USA Today, since 2000, the eight Belmont races without a Triple Crown candidate averaged 4% of U.S. TV households while the 4 races with horses contending to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 averaged 10.1% of households.  Expect a nice number for NBC on June 9th…

Many have suggested a correlation exists between the National Football League’s rise in popularity and the explosive growth of fantasy football.  If a correlation does indeed exist, should we see a boom in the popularity of fishing as a spectator sport?  Bassmaster’s website features a fantasy fishing league and it appears as though thousands of fishing enthusiasts are actively participating…great idea by Bassmaster to drive traffic to the site while giving fans a reason to consistently interact with the brand.

According to a recent USA Today report, the National Guard spent nearly $33 million in NASCAR sponsorship fees in fiscal 2011.  The same report also suggests the National Guard spent $20 million in professional fishing and $90 million overall in motor sports in 2011 and 2012…this apparently led the government to enact an effort to ban all military spending on sports sponsorship.  If the government succeeds, how significant will the impact be on the industry?  Just ask Dale Earnhardt Jr. (sponsored by the National Guard), Brad Keselowski (U.S. Navy), or Ryan Newman (sponsored by the U.S. Army) who collectively risk losing millions…

Despite what is becoming an increasingly crowded space, Gatorade continues to dominate the competition.  A story that appeared recently on bloomberg.com suggests the sports/energy drink market was $41.5 billion in 2011, representing the fastest growing segment in the beverage industry (up 14% from 2010).  According to the article, Gatorade did $13.8 billion in sales last year, capturing 33% of the market. That’s impressive.

Today’s parting shot:  The NY Rangers Gnome (@NYRGnome) started a Twitter account at the beginning of NHL playoffs. It already has 5,250 more followers than I do…

Around the Horn: April 9th

A few newsworthy items relating to the Masters Sunday from a sports business perspective:

* ESPN Radio reported that Bubba Watson earned just over $5,000 per golf shot for the tournament for a total of $1.44 million

* Despite a dramatic playoff finish, television ratings for this year’s Masters suffered a significant drop off, falling 22% from last year’s tournament.

* Sunday’s win helped propel Bubba’s personal brand, particularly from a social media perspective as the number of people following Watson shot up nearly 60% less than 24 hours after Sunday’s victory. (via @DarrenRovell on Twitter)

* According to a story that appeared online today at forbes.com, Watson’s N-Score (measures a sports figure’s overall endorsement potential based on appeal and awareness) suffers low awareness scores, but his appeal scores are “off the charts” (68% of respondents said they like Watson while 52% like Phil Mickelson)…obviously winning the Masters will give Bubba a very significant bump in awareness scores, meaning he now stands to gain much more than the $1.44 million in prize money thanks to the huge victory on one of golf’s grand stages.

* Many attribute the drop in ratings to the fact that Tiger Woods was not a threat to win…according forbes.com story, just 17% of respondents said they like Tiger, a testament to how polarizing Woods remains.

* Watson’s current golf-related endorsement deals?  Clubs (Ping), balls (Titleist), shoes (Footjoy), socks (Kentwool)…one would assume the asking price might increase at next round of negotiations.

Rare is the athlete who manages to land an endorsement deal for a non-sports performance product, but Robert Griffin III is certainly not the average QB prospect.  It was announced today that RG3 signed a deal with Castrol, news that certainly speaks to his potential both on and off the field.

There is a lot of excitement surrounding tonight’s debut of Japanese pitching sensation Yu Darvish.  How much excitement?  According to the analysts at Front Row Analytics, just wearing a Nike glove and cleats will provide Nike with over $28,000 in exposure on Fox Sports Southwest’s broadcast of tonight’s game. (via @FRAnalytics on Twitter)

Around the Horn: April 6th

Remember the two-foot-long hotdogs being sold at Rangers stadium this year (aka the “boomstick”)?  ESPN reports they sold 191 of those monsters on opening day.

Brewers fans will see a familiar face in many of the team’s TV spots this season.  Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports the Brew Crew will feature Packers’ star QB Aaron Rodgers in several of the ads…interesting decision to bring a sports hero from a different local professional team into the team’s marketing plans.

From the Twitterverse (via @TVSportsratings): “Swamp People (4.5 mil viewers) had a larger audience than The Masters, both NBA games on TNT, 2 MLB games on ESPN2, NHL on NBCS.“  Am I the only one surprised by this?

First it was Tebow Mania, then Linsanity…now apparently three Giants fans are competing for the trademark rights to “Tim-Sanity.”  Sure seems like overkill to me but not sure Tim-Sanity will catch on anyway…wishful thinking perhaps?

Vanilla Ice performed at half-time of a recent Minnesota Timberwolves game…still trying to figure out if the game sold out but love the effort from the Wolves’ staff to attract a crowd.  Attendance at the Target Center is up over 13% on the season, best in the NBA.

Around the Horn: March 2nd

Some troubling news out of the NFL today when it was revealed that the New Orleans Saints have engaged in the practice of offering financial rewards to defensive players who knocked opposing players out of the game.  I wonder how “BountyGate” will impact the league’s image moving forward.  Surely the Saints aren’t the only team fostering a culture of aggressiveness toward opposing players…

Interesting note from the Twitterverse… Jeff ‏ @mindforsports reports: “Even more Oregon Football ticket shock for families: A 2 adult, 3 children “Family Pack” cost $729 in 2011… For the 2012 season: $1647!”

Not many wonder why Major League Baseball opted to expand the number of teams competing in the post-season…no sports league, collegiate or professional, makes decisions without a high probability of significant monetary gains.  Clearly the new format will please MLB television partners, adding bargaining power when rights fee renewal discussions come around.  How else will the decision benefit the league and its teams from an economic standpoint?  How much will it boost ticket sales with more teams in the playoff hunt?  Does it help drive sponsorship revenue at a local level when more teams have a legitimate shot at the post-season?

Around the Horn: Feb 27th

Well…the reviews are in.  Unfortunately for the Academy Awards and the NBA’s All-Star Weekend, many of them aren’t very flattering.  Media critics are calling last night’s Academy Awards show “predictable”, “drab”, and “uninspiring.”  Many have also been tough on host Billy Crystal’s performance.  NBA All-Star Saturday night has also received a lot of criticism, the Sprite Slam Dunk contest in particular.  Fans weren’t the only ones disappointed as many of the league’s players took to Twitter to voice disappointment.  Even Kevin Durant, one of the NBA’s biggest stars, says it is time for the league’s elite (LeBron James, Derrick Rose, D. Wade) to join the competition.  For those keeping score, CBSSports has a great recap of player reactions on Twitter.  That said, both events managed to draw a larger television audience than last year…based on the early criticism, however, I have to wonder if that’s a good thing.  Seems there has been a lot of debate in the media for ways to improve the events.  I guess we will find out next year whether event organizers were listening.

Looking for a way to measure the loyalty of NASCAR fans?  Look no further than yesterday’s television ratings.  TNT ratings for NBA All-Star game barely beat Fox’s Daytona 500 coverage…of a race that didn’t happen because of an uncooperative mother nature.  I imagine tonight’s ratings will be pretty impressive and NASCAR, Fox and their sponsors/advertisers will be thankful for the rain delay.

Over the weekend, Nike announced plans to finally release the much anticipated Jeremy Lin sneaker.  The shoe will reportedly be available only online at NikeID.com.  The price point?  $130.

Outback Steakhouse gained publicity this weekend when the popular restaurant chain launched a promotion tying it to NASCAR just in time for the Daytona 500.  The restaurant will be giving away a free “Bloomin’ Onion” appetizer if the number 39 car (driven by Ryan Newman and sponsored by Outback) finishes in the top ten of ANY Sprint Cup race this season.

Around the Horn: Feb 24th

No real surprise here with news that TNT’s broadcast of last night’s Heat vs. Knicks showdown in Miami drew impressive ratings.  According to Bloomberg, the game was watched in 4% of homes in the top 56 U.S. television markets (via Turner Sports).  The Linsanity story has been a real boon for NBA ratings this year…I’m sure the league is thanking their lucky stars the Harvard phenom dropped into their laps (in the NYC market no less) in a strike-shortened season.

Speaking of the NBA, All-Star Weekend tips off tonight with the “Rising Stars Challenge” game.  The game will feature two players that have dominated headlines in the past two seasons in Jeremy Lin and Blake Griffin.  With interest in Slam Dunk contest waning more and more every year (event sponsor Sprite can’t be too pleased about that), the NBA seems to be placing more emphasis on this game.  I like the idea of involving two of larger-than-life personalities (Shaq and Charles Barkley) in the contest in an effort to create a more entertaining event…just wonder whether it will translate to more interest/viewers.

For a great example of how video games have evolved over time, look no further than the NBA2K franchise.  In 2009, 2K Sports introduced a “Living Rosters” feature, allowing for the game maker to constantly update player ratings and tendencies in an effort to provide the most realistic (and current) gaming experience possible.  Never before has the feature been as necessary as it is now with the rapid emergence of Jeremy Lin.  In an interesting story, Forbes reports that, for the first time in the game’s history, a player was upgraded twice in the same week.  When the Knicks‘ star gaurd was first added to the 2K12 game, he had a rating of 56.  After being upgraded to a 69 just a few short days ago, his rating was again bumped to a 75…

In Major League Soccer news, the Portland Timbers are running another outstanding grassroots, fan-focused billboard campaign.  Two of the team’s new billboards feature the arms of two devoted fans who pledged their allegiance to the franchise with tattoos.  Taking it a step further, the team recently announced a promotion encouraging fans to submit Timbers inspired tattoo ideas.  The winner of the “Kids 17-and-under” category will receive $100 to spend at the adidas Timbers Team Store while the winning adult will get their tattoo paid for.

Around the Horn: Feb 21st

What better way to illustrate the fierce competition for the attention of sports and entertainment consumers than Sunday’s TV lineup?  In addition to the Academy Awards, those battling for viewers include the NBA (All-Star Game), NASCAR (Daytona 500), PGA Tour (WGC-Accenture Match Play), NHL (regularly scheduled games) and NFL (combine coverage)…

Speaking of the Daytona 500, what kind of impact will Danica Patrick‘s participation have on overall interest of the event?  Will she provide the crossover appeal NASCAR is hoping for and help draw new fans/viewers?

Have you heard of Build-A-Head yet?  If not, you will soon!  Good story on the company that is capitalizing on the “big head” craze among fans attending sporting events at CNBC.com.

Around the Horn: Feb. 19th

The folks at Deadspin are examining ESPN’s Sports Center content in a way only Deadspin can.  In a piece called “Bristolmetrics”, the website provides an extremely comprehensive breakdown and analysis of Sports Center coverage.  According to the report, the show mentioned the term “Lin” more often than “if” or “but” in a telecast last week.

One interesting takeaway from their findings is the amount of NHL coverage during the SC telecast.  In the “Time Devoted to Individual Sports” category, just 4.2% of coverage was devoted to the NHL.  No longer a broadcast partner with the NHL, one can only wonder if Sports Center would devote more coverage to the hockey league if games were broadcast on their network.  Seems soccer never received any ESPN love until the network invested in FIFA World Cup rights (through 2014) and the MLS deal back in 2006.  In fairness, ESPN does carry MLB games and SC devoted even fewer minutes to baseball than the NHL…just an observation but would be curious to keep an eye out to see if any trends develop.

Brilliant PR move from the Rochester Lancers of the Major Indoor Soccer League.  The team offered former NBA star Allen Iverson a $40,000 deal to play in the team’s final two home games with a $5,000 bonus for each goal he scored.  It was reported earlier this week that Iverson, who banked over $200 million during his NBA career, is now bankrupt.  If he is indeed desperate enough to accept the Lancers’ offer, the team will likely recoup those costs at the turnstiles.  If not, the club still generates invaluable media exposure.

Seems you can find just about anything on eBay these days, especially for sports memorabilia afficionados.  A game-worn Jeremy Lin jersey from his time with the Erie BayHawks (of the NBA’s Developmental League) is available right now on the popular online auction site.  Bids start at $4,000.  For an additional $1,000, Lin fans can also bid on his high school yearbook.  Earlier this week, CNBC.com reported that the jersey, shorts and warm-ups worn by Lin during his debut for the Knicks in December sold on eBay for $40,000.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution is reporting that Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban mailed one recruit 105 letters…in just one day.  Ask yourself, is there any difference between recruiting and marketing?  No word on whether the recruit referred to the letters as junk mail.