Tag Archives: Sports Broadcast

Just Brand It: Nike Does It Best

It’s a Saturday Morning in your favorite college town. You wake up, put on your socks, shorts, and favorite team’s jersey. You turn the TV onto ESPN’s College Game Day before putting on your jacket and heading out to tailgate. More than likely, your day has been consumed with one major brand. Nike is everywhere in our lives, whether it be the socks you wear or the commercials you see on TV. Nike has become a part of everyday life, especially if you have anything to do with the sporting world.

NikeNike Incorporated is a clothing, footwear, sportswear, and equipment supplier Originally based in the United States. It is the world’s leading supplier of athletic shoes and apparel. It’s headquartered are located near Beaverton, Oregon and has 44,00 employers world wide. Originally it was founded as Blue Ribbon Sports by Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight on January 25, 1964.

Celebrity endorsements are huge in the sports clothing branding world. Nike uses stars like LeBron James and Tiger Woods for customers and children to look up to. Nike has Hundreds of millions of dollars poured into their celebrities to sport their brand within everything they do on and off the field or court. LeBron alone signed a lifetime $500 Million contract for the brand at the end of 2015.

Nike also uses inner laziness as the enemy, and challenges you to “Just Do It.” They brand themselves via platforms through social media, sports networks, and the sports teams themselves. When reaching the everyday person, Nike wants to make them feel like the best athlete they can be. And to be the best, they have to wear the best and get outside, and get fit.

NikeOne of Nike’s most recent advertising developments targets young adults. To promote the Nike SLAM brand, they presented “Nike Pictures” where they made a full short film following kids trying to figure out who their favorite NBA stars are by living with them. They showed 30 second commercials on television for two months, driving people to watch the entire film on the Nike Slam website.

Nike has come a long way since the 60’s. The Iconic Nike Swoosh can be found everywhere. By using information gathered through everyday experiences from their customers, Nike brands itself through heroism and finding an internal fear inside their customers. Though on the surface it seems like two opposite strategies of branding, it works enough to put them in the Forbes top brands in the country.

Austin Hansen

ESPN Cuts Costs–Will Sports Fans Cut The Cord?

The ‘Worldwide Leader in Sports,’ ESPN, is headed toward a future that will feature its cable channels unbundled from the current cable/telco model. At least that’s what a large majority of millennials assume…

espn_topsearchThe financial model that encompasses ESPN’s array of content and its marketability has evolved immensely in just the past decade. While ESPN is the ‘Worldwide Leader’ when it comes to cutting-edge ideas, content production, timely and breaking sports reporting, marketing, and acquisition of talented media personalities — all which are critical to viewership in the sports medium — they are not viewed as the ‘Worldwide Leader’ when it comes to their offerings that can be categorized as ‘cord cut content.’

ESPN COST CUTTING = INEVITABLE UNBUNDLING?

Recently ESPN has been receiving attention for a reason it would prefer not to, cost-cutting.

Just last month, the ‘Worldwide Leader’ laid off 300 employees, and while those layoffs were dressed by Disney and ESPN President John Skipper as a consequence of rising rights costs — specifically their nine-year $24 billion dollar deal with the NBA — multiple sources made sure to indicate that the impact of ‘cord-cutting’ cannot go overlooked either.

Along with laying off 300 employees ESPN has also received more attention for its cost-cutting by parting ways with a number of their highly-recognizable/highly-paid personalities. Most notably their former mid-morning shock-jock Colin Cowherd, former Grantland.com editor-in-chief Bill Simmons, as well as the provocative host of ‘Olbermann,’ Keith Olbermann. All of whom had long, respected, and storied ESPN careers before their dismissal this past summer.

Former ESPN Ombudsman Robert Lipsyte wrote about the shutting down of Simmons’ former passion project, Grantland, at TheNation.com and provided an insider’s perspective into the dynamics that revolved around its closing.

While there are multiple sources that have indicated the impact of ‘cord-cutting’ for ESPN, there is quite possibly no voice (or in this case, written word), short of their President John Skipper that could have come from a more respectable and profound voice than that of their former ombudsman Lipsyte (since dismissing Lipsyte in December of 2014 ESPN has not hired a replacement).

In his article for TheNation.com Lipsyte remarked;

“ESPN is currently besieged by the rising cost of buying the rights to show sports events, the declining profits in audience fees and advertising revenue as people cut their cable cords, and Disney-ordered budget cuts.” (Lipsyte, The Nation, Nov. 2015)

ESPN’S SHARE OF YOUR CABLE BILL…

PayPerPersonTo fully understand the impact of ‘cord-cutting’ on the ‘Worldwide Leader’ it is critical to know the share of consumer’s cable bill that ESPN currently occupies. According to a digitaltrends.com article from July, which cites a Wall Street Journal report, cable providers are by far paying more to offer their subscribers ESPN than any other network. $6.04 is the going rate for ESPN within a cable bundle, $4.56 more than the next closest cable network, TNT.

This gross cost burden to cable companies bundles, along with an emergence of options to view the Worldwide Leader without ‘the cord,’ has made the conversations about ESPN ‘cutting their cord’ plentiful and consistent. However, pontifications — predominantly from millennials — have gone as far to assume that ESPN will have no other choice than to ‘cut their cord’ sooner than later if they wish to remain feasible in today’s climate of sports content offerings. This line of thinking is not completely incorrect, however, it is reckless to assume that a cable channel with as much, and sometimes more, exposure and ratings than the likes of ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC would suddenly feel inclined to completely ‘cut their cord’ and depart from traditional cable.

Disney CEO Bob Iger has acknowledged dropping cable subscription numbers for ESPN, and even went as far to tell CNBC’s Squawk Box that he sees ESPN as a media property that could eventually be sold a la carte, much like HBO, but, that will not happen in the next five years.

Iger went on to say while appearing on the popular CNBC show;

“Technology is the most disruptive force that so-called traditional media … is facing.” [But] we decided to view technology as a friend, not a foe, to bring better customer experiences across all of our businesses from making media look crisper on HD televisions to mobile and online viewing apps to enhanced attractions at theme parks.” (Iger, CNBC’s Squawk Box, July 2015)

ESPN’S FUTURE… DESTINED TO ‘UNBUNDLE?’ (SPECULATION & ANALYSIS)

When evaluating comments by Disney CEO Bob Iger and ESPN President John Skipper, along with taking into consideration their continually strong cable ratings in relation to their competitors I find it hard to believe the train of thought that predominately comes from my millennial peers that ESPN is destined to ‘cut their cord’ or die.

In my mind, the proof is in the pudding that there will always be ESPN channels available to cable subscribers as long as there is cable television. ESPN has made tremendous strides in their digital platform offerings, enough so that consumers that prefer to not have traditional cable can get their fill of sports content through ‘Watch ESPN,’ the ESPN mobile app, ESPN.com and other digital offerings from the Worldwide Leader.

Could there be a ESPN app available for purchase for those without a cable subscription in a half-decade, similar to Time Warner’s HBO Now endeavor? Sure. For the reasons I hashed out in this blog such as the rising costs of content rights and the gradual decline of cable subscribers. That said, indications are clear that the Worldwide Leader is still a ways off from needing to ‘cut their cord’ to sustain and thrive in today’s ever-changing media climate.

Cole Bair

Concussion: Brave New Whistleblower or Anticlimactic Copout?

Let’s get you up to speed. Concussion is Sony Pictures’ new feature film coming out this Christmas featuring Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist and neuropathologist who discovers Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in the brains of two NFL players.

Concussion Poster The trailer has already sparked interest into the story that has Will Smith like you’ve never seen him. Based on a true story, this film looks to be a hit as it showcases the controversial topic of the NFL’s safety protocol, and the controversy doesn’t stop there.

The preview reveals Dr. Omalu’s fight against National Football League executives to “tell the truth” when it comes to his recent findings. It even shows instances of Dr. Omalu being threatened and stalked by suspicious figures in attempt to coerce him into covering up his life’s work. This is juicy stuff in an era where many already question the NFL’s safety protocol when it comes to concussion prevention and treatment.

This film is expected to provide a great opportunity for us to take a deep look at how Sunday’s new devotion has put profit above anything else. After watching the captivating trailer, one would believe this film is opening the closet door to reveal what skeletons the NFL has been hiding. Or maybe at one point they were going to do that. And chickened out. You see, this is where things get sticky.

According to an article written by Ken Belson, Sony Pictures has “found itself softening some points it might have made against the multibillion-dollar sports enterprise that controls the nation’s most-watched game.” The article cites dozens of emails that surfaced by hackers between Sony executives, representatives of Will Smith, and the film’s director, Peter Landesman.

Said emails involved discussion of “how to avoid antagonizing the NFL by altering the script and marketing the film more as a whistle-blower story rather than a condemnation of football or the league.” But wait, there’s more; another email stated that certain “unflattering moments for the NFL” were either altered or removed from the film entirely. Could these signs point to Sony’s fear of uncovering their own bogeyman?

Will Smith concussionConcussion’s director, Landesman, quickly came to the defense of Sony in a statement to the Associated Press stating that the movie, “never once compromised the integrity and power of the real story.” Instead, he claims that scenes were only altered in order to tell the story as accurately as possible; as well as to prevent lawsuits against the filmmakers for fabrication. He stated that cuts were only made to make the story, “better, richer, and fairer.”

Ironically enough, it may seem that the NFL has bullied Sony into softening up a film about the NFL bullying doctors. Sensing a trend here? Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves now, as every story has two sides that deserve to be heard.

Jeff Miller NFLThe NFL has released a recent report in order to have their voice added to the mix. Essentially, this report is “a robust resource on the steps the NFL continues to take to protect players through rule changes, advanced sideline technology, expanded medical resources, investing in protective equipment, a commitment to the wellness of retired players, and a focus on the overall youth sports safety.” The report defends the League’s stance with facts about its’ lowered concussion rates, increased player safety regulations, and growing culture of safety within the game.

The NFL Senior Vice President of Health and Safety Policy, Jeff Miller, said he would willingly work with Sony to raise awareness of safety issues. This invitation may not seem so warm after all considering Sony vetoed Landesman’s attempt to reach out to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for a meeting.

Three conclusions can be drawn from this mess.

The Ending: Sony altered and deleted a few scenes, as most movies do during the editing phase. They did so to keep the story compelling throughout and to avoid any lawsuits against the creative team for fabricating any exaggeration and will be delivering an accurate, bold product come December.

Alternate Ending #1: Sony released an exaggerated preview to hype the film before it releases during the peak of the NFL season and Oscar season. Sony is worried about the new Star Wars film and is taking extreme measures to save the anticlimactic film which will be seen by millions as a letdown.

Alternate Ending #2: Sony wanted to create a film that takes action against the NFL and inspires viewers demand fairness but they ultimately cracked under the pressure of the billionaire owners and executives. The NFL successfully salvages their image once again through scare tactics.

Which ending is the most accurate? You will only be able to determine for yourself this Christmas.

-Jason Vizzini

The Future of the Megacast

You watched that megacast of the College Football championship game the last two years right? Pretty cool huh? TWELVE WAYS to watch a single game on all the different ESPN channels!

Or was it over the top? It could definitely have been too much. We just need the regular traditional broadcast, with two announcers and a sideline reporter, right? Well whatever you think, we will dive into the answers right here.

ESPN MegacastSo, this is what the CFB championship game looked like the last two years. This was really the first broadcast of its kind. It was very cool to see ESPN pioneering something like this that no network had ever tried before. And it was successful. The championship game delivered the largest viewing audience in cable history. At just under 35 million viewers, it topped the previous record by just under 5 million viewers! To go deeper into the numbers, you can check out this link, here.

Now, with the major success of this megacast, it begs the question, will other major sporting events move to a megacast? It’s a very interesting question.

When you think about major sporting events like the Super Bowl, for example, a lot of money that is made from the game is the advertising. For the 2015 Super Bowl, a thirty-second ad went for $4.5 million.

Megacast ChartThis graph only goes up to 2013, but as you can see from the 2015 numbers above, the price just keeps skyrocketing.

So would it be a good idea for a network to go to something like this and spread out the advertising over multiple channels? It certainly looks that way. If the game got moved over to multiple different channels for a variety of different viewing experiences the network could possibly make even more money from advertising. The network would still be able to charge companies a great amount for their main broadcast and tell the companies that it still still their “A” package and it will have the most viewership.

They could also get companies that maybe aren’t quite willing to pay an amount like $4.5 million and say, and for a slightly lower price, they could have a thirty second ad on a different channel with the game. Obviously the traditional broadcast is going to have the highest viewership because that would be the one that all the viewers are comfortable with. But I’m sure there would be quite a few people curious about the other broadcasts available for the game, and be checking those out.

And moving away from the Super Bowl, I would also be curious to see if the MLB with the World Series, or the NBA with the NBA Finals, would contemplate moving to a megacast. The problems that arise with these games are a little bit different than the problems with advertising and the Super Bowl.

The biggest problem would be that these are both seven game series. Because they are seven game series, it would cost the network a lot more money and man-hours to have several different broadcasts of the games. The numbers on the left side of this article tell the story. Those numbers right there basically prove how insane of a thought it would be to produce multiple games as megacasts.

All in all I think it would be something very cool to see. More broadcasts of the biggest games of the year? Yes please. So let me know what you think. Could they do it? Would it be smart to do it? I know I hope so.

Elliott Eggleston

When Will We Get 4K? The Bigger Picture

We have both 4K cameras and 4K televisions, so what’s wrong with this picture? The problem lies within our broadcasting/streaming infrastructure. This problem is bandwidth. With 4K video we have a file size that is around 4 times the size of a standard high definition image and that creates a problem when trying to stream video over our inefficient infrastructure.

HD v 4K videoIn order to gain a better understanding of 4K it is important to look at some of the benefits and challenges of this new technology from the perspective of content creators and consumers. By analyzing 4K from these two perspectives we can begin to understand the benefits and challenges of this upgraded resolution as well as the explanation to why we’re not ready for it yet.

Ok, so if we can’t view content 4K due to our lack of a strong bandwidth, then what’s the point of 4K? This brings me to some of the benefits from the perspective of content creators. Shooting video in 4K leads to so many more opportunities in the post-production process of a video.

First, shooting in 4K produces an image with higher dynamic range ( HDR) which gives the video better contrast, better color, and overall, a sharper and more detailed image. This in itself allows for maximum flexibility during the post-production process in terms of color correction/grading which is very common in broadcast and cinematic content.

Second, since we broadcast and stream video content in 1920 x 1080 (High Definition) this means that content creators have the option of zooming in and reframing shots in post-production since they have an image that is 4096 x 2160 which is able to be downscaled to fit into the 1920 x 1080 frame. This results in a sharper image and allows for consumers to be closer to their TVs with limited loss in quality.

4K in sportsOne of the most common uses of 4K and zooming is in sports broadcasts. A lot of sports broadcasts use 4K as a way to show replays in a higher quality than the standard HD that we are used to. We are able to see a zoomed in version of a specific detail in a replay and still view it in 1080p because of the extra pixels offered to us through the use of 4K.

In terms of the benefits to the consumers regarding 4K it’s pretty simple: better image quality. Once 4K becomes a standardized resolution, we will have a better, more cinematic viewing experience from the increase in pixels. The great news is that these 4K TVs are priced similarly to standard HDTVs, so they are definitely an option for the consumer wanting to purchase a new TV. Unfortunately, there isn’t much content to view in 4K unless you record it yourself, so it is essentially a waiting game until the issue with bandwidth usage is addressed.

Although 4K faces some challenges, the media industry is working to develop more efficient codecs like H.265 to decrease the amount of bandwidth required by 4K video to allow for the streaming of high quality content. Still, although it won’t happen anytime soon, broadcasting in 4K is inevitable.

After learning about the benefits and challenges of this new technology from the perspective of content creators and consumers, what impact do you think 4K will have on the television and film industry?

Kyle Stoutenberg

Mark Lazarus and His Quest for NBC’s Sports Domination

mark lazarusIn the sports world, there is no doubt that ESPN leads in sports programming. While Fox Sports just recently launched their competition for ESPN with Fox Sports 1, NBC has had a little bit of a head start to compete with the sports media giant. The NBC Sports Group is headed by Mark Lazarus. Before he was president of NBC Sports, Lazarus was the President of Sports and entertainment at Turner Sports. In 2011, Lazarus took over for longtime Chairman Dick Ebersol, who resigned due to arguments with upper management.

During his brief tenure at NBC Sports, Lazarus has already accomplished many successful things. In the sports world that we live in, the National Football League dominates everything. Lazarus helped extend NBC’s Sunday Night Football contract for nine years up until 2020. Lazarus and NBC only had to pay $950 million each year. Lazarus also helped extend NBC’s Olympics deal until 2020 for $4.38 billion.

NHL NBCWhile those two contracts have come easy to Lazarus, there are still plenty of challenges that he faces if he wishes to put up a fight against ESPN. One sport that Lazarus has put at the forefront of NBC Sports is hockey. After the NHL had its lockout in 2004, ESPN dropped its hockey coverage, and NBC took over in 2006.

In January of 2012, Lazarus helped rebrand the Versus Network into the NBC Sports Network. Today, the NHL is slowly digging itself out of a hole when it comes to ratings. On opening night of this year, the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins combined for 956,000 viewers. That was the most watched opening night game since 1993, and was the highest watched program on NBCSN ever. Lazarus has a plan in place to return the NHL to its glory, and it looks like it is in motion.

NBC NascarThe second sport that Lazarus is trying to help dig out of a hole is NASCAR. From 2001-2006, NBC shared its NASCAR television rights with FOX. At the end of their contract, NASCAR’s popularity was at its highest. However, in the eight years that NBC has been out of the game, NASCAR has seen its ratings drop. Now, Lazarus and NBC are back after they signed a 10 year/$4.4 billion deal.

Starting this year, NBC will once again split the NASCAR coverage with FOX, as NBC will take over when the series returns to Daytona in July. NBC has already started their return to NASCAR with their daily NASCAR news show “NASCAR America.” Lazarus has also made some great hires along the way, as he signed former FOX play by play man Rick Allen, former race winning crew chief Steve Letarte, and 21 time race winner Jeff Burton. I can tell by some of the NASCAR personalities that were hired that Lazarus wants NBC’s return to NASCAR to be a huge success.

While the ratings for the NHL and NASCAR are still above water, Lazarus’ biggest challenge will no doubt about be NBC’s new deal with boxing. It is no secret that boxing is long past its glory days. From the battles between Ali and Frazier, to the superstars of Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis, boxing certainly has been a thing of the past.

NBC BoxingTo try and resurrect boxing, Lazarus and boxing will be carrying their first fights in almost 30 years as “Premier Boxing Champions” comes to NBC. PBC is where not only some of boxing’s best battle, but also some of the up and coming stars. While the boxing talent alone may not give NBC its ratings, Lazarus is hoping that having storied voices Al Michaels and Marv Albert, as well as boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard, will be enough to start to revive boxing.

After one week, PBC gives some hope to the future of boxing. “Premier Boxing Champions” had 3.4 million viewers, which translated to a 2.5 overnight rating. That was most viewers for a boxing event on cable television since 1998. PBC also won the 18-49 age demographic, which is the age range that the UFC has lived on. While it is just a small sample, Lazarus looks like he might be the one that can save boxing.

The task for Lazarus is not small by any means. To compete with ESPN will take a lot of time, but if he is able to bring back the popularity to the NHL, NASCAR, and boxing, I don’t see why he can’t bring a challenge to ESPN.

Here are a few questions for you: Do you think this strategy by Lazarus will be enough to challenge ESPN? In what ways could you see this potentially backfiring on Lazarus? If you were Lazarus, would you do anything different?

Andy McConnell

Jason Whitlock: Controversial columnist and radio commentator chosen to lead ESPN’s ‘Black Grantland’

To the dismay of some of his peers Jason Whitlock will (hopefully) be to ESPN’s new web venture, theundefeated.com, what Bill Simmons is to web-hit grantland.com. The web page pictured below was launched on February 12th. It is the homepage of ESPN’s new web venture theundefeated.com. The website that former Fox, AOL Sports and FoxSports.com columnist Jason Whitlock was chosen to lead. This homepage arrives 17 months after Whitlock was brought back to ‘The Mothership (ESPN)’ (as former employee Dan Patrick routinely calls the sports conglomerate) and states in regards to its launch, “coming summer 2015.”

theundefeated.comAlong with some notable stops as a columnist, Whitlock has held employment for years as a radio commentator, and in both his written and spoken words there is a permanent record of the never-ending narrative of the intersection of race, culture, and sports.

According to Whitlock, “Through the lens of sports, The Undefeated will be the premier platform for intelligent analysis and celebration of black culture and the African-American struggle for equality. The Undefeated will challenge, engage and advocate for people of color in a manner consistent with the black-press pioneers, such as Sam Lacy, who led the charge for Jackie Robinson’s civil rights-sparking baseball career.”

As a former columnist and radio commentator, Jason Whitlock has understandably built a reputation for himself that isn’t without controversy. When he departed ESPN.com’s ‘Page 2’ column for AOL Sports, Whitlock had been unafraid for some time to call it like he saw it, even if that meant consequences. On his way out the door at ESPN Whitlock defined fellow ‘Sports Reporters’ co-host Mike Lupica as ‘an insecure, mean-spirited busybody,’ and Scoop Jackson — an african-american ESPN.com writer, as a “clown.” Whitlock added that Jackson’s ‘ghetto posturing’ in his articles that published on ESPN.com were ‘an insult to black intelligence.” In 2007, after radio shock jock Don Imus made racially insensitive remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team Whitlock made it a point to quell the media backlash in regards to Imus’ comments, saying the shock jock’s remarks were ‘insignificant’ among other vivacious hot-takes in regards to black culture.

Needless to say, the network known for employing fans—ESPN—knew they had quite possibly one of, if not the most preeminent voice of sports and black culture under their umbrella. Well, not until Whitlock made those remarks about colleagues Mike Lupica and Scoop Jackson. ESPN does not take too kindly to in-fighting and the company completely pulled the plug on Whitlock in his 2006 move to AOL Sports, after initially displaying the want to keep Whitlock doing television appearances on their networks.

theEDshowNot quite a year after joining AOL Sports Whitlock made the move to Fox Sports in August of 2007. What is now the infamous (at least in Fox Sports 1’s eyes) ‘move before the move’ back to ESPN. After writing—with much success—about the intersection of sports and African-American culture for Fox Sports for five years, Whitlock did not show interest in playing an eminent role in the new Fox Sports 1 television network by upping his TV appearances, fearing his writing would fall off as a result.

That’s when the call came from ESPN President John Skipper.

With ESPN fully aware of the burgeoning Fox Sports 1 television channel an arms-race of talent-seeking/acquiring broke out between the two networks. And as soon as Whitlock lost his clear view of a future at Fox Sports, ESPN president John Skipper was able to woo the longtime columnist back to the Worldwide Leader with the promise of his very own website.

Bill Simmons, a former ESPN.com Page 2 columnist himself has a successful ESPN website grantland.com, therefore it’s only right that Whitlock get his, right? Wrong. Well, at least to some it is wrong. Namely Greg Howard of Deadspin.com who wrote a scathing expose—or so he thought—of the longtime race/culture/sports columnist.

Whitlock was reported to be in some stage of discussions with Hoard when a Deadspin article, entitled ‘Can Jason Whitlock Save ESPN’s “Black Grantland” from himself,’ was released. Some of that article reading verbatim; “At least a dozen of Whitlock’s black colleagues have “accused him of attacking black culture generally and young black men and women specifically for personal profit and career advancement,” Howard reported. “What struck me was how many of them outright referred to Whitlock as an ‘Uncle Tom,’” wrote Howard, who had been in talks to work for black Grantland before his prospective mentor accused him of betrayal.

As capitalnewyork.com’s Nicole Levy pointed out, Whitlock characterized the majority of Howard’s article as a “total fabrication and lie, provable by the writer’s emails, text messages and phone messages” to him.

Nonetheless, in spite of the critics who point out Whitlock’s shortcomings, or ESPN’s dragging of their feet to launch the site (now 18 months after Whitlock’s hiring) the ‘Worldwide Leader’ likely has another web juggernaut on their hands. While Stephen A. Smith is considered the sports industry leader of the radio and sports television talk show discussion of african-american culture and sports — Jason Whitlock undoubtedly leads the in-print discussion of african-american culture and sports. And if Jesse Washington’s 9,000 word piece on Charles Barkley’s Alabama upbringing, entitled ‘Up From Leeds,’ is an indication of what’s to come at theundefeated.com, that ‘likely web juggernaut,’ will be a ‘can’t-miss web juggernaut.’

So what are your thoughts on the new partnership between ESPN and Jason Whitlock? Is Whitlock the right guy for “Black Grantland?”

Cole Bair

Can Eric Shanks and Fox Sports Meet the World Cup Standards?

In 2014, the World Cup set a United States television record as over 26 million viewers watched the final match between Germany and Argentina. But that was on ESPN. A month before ESPN handled their final World Cup, for at least the next 12 years, Fox Sports and FIFA announced that they had made a $425 million deal for the rights to all FIFA events.

Fox Sports SoccerNow, having just been awarded the rights for the 2026 World Cup as well, many loyal soccer fans around the country and world have been left wondering if Eric Shanks and Fox Sports can handle an event that ESPN has been so successful with over the years.

The President, COO and Executive Producer at Fox Sports, Eric Shanks, has been pivotal in Fox’s acquisition of the World Cup rights for the coming years. Shanks said in an interview around the time that Fox acquired the rights that “The time is now (for soccer). This country, if you kick a ball your ratings are up 25 percent to 50 percent… (there’s) a lot of reasons for it. Access to great international competitions, the growth of our domestic league, the success of the U.S. team.”

Soccer fans around the world are wondering if Fox Sports can broadcast the World Cup in ways that appeal to all fans of the game, not just fans of the United States team.

Fox Sports will have a chance to showcase their soccer coverage later in the year when they take on the 2015 Women’s World Cup. As you can see in the commercial below, Fox has already taken the U.S. first approach to this momentous event. However, with the U.S. Women’s team coming off an Olympic gold medal in 2012, the hype and extra coverage of that team may be justified.

Christopher Harris at World Soccer Talk expressed his and fellow soccer fans’ concerns in an article released the Wednesday after ESPN wrapped up their 2014 World Cup coverage. Having produced multiple UEFA Champions League matches, soccer fans have experienced what Fox Sports has in store for the future.

“The level of confidence among soccer fans and critics regarding FOX’s soccer coverage is at an all-time low,” Harris said. “Fox Sports continues to ignore soccer fans, treats viewers with a lack of respect and employs talent who are not qualified to be on the airwaves.”

Fox Sports and Shanks handed the play-by-play broadcasting reins to former NCAA tournament announcer Gus Johnson in 2013. But after hearing fans voice their concerns about Johnson’s inexperience with the game of soccer, Shanks announced in 2014 that Johnson would be stepping down as their top soccer commentator to focus on college football and basketball.

But with top commentators Martin Tyler and Ian Darke over at ESPN, Shanks is still in the process of finding and securing top talent for the 2018 World Cup. Soccer fans are concerned that Fox Sports will put too much emphasis on the U.S. team and not highlight the World’s top teams as well as they should.

Despite the concern from soccer fans about the lack of quality talent at Fox Sports as well as too much coverage of the U.S. teams, Shanks has experience with coming up with new and innovative ways to broadcast sporting events. Shanks helped develop FOXTrax, a way to help viewers to follow the puck during hockey games, as well as the yellow first-down line that fans have become accustomed to seeing during football games.

But what types of advancements can Shanks come up with for soccer coverage at Fox without ruining the classic feel of the game that soccer fans crave? Do you think Fox Sports can secure enough quality talent for their World Cup coverage? Can Shanks come up with innovative broadcasting techniques that can help separate Fox Sports from ESPN in terms of soccer broadcasting?

Leave your comments below or your suggestions of who Fox Sports should get to enhance their coverage of one of the World’s largest sporting events.

Riley Ubben