Tag Archives: Sports Broadcast

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

Floating Down the Video Stream: The Future of Television

The future of media distribution is certainly at a crossroads right now. We are seeing a tumultuous period in traditional forms of media, and television is no exception. More and more American’s are opting out of expensive pay-tv subscriptions in exchange for digital antennas and subscriptions to streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus.

videoTrends in media consumption have changed radically even within the year, with digital viewing increasing at an impressive rate. According to a recent Nielsen report growth for digital viewing rose 53% for individuals ages 18 to 43 over the past year. In fact, this high growth of digital viewing is even more pronounced for older demographics with an 85.7% rise in 35 to 49 year olds and a 72.7% rise in 50 to 60 year olds. TV, on the other hand, saw a 4.2% average drop in adult screen during the past year.

Video2These discernible growth rates in digital viewing should serve as a wakeup call for pay-tv providers. No doubt they have felt the stinging winds of change; digitaltrends.com revealed that 2013 marked the first year in the history of television which pay TV providers lost more subscribers than they gained. Not only that, but there are now over 10 million households in the U.S. with internet services but no traditional cable or satellite connection. And over half are subscribed to some sort of monthly streaming service.

Video3There are many additional choices to be made once deciding to cut the cord on cable, most importantly how to create your own bundle of content. Many sports fans may have the most difficult time taking off the noose of pay-tv, but that too may be changing soon. Recent deals made between the NBA and ESPN have made internet streaming of live basketball games possible for anyone willing to pay for the subscription cost with no cable or satellite needed. The new streaming service will host 100 live games, 750 hours of additional new content, and archival footage. ESPN has also expressed interests in doing the same for additional sports.

If deals can eventually be made and sports move to pay streaming services, it could ultimately mean the end of the pay-tv we know today. But there is a way to save the industry, and that involves following the lead of our neighbors to the north.

According to Nielsen, the average American only watch 17 different channels, yet some plans include hundreds upon hundreds of channels. Verizon has been showing an increasing interest in developing a pay-per-channel (or “a la catre”) system of allowing consumers to buy their television. This practice of “a la carte” television has been successfully practiced in Canada with television service Telus’ Optik. Subscribers pay a low rate of $26 a month for 40 US and Canadian channels while having the option to buy channels specially bundled “themed packs” for an additional $8.00 a month, or buy any channel individually for $3.50 a month.

While the vision of a la carte television may be only a pipe dream for U.S. consumers, many are creating their own version of this system by cord-cutting. As more and more channels offer streaming subscription services we are moving closer and closer to a world without traditional television. How can these television networks (primarily local network affiliates) expect to survive if something is not done to our current industry model? Is there any hope to save traditional television, or are we simply seeing a redefinition of what it means to be “watching television” in an evolving industry?

Cutting the cord may not be the best answer to the current state of, but changes to television distribution must happen and quickly and right now cord cutting seems to be the most viable option for change. New technologies should continue to supplement traditional media, not supplant it.

Aaron Sprengeler

Who’s The Real MVP: The Battle Between ESPN and FOX Sports 1

ESPN has been the worldwide leader in sports since 1979. Many companies have tried to challenge its reign, but they have seen their efforts fail. So who in the world would try to take down this sports media juggernaut? That would be Fox Sports and their new 24/7 sports network, Fox Sports 1. Fox Sports 1 replaced SPEED Channel, which was a network for racing fans. After one year in the race, Fox Sports 1 is still far behind ESPN.

Sports1Fox Sports 1 said that they would be the “fun” alternative to ESPN. They have instead practically become a copycat of ESPN. While ESPN has their shows “NFL Live,” “Around the Horn,” and “Pardon the Interruption,” FOX Sports 1 saw their alternatives to these shows: “FOX Football Daily” and “Crowd Goes Wild” cancelled within a year of their launch. To make the comparison, Crowd Goes Wild, which aired at 5 P.M. eastern, only averaged 80,000 viewers during its best month. That same month ESPN’s Around the Horn and PTI, which aired during the same time period, averaged 883,000 viewers.

While ESPN has dominated the late night sports stage with their top show “Sportscenter,” Fox Sports 1’s “Fox Sports Live” has had issues. The two times “Fox Sports Live” has averaged over 2 million viewers have been after two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. Even though Fox Sports Live hasn’t seen the ratings that they wanted to, I do think they have some potential.

Along with the co-anchors Jay Onrait and Dan O’ Toole, Fox Sports Live has their own panel of former athletes. I personally like the unique idea of having former basketball star Gary Payton and former tennis star Andy Roddick talking about football with former quarterback Donovan McNabb. It gives the view multiple perspectives of different athletes, even though they aren’t an “expert” about that sport.

With Fox Sports 1 trying to compete, ESPN has come up with some new ideas to stay atop the sports media world. First, with Sportscenter, ESPN has created their new Studio X (above). Studio X is a brand new set, which has a more futuristic and bright look to it.

Sports2Another brilliant move by ESPN was the addition of Keith Olbermann, who worked for ESPN from 1992-1997. Olbermann was given his own show, “Olbermann,” where he gives his own viewpoints on many topics in the sports world. One thing that I like about Keith Olbermann is that he’s not afraid to speak his mind. He recently called on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to resign after the Ray Rice domestic violence incident.

While Fox Sports Live hasn’t quite lived up to Fox’s expectations, the sport I think they need to continue to focus on is NASCAR. Even though Fox Sports 1 replaced SPEED channel, NASCAR has continued to lead the way in the ratings. When NASCAR released their 2015 schedule on August 26, NASCAR Race Hub had 178,000 viewers, this just for a schedule being released. NASCAR fans love their coverage, and if FOX Sports 1 wants to keep their head above water, they need to keep NASCAR in their main plans.

Fox Sports 1 came out of the box saying they were going to challenge ESPN right away. While at times I do switch over the watch the non-NASCAR coverage on Fox Sports 1, ESPN still reigns supreme in my opinion. ESPN has more programs where their sports media gives their opinions. They also have many experts for particular sports, compared to Fox Sports 1 who only has three or four for each sport.

Finally, I think the reason most people watch ESPN is that it is what they are accustomed to watching. ESPN has been on the airwaves since 1979, and firmly established itself as the go to sports network. Fox Sports 1 says they are going to rival ESPN, but I believe it’s not even a fight. ESPN is the MVP, and they are pulling away from the pack.

What do you think? How much Fox Sports 1 do you watch compared to ESPN? What could Fox Sports 1 do to catch ESPN?

Andy McConnell

Streaming TV, Get Your Game On

Don’t consider me a genius when I tell you that video is thriving today in our media saturated world.  Video is the next thing that everyone wants to get their hands on as often as they possibly can.  People are willing to watch nearly anything on their mobile devices: homemade videos on a smartphone, high quality documentaries on YouTube, fifteen second clips on Instagram, and even fragments of video on Vine, have all snuck in front of the eyes of millions of Americans.

Knowing that people are so willing to watch a 6 second video of a random individual “whaling” it also shouldn’t come as a surprise that mobile television already HAS and WILL become a MASSIVE contributor to the video people can watch “on the go.”

A company called Dyle is leading the way right now in true mobile TV, offering local channels in select cities throughout the United States.  With 36 markets providing coverage for Dyle services and counting, 55% of the population has access to live mobile television. All someone has to do is make a one time purchase of an Audiovox MobileTV receiver or something similar.  The Audiovox receiver is a wireless receiver that can be purchased for $100 on Amazon.com and many other electronic stores.  For iPhone 4 or iPad users, a 30 pin connector made by Elgato can also be purchased on Amazon.com or other similar electronic stores for around $80.

AudiovoxMobileTV_iPadBenefits of these devices are the one time purchase, saving you from the hassle of subscriptions services and nagging emails about “special offers.”  You just buy the connector one time and you have full access to live television if you are in one of the selected market areas.  Also, these devices use the legitimate TV airwave signals that your television at home would if you didn’t have a cable or satellite service. YOU DON’T HAVE TO WASTE YOUR DATA OR BATTERY BY STREAMING THE VIDEO. This is a definite feature that any level of techie can appreciate.

One negative to this service is the lack of channels that it can receive.  Since the live mobile TV industry is still developing, the only channels which an individual can have access to are the ones you would have minus a cable or satellite subscription.  Major networks such as NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, and Qubo will be available for your watching enjoyment however.

Another company that has just recently made a massive splash in the mobile TV industry is Turner Sports with their newest edition of the NCAA March Madness app.  Although this app does still require you to use data on your phone for streaming, it is entirely free and gives the user an opportunity to watch all 67 games in the tournament. Although this app has been available for a few years now, it has gotten a complete makeover this year and the results have been exactly what the team at Turner was hoping for.  As of March 21st, before the round of 32 even happened, there had been 51 million live video streams through the app (2 million more than 2013).

ncaa_sports_appThe app also allows people to see what the buzz is on social media while the game is happening.  Don’t worry though, Turner Sports has hired more people to sift through the thousands of posts and only deliver you the most high quality ones presented so as to not overwhelm the viewer.  Also, this year, Turner Sports will broadcast each of the final four games on three different networks.  Allowing for a basic neutral broadcast on TBS, while TNT and TruTV will each broadcast a game with announcers who are “homers” or people in favor of one of the specific teams (Naturally this will be available on the March Madness app as well).

How does Turner provide all this quality coverage on their app you ask?  Well they are showing live television, so they can add value to those who chose to put commercials up knowing that they will not only appear on television, but on the mobile streaming as well.  Also, AT&T, Coca Cola, and Capital One have been presented as the co-releasers of the app and get extra coverage within the app and on air.

Although this app is still a data or wi-fi using feature which requires you to have some sort of cable connection providing you with the channels that are broadcasting the games, it is progressing and developing rapidly.  Don’t be surprised to see this app revolutionize the way people expect to watch television on the go, especially sports.

What does the future specifically hold for mobile TV? Will the sports industry fuel growth for more free mobile television?  When can we expect to see these changes in mobile television to come?  Will 100% of the nation eventually have access to mobile TV?  Hopefully a trip to the NAB Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada this week can answer these questions and more.

Keep an eye out for an update to this post to have your questions about mobile TV answered.

Matt Lange

Spirit of Competition? Advertising and the Olympics

The athletes are competing, shouldn’t advertisers be allowed to compete as well?

In the world of athletic competition, the ideals and honor of athletes and the voyage they take in order to be the best among their peers in the realm of athletic competition gives birth to some of the best stories of perseverance. But this story is one that the Olympics committee doesn’t want told.

A new Guinness ad has the still image of Tracy And Lanny Barnes, twin sister biathletes who have been to the Olympic stage and had their share of ups and downs. The ad tells the moving story of how they both have competed in past Olympics with no medals.  This was their last year to compete for a medal. Tracy did qualify, but Lanny become too sick at trials to compete. Tracy gave her spot on the team to her sister, in one of the most unselfish acts of kinship and as well sportsmanship. And yet this tale cannot be told during the pinnacle showcase of international competition, due to sponsorship rules of the Olympics Committee.

According to Adweek ,the Ad was taken down by Guinness for a black out from January 30th til February 26th. This blackout, in a wake of media with Olympic athletes leading up to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, seems uncharacteristic to an advertising plan for Guinness.

If you missed the Ad on TV, don’t be surprised. According to the Huffington Post, it only ran for one day before U.S. Olympic Committee rules forced it to be blacked out from Jan. 30 to Feb. 26. The reason? Guinness happens to be a competitor with an official U.S. Olympic Committee sponsor.

In an event that is built on competition amongst athletes, the world of advertising seems to take a different path. Sponsors can buy out large chunks of advertising or become an “official sponsor” thus alienating their competitor’s ability to advertise during the event or in this case with Olympic Athletes.

This also applies to some of the events that take place during our renowned events such as the Super Bowl, where Budweiser and Coke have cornered their market by producing the only commercials in their market. Gone are the days of strong advertising when people used to watch the Super Bowl in hopes to see brands like Budweiser and Miller duke it out during the commercial breaks. This lack of competition in our current climate may lead to less originality in the creative process of a brand, which could be the reason why we hear friends say that the Super Bowl commercials are getting weaker each year.

Some of the competitors of Budweiser and Coke found ways to get around the commercial buyout, with Pepsi Sponsoring the Half-Time show and Newcastle making an ad featuring “Pitch Perfect” actress Anna Kendrick in a “mega huge game day ad” that the brand “almost made,” and the results according to Newsday were “unexpected and hilarious”.

Although companies find ways to get their brand seen, I still think it takes away from a free market of capitalism.  The free market of advertising rights during special events should be just as competitive, and these “blackouts” because of media monopolies may backfire, cutting into ad industry profits.

– Eric Benson

Big Risks, Bigger Rewards?

What huge sports rights deals mean for the networks that obtain them.

Estimates vary, but it is reported that ESPN will spend over $600 million a year for the rights to the brand new college football playoff, which will guarantee the network seven post season games when it starts in 2014.

Given the fact that they pay just $125 million annually for the current Bowl Championship Series games (Rose, Fiesta, Orange and Sugar Bowls), one might think that ESPN has made bad business decision. Recent history would go against that school of thought, however. In this post, I will outline two notable examples of large, and, some would say, risky sports rights deals that paid dividends for the companies that acquired them.

NFL on FoxIn 1987, a small network with quirky shows, known as Fox, made what most considered to be an insane offer.  The rights to the NFL’s Monday night game were up, and Fox bid against long time Monday Night Football stalwart ABC to get the rights. Their offer of $1.3 billion was rejected because, among other reasons, Fox hadn’t established itself as a major network. In 1993, six years after Fox’s Monday night bid was rejected, the contract for CBS’s rights to the NFL’s National Football Conference ran out, and Fox was poised to make a bid yet again. Fox’s bid of $1.58 billion was $100 million more than CBS’s bid, and gave Fox the rights to the NFL for the first time in the network’s existence.

The real genius of the move, however, was in the way the network used it to expand their sphere of influence within the television industry. Because they were literally the only game in town for those who wanted to watch their favorite NFC team, they could use this rights deal to advertise and promote the other shows they had on their station. This led to audience flow from those NFL games to shows like Married… With Children and The Simpsons, among others. The effect of having the NFL rights was that Fox gained a firm foothold as the fourth major network, a spot which they still hold to this day.

London 2012Moving forward to a more recent example, in 2012, NBC bought the rights to the London Olympics. Critics claimed that the deal was going to result in a $200 million loss for the network, but NBC broke even. And, like Fox, they leveraged a captive Olympic audience to promote new programs such as Go On, Revolution and Chicago Fire. Because, where else are you going to watch the Olympics when it’s only on one family of networks?  Despite the fact that Go On didn’t have much success (the show was cancelled after just one season), Revolution and Chicago Fire have gotten solid ratings and were renewed for second seasons.  Revolution, in particular, got huge numbers in the series premier, with nearly 12 million viewers tuning in. Even though the network just barely broke even on the Olympic Games, it is paying dividends for them in the long run.

It is within this broader context that we need to evaluate the large amount that ESPN paid for the rights to the college football playoffs. As history has shown us, it is actually a pretty safe bet. Deals like these, no matter how huge, may make complete sense. There are a lot of people who watch sporting events, and this creates a captive audience, that is very likely to flow from the sporting events to regular programming, thus making the network that much more money. So, what do you think?  Are the amounts that the networks are paying for sports rights getting out of hand, or will they pay off in the end?

Matt Bless

Commercials for Super Bowl 2012

Sports fans love the Superbowl game, and everyone watching loves the new wave of clever and entertaining commercials.  With all the hype that the Superbowl commercials get in the media nowadays, it is virtually impossible for the advertisements to live up to all the excitement.  This did not stop me or the other 111.3 million viewers of Superbowl XLVI from scrutinizing the showcase of advertisements, however.  Company’s put their best foot forward to have their product or brand remembered for years to come.

Automotive commercials had a very strong showing this year at the Superbowl.  Some of the more notable ones was the vampire-themed Audi promotion, a sexually charged commercial for the Fiat 500 Abarth, and a humorous take on life and death with the Hyundai Genesis Coupe.  Cars.com gave us a catchy tune with their ad featuring Christopher B. Duncan, and Chrysler gave America it’s own halftime speech with the help of Clint Eastwood.  A personal favorite mine was the ad for the Chevy Silverado, with their portrayal of the truck’s toughness surviving the 2012 Mayan apocalypse, and their genius use of the Barry Manilow song “Looks like we Made It.”

Promos for television programs for NBC were also out in force, including a reveal of the new drama “Awake,” promises of double crossing in the name of charity on the new season of “Celebrity Apprentice,” the announcement of Howard Stern as a host for “America’s Got Talent,” and a flashy, kung-fu style commercial featuring the judges of “The Voice,” which premiered directly after the game ended.  The Superbowl also featured its fair share of motion picture promotion, premiering spots for blockbuster films like “The Avengers,” “John Carter,” and  “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.”

Of course the Superbowl commercial veterans came out to play and continue their legacy.  The E*Trade baby returned with more smart advice, and the M&M’s introduced a new color to their gang.  Coke gave us new ads featuring their famous polar bears, which I enjoyed seeing again.  I feel GoDaddy.com could have tried something new as they aired more of the same risque commercials featuring Danica Patrick.  Budweiser found a way to keep their signature Clydesdales in their ads and have a fresh idea by doing a flashback to show an exaggerated end to prohibition.

The fight for the Vince Lombardi trophy featured some great football, half time show controversy, and entertaining commercials.

-Kazi Smith

A Serious Case of the Mondays

On Monday, October 3, 2011,  ESPN decided to pull the Monday Night Football Intro, as performed by country singer Hank Williams, Jr. (HuffingtonPost).  This decision was made after Williams made comments on a Fox News morning show, where he compared President Barack Obama with Adolf Hitler, and called Obama and Vice President Biden “the enemy.”  Williams performance was replaced by the national anthem.  On Thursday October 6, ESPN announced that Williams will no longer be make openers for Monday Night Football (ESPN).  Williams had been creating Intros for Monday Night Football since 1991, and was famous for the line “Are you ready for some Football!”

Hank Williams Jr.

Some people (including Williams) would argue that the First Amendment has been violated.  Williams has political views and simply felt like he needed express them. While it is true that everyone is entitled to their opinion, and everyone else “should” respect this freedom,  is also true that nobody is free from the consequences of their opinions.  It’s not uncommon for celebrities or entertainers to voice their political ideas, but it is always suggested that they wait until they are in a good position to do so.  Former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura became the Governor Minnesota, but he wasn’t making huge public political statements while he and “Macho Man” Randy Savage were fighting for the Tag Team Championship.  Some may also say that Williams was making comments in line with the views of Fox News and its audience and he got too comfortable.  This could be true, but being on ESPN for 20 years and being in the music industry for even longer, he must of known where the line was.

I don’t believe Williams being fired was a bad thing however.  This was a good reminder that Williams has been doing Monday Night Football intro’s for a while and it was time for some fresh ideas. The songs he was doing every week were starting to get gimmicky and people will probably miss them as much as they miss “Steve” for the Dell computer commercials. There is a decent chance he felt this way too. Also it’s worth noting that he went out with a bang. Plenty of people (including myself) has been fired from jobs without getting the chance to tell the man how we really feel. But he had a good run, and football fans, musicians, and television producers everywhere respect him for that.  As Monday Nights roll along, and the greetings to our football games change, his legacy will always be remembered.

Williams stated in the Fox News interview that he is considering running for Senator for the state of Tennessee.  This is a great time for him to focus on that and move on to the next stage of his life, but he probably won’t be getting my vote anytime soon. Nobody ever loves the government all the time, but comparing respected government officials to mass murdering dictators is never a good idea. If he wants his political career to be as successful as his music/television career he better get ready to read some books and articles instead of blurting out ignorant analogy.

-Kazi Smith