10/31/16: Sportsrocket’s Brian Bedol tackles the new world of sports distribution; Did ESPN have a record loss?; Atlantic 10 makes a play w/ Facebook Live


Good morning. It’s Monday October 31, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

Amid headlines of ratings dips, mutating viewer habits and new digital sports deals, one media pioneer – Brian Bedol – is now spearheading a new way to cultivate industry changes through his new digital media company Sportsrocket. Described as a company that offers integrated solutions for production, distribution, management and monetization of sports media across all platforms, including OTT, Bedol, who founded ran the likes of Classic Sports Network and College Sports Television, is now partnering with the like of Major League Soccer and PGA TOUR as well as eSports brands such as ELeague to help boost audience aggregation.

Cynopsis Sports asked Bedol about the changes in the media landscape and its effects on viewership.

On the changing landscape: Back when we were doing Classic Sports Network, non-linear wasn’t available, we had to give the same feed of sports content to every fans, no matter who they cared about or loved. We always used to think how great it would be if there was a way to allow people to watch, for example, just a Cleveland Indian feed. When we did CSTV, it started s a linear channel, we started to realize that there was a ton of content that didn’t fit a linear channel and we were able to build out rights agreements for broadband content. In many ways, all of that stuff pointed to what was going to happen in the future. At that time, Internet was basically just an adjunct to television distribution. Now we are at a point where the tables are turning. We realized that there was really no elegant way for teams, publishers and rightsholders, without custom-building a complicated solution, to be able to distribute that content to all platforms and that led to what we are doing today.

On distribution: One of the most considerations was the television was about exclusivity, and it was about one ingestion point in and one distribution point out. Then, Internet 1.0 was TV over the Internet. What we are now experiencing and the real part of the evolution is this transition from exclusive distribution to ubiquitous distribution where you are no longer trying to get all these people to go to one destination to consume a single game. Instead, you basically need to reach people on every platform that they consume, whether it’s an OTT platform like Roku or a social platform or an app. So everything is going from a single point of distribution to multiple point of distribution. Now you are no longer just showcasing a live game, you are also pulling out highlight of a live game in real-time, you’ve got players doing self-interviews, you’ve got data feeds and multiple points of ingestion. So when you pull it together, it is a complicated mess.

On strategy: On If you are thinking about this, you need to be thinking about how you are going to reach all of these fans on the various platforms they are consuming because the train has left the station and there is no way any longer of getting them to come to the station where you want them to go.

On ratings: I think that when you read about ratings declines and how fans are choosing to consume sports, I don’t think that fans are as much rejecting the sports as they are choosing different platforms to consume them. I think there are some fans who fully get their fix of the NFL on Snapchat while others fully get their fix through highlights on their social feeds. If you are a tradition sport, you need to be thinking about the aggregate audience and how long they are engaged with me versus the ratings on a live feed on broadcast or cable TV.


The weekend saw a lot of headlines citing Nielsen projecting a loss of 600,000+ homes for ESPN in its latest cable coverage numbers for November. The report seemed to accelerate recent stories about the effects of chord-cutting, with the report showing that ESPN lost 621,000 homes, ESPN2 down by 607,000 and ESPNU off by 674,000. ESPN was quick to offer a statement after the news went mainstream, writing “The Nielsen numbers represent a dramatic, unexplainable variation over prior months’ reporting, affecting all cable networks. We have raised this issue with Nielsen in light of their demonstrated failures over the years to accurately provide subscriber data. The data does not track our internal analysis nor does it take into account new DMVPD entrants into the market.” Subsequently, Nielsen made its own announcement, stating that the company has now pulled its November estimates and will readjust the numbers. :

Meanwhile, the World Series continues to deliver for FOX. Saturday’s Game 4 handed the company with 17 million viewers across FOX, FOX Deportes and FOX Sports GO. Saturday night’s Indians win drew a 9.3/18 fast national rating/share with 16.7 million viewers for FOX, up 19% In rating and 23% in viewership over last year. Meanwhile, Friday night’s World Series Game 3 posted 19.4 million viewers for FOX Sports to rank as the most-watched World Series Game 3 since 2004 with a fast national rating/share of 11.0/20.

In college football, ABC/ESPN delivered the top two overnight numbers in the category, as ABC’s Saturday Night Football with Clemson/Florida State at 8p drummed up a 3.6 in overnight numbers, while Michigan/Michigan State hit a 3.1 to mark the network’s best Saturday overnight of the 2016 season.

Turner Sports locked in a multi-year agreement with 15-time NBA All-Star and 2008 NBA Champion Kevin Garnett to serve as a contributor on TNT’s NBA coverage to appear weekly throughout the season.

We are now less than 100 days until the Super Bowl, and ESPN has locked in Houston’s new Midtown Park as its production home for the week. The area can accommodate up to 3,000 guests for special gatherings and events and will see more than 45 hours of original television and radio content originate from the area that include daily live editions of SportsCenter, NFL Insiders, NFL Live and the special Super Bowl Sunday edition of Postseason NFL Countdown.

The UFC is projecting four suitors to bid on media rights when the promotion’s deal with FOX expires in 2018. MMAjunkie writes that in an investor deck that followed the company’s sale to WME/IMG, with FOX, NBC, ESPN and Turner expected to make a play.


ESports is ushering in a full-blown shift in entertainment and culture, but how do you maximize and monetize this phenomenon? Get the answers during our webinar on November 17, from sponsors and marketers as they share their insights into connecting with eSports fans, laying out a blueprint for how brands can reach and connect with a generation of skeptical but affluent consumers.


MLB and Budweiser partnered with TEAM Coalition on Friday as part of Game 3 of the World Series to reward designated drivers with tickets to the fall classic. "The safety of our fans is paramount throughout the season and the Budweiser Good Sport Program helps us promote and increase fans’ social responsibility in regards to designated driving," said John Skinner, Senior Director of Security and Facility Management, Major League Baseball." Along with Budweiser and TEAM Coalition, we’re proud to reward some of the fans who have committed to getting their family and friends home safely with these special World Series experiences."


The Atlantic 10 Conference announced plans to become the first league to showcase a package of regular season men’s college basketball games through Facebook Live. The league will distribute between 10 and 15 live contests on the platform during the upcoming season that will appear within Facebook’s News Feed and on the A-10’s Facebook Page. Additionally, the A-10 is working with Facebook to optimize its strategy on the platform, and “Working with Facebook is an innovative opportunity to take advantage of new technology,” stated A-10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade. “This unique and creative partnership with Facebook allows us to expand our reach as a conference, further our presence globally and bring A-10 basketball to an even wider audience.”

DraftKings and FanDuel are finalizing terms of a merger, according to ESPN with a deal that could be announced as early as this week. The news would come following the companies’ financial settlements with the state of New York.


GMR Marketing released a new proprietary research study on the behaviors, preferences and interests of eSports enthusiasts, in eSports Marketing: Start with the Consumer. The report identified three groups of eSports consumers — watchers, players, and those who do both with research showing that the three groups have different opinions about brand involvement, which should directly influence brand strategies. Findings showed that the majority of eSports fans are appreciative when brands reach out through the gaming world, while player are the most receptive to brand involvement.

Microsoft unveiled a second season of the Forza Racing Championship for the Xbox One console, with the event lining up $150,000 in cash and prizes starting on Nov. 7. The Elite Series will spotlight Forza Motorsport 6, while a Recreation Series will showcase Forza Horizon 3.

ESPN writes that Call of Duty publisher Activision is “exploring options to potentially discontinue its online Call of Duty World League competition and launch an offline league to begin in the spring of next year.” The publisher held a conference call with a slate of its 2016 World League owners, proposing competitive changes that would kick in with the release of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, with Activision running consistent offline events through the winter and early spring, awarding circuit points depending on a team’s placement, and anchored by what it tentatively referred to as the "Global Super Bowl” taking place at the Major League Gaming Arena in Columbus, Ohio.


Vikings/Bears on ESPN at 8p.


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ON THIS DAY in 1908: The 4th Olympic Games end in London.

In The Know: What athlete has the most homeruns as a member of the Cleveland Indians? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Who is the Milwaukee Bucks all-time scoring leader? Answer: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kudos: John Ferlazzo/London; Lewis Blaustein-GreenSportsBlogger/NY; Pete Gautieri-A&E Networks/NY; Denis Barry-CBS/NY; Ivette Herrera-Singh-Univision Radio/NY; Larry Kahn-Golf Channel/Orlando; Tom Lopez-UPS Public Relations/Atlanta; Kendall Jacobs-Aaron’s, Inc./Atlanta; Scott Leslie-UPS/Atlanta; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Robert Teinowitz-Live Action Media/Chicago; Marshall Robb-William Woods University/Fulton; Austin York-, Mediavest/Spark/Chicago; David Hauptman/Denver; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank; Adam Deverell-CoxReps/LA; Don Surath-KPIX-TV/KBCW-TV/San Francisco.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | Sports @VegasandVine

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