120 Sports the All Digital News Network

The Power of Sports

Have you ever stopped to look at you cable bill? I don’t mean to look at the overall price, but to actually look and examine what each channel costs you? Well, if you did that you might find a few interesting takeaways regarding price. Obviously the most expensive channels you have are going to be any of the premium channel subscriptions such as HBO, Starz or Showtime. Those are complete subscription only channels that do not use advertisers and therefore are not offered with a basic cable package, which naturally means that they will cost more. However, if you pay attention to the basic cable channels, you will see that the most expensive channel you pay for is ESPN.

Price Per Channel from the Wall Street Journal

The Highest Charging Cable Channels

As you can see, ESPN charges cable providers  $4.56 more per subscriber than the next most expensive channel. At first this may not seem like a large amount, but when you realize that combined, Comcast and Time Warner Cable – the top two cable providers in the United States – service over 33 million people, you realize that ESPN is several million dollars more expensive than other channel. However that is not all. If you look at the top ten most expensive channels above you might not realize that 6 of these channels are sports channels in some kind of way. TNT regularly broadcasts NBA regular season and playoff games. TBS airs the first few rounds of the MLB Playoffs. Fox Sports 1 is Fox’s attempt at countering ESPN with their own 24/7 sports network. The NFL Network is a channel that is solely dedicated to the National Football League. The fact that these channels comprise some of the most expensive channels is a testament to how popular, and how powerful, sports are in the television market.

Cutting the Cord

However, there is something that my disrupt the profitability of these networks, and that is the internet. We now live in a world where people no long have to rely on the television to watch their favorite shows. With streaming sites such as Netflix, HuluPlus, and Amazon Prime, people are starting to let go of their cable and simply watch their TV digitally online. 

Since 2010 the ratio of people dropping cable has gone from 1 in 8 to 1 in 5

Since 2010 the ratio of people dropping cable has gone from 1 in 8 to 1 in 5

Now, many people think that sports stations are immune to this type of issue because sports are one of the few events that you need to experience live. And while this is true for the actual live games that take place throughout the season, this is actually not the case for most of what these networks provide. Many of these networks offer live content during prime time hours and on weekends, but aside from that, much of what you see are recap and analysis shows. This, like much of the news content found on HuluPlus, is something that can be viewed at any time. However, the big networks have not truly capitalized on a service that provides this. The closest thing to a service like this provided by the networks is ESPN’s Watch ESPN app, which only offers what is currently airing on ESPN at the time. This means that the market is still kind of open for an on-demand sports content.

120 Sports – The All Digital Sports Network

120 Sports Logo

120 Sports Logo

Enter 120 Sports. Unlike what you find on ESPN or Fox, which rely on broadcast television for their content, 120 Sports is an all digital network. It runs out of Harper studio in Chicago and generates over 10 hours of its own content every day. The talent for the program is professional and include former ESPN SportCenter host Michael Kim, former NBA All Star Antoine Walker, and 2-time Super Bowl Winner Bryant McFadden. However, what makes this different than all other sports networks is that none of its content airs on TV. Instead, all of its content goes directly online to its website and its mobile applications, and you are able to watch the content without needing to provide a cable provider. What makes it even more interesting is that all of the content that 120 Sports generates are around 2 minutes long.

The network is backed by both Time Inc. and Sports Illustrated, so it is has a decently stable money backing. As for how it makes money, the app has static ads placed throughout its timeline. It also uses the advertising method of having 30 second ads play before the videos load. Although it doesn’t have a ton of sponsors yet,  these two sources of money should provide enough money to keep the application going for the next few years.

What you’ll find when you use the app is that it operates very similarly to a social media site, which is something that the companies president, Jason Coyle, is trying to achieve with the network. It operates all 3 of the big social media platforms, and after going through the app, you can really see the social media influence with both the design and the functionality of the application.

The one thing I wonder is if people would really use it. It is still a very new network as the app went live last July.  The only people that I know who know about are people who were present during the Michigan Sports Business Conference, but it has 10,000+ downloads on the Google Play Market. So I asked another sports fan what his initial thoughts on the network and its application were.

The next few years are going to be interesting in regards to the network and where it is going. As more people move away from cable to go to more interesting to see if what was thought as one remaining strength of cable television will be effected. One thing’s for sure, if any of the networks try to take their content directly online, they may find themselves in a bit of trouble, as 120 Sports has already beaten them to the punch.

I Haven’t Watched Regular Evening News In Years

Before today, I believe the last time I watched the regular evening news broadcast, I was just coming home from baseball practice, and was watching it with my grandpa in our den. I haven’t played baseball in 4 years. I honestly do not think I have watched a regularly scheduled broadcast of the network nightly news since high school. There are several reasons for this, but I didn’t realize one of the main ones until I had to write this review on the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.

NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams

He looked like this the last time I watched him on TV. Now….not so much

The reason I stopped watching network news is because honestly, I never found the stories relevant to what I was experiencing. And that was the exact same situation tonight. The show started off breaking news of a mass killing in Israel. Two Palestinian gunman entered a synagogue in Jerusalem and killed 5 people including 3 American Rabbis. This was simply a sad place to start off a nightly broadcast, especially when I feel as though other stories they used tonight could have been a better and more relevant opening.

The next story was probably the most relevant one to me, and the one I believe would have been better to start. It was about the United State’s recent transition into a frozen tundra. I didn’t realize that this was happening all over the country. Apparently the snow and severe cold has hit almost every state in the midwest, east coast, and even parts of the south. The way this package was presented was clever as well as it showed several different aspects of the storm, from an camera view over the city as the storm was hitting, to people’s twitter accounts with pictures of doorways completely blocking exit from the house. This was also one of the longer packages for the news cast as well. This was one of the tweets they included in the package:

As far as the rest of the broadcast goes, it was ok. Stories included rise in airline tickets while gas is lower (sort of relevant although I don’t fly), a study stating that an asprin a day may not actually prevent hart disease or stroke in adults over 60 (not relevant as none of my grandparents follow this regimen) and the daughter of a fire fighter who died in 9/11 becoming a member of the NYFD herself, which I feel was nice feel good story to end on. I will admit I was surprised by was how quick each of the segments ended. You got the key points to the story but at times it felt like something was still missing. What exactly that is, I’m not sure, but it just seemed to fast. I understand that this was probably because the show only lasts 30 minutes, but I still feel like it could have gone more in depth on both the plane story and the Jerusalem story.

The one thing I will fully admit is that Brian Williams does a fantastic job as the news anchor. He is a calming voice and gentle demeanor that I feel like can keep viewers watching just because he is there. If he can keep him interested however, depends on the content of the newscast.

John U. Bacon, A Disruptive Sports Writer

It’s 11:30 on September 3rd, and I am sitting a big lecture room for a class I have been waiting to take since my freshman year. At exactly 11:40:00, class began, and the professor began explaining class policies that were different than any other class I have had. Firstly, class started at 11:40 on the dot, if you were late, you would get chewed out and made fun of for the rest of the class period. Secondly, all assignments had to be turned in by that time exactly. A second later and the assignment is an F. Third, phones were to be shut off. After the professor told us this, a student’s phone went off. The professor took the phone, grabbed a hammer from his bag, and slammed it on the screen. Needless to say, this guy had some quirks. However, the more he described the class, the more I knew I was going to love it. So far, my intuition has been correct as the class has been absolutely fantastic, and the professor has been great.  The class is called The History of College Athletics, and it is taught by sports journalist and historian John. U. Bacon.

Sports Historian and Author John U. Bacon

Sports Historian and Author John U. Bacon

 

Professor Bacon is someone who really found his own way in the sports media industry. He graduated from Michigan with a degree in history and didn’t take any formal journalism classes. He simply just started writing stories. All things considered, things have worked out pretty well. His career has spanned a couple of New York Times best sellers, some of the most read articles for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other major newspapers and magazines, correspondent appearances on ESPN, NBC Sports, and Al-Jazeera, teaches classes at both Michigan and Northwestern, and has his own segment on Michigan Radio. However, what is probably most impressive about Bacon is the way he has adapted to the new digital world of journalism.

To start things off, he has a very large social media presence. He has 16,000+ followers on Twitter, and that is where a lot interaction occurs.  His tweets range from breaking news analysis:

To self promotion of articles he has written:

To joking about college sports:

Along with this, he has also adapted to disruption in the radio business. Bacon runs his own blog, the Bacon Blog, on his website, which are posts that he originally created for his Michigan Radio segment. By doing this, he makes sure that people who may not listen to Michigan Radio at least get the chance to listen online.

Bacon has clearly used the transition from traditional print media to digital to his advantage. He has become a prominent member of the sports media, and he has done so by adapting as his career progressed. I would try to go into more detail, but I know that no one can tell his story the way he can. Therefore, I sat down with him for an interview on his experience as a sports writer and how he is continuing to  adapt to this new digital world.

Gallery

Black Homecoming

I’m going to take a break from sports on this one, and talk about an event that I am truly made me proud this weekend.

The Flyer for Black Homecoming 2014

The Flyer for Black Homecoming 2014

I am part of an organization known as Here Earning A Destiny Through Honesty, Eagerness, and Determination of Self (H.E.A.D.S.)  H.E.A.D.S. is essentially an african-american male support group for African-American men on this campus. I am on the E-Board for this group. We call ourselves H.E.A.D.S. Core.  For the past 15 years, my organization along with Sister 2 Sister, an organization for African-American Women, have thrown the only free homecoming event on campus known as Black Homecoming. It is a great night for the community and it’s open to everyone one. For the 15th anniversary, we wanted to make it bigger and better than ever before. I think we succeeded.

 

Tech in the Sports World

At some point, everything will become modernized. Essentially this means that technology will help make the world run faster, become smaller, and overall more efficient. You can see this in almost every facet of life because from driving to cooking to leisure, technology has enhanced significant portions of our lives. It has made it easier to interact with people, and has revolutionized different aspects of many industries. In the sports world, this is no different.

First of all in relation to the video I just shared, companies such as Under Armour are serious about using technology to make athletes as good as they can possibly be. I have seen their company presentations, you would be shocked at exactly what they want to do. So far they have developed a couple of different wearable tech that monitors everything from heart rate to how fast you can run the 40 yard dash. These items give people the ability to share statistics about their workouts, training practices and performance. The fact that these items are wearable, and track these statistics during workouts are helping to change the way that people, and more specifically athletes train.

Under Armour Amour39 Band

This is just an example of what Under Armour is trying to do.

However, it’s not just in wearable technology department that technology is effecting sports. Technology has also changed the way sports can be viewed and covered. The best example I can give is the WatchESPN app. As long as you have a cable subscription, you will be able to watch ESPN on the go. If you don’t have that app, or your team is not playing on ESPN, other services such as the Score Center, the Bleacher Report Team Stream and the Yahoo Sports at will update you on your teams games and important news information. All of these apps allow for interaction with others, and in the case of Bleacher Report, encourage crowd-sourced and user generated content.  All of these technologies have all only been created in the past 10 years, and they are already changing the game sports wise. I am interested in seeing what innovations are on the way.

Infographics Make Sports Better

https://infogr.am/do-infographics-make-articles-better
In my opinion, infographics are a very useful tool. Any time there is a story that includes statistics or a decent amount of information, infographics make help the numbers make sense. However, if there was one type of news that benefited from infographics, it’s sports news. As time has gone on, sports have developed more and more statistics. Baseball has developed Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which is essentially how many wins a team would lose without that player. Football has developed Completion Percentage (CMP%), which is the percentage of passes a quarterback completes. Basketball has developed Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) which is the percentage of shots made that also takes into account that a 3 pointer is worth more than a 2 pointer. Going by more advanced stats, players are rated in different ways that change the view of how good the players actually are. However, simply talking about and comparing players in regards to these statistics is very confusing. This is where infographics come in handy.

A good example is this article from ESPN Stats and Info: Westbrook’s chance to shine with Thunder. This article is about how the Oklahoma City Thunder’s All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook will lead the team while 2014 MVP Kevin Durant is out recovering from foot surgery. The back story for this article is that while together, the two form one of the most dynamic scoring duos in the NBA , yet many believe that Westbrook takes too many shots and holds Kevin Durant back from reaching his highest potential. This article discusses while that may be true, now that Durant is unable to play for a longer period of time, Westbrook will be used more often as the focal point of the offense. Yet the numbers that they use in the article seem a lot more complicated in words. Thankfully, the infographic that ESPN gives helps to really clarify the article. It actually helps sum up the article pretty well. In my opinion, in sports reporting and analysis, a good infographic can tell you the entire story in one single picture.

Infographic of Russell Westbrook from ESPN Stats and Info

From this infographic alone, do you think you can tell what the article I linked above is about?
[provided by ESPN]

Why are fans staying away?

If you haven’t heard, Michigan football has a huge stadium. It’s the largest sports stadium in the country, and can hold more than 100,000 people inside of it. Every home game Michigan has been able to get more than 100,000 people to show up to sing “Hail to the Victors!” every game for almost 4 decades. However, this is something that has been threatened this season. For the first time in a very, very long time, fans are choosing to stay home.

There are a few reasons for this, and everyone has their opinions. Some of the factors into dropping attendance include:

  • a home schedule that does not include Notre Dame, Michigan State or Ohio State (their 3 traditional rivals)
  • Student season tickets being 300 dollars.
  • Games taking between 3-4 hours to finish.
  • The football team didn’t finish that well the previous season and this upcoming season didn’t look like it would be much better.

Yet Michigan’s Athletic Director Dave Brandon believes that the attendance drop is due to a different reason. Brandon has stated in the past that he believes the football team’s biggest rival for attracting fans is television. It’s actually a pretty good theory. If you watch on TV, you can watch the game at comfort of you’re own home, eat your own food, and use your own bathroom. Plus when there are long time outs, you can change it to something else. This made me wonder how much of this is true. So I decided to ask some fans. I attended the office hours for Professor John U. Bacon’s class History of College Athletics which is located at Amer’s Deli. Typically during these office hours there are a few students (all of which are Michigan fans). I wanted to know how they watched sports. If Brandon’s theory was correct, they would probably say on TV, but I wanted to be sure.

It was clear that these fans did prefer going to the games. There’s just something about the college atmosphere that is appealing to see live. In other words, given the choice, people will still want to attend games. Which means, it’s something else that is keeping the fans away. What it is that reason? We may have to wait until the rest of the season ends to find out.

I chose to do the post in this format because of some confusion when I was trying to edit it in a different form. I originally wanted to post this as a podcast, but I wanted the interviews in their entirety, which is already 2 minutes long. I also wish I had more time to do more interviews on the subject, as I’m sure I could interview more people and get more details to better answer the question, but I also knew that this was a smaller project so I didn’t want to do too much. Something interesting I noticed with working in this format is that if you don’t know how to edit, there is very little room for error. I tried to do a spoken version of the written portion, but it took far too long to do. It also would have made the post practically 4-7 minutes. Also when interviewing someone, a couple of follow up questions is always good to have around. I sadly thought of a few of them after I listened to the interview a few times. All in all this was a fun project I would love to get some more time doing in the future.