Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Delayed Reaction: Tape Delays, Social Media Create Challenges for Olympic Followers

Every four years the Olympic games capture the attention of sports fans, both casual and hardcore, across the globe. The excitement of seeing big name athletes such as Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Usain Bolt, Hope Solo and LeBron James compete for gold is must-see television.

No need for the update, Bob, we already saw the results on Twitter yesterday.

Since 1988, NBC has been the exclusive TV home of the summer Olympic games, and in 2002 became the home for the winter games as well. With its headquarters in New York and its audience predominantly American, NBC has strived to broadcast the games so that major events are seen in U.S. primetime slots. But with a five-hour time difference between London and the Eastern Time Zone, NBC is forced to resort to a dreaded television phrase: tape delay.

Tape delays are nothing new, but they certainly aren’t popular. People have an insatiable need to hear the latest news as it happens, not wait five hours to hear about it. So when NBC resorted to tape delay in order to put events in primetime slots, the reaction was understandably negative. NBC used tape delay for the 2008 summer games in Beijing, but the advent of social media has created a host of issues in 2012.

Take for example the highly anticipated 400-meter freestyle relay race in men’s swimming. In 2008, the U.S. edged France by .08 in the race, coming from behind and winning by literally the margin of a fingertip to claim the gold. Both the U.S. and France squads were in this summer’s 400-meter relay, and the rematch figured to be close once again. Due to tape delay, the race was not shown on NBC until the evening, even though the race was completed hours earlier. With real-time updates from journalists on site, followers on Twitter and other social media platforms learned the French turned the tables on the U.S., coming from behind to win gold by .45. That took all the drama out of seeing the event that evening on television.

Updates on social media have put Olympic followers in uncharted territory: To follow or not to follow? Many Twitter users have unfollowed users who have updated from the games so as to keep the results a surprise when they see them at night. One Twitter user even had his account suspended when he went too far in criticizing NBC for using tape delay. The best outcome of the tape delay so far has been the parody account @NBCDelayed, which has over 20,000 followers since launching in the past three days as it gives mock updates that happened previously (Bush beats Gore in 2000 Election, U.S. wins “Miracle on Ice”).

Despite the issues, NBC seems to be doing fine. The opening weekend drew the biggest TV ratings in Olympic history. Though it may be frustrating for athletes and hardcore fans, the fact remains that tape delay helps draw bigger ratings, and that in turn helps the games generate more interest and more money. It’s an unfortunate tradeoff, but a necessary one for NBC.

This proves once again that the Olympics are not about sports or even politics, they are about money.

Photo (cc) by Doc Searls and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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Social (Media) Butterflies: Fans Taking to Twitter to Lure Penn State Players

It’s open season in State College, Pa. In the fallout from the NCAA’s staggering penalties against Penn State, a new wave of recruiting is occurring in college football as 96 players hit the open market.

When NCAA President Mark Emmert announced the sanctions against Penn State, he also announced that current Nittany Lion players were allowed to transfer without having to sit out a year like most transfers. Considering the school is now banished from postseason play for four years and the talent level is expected to drop off dramatically, it stands to reason many players would seek greener pastures.

On Wednesday, roughly 25 Penn State players showed their commitment to the school they originally signed with and staged an impromptu announcement, declaring they would not transfer.

The players staying have already been praised for their loyalty to the school, and you can bet Penn State will use these players as marketing as it attempts to clean its image.

For other players considering leaving, the scene in State College resembles wild predators stalking their prey. It was reported that coaches from other schools, most notably Illinois, traveled to Penn State to meet with players and try to lure them away. On one instance, the Illinois coaches ran into Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien on campus.

By far the biggest name on the recruiting trail is running back Silas Redd. Last season the sophomore led the Nittany Lions with 1,241 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, and helped drive the offensive attack. Early reports indicated Redd was considering USC as a potential transfer destination.

And that’s when things got ugly. Like most college students, Redd has a Twitter (MomentOfSilas25) that he uses frequently. Awful Announcing did a fantastic job in detailing the Twitter recruitment of Redd.

As you might expect, there were plenty of Penn State fans and alumni pleading him to stay. But there were also quite a few Nittany Lion  fans who didn’t take kindly to the USC rumors, using choice words and labeling him a #sellout.

And then there were the other schools. USC, Tennessee, Oregon, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, LSU, Florida State, Purdue, Louisville, Georgia and Temple were all mentioned by people who tweeted at Redd.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised by any of this. College football has been known for its shoddy recruiting practices that turn teenage kids into heroes and villains at the same time. But in the wake of all that has happened at Penn State, one would hope people could keep things in perspective and let the players make their own decisions.

Player Control Foul: Eric Gordon Saga Demonstrates Athletes’ Desire for Control

Eric Gordon wants to play for the Phoenix Suns, and the Suns want Gordon to play for them. That’s why the Suns offered him $58 million over four years to make the Grand Canyon State his new home. Sounds like a win-win, right?

Wrong. The New Orleans Hornets, the team for which Gordon played for during the 2011-12 season, have the right to match the contract offer and keep the shooting guard in the Emerald City. Thus, the Hornets hold the cards in this scenario.

Gordon’s only hope is that New Orleans chooses not to match the contract offer from Phoenix and lets him leave. Gordon was not shy when asked about his feelings regarding leaving New Orleans for Phoenix:

Perhaps the best way to explain this is to try and put it into terms the average person can understand. Pretend you are a recent college graduate with an entry level job. You’ve been at your job for three years, and you find an opening for a new job with another company. They see your resume, think you would be a good fit, and offer you a position with an elevated salary. But rather than give your two weeks to your current boss, you find that your company has the right to match the salary and keep you for at least another year.

Huh?

Such is life in the modern sports world with the advent of restricted free agency. To summarize in short, restricted free agency (RFA) means a player who was drafted in the first round can accept an offer from another team after his fourth year in the league. But the team he was currently with has the opportunity to match the offer and keep him. This rule allows small market teams the opportunity to keep their star players before they can be bid for by bigger market clubs.

On the surface, this rule makes sense, but it definitely puts players in an unusual position. All Gordon wants is to play for the Suns, but the Hornets have the right to keep him. The only solution he saw fit was to publicly chastise New Orleans in the hopes it would scare them away. Call it sports’ version of mudslinging if you will.

Gordon’s words have resonated in the hoops world, but not in an endearing way. Sporting News NBA writer Sean Deveney penned a mock letter that Gordon sent to New Orleans that opens with three powerful words: I hate you. Hornets 247 blogger Joe Gerrity pointed out how foolish Gordon looks for calling out a team that wants to shell out $58 million for him, a season after Gordon only played nine games. Fans who shell out big money to go to games have right to question Gordon’s sense of what is right and wrong.

From Gordon’s perspective, there is some reason to his argument. He wants to choose where he can play and the team he wants to play for also wants him. And though he will become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) next summer — meaning he will be able to sign wherever he wants without another team matching the offer — there is some risk in that scenario. What if Gordon gets injured again and can only play a limited number of games, like he did in 2011-12? Teams are unlikely to give big contracts to a player coming off back-to-back injury seasons, so there is risk in playing even one more year before hitting UFA status. And though Gordon is likely to make a lot of money even if he were to get hurt again, fans have to remember that athletes have a limited number of years to hone their craft before they are finished. If they’re lucky, players make it to about age 40 before their bodies betray them and they have to retire. That’s not the case if you’re an accountant or consultant.

CBS Sports writer Matt Moore perhaps summed up Gordon’s situation best by pointing out that these are the rules Gordon chose to play by. The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement expired after the 2010-11 season, which is what prompted the league’s lockout last winter while a new CBA was agreed to. The NBA Players Association negotiated with the league’s owners, and topics such as restricted free agency were undoubtedly part of the conversation. In the end, the CBA was ratified by the players, and the Gordon has to abide by the rules he agreed to.

Just because Gordon has rules in place for him doesn’t mean he has to stay quiet about them. But anytime someone complains about a $58 million contract being disrespectful, it’s not good for anyone.

Playoff Payoff: College Football Playoff System Still Predicated on Cash, Not Competition

College football fans, your long national nightmare is over. At last, there will be a playoff to decide the national champion.

More college football teams will have a chance to claim the championship trophy, and that means more money for the sport’s powers.

On Tuesday evening, a committee of university presidents approved a plan for a four-team playoff that will begin during the 2014-15 football season. The plan will bring an end to the controversial Bowl Championship Series (BCS), which relied on confusing computer polls and voters to decide who would play in the championship game. The BCS was never very popular among college football fans.

Despite the outcry, college football’s power brokers were reluctant to tweak the system because they were making so much money. With four major BCS bowls (Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl) and a BCS Championship Game driving the revenue train,  schools from power conferences like the SEC and Big-10 were splitting as much as $28.5 million by participating. A school like Indiana, which went 1-11 in 2011, split as much money as Alabama, which went 12-1 and won the national championship. University presidents were understandably hesitant to change.

The only thing that could prompt reform was the promise of more money. The new four-team playoff could be worth roughly $5 billion in TV revenue over a 10-year period, with the power conferences receiving between $360 and $400 million annually.

Of course the logical question for fans is why have only a four-team playoff? Why not push to eight or 16? The answer, again, is money. By having only four teams, it keeps the likelihood that the representatives will come from the power conferences rather than perennial non power conference contenders, such as Boise State and TCU. Why have the little guys get a slice of the pie from the big guys?

For all parties involved, it seems like a win-win. Fans get to see a champion crowned on the field rather than through computer logarithms, more teams now have a chance to play for the title, and universities make more revenue from the playoff. But this change is not without more improvements needed. To be true to the spirit of competition, there needs to be an eight or 16-team playoff.

In the end, however, this was never about improving college football, it was about making more money.

Photo (cc) by Charles Atkeison and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Ice Cold Interest: NHL, Stanley Cup Playoff Ratings Fail to Score

In mid-April I posted about how the Stanley Cup playoffs were primed to draw big TV viewer ratings based on the lack of activity among other sports and the bevy of talented players in big markets. It appears my prediction missed the net, at least in terms of the Cup Final.

Apparently the NHL didn’t account for Spongebob Squarepants when it scheduled its Cup Final games between the Kings and Devils. Deadspin found that on June 9 — Game 5 of the Final in which the Kings had an opportunity to win the Cup — more people watched an episode of Spongebob than the Stanley Cup. Ouch.

In addition, this year’s Cup Final had significantly less interest than last season’s Boston Bruins, Vancouver Canucks Final, down 29 percent in ratings. Overall, the Kings-Devils matchup was the least-watched Cup Final since 2007 when the Anaheim Ducks beat the Ottawa Senators.

That’s not to say the playoffs were a complete disaster, however. Games aired on NBC and NBC Sports were up 4 percent in ratings from last season, and the addition of CNBC to the lineup allowed every game to be seen in every market. But the Cup Final numbers undoubtedly cast a shadow on an otherwise entertaining postseason.

These numbers show why leagues internally hope for certain matchups. Last season the Bruins and Canucks was a good draw because it featured an Original Six team in a hockey market craving for its first Cup in 39 years (Bruins) against a Canadian team looking for its first Cup and featuring arguably the two best players in the sport (Canucks). Though this year’s Cup features two big markets in Los Angeles and New York/New Jersey, neither fan base is that big into hockey. L.A. is dominated by the NBA’s Lakers, and the Devils aren’t even the most popular team in their own market (that distinction goes to the Rangers).

Meanwhile, the NBA is thriving with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami Heat in the Finals. Game One on Tuesday was the highest-rated Game One on ABC ever. With star players such as Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, it’s an enticing series for sports fans to watch, especially for the anti-Heat crowd.

You can be sure NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is crossing his fingers that big market teams (Chicago, Philadelphia, New York) and star players (Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos) find themselves playing for the Cup.

Eye of the Tiger: Tiger Woods’ Victory at Memorial Shows Golf Needs Number One Player

Ever since his groundbreaking victory in the 1997 Masters, Tiger Woods has captured the attention of golf fans around the world. Woods’ quest to overtake Jack Nicklaus for most major professional wins — and the title of best golfer ever — has made his 18 holes of play an attention grabber for sports fans.

Of course that all changed in 2009 with his infidelity scandal and rash of knee injuries, both of which kept him from chasing history. Without a signature win as he entered his mid 30s, many wondered if the era of elite Woods dominance was over.

On Sunday Woods roared back to the top of the sport, winning the Memorial Tournament to tie Nicklaus with 73 career PGA Tour wins. The victory alone was gratifying for Woods, but it was his shot on the 16th hole that had spectators reminiscing of the vintage Woods.

Having Woods in contention during the final round paid major dividends for the sport as the Memorial drew a 138 percent viewer increase compared to last year’s tournament. The 3.8 overnight rating was the highest rating for the event’s final round since 2004.

To give you an idea of how intriguing Woods can be: Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers admitted to being late to the TD Garden for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat because he got caught up watching Woods in the final round. Think about that, an NBA head coach showed up late to the arena for a playoff game because he was watching Woods. That’s Woods’ appeal.

Woods’ victory has a financial trickle-down effect for a number of business entities. Nike, NBC, CBS and ESPN are just some who benefit from the re-emergence of Woods. Television networks are undoubtedly hoping Woods can stay hot to keep viewers tuned in.

Even if Woods does not overtake Nicklaus in wins, his presence alone might already solidify him as the biggest name in golf history. Though it hinders their winnings, golfers on tour know that when Woods is competing it benefits the sport, creating an odd scenario in which they are internally hoping for their greatest competitor to succeed.

Everyone can agree, golf is better when Tiger is on the prowl.

Altered Reality: The Question of the NBA’s Legitimacy

Within a matter of four hours on Wednesday the NBA suffered a potential loss that won’t show up in any box score but could cost the league a lot of money. It’s loss: Integrity.

At 8 p.m., the league held its annual draft lottery to determine which team would get the first overall pick in the NBA Draft. To prevent teams from losing on purpose to secure the top selection, the league instituted a lottery in 1985 to make the choice random. Of the 14 teams that do not make the playoffs, their odds of winning are weighted according to record.

David Stern has come under fire recently with allegations the NBA is “fixed” or “rigged.”

This year the Charlotte Bobcats finished with the worst record in the league at 7-59, and therefore had a 25 percent chance of winning the lottery. The Washington Wizards had the second-worst record at 20-46 and therefore had a 19.9 percent chance of winning. The order continues, with each improving record holding a statistically lower chance of winning. This year’s winner was the New Orleans Hornets, who had the fourth-best odds of winning at 13.7 percent.

A stroke of good luck for the Hornets, right? A little too lucky, many say. The Hornets filed for bankruptcy in late 2010, and until April of this year were owned collectively by the NBA until a new owner was found. Tom Benson, who also owns the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, agreed to buy the team for a reported price of $338 million. The sale has not been finalized, however, meaning the league still technically owns the franchise. Winning the No. 1 pick — expected to be Kentucky star Anthony Davis — makes the Hornets better and a more valuable franchise, and therefore easier to sell. How convenient for the NBA, huh?

Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski wrote a piece on a refrain that has been sung many times before: The NBA rigged the draft lottery to get the result it wanted. Wojnarowski quotes a number of unnamed league executives who believe the lottery was fixed so that the Hornets would win. Similar conspiracy theories relate to the 1985 lottery being fixed so that the New York Knicks would win (note the bent edge of the envelope that is picked) and the 2008 lottery being fixed so that the Chicago Bulls would win. New York and Chicago are No. 1 and No. 3 respectively in TV markets, so the better these teams are, the better the ratings for the league.

League executives aren’t alone on the conspiracy theory. Ten league players took to Twitter to voice their opinion on the lottery possibly being fixed. In addition, a poll from USA Today found that 83 percent of people think the lottery is fixed or could be fixed. Think about that number, 83 percent. There are perhaps more people who think wrestling is real than think the lottery is void of being rigged.

All of this happened prior to Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, and this game only added fuel to the fire. In Game 1, the C’s were whistled for some very questionable technical fouls, including one that head coach Doc Rivers called the “worst I’ve ever had.” In Game 2 Rajon Rondo put on a show but was on the wrong end of some calls — a loose ball foul that went against him rather than LeBron James — and a no call that did not go his way. Overall through two games, the Celtics have not been beneficiaries of the officials whistles. Bruce Allen of Boston Sports Media Watch put together a fantastic Storify of reactions to the game, including the officiating.

First on the technical foul issue: Ira Winderman of Pro Basketball Talk points out how there was no fine for Rivers after he chastised the refs for his Game 1 technical. In the previous playoff round, both Frank Vogel and Erik Spoelstra were fined for comments about the officials. Perhaps Rivers wasn’t penalized because his comments were dead-on.

Next, on the calls going Miami’s way: There is speculation that the NBA would prefer the Heat in the NBA Finals so the attention is once again on James’ quest for a title, and the officiating hasn’t done much to quell this notion.

So there you have it. On one single night, the conspiracy theorists were given heavy artillery on their quest to prove that David Stern and the NBA are playing favorites rather than letting the games be played.

Personally, I’m not on this bandwagon — yet. Still, it’s hard not to look at shoddy officiating from past games (2001 Eastern Conference Finals, 2002 Western Conference Finals, 2006 NBA Finals, 2007 Western Conference Semifinals, 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, 2010 Western Conference Quarterfinals) and start to question what you’re seeing.

My point in all of this is that this is a dangerous time for the NBA. When fans begin to question the legitimacy of a sport, you have a major issue. If fans don’t think what they’re seeing is real, they’ll stop watching and tune into something different. The league’s integrity is suddenly a real concern.

So what do you think? Is the NBA in the business of “fixing” to get the results it wants? And how does this affect your level of interest in the league?

Photo (cc) by Cody Mulcahy and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.