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Bleacher Report Takes Next Step in Evolution With B/REAL

The new franchise from the publisher connects real-life heroes with influential athletes to show that star power can be found in all of us.

Adam White

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B/R Bleacher Report

LeBron is #MoreThanAnAthlete. Bleacher Report wants to be #MoreThanAPublication.

Thanks to its new franchise B/REAL, the publisher is taking the steps to do just that.

B/REAL is the culmination of eight months of work from Bleacher Report, Carmelo Anthony, and his Crea7ive team, that saw Anthony and a board of trustees that include Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Candace Parker, and Chris Paul select the stories of five different individuals from more than 1,000 videos.

The idea originally came from the fact that every day, across all of its platforms, Bleacher Report was being sent hundreds — if not thousands — of messages and videos from their fans and users. Instead of seeing their DMs packed with stories as a negative, Ed Romaine, chief brand officer at Bleacher Report  and the editorial team saw an opportunity in which the publisher could not only bring to life some of the stories they were getting, but also create positive change in the life of the people they were profiling.

“Our entire value proposition is that we reach the hyperconnected sports fan,” said Romaine. “We hear from those fans every day. We hear about things that they’re struggling with, what they’re succeeding at, and where they have failed. The editorial team really thought that they would be remiss if they didn’t also surface the stories of our users and give them the credibility and the empowerment factor through the platform that professional athletes have.”

Having been in active talks with Melo and his team for quite some time leading up to the creation of B/REAL, both parties were looking for something that they could do together and that would make sense for everyone involved.

Taking the idea for B/REAL to Melo, his only stipulation before getting involved with the project was that if they did it, it had to make an impact on the lives of young athletes.

“Empowerment and community development are causes that are near and dear to him and we knew that we needed a mechanism that surfaced the stories we were receiving,” said Romaine. “We brought it to him and said, ‘We want to socialize these stories. What do you think of this?’ And he said, ‘If we can make an actual difference in the lives of a young athlete, then I’m in.’”

He wasn’t just in; he was all in. After seeing some of the first stories, Melo came up with the idea of bringing the board together to not only amplify the project, but also give the winners the opportunity to connect with some of their heros.

SEE MORE: Bleacher Report Flexes Original Content Muscles With ‘The Champions’

With fierce competition in the sports media landscape, B/R not only wanted to develop something that would do good in the community, but that would adhere to its values as an organization and where it is going in 2019 and beyond.

Much of that growth includes more original content, deeper looks into the lives of sports figures off the court, and an emphasis on bringing to life the stories of the people who are visiting B/R on a daily basis.

All aspects that they believe B/REAL hits on.

“More and more of our users gravitate toward not only what’s happening on the court, but what’s happening off of it,” added (Romaine. “Our athletes, who have a sort of natural inclination to following us and engaging in our content, also want to know who our users are. This was a way for us to accomplish both.”

B/R was able to partner with  Cricket Wireless who comes aboard as the presenting sponsor of B/REAL in a deal that came together because of the company’s desire to help foster connectivity and the belief that B/R and the B/REAL franchise was going to play a role in doing that.

Not only will Cricket have branding on all of the video content that will be produced, it will also play a role in helping fund the initiatives that the athletes are either championing or that will make a positive impact on what it is they are doing.

For example, for Alexandria Buchanan, one of the members from the B/REAL Class of 2018 and the first female starting varsity QB in America, B/R and Cricket are donating towards the refurbishment of her campus that is currently without bleachers and lights for the football field.

Only in its first year, Romaine sees potential with B/REAL that includes it growing into a non-profit fund that the company grows and uses in a variety of different ways.

“Ultimately you can imagine B/REAL existing as its own non-profit fund. Now, it’s an editorial platform that allowed us to make contributions to a bunch of things that matter, but you could also see how this could transition into being a fund that we nurture and deploy of across a bunch of different areas.”

Adam is the Founder and CEO of Front Office Sports. A University of Miami Alum, Adam has worked for opendorse, the Fiesta Bowl, and the University of Miami Athletic Department. He can be reached at adam@frntofficesport.com.

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Golf Digest Back Charging For Growth With New Owner

Golf Digest is set to embark on its third ownership transition in its nearly 70 years of operation and all signs point to growth under new owners.

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Photo Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Discovery, Inc. continues its drive into golf with the acquisition of Golf Digest.

Discovery had already entered the golf space, attaining exclusive rights deals outside the U.S. for the PGA Tour, European Tour and Ladies European Tour. GOLFTV, an international streaming service launched by Discovery this past New Year’s Day, is in year one of a 12-year, $2.4 billion deal carrying the PGA Tour’s TV and streaming rights outside the U.S. Discovery also has global content deals with Tiger Woods and Francesco Molinari, using GOLFTV as its platform.

The bullish approach follows the trend of niche content in today’s media landscape. Discovery knows this firsthand with Food Network and MotorTrend. In sports, Discovery has had success with Eurosport and realizes sport fans crave consistent coverage.

READ MORE: The Caddie Network Partnership With Golf Digest Shows Power of Niche Platforms

“We’re looking to evolve our business and investing in content and genres that work for traditional and digital channels,” says Alex Kaplan, Discovery Golf president and general manager. “We learned from our experience with Eurosport Player, it’s very difficult to build an engaged fanbase when we offer multi-sport content.

“Let’s go deep into a specific vertical. Golf rights were available in an expansive way, and it’s not just compelling to watch, but fans play it, buy it, travel for it. It’s an ecosystem that was particularly compelling.”

The acquisition includes all brands under the Golf Digest brand, including Golf World, Golf Digest Schools and The Loop. According to the press release, Golf Digest attracts 4.8 million monthly readers and 60 million monthly video views. That’s along with its 2.2 million social followers.

This is Golf Digest’s third transition of ownership in its nearly 70 years of operation. All three have brought the media company different advantages, says Golf Digest editor Jerry Tarde, who’s been with the company for 42 years.

Tarde said The New York Times, which acquired the magazine in 1969, brought the basics and values of journalism, while Conde Nast, the owner since 2001, brought design, art and sophistication to the brand. Now, Tarde believes Discovery will bring growth.

Tarde, along with being editor-in-chief, gains a new title and role: Discovery Golf global head of strategy and content.

“This is an organization we’re at the heart of, in terms of developing sports and connecting with a high-value audience that’s passionate about the subject,” Tarde says. “This is the most exciting thing to happen to Golf Digest since it was founded in 1950. It lights a fire under us and gives us an opportunity to improve and expand U.S. coverage.

“We’ll also be able to extend it worldwide to more than 200 countries.”

On the other side of the equation, the acquisition gives Discovery a golf presence in the U.S. Kaplan said Discovery has been collecting its golf assets and knew an editorial vertical would be crucial, but it could take years to build. The Golf Digest acquisition allows Discovery to acquire that piece with one check.

“Our offering to golf fans and golf advertisers is now that of a global platform,” Kaplan says. “We can bring an aggregated golf audience anywhere in the world.”

READ MORE: GolfPass Could Set Standard in 21st-Century Sports Media

With a strong strategy in place, it will be business as usual for the time being, Tarde says, but there will be talk of new ideas and potential investments. Discovery will retain Golf Digest staff, continue the U.S. monthly print product and acquire global licenses for editions 70 countries.

“We’ve got a great team that’s been underutilized, really,” Tarde said. “Because of the way the publishing economy has been treated, our business has been in retreat. That’s now the way I spent my first 30 years. We were charging.

“This is the exciting part, we’re back on the charge.”

Like Tiger Woods on the prowl on Sunday.

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Inside the XFL’s New TV Deals

With nine months to go until its first game, the XFL has locked in its lineup of broadcast partners for all 43 regular season games.

Front Office Sports

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Photo Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

With nine months to go until its first game, the XFL has locked in its lineup of broadcast partners.

The deals will see all 43 games appear on either broadcast or cable TV and will see them divided up between ABC, Fox, ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 and FS2.

What do you need to know?

1. – 24 of the XFL’s 43 games to be on broadcast TV (13 on ABC; 11 on Fox)

2. – According to Joe Flint of the WSJ, the deals are for three years, but no cash is changing hands.

3. – As part of the deals, the broadcast partners will cover the production costs of the games, which John Ourand notes will run $400,000 per game.

4. – Disney and Fox will keep all the television advertising inventory for the games while the XFL will handle the selling of sponsorships in the venues, according to Flint.

Will we see a repeat of 2001? 

The XFL’s reboot will come 19 years after McMahon and company attempted to make spring football a thing. Like the AAF this year, the league started with a promising opening night and then sputtered to the end. By the end of its first and only season, the XFL saw its ratings fall from a 9.5 to a 1.5 at their lowest point, according to OSW Review.

While the first time around may have not gone as planned, executives from all sides of the table are enthusiastic about the possibilities.

“The effort Vince is throwing behind it with his own personal capital and the combination of Fox and Disney platforms give us the best chance to make spring football work.” – ESPN programming chief Burke Magnus to Joe Flint of the WSJ.

Rolling into upfronts…

The announcement of the deals couldn’t have come at a more strategic time for all parties involved with upfronts scheduled to begin in six days. Given the fact that the broadcast partners will be responsible for selling ads, it would be rather surprising if the XFL inventory wasn’t included in their presentations.

Last year alone, the television upfront market for commercials generated $20.8 billion in commitment from advertisers, up 5.2% from the previous year, according to an estimate by Media Dynamics.

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Why Fewer Ad Breaks are Coming to the Super Bowl

Fox will be cutting back the number of commercial breaks for the big game by one, having only four breaks per quarter instead of five.

Front Office Sports

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Photo Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

Next year’s Super Bowl might feel slightly different to viewers.

That’s because Fox will be cutting back the number of commercial breaks for the big game by one, having only four breaks per quarter instead of five, according to Brian Steinberg of Variety.

Fewer breaks, but the same amount of commercials…

Although Fox will be cutting down one whole commercial break each quarter, the four that remain will be slightly longer, allowing the broadcaster to still have the same amount of slots for advertisers even with fewer breaks in the action.

This isn’t a first for the NFL…

The league has been working with broadcast partners since last year to find new ways to deliver advertisements during telecasts. The initiative last year focused on delivering more sponsored vignettes and less “billboard” ads, a change that could be difficult at times for the networks seeing as in the past they have used the “billboard” inventory as bonuses to big-spending sponsors, according to Variety.

Why do they want to cut down? According to calculations from Streaming Observer’s Chris Brantner, the average NFL fan watches almost 24 hours of advertisements in a season.

Or other leagues…

As leagues battle for the attention of their consumers, making sure they give them less time to check their phone or change the channel has become a priority.

Earlier this year, MLB announced that it was planning to reduce each national commercial break by 25 seconds, NASCAR has been using split screen advertising since its days on ESPN back in 2011, and the NBA has done it with ESPN during timeouts.

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