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Turner President Addresses the Future of TV and the ‘Three A’s’ Concept

Turner President David Levy talked at CES about the opportunities for traditional broadcast entities, which requires evolution in the future of media.

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A major topic of conversation at the CES Sports Zone has been in the realm of fan engagement and the future of media.

Several sessions tackled how fans view sporting events, including a Q&A between CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter and Turner President David Levy.

The consumption of sports media continues to evolve, but the general consensus of multiple CES Sports Zone sessions was that television is not going away.

“Other than news, sports is the last genre of appointment television,” Levy said. “TV is still the largest-reach vehicle and you don’t want to be in a position to lose the next generation of fans.”

A game-changer will be the continuation of the personalization and customization of the viewing experience for a fan. TV will remain, at least for the foreseeable future, to be the main broadcast medium for major sports and events, but that doesn’t mean other mediums won’t be samples.

READ MORE: Competitive Pressures Forcing Industry to Adopt New Technology

More than anything, Levy said the variety of new mediums — even like tech giants Google, Amazon, and Facebook — provide an opportunity for smaller leagues to have their own spot in the limelight like never before. Those technology mediums already have an advertising advantage in the modern consumer world with their abilities to target and track ads. Levy said TV is working on its advertising methods through the “Three A’s.”

One A is audience. TV properties need to build an audience across platforms — he liked to point out TV is more than just the unit on a living-room wall — and deliver metrics. Levy said Nielsen needs to step up quicker in delivering more modern metrics, or it risks being replaced.

The second A is addressability. Fans could be targeted during a game, so different viewers might see an ad for chips, beer or even toothbrushes.

“Digital competitors can do it, but they don’t have the reach of TV,” he said. “That’s needed and needed quick.”

The third A is attribution, or telling an advertiser that something happened with the ad. Levy said through Turner’s parent company, ATT, it can do that now, knowing if a viewer went online to a website or visited a store based on a phone’s GPS.

Turner will continue to evolve how it presents sports and capitalize on opportunities when they present themselves, Levy said.

A huge opportunity Levy believes will be the B/R Live app, providing a sports destination product on the website with quick and affordable pay-per-view options for a variety of leagues. He hinted at a second edition of “The Match,” which saw 750,000 viewers on the app — at the time three months old — watch Tiger Woods face off against Phil Mickelson. Also while conceding some technical difficulties, he called the sports-viewing experiment a general success.

Perhaps the largest opportunity for sports media will revolve around gambling. Levy said he believes we are less than three years away from major sports-betting content opportunities in traditional mainstream media. Levy said viewers who have money riding on a game are 80 to 90 percent more likely to watch more of an event and be more engaged. With those statements in mind, he said there are four ways a media company can monetize gaming.  

READ MORE: Woods and Mickelson See the Future With ‘The Match’

Turner likely will do so in a few of the possible avenues through B/R Gaming, Levy said.

A media company can be a sports book, a route he doesn’t see Turner going. They can develop content for themselves as well as license it to sports-betting properties like MGM and Caesars. They can be a streaming service to help supply a growing demand for sports books as they pop up state-by-state. And media companies can earn through referrals, as they suggest to fans to watch a game and provide an opportunity to bet on it.

“They are new revenue opportunities we didn’t have in the portfolio,” Levy said.

Other revenue opportunities that weren’t a possibility a decade ago have emerged through all the various social media channels. When Turner negotiated the last NCAA Tournament broadcasting rights, there was no line around social media monetization, Levy said.

“We don’t know what the next platform will be,” he said. “You need to own those rights; you can’t partial them out.”

Pat Evans is a writer based in Las Vegas, focusing on sports business, food, and beverage. He graduated from Michigan State University in 2012. He's written two books: Grand Rapids Beer and Nevada Beer. Evans can be reached at pat@frntofficesport.com.

Broadcasting

What CBS Sports HQ Hopes to Accomplish During Super Bowl Week in Atlanta

CBS Sports HQ will be on the ground in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII with more than 30 hours of live streaming content during the week.

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Photo via CBS

CBS Sports HQ begins a massive stretch of streaming Super Bowl coverage next week.

With a variety of on-site programming in Atlanta, the event offers CBS Sports HQ the ability to effectively launch its second year with a major hook — and test out on-site programming. CBS Sports HQ is the company’s 24/7 streaming sports news network, available for free across a variety of digital platforms.

“This is the biggest investment in any event we have made,” said Jeff Gerttula, executive vice president and general manager of CBS Sports Digital. “CBS Sports HQ has tools we haven’t had in the past, and it’s exposure for a great product that fits a need for more fans. It’s a great showcase for us and shows everything we have across the board.”

Starting Monday, January 28, CBS Sports HQ will air more than 30 hours of live programming from Atlanta leading up to the game. Its daily morning show, “Kanell and Bell,” hosted by Danny Kanell and Raja Bell, will be on site each day. “Pick 6 Rundown” brings to life a podcast Monday through Friday, and “Reiter’s Block” will air each day from Radio Row.

Leading up to Super Bowl LIII, CBS Sports HQ will show 10 hours of pregame coverage — and following the game, a live postgame show will air.

READ MORE: Inside CBS Sports’ Innovative Podcast Strategy

Gerttula said the network knows the fans want the hours of extra programming around the year’s largest sporting event, so with the newfound ability to offer it to viewers, it’s a no-brainer to capitalize on the access and production ability on the ground in Atlanta.

The programming, for the most part, doesn’t deviate from the standard weekly programming on CBS Sports HQ, but it does provide an inside look at the week in Atlanta and offers more brand awareness at the event while engaging more people.

The Super Bowl itself will be streamed across platforms, including iOS and Android devices, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Roku.

“We’re able to reach more fans on televisions,” Gerttula said. “The cord-cutting audience can access something that’s free and easy to consume.”

Along with spreading the product further, CBS Sports HQ also gives the network an ability to produce more and better digital content than in the past. A 24/7 streaming network helps give the network’s sports programming an additional outlet for content when in the past it was limited to TV and radio allowed times.

The Super Bowl week coverage will kick off another year — it launched Feb. 28, 2018 — of learning for the young streaming network, Gerttula said. Logistically, this week the network will seem normal on the stream, but massive operations-team execution will be happening in Atlanta, setting up for what essentially is a test of future capabilities.

READ MORE: CBS Sports HQ Places Its Bets on Sports Betting Show

“This is the first chance for us to flex operational muscles and produce things we couldn’t have done three years ago,” Gerttula said. “The beauty of this space is we’re always learning and experimenting. The data is real time. So when we have ideas, we can test them and we see the results.

“We’re going to learn a lot in year two, starting with the Super Bowl.”

Gerttula said the week in Atlanta will potentially be something they extend to other major sporting events, but how often is to be determined.

“We’ll be opportunistic,” he said. “We want to play to our strengths where we feel we can do something unique. It’s not something we’ll do all the time, but where we have an opportunity and can take advantage of it.”

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Saturday Nights Evolving Into Marquee NBA Night for ESPN and ABC

ESPN’s increased emphasis on NBA Saturday Primetime — paired with the NBA’s drama-filled season thus far — appears to be the formula for successful ratings.

Bailey Knecht

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Image via ESPN Media Zone

Back for its fourth season, ESPN’s NBA Saturday Primetime will premiere this Saturday on ABC with a matchup between two of the league’s flashiest franchises in the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers.

“I think you’re going to see a great presentation of NBA basketball from a production standpoint, and from a standpoint of the best the NBA has to offer, in terms of teams and players,” said Doug White, senior director of programming and acquisitions at ESPN. “It really encapsulates everything that’s great about the NBA.”

The series will continue throughout the rest of the season, with a marquee matchup on ABC each Saturday. This week, the Rockets and Lakers face off with Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and Lisa Salters leading the broadcast crew.

“The league itself does great job collaborating with us and working on the schedule,” White said. “If anything, in terms of the way the league works with us, it’s that we’ve been able to make sure we put a good product forth for our viewers and fans.”

LISTEN: Rob Perez’s Journey from Ticketing Entrepreneur to NBA Personality

Saturday will also feature a matinee version of NBA Saturday Primetime with a game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Oklahoma City Thunder, called by Mark Jones, Hubie Brown and Israel Gutierrez.

“You never know what’s going to happen that far out, but what you can probably say is that some of the teams you see on Saturday nights will be the teams in contention, and will be the teams — in all likelihood — vying once we get to the playoffs,” White said.

The usual NBA Countdown crew of Michelle Beadle, Paul Pierce, Chauncey Billups and Jalen Rose will hold down the fort during pregame and halftime each night.

Despite this Saturday being the first broadcast of NBA Saturday Primetime this season, White said that the ESPN team is in full swing, from its producers to its broadcasters.

“It’s not practice for us,” he said. “These are real, live games, and although the Finals is the culmination of everything, our guys already have their chemistry down, from Mark Jackson, Mike Breen, Lisa Salters, Doris Burke—they’ve all worked together for a number of years.”

Between the NFL’s Monday Night Football and MLB’s Sunday Night Baseball, certain days of the week have essentially become synonymous with big-time matchups in other professional leagues. Though NBA games receive high ratings when they are broadcast on the popular networks like ESPN, ABC and TNT, there hasn’t traditionally been one major matchup of the week like in the NFL and MLB.

That’s why, as White explained, ESPN has made it a goal to turn Saturday night into the primary must-watch time slot for NBA fans.

“Definitely, from our standpoint, this is our marquee night of the week, and we treat it as such,” he said. “We do put some additional bells and whistles on it, so it does stand out a little bit from a presentation standpoint.”

So far this season, ESPN and ABC have been a powerhouse pairing during NBA broadcasts, with ABC averaging 7,100,000 viewers (up five percent from last season) and ESPN averaging 1,761,000 viewers. Although ESPN’s numbers are down 4 percent from last season, the network has seen a seven percent increase from two years prior at this time of the year.

SEE MORE: New NBA Sneaker Rule Opens Up a Rainbow of Opportunities 

“We’re all part of the Walt Disney company, so we work very much in tandem with our ABC stations,” White said. “It’s pretty seamless, and we’ve been doing it for so long together… We’ve learned that people will tune in, and people will come for big-time matchups, and that Saturday night is a great platform to present that to fans.”

Although it’s yet to be determined what the final viewership numbers will look like at the end of this season, ESPN’s increased emphasis on NBA Saturday Primetime — paired with the NBA’s drama-filled season thus far — appears to be the formula for successful ratings.

“We’re bullish on this year and the NBA overall,” White said. “It’s a very healthy league, and it’s popular with the fans and all demos. We think, for this year in particular, it’s an exciting year. There’s been great drama that gets played out. It’s like a gift that you unwrap all season long to find out who will be there at the end.”

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Executives Believe Golf’s ‘First-and-10 Line’ Can Help Build the Sport

NBC Sports and Topgolf are banking on growing the sport of golf, both in viewership and participation, with the Toptracer ball-tracking technology.

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Photo via Toptracer

NBC Sports Group’s use of Toptracer tech could help attract fans to golf and demonstrate the broader application of the tech to lower the barrier of entry to the game.

NBC Sports and Topgolf Entertainment Group, the parent company of Toptracer, announced a partnership this week to include the tracking technology on PGA tour telecasts this season.

“Topgolf and NBC Sports are two companies focused on technical innovation across the golf industry,” said Mike McCarley, president of golf for NBC Sports Group. “This forward-thinking partnership allows us to combine our strengths to modernize how fans engage with golf.

“We’re thrilled to expand our partnership for high-quality PGA Tour coverage, but we’re equally excited to showcase technology like Toptracer Range for golf courses to help evolve the golf experience for the future and bring new fans to the sport.”

READ MORE: USOC Continues Turn to Tech to Increase Medal Counts in Tokyo

The Toptracer ball-tracking technology will be on all of NBC Sports PGA Tour golf telecasts, starting with the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which tees off on Jan. 31. The ball tracking will be viewed on either live video or NBC Virtual Follow, which traces the ball’s trajectory over a graphic of the hole.

Rather than just a white ball in the air, the Toptracer tech provides 3D flight data analytics, including ball speed, apex, curve and carry. Topgolf acquired and rebranded Protracer is 2016.

Toptracer President Ben Sharpe said he’s excited the potential the partnership brings to fans watching a golf broadcast and equated it to football’s introduction of the First-and-10 line.

“When it started, it was [Founder Daniel Forsgren] watching and seeing the ball in the air, but didn’t know if it’s fading or drawing,” Sharpe said. “He was trying to find a way to show information for golf fans of all knowledge levels to appreciate.”

Sharpe previously worked at TaylorMade Golf Company, including a stint as CEO, until 2015 and joined Toptracer in 2018, despite not looking to get back into golf. He said he saw the opportunity of the technology to grow the game, which he loves and is now having the “most fun ever” in his career.

The partnership’s announcement also mentioned the potential of future content development initiatives.

What Sharpe is potentially most excited about is the partnership’s ability to help commercialize the Toptracer technology beyond the Topgolf locations — which see 18 million people annually. He said the partnership will accelerate the technology’s implementation at golf courses and driving ranges, opening up access to the game.

NBC Sport’s Golf division includes GolfNow, an online tee time and booking platform, which is now the official sales partner for Toptracer Range, the consumer-facing product for golf facilities.

“We’re in the business of helping our golf course partners leverage these new concepts to attract more golfers to their facilities and build their businesses,” said Will McIntosh, executive vice president of strategy for golf at NBC Sports. “Toptracer Range is a perfect example and we’re looking forward to showcasing this new technology to our partners around the world.”

READ MORE: Why Mastercard Holders Will Soon Get Unique Benefits From Topgolf

The Toptracer Range places a camera on the bays, with in-bay monitors, which provide similar data seen on the broadcasts. The data can then be tracked through different sessions on the company’s mobile app.

The technology at a driving range can open up virtual games, such as longest drive and closest to the pin competitions and virtual golf courses.

“We’re all consuming more media through digital form now and what we can do is digitize the game and bring it to a much wider demographic,” Sharpe said. “In an industry that people say participation is down because it takes too long or is too hard, we want to get people back in.

“We’re creating a leisure activity where family and friends can have an enjoyable experience on a range, when they used to be for middle-aged males.”

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