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‘We Are LAFC’ Shows Off Exclusive Content Opportunity for MLS, ESPN

Now available on ESPN+, “We Are LAFC” offers behind-the-scenes access to the inaugural season of Major League Soccer’s newest franchise, Los Angeles FC.

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Launching a Major League Soccer franchise is now portrayed in a docuseries on ESPN+, “We Are LAFC.”

The series following the inaugural season of the Los Angeles FC is available on ESPN+ this week, as the team gears up to start its second season on March 3. “We Are LAFC” is the first all-access series documenting a full season of a new sports organization, a content opportunity grabbed by ESPN, MLS and LAFC. The team set an expansion record for points in its first season, making the playoffs before being bounced in the first round.

“We knew that we had a unique challenge to create a club from scratch,” LAFC President and Co-Owner Tom Penn said. “It was important for us to tell that story properly from the beginning and to really bring to life how we engaged with our most passionate fans and supporters and involved them in the journey.”

The show features LAFC head coach Bob Bradley mic’d up in practices and games, as well as staff meetings and locker room chats. Also featured are the team’s players, general manager John Thorrington, and members of the 31-person ownership team, including actor Will Ferrell.

READ MORE: Univision Deportes Plans to Dominate US Soccer Viewership

The 10-episode series details the launch of the team, its game against crosstown rival LA Galaxy, the home opener, the introduction of new players, a playoff clincher and the end of the season. The series was co-produced by Mandalay Sports Media, with Jon Weinbach and Mike Tollin as executive producers. The series is also available in Spanish, “Somos LAFC.”

ESPN leadership felt it was a natural project to pursue, said Craig Lazarus, vice president of original content and features. Lazarus said teams make ideal content for season-long initiatives because of the number of storylines that spin-off from owners, front office employees, head coaches, players, and fans.

A new team only expands on all the potential, he said, including building a roster from scratch, a new fan base, and new stadium and practice facility.

“An expansion franchise is ideal for this project because there is so much more to the journey than a team that already exists,” Lazarus said. 

“We Are LAFC” is an extension of MLS’ partnership with ESPN and its commitment to telling stories of the league to its fans when and where they want, said Seth Bacon, MLS senior vice president of media.

“ESPN+ is the perfect platform to achieve that goal,” Bacon said. “We are all proud of the series and we know it will resonate with a wide audience.”

READ MORE: How Uninterrupted Brand Partnerships Help Showcase Athlete Stories

ESPN+ has a wide array of similar content, such the LeBron James docuseries “More Than An Athlete” and “Earn Everything,” an all-access series following the Duke University men’s basketball team.

“Original content on ESPN+ aims to bring fans distinctive insights and get them closer to teams and athletes, including through exclusive behind-the-scenes access,” said Russell Wolff, ESPN+ executive vice president and general manager. “’We Are LAFC’ is the latest example of the kind of all-access, authentic storytelling ESPN+ delivers, and LAFC and MLS have been great collaborators on the project.”

Soccer and MLS continue their rise in popularity, and using off-the-field and original content like “We Are LAFC” will help build the fan base further and attract sports fans in general.

“Major League Soccer is on fire,” Penn said. “The soccer culture in America is exploding. We are thrilled to share the start of our football culture and movement in Los Angeles.”

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.

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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.

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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.

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*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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