Paul Michelman, editor-in-chief of MIT Sloan Management Review
MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields
Excerpt from MIT Sloan Management Review
Bill Snyder at Kansas State. Eddie Robinson at Grambling. Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. Gregg Popovich with the Spurs. It’s hard to underestimate the impact these coaches have had on their organizations. But are coaches always an X factor? Just look at the Golden State Warriors. Dominating as they have been under Steve Kerr’s steady guiding hand, they have been every bit as successful — actually statistically even more successful — during Kerr’s two extended absences from the team when Luke Walton and then Mike Brown (not exactly Hall of Fame coaches) took the helm. Which brings us to the question of the day: How much do coaches actually matter? Well, two researchers from the University of Chicago just might have the answer.
Join us for a follow up conversation to MIT Sloan Management Review’s Counterpoints podcast with Ben Shields and Ben Alamar
How do you define basketball intelligence? Is basketball IQ a byproduct of the coach’s system or is it specific to the players? And the biggest question:
Would NBA teams make fewer draft mistakes if they measured basketball IQ?
Join us on Twitter Thursday, December 6th at 12pm ET for a follow up conversation to MIT Sloan Management Review’s Counterpoints podcast featuring Ben Shields (@BenRyanShields) and Paul Michelman (@pmichelman) and Counterpoints guest Ben Alamar (@BenCAlamar). Shields is a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and Michelman is the editor in chief at MIT Sloan Management Review. Alamar is a sports analytics expert, the author of Sports Analytics: A Guide for Coaches, Managers, and Other Decision Makers, and the former director of sports analytics at ESPN.
Listen to the November 15th podcast episode where Ben Alamar will defend this hypothesis: NBA teams would make fewer draft mistakes if they measured basketball IQ.
Do you agree? Disagree? What questions do you have for them that they didn’t get to? Test your own basketball IQ during our conversation. We’ll be asking questions of the audience and want to hear from you. Jump on Twitter and follow along beginning at 12 pm on December 6th using #MITSloanExperts and #MITSMRchat.
About Counterpoints: Counterpoints is a new sports analytics podcast for sports professionals, data junkies, and fans alike. It’s a show for anyone who knows that numbers are about much more than the score. Hosts Ben Shields (MIT Sloan School of Management) and Paul Michelman (MIT Sloan Management Review) engage the world’s premier sports analytics experts in a lively, occasionally controversial, conversation about what’s really happening both on and off the field. Listen to a podcast preview here.
The sports industry is engaged in a grand digital experiment with technology platforms. The latest test was announced last week, when the National Football League (NFL) sold its 10-game Thursday Night Football digital package to Amazon. As when Twitter held it last year, the games will be simulcast on network (CBS or NBC) and cable (NFL Network) television. However, unlike the free access Twitter offered, only Amazon Prime members will be able to watch Thursday night games this year. Given Prime’s non-exclusivity and pay wall, if Thursday Night Football on Amazon leads to increases in year-over-year viewership and contributes to the growth of Prime subscribers, the NFL and Amazon executives could call it a win.
As encouraging as that result would be, this experiment is really about the early 2020s, which is when the NFL will be making major decisions about distributors for its most valuable rights packages. How can tech companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple, Netflix, and Twitter become big rights winners at that point? And what can traditional broadcasters do now to avoid being left behind? This long-term sports rights game will be won through reach and revenue.
When sports leagues sell their live distribution rights, they want to maximize both reach and revenue. If technology companies can help leagues achieve these goals more effectively than their existing television partners, the sports media landscape will look dramatically different a decade from now.
Tech firms must prove their reach
There’s never been any doubt as to whether technology companies have the resources to invest in sports rights. The question has been whether such moves made long-term strategic sense for both parties. As technology platforms launch and grow competitive video businesses, they are beginning to put to rest concerns about their suitability as distribution partners, as they now have clear incentives to make rights deals successful over the long term.
The NFL has a distinguished history of successful partnerships with upstart media companies. When it became the home of Sunday Night Football in 1987, ESPN’s unprecedented growth accelerated. Then, in 1993, the NFL sold its NFC Sunday afternoon package to Fox, firmly establishing it as the fourth major broadcast network in the U.S. In turn, both deals expanded the NFL’s reach and significantly increased its media rights revenue.
This fall the NFL is working with another new media partner: Twitter. In a $10 million deal, Twitter is live streaming for free 10 Thursday Night Football (TNF) games. It is part of Twitter’s overall strategy of making live events the centerpiece of its platform. For its part, the NFL reportedly passed on higher bidders for the digital TNF package to test new distribution models with a trusted partner.
Whether or not their 2016 season ends with a second consecutive NBA championship, the Golden State Warriors are making Silicon Valley proud. They broke the record for regular season wins with 73. They are headlined by Stephen Curry, the dynamic and eminently likeable two-time MVP. They have established themselves among the league’s elite franchises.
Like the “unicorns” along Highway 101, the Warriors have done it all with a deep organizational commitment to data-driven decision making – both on the court and as a business. The three-pointers Steph and running mate Klay Thompson hoist seemingly without abandon are actually grounded in troves of evidence supporting the shot’s relative value. Meanwhile, the business side of the organization is leveraging fan data to more effectively drive ticket, sponsorship, and merchandise revenue.
The Warriors are not the only team pioneering the analytics revolution in sports. Organizations across an increasing number of sports and levels (professional, college, and high school) are capitalizing on data to gain a competitive edge. Indeed, few industries have implemented data-driven decision making as successfully as sports.