Tech could soon take over all of the sports you watch – Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

From Fortune

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.

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The NFL: Twitter’s Kingmaker? — Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

From TechCrunch

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.

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Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors, and the power of analytics at work — Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

From MIT Sloan Management Review

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.

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A sports fantasy too big to fail: Regulate, don’t eliminate, daily fantasy competitions — Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

From NY Daily News

New York sports fans may not care to admit it, but Brady Nation is getting it right with their approach to regulating the daily fantasy sports industry.

Last month, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced a draft of regulations for fast-growing but now embattled daily fantasy sports services like DraftKings, FanDuel and Yahoo. Among the proposed measures, the state would institute a 21-year-old age limit, prohibit employees, professional athletes and other insiders from playing the game, and require those ubiquitous advertisements to better inform and safeguard consumers.

These proposed regulations are appropriate and necessary for two reasons. First, they embrace a mainstream cultural and business phenomenon without trying to outlaw it. Second, they do so while protecting the integrity of fantasy games at a critical juncture in the nascent industry’s history.

For starters, the regulations recognize and accept the remarkable influence of fantasy sports, in both the daily and “traditional,” season-long formats, on the modern sports fan’s experience. Much has changed since the first known fantasy football league, the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League, launched in 1963.

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Brady, Patriots & NFL come out on top — Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

From USA TODAY

It may seem unlikely today, but when all is said and done with Deflategate and Tom Brady returns to the field, the Patriots, the NFL and even Brady all stand to emerge as winners in business over the long-term.

To be sure, the Deflategate crisis has been fraught with controversial questions. Was the “more probable than not” evidence cited in the Wells Report strong enough to convict Tom Brady? If so, what is a reasonable punishment?  How serious of an offense is deflating footballs? How should Brady’s cooperation (or alleged lack thereof) in the investigation, including the recent revelation of his destroyed cell phone, factor into the punishment and appeal process?  Fans and the media have been deliberating these and other issues with the same fervor as ranking the greatest quarterbacks of all-time (which, naturally, has been complicated by the allegations against Brady).

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