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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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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Ben Shields — Thoughts on Patriots’ Deflategate

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields, the former director of social media and marketing at ESPN and co-author of The Sports Strategist, talks about deflate-gate, the investigation into whether the New England Patriots used deflated footballs in the Jan. 18 AFC championship game. Shields explains why the Patriots are prone to negative press and social media backlash and what the organization should do as a result.