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Amazon could change the game in digital sports market



It’s no secret that Disney wants nothing to do with the 22 regional sports networks that it acquired in its buy of 21st Century Fox properties. The real question has been who exactly would want these niche properties?

According to the Washington Post (which is owned by Amazon’s Jeff Besoz), it appears Amazon may just want them. That’s because Amazon has officially made a bid to acquire the 22 networks, including the YES network and other major regional players in St. Louis and Detroit to name a few. 

(In full disclosure, I work for a company that has Amazon’s Alexa Fund as an investor.)

It’s a big deal, because this is the first time that Amazon is really going all in on making sports viewing a digital thing.

“In the other cases, [Amazon has] been taking second dibs, airing content that is also on traditional TV,” said Alan Wolk, co-founder and lead analyst for the media consulting firm TVREV, via the Washington Post article. “This is the first time when it’s like, ‘Yeah we want the whole thing.’ It’s a big deal.”

Yes, it has the rights to simulcast the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” games and it took the rights to the U.S. Open in the U.K. earlier this year, but never before have they gotten in to full-season broadcasting on a level that the regional sports networks provide. 

Can you imagine a future where you, the fan, get to chose how you consume the team you love so much? No more having to buy a full cable package or upgrading to get all regional sports networks or having to pay for the crazy out-of-market rates of MLB or the NBA these days. 

There are risks though, especially if Amazon puts the RSN’s behind a paywall of an Amazon Prime subscription.

But, perhaps there is a hybrid solution out there — one that says these networks are included in your Prime subscription or another that says if you aren’t a Prime member you pay XYZ per month for access to the programming of your favorite team or regional network? 

Or teams may even have more control over how they distribute the content that’s being produced, such as having the flexibility to pick and choose a package of games that are pay-only or free to view…heck, Amazon may even be given the keys to pick and choose showcase games for free or we could even see the likes of you getting to pay for the team you want to view and that’s it. 

One needs to only look at what Bleacher Report Live is doing as a potential model. You want a specific game for a team you like or are interested in? Pay $2.99. You want a full season of Champions League action and all the soccer you can handle? That will set you back $69.99 for a full 12 months thank you very much.

Giving fans the option to consume how they want is the wave of the future. 

It’s certainly not what is offered the viewer today. Your choices are either gobble up all that cable TV has to offer in your region, pay for the league pass to get out-of-market games or by the league’s digital property to access all games at a crazy fee. 

Amazon has not been afraid to push the envelope and offer things in a different way that previously thought of. 

For the sports viewer, the change could be drastic, but also one that brings the leagues in to the ecosystem of the modern viewer. Most people are getting used to the idea of paying for rights to view the content that they would like. 

Some are getting used to the idea that paying $9.99 a month for a sports package, a specific broadcaster or league package digitally is a much better deal than what they are paying to get it all with cable. 

Additionally, this a move that could cut right to the chase of larger sports rights deals with leagues themselves. If Amazon can prove it can do this right, it moves to the front of the line in dealing with the NFL, NBA and other leagues for future rights deals. 

Perhaps it even steps in to the college sports games and acquires rights to specific league channels like BTN or the Pac-12 Networks? 

Of course, that is getting way ahead of ourselves. After all, it’s just a bid and not a done deal. 

“You have some entities that really want these assets who aren’t Amazon,” said former Fox Sports executive Patrick Crakes . “This is just the first round of bidding, so there’s a long way to go.”

But, the point here is that a move like this is one that could alter the way sports are viewed forever. 

Will it be a good or bad thing? That may depend on how you like to consume your TV these days and how you interact with digital technology on a day-to-day basis.

The smart money is on those who are ahead of the game, and Amazon is certainly one of those players. 



Veteran of the Digital Sports Media world, with work featured on Fox Sports, ESPNU and other outlets. Previously employed at Bleacher Report, The Comeback and FanSided. Consumer of sports media and member of it since 2011, you can find me still beating the drum of independence and truth in sports coverage.

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AOC and the Republican word police



Can you imagine every word you speak, every key stroke you type and every move you make being put under the microscope? Welcome to the life of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The latest claim came during an MSNBC town hall infomercial featuring AOC. Amongst many false claims, the freshman representative claimed that the 22nd amendment was passed to prevent Franklin D. Roosevelt from becoming President again.

As Tom and plenty of others have pointed out, AOC’s claim that the amendment was made to prevent FDR from becoming President again is false. It simply couldn’t have happened based on the time of his death and the time that the bill was actually introduced.

But, there’s nuance that AOC likely was trying to convey here — because FDR certainly was an inspiration for the change to the constitution. In that respect, what Ocasio-Cortez was attempting to convey is correct.

Instead of understanding that clear inference, Republicans have once again pounced on her as if she continues to be an idiot. Of course, she has brought a lot of it on herself given her history of inaccurate statements and historically incorrect references in the past.

But, can we give her a bit of a break? I mean, you all understood what she was trying to say, right?

Unfortunately for AOC, in this case it is right to criticize her language and historical accuracy. FDR’s tenure as President was a huge turning point for our democratic republic. It’s his tenure that did inspire the 22nd amendment, but unlike what AOC was trying to infer, it wasn’t a bad thing or a purely political ploy.

One can’t simply pass an amendment to the constitution without a lot of support. Let’s remember that would’ve included the “super-majority” of Democrats as well as Republicans to get it past.

It doesn’t mean AOC should be celebrating FDR or the New Deal either. After all, FDR attempted to exert dictatorial power while President, thus the clamoring for change after his passing in 1945.

If you only need one example, how about the fact that he attempted to pack the Supreme Court in his favor? Let’s remember he wanted to age out the justices at 70 years old and if they wouldn’t go, add another justice until they got to 15 total justices.

It came as a result of the fact that numerous of his New Deal programs were stopped as unconstitutional as early as May 1935 by the Supreme Court.

If FDR wasn’t going to get his way, he was going to rig the system to make sure his power to do what he wanted would go unchecked. Attempting to pack the Supreme Court was part of the plan, as FDR and the democrats also had a super-majority in their favor in terms of getting legislation passed.

Amazingly, the congress of FDR’s Democratic party said no to that move. Even he went too far for his own party.

While AOC and her friends may see that kind of power as a good thing, the American people didn’t and worked to rectify the problem by instituting the 22nd amendment.

It was not a response to FDR as a person, it was a response to government as a whole deciding to be despotic. One could make a very good argument that we were one or two key moves away from becoming a dictatorship considering what FDR had attempted over his presidency.

Additionally, we have to address FDR and the Great New Deal as some sort of amazing transformation of the country. To that end, I’ve addressed this in the past on By The Numbers.

The reality of the New Deal era is that FDR’s programs were a hinderance to getting us out of the depression. If it weren’t for the economic effort it took to get on a full war footing for World War II, the United States may have been in an even longer depression.

Beyond the fact that the years don’t make sense, there’s also the fact that AOC and her socialist ilk have signed on to the so-called Southern strategy to explain how the Democratic party is not racist anymore and the Republicans are the evil racists today.

If that’s the case, then wouldn’t making sure FDR or any other President (and his/her party) wouldn’t have unlimited potential to do racist harm to the country a good thing?

But, to recognize that would be to admit that one of her progressive heroes was also a villain. FDR had a long history of turning away from controversy when it came to the Jim Crow south — something Tim Scott pointed out in 2016:

As a presidential candidate and during his four terms in office, Roosevelt had a close relationship with Southern Jim Crow Democrats (“Dixiecrats”) and often went out of his way to not disrupt the “southern way of life” of Jim Crow. Thus, he remained silent on segregation and in 1935 refused to support the federal anti-lynching legislation of the Costigan-Wagner bill. In 1937 FDR appointed Hugo Black, a U.S Senator from Alabama and known member of the Ku Klux Klan, to the US Supreme Court. Black went on to validate FDR’s decision to incarcerate Japanese Americans by writing the court’s majority opinion in the case of Korematsu v. United States. In 1941, FDR appointed James F. Byrnes, a former US Senator from South Carolina and staunch segregationist to the US Supreme Court. Byrnes left the court a year later to serve as FDR’s Director of Office of Economic Stabilization, and between 1943-1945 served as the Director of FDR’s Office of War Mobilization. Byrnes was on FDR’s short list for Vice President in 1944.

So, why would AOC and her cohorts in congress look at the New Deal as a positive?

I postulate it is all about the fact that New Deal is the closest we’ve ever really come to the full socialism those folks support. They worship at the alter of government control of our economy, so accurate history be damned.



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NFL, College Football Playoff ratings and what the media is missing

The NFL ratings have dropped, while CFB Playoff ratings are up, what gives and why isn’t this a story the sports media is harping on?



American college campuses are bastions of liberal thought and practice these days, a fact few dispute. Yet, when it comes to the sporting world college football seems to get what the NFL doesn’t — politics equals bad business.

One doesn’t have to look any further than what took place over the first full weekend of January 2018 to see that.

How so?

Well, the ratings are in from both the wildcard weekend in the NFL and the national championship game for college football and they tell two very different tales.

On the one hand, the NFL saw a dramatic drop in its playoff viewership, as in a 14 percent drop versus last year alone in the Wild Card round alone.

The news only gets worse when you consider easily the best and most recognizable game of the weekend also was the worst of the bunch in terms of ratings drop — Carolina versus New Orleans.

Yes, losing the Green Bay-New York matchup is a big deal to the ratings, but of all the matchups on the weekend Carolina-New Orleans was the one with the most national name recognition and even that couldn’t save it from the biggest drop off year-over-year.

Cam Newton versus Drew Brees couldn’t draw? Seeing the most exciting offensive rookie not playing QB in a long time couldn’t draw? Seriously?

If that’s the case, the NFL has some major problems (and HINT: they clearly do).

Things didn’t get better for the divisional round of the playoffs either, as they hit lows not seen in a decade including all three games in the same time slots down over last season and way down compared to 2016.

Ratings for the divisional round of the playoffs were down a whopping 16 percent year-over-year, but the only media outlets to really cover it were those that report of sports TV ratings. That should tell you something fishy is going on here.

On the other hand, the All-SEC national championship game for college football drew a massive crowd and a huge increase. Ratings were UP 10 percent compared to last season when Clemson defeated Alabama in another regional matchup.

Yet, outside of reporting the raw numbers for both of these big events few in the mainstream sports media world have connected the dots.

Which begs the question why haven’t they?

Is it because it flies in the face of their leanings politically? Is it because it flies in the face of the narrative that the ratings decline isn’t politically motivated and they can’t give up on the investment made over the past two years? Or could it be a third thing all together?

It’s hard to argue the point that at the very least on-field political activism isn’t a driving force. All things being equal, how do you square ratings dives for the professional version of the sport and ratings boosts for the college version with any other explanation? The professional version is seeing declines while it’s not tamped down on-field political activism while the college version has largely kept a lid on the on-field actions and it’s the latter that’s seeing ratings multiply instead of decline.

There’s also a good case to be made that there’s a large investment in a narrative formed two years ago by a lot of people in sports media. Their coverage of the protests were a huge draw and controversy means more clicks and thus more advertising pennies in the pockets of those that are running media outlets. But, admitting the narrative may have been wrong would mean discrediting two years of work, and that certainly isn’t a good look.

As for that third option thing, there are few theories out there.

Timing? That can’t be the case. All four NFL games were played on the weekend devoid of college football. The College Football Playoff national championship was played on a Monday night, where plenty of eyeballs are tempted to go elsewhere on the TV dials, yet it increased its viewership from a season ago.

Lack of interest? Maybe that’s something to look in to, especially in the case of Buffalo-Jacksonville or Kansas City-Tennessee. It isn’t as if those four fan bases can be found all over the country in droves (although KC and Buffalo fans are pretty easy to spot in a major city near you). But, is that enough to give the full disparity we see in ratings?

Even the third rail options seem flimsy at best. With all the options considered, it’s simply insane to deny that the different measures in which political activism by players have been handled between the two sports matters.

Yet, here we are on the week of AFC and NFC championship games and a quick Google search pulls up just one article on the issue — from Clay Travis at Outkick The Coverage.

I guess that shouldn’t be surprising, as Travis has been on the NFL ratings decline like his fans have been on CNN trolling them on New Year’s Eve (seriously, it may be the best on-air NYE troll job I’ve ever seen).

But, I digress.

Let me clue you in to something about myself that should help explain everything the NFL should be taking note of as to why fans are leaving at a clip of 20 percent over the past two seasons.

First off, I’m a diehard Green Bay Packers fan and have been since my birth on November 10, 1981. Yes, I’m 36 years old and yes, I’m a 36-year-old who has never in his life missed a single Packers game viewing for a regular season matchup.

That’s 558 regular season matchups and another 36 playoff games for a total of 594 games seen for the Green and Gold to date.

I’ve grown up remembering and living in the late lean years of the mid to late 1980’s (when the NFL was king in places like Wisconsin and hardly anywhere else on TV yet believe it or not). I also grew up more on the highs of the 1990’s Packers and then the awesomeness that was being an adult and celebrating my team’s victory in Super Bowl XLV.

I also used to be a junkie for any and every NFL game that would be on after the Packers. Put me in front of the TV, watch whatever NFL game was on next no matter who was playing and I’d find a way to be entertained. The NFL is what got me hooked on sports, but it was my gateway drug in to a life obsessed with sports in general.

Sunday’s were for football from noon to bedtime in my house. PERIOD.

Fast forward to this season and I have still tuned in to every Packers game, agonized over Aaron Rodgers’ injury status (maybe even shed a tear and said a prayer for a speedy recovery) and cheered my team to a bitter (and I mean bitter) end.

I also can count on one hand the number of other NFL games I decided to take in in full this year. Simply put, I’ve enjoyed my Sunday’s watching football as a refuge from the real world, a chance to escape and just enjoy teams competing against each other on the football field and that fun and relaxation has been taken away from me.

It’s not just the protests, but it’s also the way they’ve been covered and the harping on political activism during broadcasts that’s been really annoying. There are amazing stories to be told around the NFL, but media outlets have chosen to highlight politics as its bet to driving viewers.

That has worked — in the opposite direction that many thought it would though. It’s made a weekly ritual turn in to something that’s just not fun anymore.

The philosophy so many others, and I subscribe to is really simple, yet the NFL managed to bungle it over the last two years. It goes something like this:

You, the player, can certainly use your famous name and celebrity to affect change for whatever cause you want. Just do it on your own time, not while a football game is to be played — kind of like the rest of society checks political theater and protests at the door of their office every Monday through Friday. Work is work and as an athlete your work is to play football for 16 Sunday’s a year.

Where have the questions about the games gone? Instead, you can tune in to SportsCenter every night and see interviews at locker rooms or practice facilities look like they belong on CNN or Fox News. Who wants to see that while they try to escape the political divide that bombards us everywhere else in life?

An even deeper dive in to the comparison between the NFL and college football suggest a very big problem for the professional (at least out about it) version of the sport.

Take a look at what ratings were like for the two College Football Playoff semi-final games and the picture for the NFL is very bleak in terms of viewership indeed.

According to ESPN’s release of the final ratings numbers, the 2018 Rose Bowl featuring Georgia-Oklahoma was a massive draw. It drew a combined 26.8 million viewers between its coverage on ESPN and ESPN2, while the Sugar Bowl featuring Alabama and Clemson drew just 21.1 million.

Both of those numbers are better than anything the NFL wildcard weekend put together this season and only the Green Bay-New York matchup last year topped the Alabama-Clemson matchup from the college ranks this season.

So, what really gives here?

It’s hard to draw any other conclusion than how these two seemingly similar products have handled political activism while playing the game matters.

Partners of the NFL and college football are certainly aware of what the dichotomy between the two has done to their bottom lines. Reports have indicated that ESPN and other NFL partners are losing nearly $500 million in advertising revenue alone.

But, the only response from the NFL and its partners has been to hide what has been happening on the field in the hopes of it going away. The broadcasts have gone from panning shots of protesting players during the national anthem to not a single mention of them happening even when they continue to this day.

It’s as if the protests never happened anymore after about Week 4 or 5 of the 2017 regular season. Yet, anyone in attendance in person could still see those protests happening and after a season and a half of weekly protest shots the damage was done. Who exactly are the NFL and it’s broadcast partners fooling?

The Genie is out of the bottle and it isn’t fitting back in anytime soon, at least not without the NFL and the media admitting what the real problem is and working to regain the trust of those it has lost.

Will they get the message after this dismal season of ratings or will it be too little, too late for the once king of sports ratings?



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