Archive for February, 2015

ESPN’s Online Market Share

ESPN’s dominance of the digital market may not be up for debate anymore. Earlier today the company released numbers from their digital media division and ESPN boasted record highs in unique viewers, hours viewed and mobile viewers.

The press release credits the new NCAA football playoff system, NFL playoffs and the NBA specifically for the rise in traffic. ESPN claims their daily numbers beat out number two Yahoo! Sports (owned by NBC) and number three Bleacher Report even when combining the two companies’ viewership.


ESPN cites Adobe Analytics, Nielsen SocialGuide, Twitter and Instagram for their numbers, and notes 61% of their total pageviews were done via mobile. It marked the tenth consecutive month where ESPN visitors preferred to check the site via mobile.  A different web page analytic company, Quantcast shows different numbers for views on ESPN’s competition — Quantcast does not claim quantified numbers for ESPN — but the number still corroborate the preferred mobile method.


quantcastnbcFor both Bleacher Report and NBC, mobile users accounted for more traffic than those on computers. Only in the esport area did PC users outpace the mobile traffic, but given the nature of the exclusive streaming done on Twitch —no article to read, etc. —  and the ensuing mobile data prices, there’s no surprise there.

ESPN’s grasp on digital media consumption is decisive at the moment. One in three sports fans default to ESPN with not even one in seven going to second place NBC Sports. For now their title of “worldwide leader” remains accurate.

(Header image via Wikipedia)

NHL Announces Partnership with SAP to Redesign Stats Presentation

The NHL is slowly creating a new beat for sports journalists, announcing yet another technology partnership, this time with cloud software provider SAP, who will help the NHL.con introduce advanced statistics and redesign how they are presented.

Coming the heels of releasing 35 new advance statistics to and partnerships with Go Pro and Sportsvision, the NHL is quickly storming to the forefront of sports technology.

NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins said of the partnership, “Hockey is extremely fast-paced with very little stoppage in play, which results in many aspects of the game failing to show up in the box score. In partnering with SAP and using its best-in-class SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud service, we are now able to capture data points like never before and present existing and new statistics in a visually appealing way.”

SAP was already the NHL’s official cloud partner and this new partnership will further cement their relationship. It also helps that the majority owner owner of the San Jose Sharks is SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner.

The full extent of these initiatives will be released in phases, the first of which is the redesign of the stats page and the introduction of new advanced statistics. For those looking for a proper introduction to the NHL’s new stats package head over to their enhanced stats introduction here.



The Two-Operating-System Market

Most choices in the world aren’t clearly defined in yes or no terms — option A or option B — but if you’re in the market for a new mobile device, it virtually is. Thanks to the latest graphic by Statista — based on data collected via the International Data Corporation — the decision faced by the vast majority of users is clear: Android and iOS far outpace their competition.

According to IDC, 1.3 billion mobile devices were sold in 2014, with Android accounting for more than one billion on its own. The Google operating system sold to 81.5% of the market with Apple’s iOS placing second with 14.8%. Still on the podium but trailing far behind was Windows Phone at 2.7% and Blackberry held 0.4%. The remaining 0.6% of the market purchased other OS devices such as Sailfish, Tizen and Ubuntu.


With the two major players dominating the market to the tune of 96.3% last year, up from 93.8% in 2013, the app market and thus app developers have followed the customers. Via AppAnnie, the number of Android apps overtook iOS last year, with Amazon Fire coming in third. Windows Phone, BB and others were not listed.


The four major sports — plus the MLS — all have official mobile apps for Android and iOS, though after the top two the app market diverges.

iOS Android BB Fire OS

The situation seems to be a Catch-22 of sorts. Fewer app developers want to go to the non-iOS/Android markets due to the lack of consumer base and the consumer base can’t grow without apps. Amazon Fire OS is a heavily modded version of Android and is cross compatible with some but not all Android apps. Despite getting some support recently in the form of WatchESPN arriving on Windows Phones, sports fans and the public in general are in a two horse race.

(Header image via Kārlis Dambrāns)

Sports Streaming is Safe Today Thanks to FCC Decision

The long-fought fight to keep the Internet as free (as in speech, not beer) and open as possible gained a very significant victory today, as the FCC ruled in a 3-2 decision to implement strict net neutrality rules and reclassify Internet service offerings as a Title II service. This ostensibly means that Internet services will be classified much like utilities are now, and therefor can’t be subject to the general bandwidth and pricing shenanigans that have begun to crop up.  Unless you own an ISP, you can consider this a victory.

The ruling prohibits carriers from strong-arming content providers into ponying up more money to make sure their product reaches consumers. Before today, an ISP — let’s call them Fomfast for the sake of argument — could look at all the traffic that a streaming service like NBA League Pass was carrying across their wires and decide that they were taking up far too many resources to not have to pay a premium. Fomfast would then tell the NBA folks to pay them a fee of some kind, lest they wish their streams to be throttled, creating a poor experience for the customer. This has already happened with Netflix, and could have very well happened to services like League Pass,, FOX Sports GO, WatchESPN, etc. without today’s ruling. What transpired today means less cost for the providers, which means (hopefully) less cost for you.

In an interesting turn, the FCC widened the scope of their ruling to include mobile providers, so while it will still count toward your data cap, you should be able to stream soccer matches on your phone without throttling or slow-down problems.

We talk a lot about streaming sports online on these electronic pages, but in truth, a lot of the services and sites we mention could have looked (and cost) a great deal differently without similar governance in place. There would have been nothing stopping Fomfast or Fime Farner from holding our sports streams hostage in a pixelated prison until the leagues decided to let the providers in on the action.

The Internet has been such a large part of our lives for quite some time. It seems silly that it took this long for this kind of decision to be made. But at least it happened. And in a rare instance, a U.S. governing body made a decision about something before it became a really big problem. It’s a little sad that what seemed like such a no-brainer garnered two “no” votes, but fair-headedness won out in the end.

And just in time for baseball/ season. What joy.

(Image via William F. Yurasko)

Gaming Communities Are The New Sports Fans

Earlier today Venture Beat posted an article with polling data on esports fans who have attended live events — not only attended, but as spectators and specifically not as participants. Much like professional sports, the pro scene in esports has a strong following, arguably a stronger (though not necessarily better) social media presence due to the more unfiltered and less politically correct realm of the internet community.

VB (in conjunction with Evenbrite) see over 80% of fans attending live events to be a part of the community and to watch their favorite players and teams live. Many fans, 61%, also go to connect with friends they play with online.


As a former player — not at the highest level, but relatively close — in both first-person shooters (specifically Counter-Strike 1.5 and 1.6) and real-time strategy games such as StarCraft II, the connecting with friends part is huge. From old LAN centers such as Warfactory in St. Louis, Missouri to CygamZ in Ypsilanti, Michigan, my team(s) and I enjoyed the travel and the live events in a way online couldn’t match.

Back in the day my teams used voice programs such as Ventrilo mostly, though originally we used the even older Roger Wilco to communicate in-game. When we weren’t scrimmaging (aka scrimming) or working on timing strategies, we would often hang out in our mIRC channels and just shoot the breeze. Similar to coaches going over post-game film, our team would often watch demos of ourselves together, take notes, make recommendations and adjustments. We would even scout opposing teams in upcoming matches or swap tactics with other teams in our divisions, and basically have a scouting report. For example, if we knew one particularly member on the opposing team was hyper-aggressive or overly passive, we would adjust our strategies to exploit that.

Living or rooming together to develop strategies and bonds between teammates even has a specific term in the gaming industry: bootcamping. North American CS:GO team Cloud9 often does bootcamps and recorded two last year prior to a major LANs. Other teams live together in literal team houses, mostly in South Korea and throughout Europe.

While my experiences are of course subjective and anecdotal, seeing the vast majority of fellow gamers agree doesn’t surprise. From literally playing games in my parent’s basement to traveling to compete with the best North America had to offer, I wouldn’t change a thing about my gaming career. To see esports take off to such a level that ESPN shows games, media outlets conducting interviews with pro players and the sheer size of prize pools, I may have to get the band back together.

(Header image via ESL)

Will Yo Be the Future of Sports News?

I’ll be honest. I didn’t really understand SnapChat when it first came out. I mean, I understood what it did and what it was for, but I didn’t understand how it could make money or why Facebook would want to buy it for $3 billion. SnapChat has since matured. You can send money over it. You can post whole stories that don’t disappear right away. Organizations are using it to push content. And now it’s worth $20 billion. Shows you how much I know.

The same goes for Yo. The concept was simple, I just didn’t understand why anyone would use it for more than a day. It seemed like a slightly more social fart app. But people are still using it. My wife’s roller derby team uses it to a borderline-unhealthy amount. And now Yo has made the turn. They’ve gone from cheeky fad app to new entrant to the world of news. Yes, you can now get news updates via Yo.

The concept behind the Yo Store is that people will subscribe to channels based on their interests — be that news, listicles, cat photos, etc. But sports-related apps have a fairly big presence in the new store. The NBA is in already, as are some individual basketball, football, college, and soccer teams. CBS Sports has a channel as well. The goal seems obvious — to get every major sports team and league involved, offering full customization for the user. It’s a little odd. It’s a little new. And I think it’s kind of genius.

When you get a new smartphone or tablet, you are tasked with re-downloading all the news and alert apps you had on your old device. I always grab CBS Sports (the best mobile sports app, in my opinion), the Associated Press App, the New York Times, etc. These can all be replaced by Yo in the not-to-distant future. And that’s where Yo can have the advantage. It doesn’t matter if it’s the best sports alert app, because it’s the most comprehensive app to have for everything else. People just might convert for the sake of simplicity — a catch-all for their news, sports, and silly videos or whatever the hell. Surely people will keep their SportsCenter or MLB app for random staring-at-your-phone time, but it’s not hard to imagine that those apps will get used less and less as more options are available in Yo.

Listen, am I going to download the app? Yes. Is it technically for my job? Yes. Does that make it easier to swallow? Not really. I’m 32. I’m probably not in Yo’s demographic. But curiosity has finally gotten the best of me. Perhaps that was their plan all along.

By The Numbers: Sports and Online Viewing

It should be no surprise to hear online viewing is on the rise, but just how dramatically it has risen is another matter. According to the latest Global Web Index poll — where it sampled 16-64 year-olds in 32 different countries — 55% of sports fans watched a sporting event online (a clarification email went unanswered when the question regarding Roku boxes and like counting for broadcast, online or both).


The ESPN network and self-proclaimed “World-Wide Leader in Sports” did just that, with 30% of the polled users saying they watched a sport on ESPN3/WatchESPN. The second place Eurosport grabbed 18% of the online market. Of the previously mentioned 55% of online watchers, half of them tuned in using a laptop or computer. One in three used a mobile phone and one in five caught sports action on their tablets. In addition to ESPN’s stream viewing, their website also led the way with 20% of sports traffic heading their way on computers, 13% via mobile phone and was tied with Eurosport at 10% on tablets.

Despite the growth, standard television broadcasts still dominate the viewing market. The polled field averaged almost an hour per day of streamed content — not just sports — whereas they stated watching 2.78 hours of TV broadcasts. Perhaps the most interesting thing is that 18% of sports fans are now paying for online streams. The popularity of streaming platforms such as MLB.TV and Fox Soccer 2Go et al has certainly played a significant role in the rise of paid subscriptions and keep in mind this chart does not display some of the incredible viewing numbers esports attracts.

(Source and graphic via GWI)
(Header image via Twitter)

MLB Looking to Spin Off Advanced Media Division

You may have heard the term MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) in the past. They are the folks behind as well as the At Bat app and Gameday feeds. But they’ve gotten so good at delivering digital content, that they have branched outside of baseball. MLBAM now helps power the WWE Network, WatchESPN, and MLBAM technology will soon be providing the long-awaited standalone HBO GO service. MLBAM has become so large and powerful that MLB is looking to possibly turn it into its own business.

The idea is to keep the websites and ticketing stuff with MLB, but to fork everything else over to MLBAM. While it’s possibly a surprising move, it shouldn’t be unexpected. MLBAM makes crazy paper for MLB, and it’s only looking to expand. They took a bet on video streaming over ten years ago, and have since built a solid infrastructure around that technology. They are the mechanic that’s been on your block for decades — others might promise more, but MLBAM has been around forever. They know how to make these things work.

And no matter how much content providers whine and moan, more and more TV is going to be shown on things that aren’t TVs. WatchESPN is expanding all the time. HBO GO’s move will soon inspire other top-tier cable networks. We can every Simpsons episode ever made on our phones, for crying out loud. I feel like I’m in one of those news stories from the 90s that’s trying to tell you what the Internet is. You know these things I’m telling you, but they’re important to remember when thinking about what MLBAM is doing. Through some forward thinking, some early investments, and a little bit of luck, a sports league has ended up being a giant in one of the biggest tech industries around. And instead of sitting on their haunches, they’re being proactive about it. And that’s hard for a large company to do. Startups are nimble, easily adaptable. Big companies with lots of human and financial investment can’t navigate as quickly, but MLBAM is trying their best.

They are succeeding at it, too. And only look to get stronger and richer. Now, if they would return Sports on Earth to its former glory, then things would look even sunnier.

(Image via Geoff Livingston)

A Short History of Video Game Baseball: Tornado Baseball

Part 1: The Magnavox Odyssey

Four years have passed since Ralph Baer brought the thrill and excitement of baseball to your television via the Magnavox Odyssey and its three omnipresent white squares. The year is now 1976, and everyone is playing Pong, listening to Afternoon Delight and mourning the deaths of renowned Japanese electrical engineers Hidetsugu Yagi and Shintaro Uda. Magnavox has released two more home consoles, the 100 and 200, but it’s becoming clear that for the latest games, the burgeoning arcade scene is where, proverbially, it’s at.

We have the first ultra-violent video game, Death Race, based on the movie and rewarding players for running over stick-figure “gremlins” with their cars. Atari, with the help of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, release the iconic Breakout. Meanwhile, Midway Games returned to the grand old game, releasing the two-player arcade Tornado Baseball.

Baseball grew up a lot in those four years. Players are no longer represented by squares, or even one of the more intricate quadrilaterals. Instead they are honest-to-God stick figures with arms and legs and saddle-sore thighs, sometimes locked in rigid half-wave, as though shielding themselves from an unmoving and broiling sun. Also, there are eight of them, the catcher deemed unnecessary for the cause.

Tornado Baseball is still black and white – color arcade games were known by this time, but still expensive and rare – but instead of projecting directly out of a screen, it is cleverly projected upwards onto a mirrored panel that adds grassy green and dirty brown. The game is two-player only still, and certain actions are still automated: runners travel a predestined number of bases per hit, and throws and catches are made by the fielders without waiting for advice from the player. (In the event of a double play, the second out is called before the throw reaches first, in pleasant Frank Drebin-style umpiring). Outfielders, in what will become a common refrain, move with synchronized precision.

Mechanically, Tornado Baseball looks far more like the modern arcade baseball game than the Odyssey’s version: the batter is at the bottom, the fielders spread out above him. I say batter, but we’re not ready for that yet: instead we see a floating bat that swings through the plate at the push of a button. The pitcher selects one of eight different types of pitches and then steers it, in that wonderfully odd Mario-jump way, left and right and slow and fast to deceive the hated bat. After contact, it’s 1972 again: the ball flies off the screen in a given direction, the bat transforms into a runner and gets 0-4 bases depending on where the ball disappears. Quoted from the manual: “The infielders automatically move to make the plays, which adds to the excitement of the game.” Sure.

It’s not a game that aged well. The timing aspect of hitting remains the same as the Odyssey version, but the aiming mechanic on the part of the hitter has been eliminated; now it’s just wait and click. Also, the advanced graphics actually only succeed in underscoring how limited the game is in other aspects. In an interesting bit of flavor, the players run on and off the field between innings, and defenders run to cover bases – the pitcher in particular loves to cover first, even when the first baseman is still standing there – but there’s no animation for throwing a ball, which makes the game look as if it’s being played by little puppets.

Tornado Baseball grew in several directions. On the arcade side, it saw three sequels, each with a new name and a handful of slight improvements. Double Play (1977) added a computer AI but removed four of the eight pitch-types. Extra Inning (1978, not pluralized) restores the lost four pitches and adds a extra-game prize for hitting six letters in the outfield. Extra Bases (1980) finally included a graphical overhaul, including color and rudimentary bleep-blorp sound.


It was also a launch title for the now-forgotten Bally Astrocade, a home console from 1978. The Astrocade sold for a staggering $299 ($1,168.05 in 2014 dollars) and employed advanced technology for its era: the ability to display four of 256 colors onscreen at a time, 4k of RAM, 8k of ROM, and a glorious 160×102 resolution. Compare that to the Atari 2600 (128 colors, 128 bytes RAM, 4k ROM), released in the same year, and you can see why it paid to be rich in the late seventies, as in all other times.

It’s a rare case of the concurrent home port being far superior to the arcade original. Of the Midway baseball family, Tornado Baseball most resembles Extra Bases, released a full three years later. The limited resolution wreaks havoc on the font, and the stick-limbs of the players are a little more stick. It’s perhaps a bit of a disappointment, still feeling more like pachinko than sport. But if you loved baseball enough in 1977 to sink 1,196 quarters into it, the Astrocade was a cost-effective solution.

Southampton FC Announces New Partnership with Healthspan Elite

The Southampton Football Club — which sits a surprising fourth in the Barclay’s Premier League — has just announced a new partnership with Healthspan Elite. Already partnered with the club for vitamins, probiotics and fish oils, the vitamin and supplement supplier will now become the official nutrition partner in the first deal of its kind in the premiership. Healthspan Elite is already official partners with the British Sailing Team, Glasgow Warriors, Edinburgh Rugby, the Scottish Rugby Union and three associations.

Through 25 games Southampton trails only perennial powerhouses Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United in the BPL. The Saints’ +21 goal differential is the third best as their defense and goalkeeping has combined to allow a league leading 17 goals surrendered. Since conditioning and health is essential, Southampton has relied on Healthspan Elite to keep their players fit. On the new deal, the Saints’ Head of Sports Science, Alek Gross was quoted:

“We’ve been using Healthspan Elite’s products for some time now and each of our players has a daily intake of vitamins to support the health and wellbeing plans we have in place. This partnership, however, will allow us to explore our strategy even further. By maximising the knowledge and expertise from both parties, we’re aiming to develop supplements that will aid the performance and recovery of our players.”

The deal will allow Healthspan Elite access to make use of the clubs internal player tracking, recovery timetables and the like, with both sides hoping to see gains in the player bounce-back performances. While Southampton plays their league games in the BPL for a total of 38 games, the Saints also participates in the Capital One Cup and Football Association Cup. As the matches and minutes pile up, players inevitably get sore, strained and the like. Any edge that can be had for top tier clubs will be taken advantage of, and Southampton is looking to do just that.

(Header image via Wikipedia)