How Sports Broadcasting Should Work

I was watching the French Open this morning on the Tennis Channel when the live coverage suddenly ended and I was told to switch over to NBC to catch the end of the Djokovic match. Now I understand the two companies must have had some agreement on how to split the coverage at Roland Garros, but it seemed arbitrary and unnatural, not to mention annoying

So this got me thinking: wouldn’t sports broadcasting be better without exclusivity? For starters we won’t have to switch channels in the middle of a match. More importantly, we can actually have real competition over quality of commentary, production values, and most of all price. If you like Marv Albert and Steve Kerr’s commentary over Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen you can watch the game on TNT instead of ESPN because they will both have it. Broadcasters will no longer be able to extort money from cable and satellite providers (I’m looking at you ESPN) because there will be multiple sources for the same content. Overall I think it would encourage more choices and a better end product for users.

Of course, it would be equally silly to have five or six different camera crews all physically competing for the best camera angles and positions. That’s why the actual camera work needs to be decoupled from the broadcasters. At most major sports venues, the camera locations are pretty much set; some of them are even built into the arena or stadium itself. These cameras are always on and there’s little innovation or variety that can come out of how this raw footage is captured. What leagues can then do is license this feed out to broadcasters to overlay with their own graphics, commentary, etc. They can decide which camera to cut to for each play and when to go to commercial. I haven’t crunched any numbers, but financially it may not hurt the leagues that much. Sure they lose out on their current lucrative TV contracts but they could make that up by working out smaller licensing deals with multiple networks. It doesn’t even have to be a network- they could potentially choose to democratize it and provide the feed to anyone who’s willing to pay. That way amateurs can compete with the big boys to provide the best viewing experience.

The only real losers in this scenario would be the incumbents who will have to work for their audience instead of relying on their exclusive contract.  They will most likely see their margins shrink as they will have less bargaining power over cable and satellite companies. However for a network that is weak in sports and wants to air more NFL or NBA games, this could be an attractive way to break in. I understand this is a very idealistic proposition and the status quo benefits a lot of stakeholders. But like anything in sports, there’s always next year, right?

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Sports Bucket List

My sports withdrawal has gotten me thinking about what events I would like to see in person. Pretty soon, I started making a bucket list of all the sporting events I would like to attend during my life. Currently I only have a few basketball, football games, and the French Open (US Open soon) under my belt, but I’m going to make it a goal in life to attend all of these events:
  • NBA Finals game
  • Super Bowl
  • College Football Bowl game
  • Final Four game
  • All four tennis Grand Slams
  • Premiere League match
  • Champions League match
  • World Cup
  • Summer Olympics
  • Winter Olympics
  • World Series game

Best Sports Time Zone

Well, it’s that time of year again. The weather outside may be beautiful, but in terms of sports I follow, this is the worst time of year. Basketball season is still months away and even the free agency buzz has died down. Football won’t get started until September either. There are no tennis Grand Slams until the US Open (which I got tickets to!) Even though I picked up a little bit of football (soccer) over the last year, the World Cup is over and the Premiere League doesn’t come back until August. In other words, for the next few weeks, there’s absolutely nothing going on in the sporting world that I care about.

So I thought this would be a good time to reflect on something I’ve been thinking about over the past year. Having lived in several different timezones, I’ve started to notice that some of them are good for watching certain sports while others are not. So if I had a choice as a sports fan, which timezone would I live in? At the moment, I’m going to leave out DVR and ESPN3 replays because as someone who checks social media and news sites several times a day it’s just not practical to hide from the results.

Let’s start with the East Coast of the US. With a large population and TV market, a lot of sports are tailored to this region’s prime time. Most basketball games take place from 7-11pm in the evening and football games are on Sunday afternoon. In other words, these are times when people are home and able to watch these games. With tennis, it depends on the tournament. Australian Open is just weird because the Land Down Under is so far away (which is why I don’t usually watch much of this Grand Slam). The US Open is obviously perfect on the East Coast because it takes place in New York. Wimbledon and French Open aren’t too bad. The 5-6 hour difference with Europe means you can at the very least catch the evening matches in the afternoon. For the same reason European football (soccer) is watchable if you’re willing to get up early occasionally. However, things aren’t perfect. The second game of an NBA doubleheader can go well past midnight on the East Coast, and even in college I sometimes have a hard time staying up if I have an early class the next morning.

So let’s examine some other regions. This past year, I was in Europe for a large part of the time. The main advantage over there is obviously soccer. All the big match-ups are in prime time, including this year’s World Cup thanks to South Africa being in a nearby timezone. Even if you’re in England watching a La Liga match, it’s not too bad because there’s only an hour difference. The same holds for the French Open and Wimbledon. With American sports though, I found it’s a lot harder because the time difference works against you. Afternoon football games were watchable because it was evening in Europe, but basketball was really hard especially in the playoffs. I stayed up once to watch the Magic-Celtics series and I literally saw the sun rise before it was over.

That’s not a problem here on the West Coast. When I was younger, I always wished I lived in the Pacific timezone because then I could watch the late game of NBA doubleheaders at a reasonable hour. You have to remember a few years ago the West was much better than the East with teams like the Lakers, Mavs, Spurs, Suns, Rockets, and Jazz in their prime, although the East has fielded more quality teams lately. However, there are a lot of disadvantages here too. For one, watching soccer and tennis is hard. I did get to see some of the World Cup, but the early matches are often over before I woke up for work and even the latest matches finish in the early afternoon. Likewise, I watched very little Wimbledon this year, partly because it conflicted with the World Cup, but also because play usually finished before I was up on the weekends. I won’t be here for football season, but I imagine the 1:00pm games are a little early on a Sunday morning.

This is the same problem with China’s timezone (the entire country is under Beijing Standard Time). Since I’ve mostly gone back during the summer, there hasn’t been much sports to watch, but I do remember trying to watch the NBA Finals one year. While the NBA TV broadcast did use the classic NBA on NBC music, it was really early in the morning. I just can’t get used to the idea of watching sports in the morning. Likewise, soccer games are during the midnight and early morning hours when people usually sleep.

So it appears that all things considered, the East Coast has the edge. Other timezones I’ve stayed in are good for certain sports, but EST seems to give me the best bang for my buck. Of course, I could be biased because I’ve lived on the East Coast most of my life and followed sports and teams in the timezone as a result. Anyway, I guess you can’t have everything.

Lakers-Celtics Finals: Where have we seen this before?

Well look who’s back in the NBA Finals? Since the 80s, we haven’t seen much of the best rivalry in basketball as each team took turns being mediocre, but now it appears there’s a revival as this will be the second time these two teams meet in 3 years. As a Magic fan, it pains me to see the Celtics representing the East instead of Dwight and the gang, but as a basketball fan, I couldn’t ask for a better match-up. So who am I picking?

I’ll get to that in a moment, but first (because this is my blog) a little side note about the Magic. I had my doubts going into their series against the Celtics. As I said in this blog, I thought the Magic had the talent to win, but my worst fear was that they would end up like the Cavs from last year, in that they swept through the first two rounds too easily and were unprepared for a challenging team in the conference finals. I think that’s exactly what happened. The Magic had it too easy and had way too much time off. They just looked out of sync, committing stupid turnovers, and didn’t hit shots they usually make. Individual players had strong games, but overall the whole team never got rolling. On the other hand, the Celtics played a tough series against Cleveland and had much more momentum and rhythm going in. All in all it took the Magic too long (first 3 games) to get going.

As for next year, I have no idea what’s going to happen to the Magic. We don’t have any major free agency departures and no real cap space to go after big free agents. At #29 in the draft, I doubt we’ll get anyone who can immediately have an impact. As for trades, all our players are either untradeable or guys we would have no desire to trade. As I see it, Nelson, Howard and Lewis are the core and untouchable (Lewis is also untradeable). I would like to get rid of Vince because his inconsistent offense doesn’t make up for his lack of defense, but I don’t think we could get anything better for him. The other shooters on the wing are replaceable, but we don’t need more JJ Redicks or Mickael Pietruses, but rather someone who can score and create (in other words what VC should have been). I just don’t see a readily available player we could trade for (although Manu Ginobili, if the Spurs are willing to part with him, is risky but intriguing). Maybe we can find a taker for Gortat. I don’t know what major moves we can make to improve unless we blow the whole team up. This really worries me.

Anyway, on to the Finals prediction. Let me first say that I have no love for the Lakers while Boston is a team I can respect and occasionally like since well (I do spend most of my time up there now). If health was not a factor, I would easily pick the Celtics. Lakers can’t stop quick point guards so Rajon Rondo would have a field day. The Big Three are all doing their thing and if Davis, Tony Allen, and Nate can contribute something off the bench, the Lakers are in trouble. Kobe Bryant can only take you so far and I still think the rest of that roster has a tendency to disappear when it matters without him.

However, seeing as the Magic did inflict some serious physical blows to the Celtics (Davis, Rasheed, Daniels, Rondo) and some…technical troubles (Perkins), all the aforementioned advantages go away, especially Rondo. I still think it will be a competitive series and I don’t want the Lakers to repeat, but I have a feeling the Celtics’ age and health will finally catch up to them. LA in 7.

I hope I’m wrong though. Beat LA!

Playoffs Round 2

Well, I’m a little late on this one, but I already had a reasonable idea of who I was going to go with in each series. So far, an 8-0 record in the first round. Here are my picks for the second round (not using knowledge of the Game 1’s that have already been played):

Cleveland Cavaliers v. Boston Celtics: I have nothing against the Boston Celtics. In fact, I went to their championship parade in 2008 and I would love for the Big Three to send Lebron home early again. However, unless Lebron can’t play because of his arm, I don’t think Boston can stop him. Plain and simple. Cleveland in 7.

Orlando Magic v. Atlanta Hawks: I might be a little biased again, but I think this one is pretty clear cut. Orlando blew out the Hawks the first three games of the season before losing the last one at the end of the season. Atlanta has no one that can match up with Howard. They can’t even harass him like Charlotte did because they just don’t have enough big men. Their 7 game series against a Bogut-less didn’t do anything to convince me otherwise. Orlando in 5.

LA Lakers v. Utah Jazz: The Lakers are probably my least favorite team in basketball and much like Cleveland above, I would love to see the Jazz beat them. This match-up is intriguing because of Utah’s Deron Williams. However, Utah’s injuries worry me. Kobe will be much tougher to guard than Carmelo Anthony and unfortunately for the Jazz they traded away Ronnie Brewer and AK-47 is hurt. Utah is also too thin to compete up front against the twin towers of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum with Okur out. While Williams can carry them to a few wins, don’t expect an upset. LA in 6.

Phoenix Suns v. San Antonio Spurs: I’m having deja vus about this series. Although Phoenix has looked pretty good late in the season and in the first round, I can’t look past the history between these two teams. Will the Spurs be able to upset another one of their perennial rivals? Can they stay healthy and get Richard Jefferson to contribute something? I’m going to same the same thing as I said about the Dallas series: Never count the Spurs out and never take the Suns for granted. San Antonio in 7.

Enjoy the games and Let’s Go Magic!

2010 Playoffs: Round 1

Well it’s time for the NBA playoffs again and that means its time for me to predict each series round by round. As with this year’s college tournament, I’m going to put up a disclaimer that I haven’t watched many games at all, save for a dreadful stretch of Magic games when I was home over Christmas break. That means don’t expect me to go 13-2 like in years past, but since NBA teams have more continuity than college basketball, I also don’t expect to completely blow it like with March Madness. So without further ado, here are my picks for the first round:

Eastern Conference

Cleveland Cavaliers v. Chicago Bulls: The Bulls barely eked into the playoffs. While I’ve seen some great Derrick Rose highlights and I think he will torch the Cavs, there’s no chance of an upset here. Cleveland in 4.

Orlando Magic v. Charlotte Bobcats: I’m not sure why a lot of people are saying Charlotte’s going to cause trouble for the Magic (looking at you Tim Legler). I simply don’t see Tyson Chandler and Gerald Wallace slowing down the best team from the second half of the season. Orlando in 5.

Atlanta Hawks v. Milwaukee Bucks: This series would be a lot more interesting with Andrew Bogut, but without him, there’s nothing to Fear about the Deer. Atlanta’s way too deep and athletic. Atlanta in 5.

Boston Celtics v. Miami Heat: While I think the “death of the Celtics” talk is a little premature, it is telling that they fell to 4th in the East. That said, I think the Big 3 (Pierce + Rondo + what’s left of Ray and KG) is enough to beat Team Wade (because let’s be honest without him they’re a D-League team). Boston in 6.

Western Conference (this is where it gets more interesting)

LA Lakers v. Oklahoma City Thunder: I have to say I really like the Thunder! A good young team that rebuilt the right way with a freakish star in Kevin Durant that has a legit chance of being better than Lebron in my opinion. However, they’re not ready for the Lakers yet, not without some size in the post. Still, it will be closer than people think because I think the Lakers will come out sluggish. LA in 6.

Dallas Mavericks v. San Antonio Spurs: Yes, the Spurs are old and yes, the Mavs have Haywood to guard Duncan and Marion to guard Ginobili, but I can’t help but like the Spurs here. They’re not as weak as last year and given the past track records of the Spurs (never count them out) and the Mavs (never take them for granted) I’m inclined to go for the upset (although in this year’s Western conference, can anything really be an upset?) San Antonio in 7.

Phoenix Suns v. Portland Trailblazers: I’ve never liked the Suns since the D’Antoni days (even though Jared Dudley is making BC proud) but this is a no brainer. Without Roy, the Trailblazers may make some inspiring runs, but in the end they’re outgunned. Phoenix in 5.

Utah Jazz v. Denver Nuggets: For a while I thought Denver was the second best team in the West, but apparently they’ve slipped a bit. The big question is which team can stay healthy and right now it looks like Utah is coming up with the short end since Boozer is questionable. However, the Jazz are deeper in my opinion and they have more momentum and fewer distractions headed into the postseason. Utah in 6.

Enjoy the games! I’ll try to catch a few myself. Go Magic!

Bittersweet 16

Wow what a tournament. So many close games. So many upsets already. And we’re just in the Sweet 16. My bracket has definitely taken a beating due to all this craziness. One of my Final Four, Georgetown is out. Three more Elite 8 teams (Kansas, Pittsburgh and Villanova) are also out, not to mention countless earlier round teams. A couple of story lines I’ve noticed: the failure of the higher seeded Catholic schools (Georgetown, Villanova, Notre Dame, and Marquette) shows that God clearly isn’t on their side this year. The Big East has been disappointing and I think that could mean trouble for me because I picked Syracuse to win it all (stupid move in retrospect). And the Ivy League may finally be known for something other than academics as Cornell continues its run. At this point, I’m rooting for them to go to the Final Four.

The only bright side to all this is that no one else saw any of these story lines coming, so I’m actually doing relatively well especially since I’ve watched very little college basketball this year. Here’s what I picked the rest of the way: