[Weekly Rundown] Hulk v Gawk gets a Bond villain; New NFL media policies; Bad headlines

Hulk Hogan’s legdrop on Gawker is tainted by outside interference, Baylor gets busted, the Buffalo Bills block beat reporters, and SEC fandom exposes problems for a local newspaper following a media conglomerate’s process. That, plus paying to sit at a park, that guy with the water bottle, and more.

Summer means my return to semi-regular blogging! Join me as I experiment with a weekly rundown of stories I found interesting.


Was Hulk Hogan a pawn in a billionaire’s vendetta against a media company? It’s not a wrestling storyline. This week, we learned that Hogan’s lawsuit against online tabloid Gawker was anonymously financed by Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist who was a co-founder and CEO of PayPal and sits on the Facebook board of directors. Why? Because Gawker outed Thiel as gay in 2007. Continue reading “[Weekly Rundown] Hulk v Gawk gets a Bond villain; New NFL media policies; Bad headlines”

An awful game can’t stop the Super Bowl – Notes on ratings, ads, Bruno Mars and the dominance of the NFL

The Seattle Seahawks took 12 seconds to score against the Denver Broncos Sunday night. Perhaps more accurately, it took the Broncos 12 seconds to score on themselves. Both of those trends would maintain throughout the night as Super Bowl XLVIII (that’s 48 for the Roman-numerically challenged) turned into a showcase for the best defense in the league and a nightmare for one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, who now has lost more games in the postseason than anyone else.

The third-largest blowout in Super Bowl history may have been responsible for some of the early exits from the party I attended. And surely it was trouble for FOX and its legion of advertisers, who paid $4 million for the most expensive 30 seconds on television.

Only it wasn’t, because the NFL is the biggest draw in entertainment today, and its dominance has never been more evident.

Continue reading “An awful game can’t stop the Super Bowl – Notes on ratings, ads, Bruno Mars and the dominance of the NFL”

Sports blackout rules don’t fit Internet Age

In a society whose entertainment is increasingly Web-centric, it was only a matter of time before technology caught up with our desire for streaming video anywhere, anytime. For most, that now means Hulu and Netflix. For sports fans, the next generation arrived with ESPN360 ESPN3 WatchESPN (Reliable service; inconsistent branding). Loads and loads of sporting events from the worldwide leader. Stuff that was airing on ESPN or ESPN2, plus tons of smaller college and second-tier sports not televised anywhere. Watch it live, watch a replay, watch on your computer, on your TV, on your phone. The future is now! Unless:

“We’re sorry, this game is not available in your area.”

Ah, the regional blackout. Designed to protect television and radio networks from hemorrhaging audience share to competing outlets, thus insuring lucrative broadcast rights, blackouts are part of making the games work financially for all parties. Traditionally, it kept national broadcasters from airing games in the two teams’ hometown markets. So, if ESPN wanted to nationally televise a game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Detroit Tigers, they can do so. But, folks in Florida and Michigan wouldn’t be able to see the ESPN broadcast, because local television contracts require that the hometown broadcast be the only show in town. Same thing for the NBA, NHL, and major college athletics. There are exceptions, but you get the general principle.

(The NFL blackout policy is much worse. Comparable to a ransom, it further requires a team to sellout its stadium before a game can be televised in that team’s home market. You want TV? Buy up our outrageously priced tickets. At times, it has led to TV stations and advertisers buying up remaining seats at the league’s 72-hours-to-kickoff deadline.)

The Internet messed this up. People are becoming more accustomed to receiving content whenever and wherever they please. And they can… except when it comes to sports, where the old blackout rules carried over into the digital age.

Continue reading “Sports blackout rules don’t fit Internet Age”

Super Bowl good for advertisers, great for social media, Twitter, Shazam

What a #SuperBowl Sunday night! The game between the #Giants and the #Patriots came down to the wire (not the one that Richard Simmons-esque character was bouncing on during the #Madonna halftime performance). I couldn’t think of a #betterway to end the football season than watching Eli and the G-men go with #whatworks as they vanquished Brady and New England (#SoLongVampires). To #makeitplatinum, the coin toss earned me some #freepapajohns before the hours upon hours of commercial messages turned my brain to #mushymush.

(Also, Jack in the Box went with #marrybacon. Don’t know how you fit that one into conversation, but it was an interesting strategy nevertheless.)

Worth the price of admission

We know the Super Bowl is all about marketing your brand. A 30-second spot this year went for $3.5 million. General Motors spent $28 million on 4 minutes worth of advertising for their Chevy line alone (plus whatever it cost to sponsor the game’s MVP award and the hashtag #superbowl on Twitter).

I’m of the inclination that the return is worth the investment. No other event attracts such a large audience among all of the major purchasing demographics. The cost per thousand viewers (CPM) for the 2011 Super Bowl was $27. A successful primetime drama or sitcom will charge near, or many times, north of that figure. Other special events, like award shows, often demand an even greater CPM.

Plus – and this is a major plus – what other event do audiences watch for the advertisements? News and entertainment programs leading up to and following Super Bowl Sunday will spend hours of additional airtime reairing the ads for comment at no charge. Not to mention the Super Bowl ad galleries that are featured prominently Monday on YouTube, Hulu – even the Google homepage. That’s why it’s not surprising – to me, at least – to see Forbes claiming that networks with broadcasting rights could easily fill the 70 available commercial slots at double the current rate. Yes, that’s $7 million for 30 seconds of celebrity cameo or cute animal stunts.

But that’s not the point of today’s post. That stuff happens every year. What was new – at least on a large scale – was the incorporation of social networking into the Super Bowl spots – particularly Twitter and Shazam.

Continue reading “Super Bowl good for advertisers, great for social media, Twitter, Shazam”

If we stop hyperventilating for a moment, Obama/Boehner speech compromise works well for both

Ah, 24-hour news cycle, how you long for conflict. As we headed into Labor Day weekend, the politicos in Washington became enamored with “Speech-gate” – a supposedly heated back and forth between President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner after Obama requested to speak before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night. The problem was that the Republican Party had already scheduled a presidential debate for that evening, and Boehner added concern that the security measures needed to welcome a president to Capitol Hill were too lengthy to be completed in a small window between the end of scheduled business and the president’s address.

The cable news anchors salivated. Another epic battle between Democrat and Republican, President and Speaker! And then the fireworks really began…

The next day, Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney, announced that the president would move his speech to Thursday night.

And everyone was cool with that.


Except that wasn’t the narrative the media were hoping for. So, the pontificates began pontificating. Karl Rove, in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, wrote of the president’s “humiliation” in having to move the speech. CNN contributor LZ Granderson blamed Boehner and the Right for “stop[ing] at nothing to discredit [Obama]. To embarrass him. To destroy him.” It goes on…

Never mind that Boehner and the Republicans have declined the now-customary official response following the president’s speech. Never mind that Obama almost immediately rescheduled the speech that was so surely intended to sabotage a GOP debate being held 15 months before the 2012 election. The narrative had to stand. Obama was weak. Boehner was pushy. The war rages on, if only on our television sets.

I feel like I’m the only person on Earth who thinks this worked out pretty darn well for the president. He respected the wishes of his political adversaries, and in doing so, positioned his speech before what will be the most watched television event of the week, if not the month. Instead of playing opening act to America’s Got Talent on Wednesday, the president will be the lead-in to the kickoff of the NFL season. Instead of giving way to juggling pole dancers and ventriloquists, Obama sets the stage for the return of the most popular sport in America.

Which one do you think is going to garner more incidental eyes?

NBC has shuffled its pregame schedule to make room for the address, moving musical performances and other festivities to USA, Syfy, and other channels in the NBCUniversal stable. Meanwhile, the president gets to talk about jobs, and then, being the sports-fan-in-chief he is, probably conclude with some well-rehearsed line about his Chicago Bears and how we all can’t wait to see some football.

The Republicans get their debate stage. The president gets a better television spot for his address than he had before. Everybody wins. Why can’t we just leave it at that?