Media Biz of Soccer: SB Nation, Softball, More…

Some minor happenings in the media business of soccer:

Um, that's not a soccer ball for sure...

• Just throwing this one out there: Men’s Softball.

I’m trying to work “soccer” into that comment, but really can’t.

Add another sport that will compete with MLS for viewership and production support. Softball.

The MLS…A (that’s MLSA) just announced their formation in June of this year in hopes of growing a league.

It is estimated 40M play softball in the United States (International Softball Federation) compared to about 25M for soccer (FIFA).

Softball should be a walk-in-the-park for ESPN. They have the production understanding from baseball and women’s softball, and they can follow their blueprint for poker by focusing on “the average Joe” and letting the personality of said “Joe” come through just like in poker (think: Phil Helmuth, Phil Ivey).

Finally, suds and home improvement sponsors would be waiting at the door the day the coverage began.

• If you write your own soccer blog on one of the global platforms, you may want to take a look at what’s happening in the burgeoning world-of-sport web platforms.

SB Nation is catching up in readership to Bleacher Report whilst the former heads of are about to make it a three-horse race.

The former, SB Nation, secured $8M in funding just about a year ago now and is starting to develop ties with ESPN. Their overall readership across their sites is about 1/3 that of the Bleacher Report.

Bleacher Report is aligned heavily with CBS and recently swapped out their CEO (bringing on the head of Yahoo Sports to take the company to the proverbial next level).

I would give SB Nation the leg up here–not in terms of functionality or technology–but, if you’re a soccer writer, in terms of supporting and growing the soccer coverage.

No regular soccer coverage on CBS.

One more note here: for the life of me I can’t understand how Google News labels Bleacher Report and SB Nation stories news, while meatier fare gets relegated to the “Blogs” service.

Martino sports a much different 'do these days...

• Watched some of Kyle Martino’s show on Fox Soccer Channel. Your thoughts?

One comment as the show kicks off:

You can’t stay stagnant with the studio. I would have thought Fox Soccer would have sunk a little bit more money into a set that looks very much like Fox Football Fone-In.

It’s important to break from the set of a former show–especially one in the same time slot–to show commitment to the new show, and to show advertisers that you are sinking money into the new show.

You think FSC–which has their contract with MLS coming up this year for renewal–would have opened up the billfold on the set a little more.

You can see out previous interview with Kyle here.

• An update on our Spurs finances piece, Tottenham Hotspur is one of only five teams in the EPL to sell out their season. (Arsenal, Chelsea, Blackpool, Manchester City and Spurs.)

Now it’s up to Dan Levy to manage those finances and add enough talent to make Champs League play a reoccurring theme, today’s stumble against the Young Boys non-withstanding.

• Had a good Twitter discussion with Tripp Mickle (a solid columnist for Sports Business Journal with a seriously awesome NASCAR name) on MLS and the networks. I disagree with him, but he has fair points.

His Tweet that got me a little fired up (since media is supposedly part of my bailiwick):

Is MLS eyeing its own network in the future? Don’t rule it out. The league hired CSTV and Classic co-founder Brian Bedol for media advice.

Our discussion:

@trippmickle Have a hard time thinking that MLS at present, could build out/manage production talent, infrastructure, promotions, etc. $$

@shinguardian No doubt an #MLS net would be years into the future, but as the league continues to expand, it’s not out of the picture.

@trippmickle That’s kind of very open-ended. :> I would suggest it wouldn’t happen for 15 years, thoughts?

@shinguardian Tough to predict. Maybe around a ’22 World Cup in the U.S. Maybe out of necessity in ’14 after Univision /ESPN rights end.

My thoughts here:

Tripp and I are on the same page. MLS and an MLS network is likely about double-digit years away. So for now, TSG rules it out…in 7 years, maybe time to start considering it. Extended thoughts:

» First, it can’t possibly outlay the infrastructure (production resources, talent, ad sales, equipment, etc.) that is necessary to fire up their own network when the league is not in stable financial straits just yet.

» Second, the MLS advertising base is not there. It’s not like they can actually sell the product just yet and just extend an advertisers media plan to “television and internet.” Much easier to do TV when you merely extend a media buy to television.

…General rule of thumb in media is you need about a 1.0 rating to attract major branded advertisers. For perspective, MLS regularly does about a .2 with a high of .39 earlier this year when Landon Donovan returned to the Galaxy for a July 4th game after the World Cup.

• Speaking of watching the ‘tube: A .5 rating for USA vs. Brazil…that…and the revenue…is why you hold that friendly. Nothing to sneeze at there. Solid numbers for the USMNT, if not a solid performance.

• And yes folks, we’re due to do a sequel to this piece…coming soon. As a note, it looks like ESPN is following a little of our schematic….’cept on the web front (minus Jeff Carlisle).

7 responses to this post.

  1. Big fan of y’all’s blog (I got hooked on y’all’s blog during the Soccertown USA posts) and developer over at sbnation writing to say that I so happy that you have noticed our effort to support and grow soccer coverage. It makes me feel very proud that our work has come to the attention quality bloggers like yourselves. For real, I think you guys are top notch.


    • Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/08/17 at 11:41 PM

      Matt prefers the word *publication* over *blog* and I’m sure he’ll tell you himself. Great comment nonetheless


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/08/17 at 11:53 PM

        Thanks Antonio.

        This is true, prefer “publication” over “blog” for the various somewhat belittling associations and lack of brand equity that goes with the term blog.

        We’re cooking up some major stuff in the TSG cauldron as well that I’ll comment on shortly.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/08/17 at 11:51 PM

      Pablo, thanks for the real kind words. I’ll send you an email separately as well.

      Soccertown, huh…that was over a year ago now!


  2. Posted by Bob on 2010/08/18 at 3:48 AM

    I thought the new FSC show was very boring. I don’t see Martino as an improvement over Webster … yes, get rid of Wynalda but not Webster. It won’t last a year imo….


  3. Watched the second half of the show, it’s obviously still finding it’s feet but at this point I’d have to say I preferred FFF (and Wynalda has really never bothered me as much as he seems to annoy some people). You see so many talk shows with such high production values now (with the introduction of shows like Lopez Tonight) that I think it looks a bit amateurish unfortunately.

    I saw the girl answering viewer questions and thought “ah, it’s the new Temryss Lane” but then Temryss came on and I said “wait, Temryss Lane is Temryss Lane?” Too much for my brain to process at that hour:)


  4. If you look in archives in the 90’s ESPN used to put on Men’s Slo-Pitch softball. Every year they play some championship game where guys use red dot balls (golf balls on steroids) and brand new bats and hit it 400 feet. Last year there was some USA game where they reached the HR limit, so it became just smacking singles around.

    Good on MLS to start thinking for the future. At least they are trying to bring their production in house (starting with website) so they can control the msg they want to portray.


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