ESPN presented its annual upfront yesterday, with a heavy emphasis on authentication, apps and delivering advertiser value. While the networks struggle to create social TV experience, CNN will likely be the first to make it a norm.
At the same time, ESPN Films announced that it will resurrect its 2010 hit series of sports-oriented films 30 for 30.
As Ad Age reports, Eric Johnson, ESPN's exec VP-multimedia sales, promised advertisers more targeted reach through its digital properties including the espnW platform for female sports fans; a new ESPN radio app for both the iPhone and iPad; ESPNFC, a global soccer destination; and a partnership with Twitter that will start with the NBA Finals.
Johnson claimed as well that with the Watch ESPN authenticated TV Everywhere app (introduced last year), ESPN now reaches 40 million homes, a number it expects to double before 2013.
Of course, few networks have the budget of ESPN, and "Modern Family" fans are hardly as rabid as NBA fans. But ESPN sets the bar for cross-media convergence.
30 for 30 Vol. II
ESPN Films has announced the return of the Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning 30 for 30 film series. As with the first series, which included collaborations with acclaimed filmmakers such as Peter Berg (“Kings Ransom”), Barry Levinson (“The Band That Wouldn’t Die”), Ice Cube (“Straight Outta L.A.”) and Academy Award-winner Barbara Koppel (“The House of Steinbrenner”), ESPN Films will once again partner with a wide array of filmmakers to tell inspirational sports stories. 30 for 30 Vol. II is scheduled to premiere in October.
“30 for 30 was conceived as a finite collection and when the original series ended in December of 2010 with ‘Pony Excess,’ we had underestimated the strength of the connection fans had made between sports documentaries and the 30 for 30 brand,” said Connor Schell, vice president of ESPN Films. “We’re proud to have created a brand that has become synonymous with quality sports storytelling and we see value in bringing back a second collection of 30 films.”
In addition to a second slate of 30 feature-length documentaries, ESPN Films will broaden its scope to support a whole new crop of stories with the creation of 30 for 30 Shorts – a 30-part digital short film series. 30 for 30 Shorts will be similar to the feature-length films in that each piece will represent a specific point of view of the filmmaker and will be a reflection of how they blend the narrative with their own visual style. Beginning in September, a new short film will debut monthly on Bill Simmons’ Grantland.com. A 30 for 30 Short entitled “Here Now” about Pete Rose is currently online as preview of the series.
Volume II of 30 for 30 will have a much more defined multimedia component through closer integration with Grantland.com by featuring filmmaker podcasts with Bill Simmons, topical oral histories, in-depth features and more. Each feature-length film and digital short will be complemented with a long-form written piece on Grantland.com that deepens the experience with additional context.
Films scheduled to air as part of 30 for 30 Vol. II include:
- “Benji” about 17-year-old NBA prospect Ben Wilson whose life was tragically cut short;
- “Broke,” a documentary about pro athletes sucked into bad investments, stalked by freeloaders, saddled with medical problems;
- “Bo Knows,” another documentary about the marketing of pro athletes like legendary sports figure Bo Jackson;
- “The Season of Their Lives,” about the 1982-83 North Carolina State Wolfpack basketball team.
Social TV Via Twitter
ESPN announced a strategic collaboration with Twitter that it believes offers fans and advertisers unique, interactive programs around major sporting events, beginning with the upcoming NBA Finals. The effort will be promoted across Twitter, ESPN networks, ABC and ESPN’s broad array of digital assets, including ESPN.com and ESPN Mobile.
Each program will be co-created by ESPN and Twitter, beginning with GameFace – the first effort, which will be focused on the NBA Finals. GameFace will be seamlessly integrated throughout the live ABC broadcasts and ESPN’s NBA Tonight programming with a dedicated Twitter hashtag #GameFace.
Fans will be encouraged to tweet photographs of their “game face” throughout the finals. At the conclusion of each game, NBA Tonight analysts will highlight the competition and reveal the best photographs on-air. The best photos will also be featured in a photo gallery on ESPN.com/NBA.
“Working together, ESPN and Twitter are giving marketers a clear and powerful way to link on-air and online social conversations around sports,” said Joel Lunenfeld, Twitter’s Vice President of Global Brand Strategy. “It’s the first time advertisers can engage the audience around ESPN’s premier content across screens and where the conversation is happening on Twitter.”
Added Ed Erhardt, president, ESPN Global Customer Marketing and Sales, “Advertisers and marketers have been asking for meaningful opportunities that tap into the power of social media. We know fans use ESPN and Twitter as their main source for content and connectivity. By taking that scale and combining it with the passion of sports fans, this program answers the value equation of social media while providing a new way for fans to engage with ESPN.”
On Twitter, #GameFace will be supported through Twitter’s Promoted Products suite (including a Promoted Trend during the Finals), and the experience will be plugged on the @NBAonESPN Twitter handle.
The latest version of the ESPN Radio app for iPhone, iPad and iTouch provides both live and on demand content, and includes a new feature that allows fans to build their own sports stations. Versions for Android and Windows 7 smartphones are slated to launch later this summer.
“This latest version of the ESPN Radio App builds on our promise to deliver the best sports audio content across any device,” said Marc Horine, Vice President, ESPN Digital and Print Media. “With this update, fans now have complete control over their listening experience as the app provides the functionality to customize specifically by sports, teams and athletes they care most about.”
Beginning today (May 16), fans can download the premium version of the app at no cost for a limited time. After that, for a one-time fee of $4.99, fans can access the full experience of the app, complete with the new personalization features and enhancements. The premium app will continue to give millions of ESPN Radio listeners access to live radio streams from more than 35 ESPN Radio stations, fan favorite shows like “Mike & Mike in the Morning,” “The Herd” with Colin Cowherd, “Waddle & Silvy” (Chicago) and “The Michael Kay Show” (New York), plus select play-by-play broadcasts, live scores and text messaging.
ESPN Radio launched its first app in September 2009 and has since been one of the top paid sports apps in the marketplace. Additionally, it was named Best Radio App by Radio Ink Magazine at the Digital Convergence Awards in May 2011. The ESPN Radio App is available from the App Store on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch or at www.itunes.com/appstore.
- DISH Network announced the Heartland Package, a specialty programming package “the entire family will enjoy,” the company said in a release. The new package features a family-friendly lineup of networks, including Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movie Channel, GMC TV, PixL, RFD-TV and RURAL TV. customers can add the Heartland Package to their existing DISH subscription for $5 a month.
- Food Network is bringing back master pastry chef Ron Ben Israel for a second 13-episode season of the competition/elimination show “Sweet Genius,” premiering Thursday, March 15 at 10 p.m. Food Network is distributed to more than 100 million U.S. households and averages more than 9.9 million unique web users monthly. Since launching in 2009, Food Network Magazine has tripled its rate base and delivers a circulation of 1.4 million.
- VH1’s five-time Emmy-nominated documentary series “Behind The Music” returns with six new episodes, premiering Thursday, March 15 in the 9 p.m. slot. This season’s roster includes all hip-hop and urban artists, including Pitbull, Game, T-Pain, Akon, Brandy and Nas. The series features original footage and the backstory—which in the case of these artists, is colorful. Platinum Record winner Piitbull was a Miami gang kid, and Akon a Senegalese refugee who spent time in prison for car theft.
- "The Voice" and "Smash" did “pretty well” for NBC on Monday night, reports Media Life, but show some slippage. "Voice" averaged a 5.9 among adults 18-49 from 8 to 10 p.m., down 12% from 6.7 for last week. Still, it was NBC's second-best non-Olympic rating in its timeslot since 2007, behind only last week's episode. The Broadway-engenue drama “Smash" at 10 p.m. averaged a 2.8, down 26% from last week’s 3.8 debut, though it still beat CBS's "Hawaii Five-0" and ABC's "Castle" in adults 18-49. Time will tell for “Smash,” suggests Media Life, and “depending on where its ratings settle.”
- Comedy Central has renewed the sketch series “Key & Peele” for a second season, reports Multichannel News. Season two will premiere in the fall with 10 episodes. “Key & Peele” was created by and stars comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, and premiered on Jan. 31 as Comedy Central's best launch since 2009 with 2.1 million total viewers. The premiere took a 2.6 rating among men 18-34, and a 3.3 with men 18-24. Earlier this week, Comedy Central took the lead in an Advertiser Perceptions survey, for advertiser satisfaction with a network. Comedy Central claims a median age of 37.1, with 46% of its demographic aged 18-34, 59% of it male, tuning into “South Park” and “The Daily Show.”
- More sabre-rattling between Netflix and HBO, according to an Ad Age story. Netflix will produce 13 episodes of a new comedy series called "Orange is the New Black" from the creator of “Weeds.” HBO has already launched the mafia drama “Lilyhammer” and has backed the Kevin Spacey drama "House of Cards" for release in fall 2012. Netflix is positioning itself as a rival to HBO, but CEO Reed Hastings has described HBO Go, the network’s online presence, "the competitor we fear most."
NBC Nonstop, the digital cable channel serving major markets, will debut Hit Music Central USA (HMC) in April. This one-hour music series will include live performances by musicians in all genres. As All Access Music Group describes it, HMC will be a broadcast and “social TV” experience, with the audience engaging online and through mobile devices. HMC will push its conent out to fans through hitmusiccentral.com, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Producer NFocus Entertainment has released a 10-minute “sizzle reel” of the show’s first recording, featuring rock band “Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.” The reel shows a bottom-screen ticker of enthusiastic viewer comments (“OMG! I SAW THEM PLAY AT WILTERN LAST NIGHT!”) and the show’s mechanism for submitting those comments via text message or the HMC site. The reel went on to a live interview with R&B artist C.J. Hilton, then a performance. Production values are flashy and clean, and the broadcast moves along at a rapid clip. Reflecting its interactive content, 20-something co-hosts actor Bryton James and fashion model Patricia Kara enthuse that “Hit Music Central USA is about to…plug you in!”
The show will initially air on NBC Nonstop in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco, among 10 major markets, and NFocus is claiming 20 million potential households.
NBC and Panasonic will broadcast the 2012 Summer Olympics from London in 3D, the companies announced yesterday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Multichannel News speculates that Comcast (which owns NBC Universal) will of course be among the 3D providers, but likely DirecTV as well. This means 200+ hours of 3D programming, including the opening ceremony, produced by Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS).
If all goes well for Panasonic, this will push 3DTV into the mainstream. Despite tepid sales thusfar, and limited programming, Panasonic announced its 2012 line of Smart Viera Full HD 3D HDTVs and Full HD 3D Blu-ray Disc players. The gamble seems a good one: sports broadcasting is among the most popular of 3DTV offerings. ESPN launched ESPN 3D in June, 2010, and both the National Football League (NFL) and National Hockey League (NHL) have dabbled in the technology, chiefly at ticket-based live theatre events.
NBC will premiere NFL Honors on Saturday night, February 4th, the night before Super Bowl Sunday. The broadcast will be 9-11pm ET on NBC, and be preceded by a one-hour red carpet show on the NFL Network from 8-9. NFL “will salute its best players and plays from the 2011 season,” said the League in its announcement. The Associated Press will present seven more awards, including the AP Most Valuable Player and AP Coach of the Year. Alec Baldwin will host the awards broadcast from the Murat Theatre in Indianapolis, with Lenny Kravitz providing a live performance. NFL Network is producing the NBC broadcast, along with Dick Clark Productions.
ABC has licensed its iconic soaps, “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” to Prospect Park. The agreement, brokered by Disney/ABC Domestic Television Group, enables Prospect Park to continue production of “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” keeping up the story lines after they leave ABC. In the exclusive multi-year, multi-platform deal, Prospect Park will produce and deliver the two long-running programs to consumers via online formats and additional emerging platforms including internet enabled television sets. Under the terms of the arrangement, the programs will continue to be delivered with the same quality and in the same format and length, writes Deadline Hollywood.
TNT has ordered 10 episodes of a new series based on the 1980s drama, Dallas. The new show will carry on the bitter rivalries and family power struggles within a Texas oil and cattle-ranching dynasty. The original Dallas series ran on broadcast network CBS from 1978 to 1991. The new series will include feature several original cast members, including Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray and Larry Hagman, who will reprise his role as J.R. Ewing, reports MultiChannel News.
A federal court today prohibited common ownership of newspapers and TV or radio stations in the same market. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit struck down a 2008 ruling by the Federal Communications Commission that allowed cross-ownership in certain cases. The court also upheld other ownership limits imposed by the FCC in 2008, including those applying to local TV and radio stations and networks, writes Radio World.
Newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership was banned since 1975 when the FCC relaxed it three years ago, granting permanent waivers in five markets; for Gannett in Phoenix, Ariz.; and for Media General in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Columbus, Ga., Panama City, Fla., and Tri-Cities Tenn./Va. Other companies with newspaper-TV combos include Tribune’s in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Miami and Hartford, Conn.; and News Corp.’s in New York, among others.
CBS will open the 2011-2012 season on Monday, Sept. 19, highlighted by the special series debut of its new comedy, 2 Broke Girls, which premieres at a special time behind the season premiere of Two and a Half Men. CBS will launch the majority of its new and returning programming during premiere week (Sept. 19-25). Survivor premieres one week earlier (Wednesday, Sept. 14) for the ninth time in the past 10 seasons, and the comedies Mike & Molly (Monday, Sept. 26) and How to be a Gentleman (Thursday, Sept. 29) will debut one week later, reports TVbytheNumbers.
Jeff Zucker, former NBC Universal president and CEO, shed light on the in-the-works Katie Couric daytime program he's helping produce for ABC, saying the syndicated show will feature “the effervescent Today-era Couric and the hard news-minded anchor of more recent vintage,” reports Broadcasting & Cable. Zucker said Couric possesses one of the great brands in television - the rare individual who's identified by a first name alone.
Nexstar Broadcasting Group has entered into a long-term agreement with the ABC Television Network for nine of its owned or operated stations. The Nexstar owned ABC affiliated stations include KMID in Odessa-Midland, Texas; KSVI in Billings, Montana; WDHN in Dothan, Alabama; WJET in Erie, Pennsylvania; and KQTV in St. Joseph, Missouri. In addition to WFXW, the stations to which Nexstar provides services to include KAMC in Lubbock, Texas; WTVO in Rockford, Illinois; WUTR in Utica, New York; and KODE in Joplin, Missouri. As part of the agreement, Nexstar also announced that WFXW-TV in Terre Haute, Indiana will become that market’s ABC affiliate, launching as WAWV-TV on September 1, 2011.
Univision said that its Spanish-language coverage of Saturday night’s USA vs. Mexico final match – part of the 2011 CONCACAF Copa Oro (Gold Cup) – has broken records as the highest-rated primetime sports broadcast ever on Univision across all key demographics. Additionally, it was the top-rated Copa Oro tournament broadcast in the network’s history with approximately 20 million unduplicated viewers tuning in to some or all of Univision’s Copa Oro 2011 coverage through the semifinal game.
Three percent of pay-to-view customers report having "cut the cord" and canceling their television service in favor of other viewing options, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. Residential Pay-to-View Study released today. While a minority of customers overall have canceled their cable television service, rates of cord-cutting vary significantly by generation, for example, 6% of Generation Y customers (ages 17-34) say they no longer subscribe to a residential television service, compared with only 2% of Baby Boomers (ages 47-65).
Verizon FiOS and Music Choice announced that SWRV — an interactive music video network — has launched in all FiOS TV markets. The SWRV channel is available to FiOS TV Extreme HD and Ultimate HD customers nationwide on channel 1799. SWRV is currently available through providers including Cox Communications and AT& T U-verse.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said Wednesday that the current broadband adoption rate is too slow and called on cable operators to step up their efforts. For his part, National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Michael Powell said the industry was committed to being a partner in that effort, reports MultiChannel News. "Sixty-seven percent is so far from good enough, that we can't be satisfied with slow, step-by-step incremental change."
The Broadcast Television Journalists Association, a new branch of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, has named winners of its first-ever award. Mad Men took home the prize for Best Drama Series while Modern Family won in the Best Comedy Series category. Best Reality Series was a tie between Hoarders and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, while Best Reality Show-Competition went to American Idol. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart was also honored as Best Talk Show.
According to recent survey conducted by Vidicom, 90% of TV news producers said they prefer only one mention per product per brand when using branded Satellite Media Tours (SMTs). The survey, which polled producers in the top 20 TV markets, found that while the number one reason for using SMTs is the need for content, half of the producers surveyed only want one product mentioned for each branded segment, reports Broadcasting & Cable.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association filed a motion for summary judgment in its Dick Clark Productions/Golden Globes case; the motion is an effort to free the HFPA to work with another producer, reports Deadline Hollywood.
After moving its network affiliation in Evansville, IN after failing to come to renewal terms with Nexstar, Fox has now announced affiliation deals with new stations in two more markets to displace Nexstar stations. Effective August 1, in Ft. Wayne, IN, Fox is moving to Granite Broadcasting’s WISE-TV, which will carry both Fox and its existing Fox sister MyNetworkTV on DTV channels. In Springfield, MO Koplar Communications' KRBK-TV is the new Fox affiliate in the market, displacing Nexstar’s KSFX-TV, according to the Radio & Television Business Report.
- Grab Networks will be using the AdoTube platform for its online video content distribution, the company reports. Grab Networks is an online media company focused on premium content for video audience networks within premium publishers. The partnership gives advertisers access to the AdoTube tool set and other creative services of the platform.
WebVisible and Media General have partnered to bring search engine marketing capabilities and other ad technology to the local level throughout Media General's newspaper and television properties in the Southeast. The program rolls out in five locations in Tampa, Fla.; Winston-Salem, N.C.; Greenville and Spartanburg, S.C.; Woodbridge and Manassas, Va.; and Richmond, Va.
Conviva, a streaming video solutions provider has released Video AdVantage, a new tool for content owners and advertisers that monitors and adjusts the quality of the experience (QoE) for online video and integrated ad plays from an end-user viewer’s perspective. The aim of the product is to improve video resolution and prevent interruptions due to buffering.
- The New York Times will step into online television next week with the premiere of "NYTV," reports Yahoo news blog, The Cutline. The media company produces more than a hundred videos each month for its website and other digital platforms, and it is from this pool of videos that online programming will develop. The half-hour show will air Mondays at 8:30 p.m. on New York's flagship local station, NYC life under the banner of NYC Media, the city's official TV, radio and online network. Each episode will feature a selection of the latest New York-centric culture, lifestyle and fashion-oriented videos produced by Times journalists.
- In North America, Netflix is now 29.7% of peak downstream traffic and has become the largest source of Internet traffic overall, according to broadband network solutions provider Sandvine. The report, “Global Internet Phenomena Report: Spring 2011,” indicates that real-time entertainment applications consume 49.2% of peak aggregate traffic, up from 29.5% in 2009 – a 60% increase. Sandvine forecasts that the real-time entertainment category will represent 55-60% of peak aggregate traffic by the end of 2011, revealing a growing appetite for on-demand applications that will continue to drive data consumption and network quality requirements.