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Our 2012 Sports Media Wish List: Part One

John Ourand of Sports Business Journal just put together his 2012 sports media predictions and given his track record, access, and insight, it’s definitely worth a read. Looking back, Ourand has a very respectable batting average despite the fact that some of the predictions are swinging for the fences rather than playing it safe.

A lot of the 2012 predictions are things I’d openly welcome, which got me thinking — what would be on my sports media wish list for the new year? After some brainstorming, here is the first half of ten things I’d like to see happen in the coming year:

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A Healthy Recovery And Return To Work For Steve Sabol

It’s been a while since we’ve got an update on the health of Steve Sabol, as the NFL Films President has been very private about his battle with cancer. In August, it was a watershed moment as Steve introduced his also ailing father for his induction into the NFL Hall of Fame. The impact of the Sabols and their legacy can be seen in this great video. In a nutshell, football wouldn’t be America’s most popular sport if not for their ahead-of-the-curve vision they’ve executed for nearly 50 years. 

I’ve been trying to will good news from the silence surrounding Steve’s time away. With that in mind, we’ll lead off our 2012 wish list by wishing a healthy recovery and return to work for one of the most underrated people in sports media. 

MLB Blows Up Their Truly Terrible Video Policy …

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It’s hard to deny that Major League Baseball is having a tough time keeping pace with the growth of its peers. Attendance was flat this year, although an improvement after several down years in a row. More importantly, ratings declined and the average age of viewers continues to rise, signaling an ominous outlook for America’s pastime down the road.

Enter the suits at MLB Advanced Media who continue to rub the younger generation of fans the wrong way by aggressively enforcing a video policy that doesn’t allow for viral sharing of MLB highlights.

Other leagues have not been this stupid embraced new media and either allow the embedding of highlights onto social networks and blogs, or don’t actively enforce when content is repackaged for distribution on Youtube and other video channels. The end result of these more fan friendly policies is that hundreds of thousands of content creators are able to utilize video and distribute that content to millions of fans. 

While MLB Advanced Media is able to make some money by hoping people find their way to MLB.COM to see highlights, the digital exposure of the sport is a fraction of what it should be. This has been a source of friction for fans, media members, bloggers, and one that even players scratch their head at.

With MLB’s television rights coming up for bid, we’re hoping that MLB reevaluates their video policy and either reverses course or brings in some new people who are not completely incompetent understand the viral nature of the web. 

A More Defined Strategy For ESPN Films

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ESPN established ESPN Films in 2008 under the stewardship of Keith Clinkscales and undertook the ambitious 30 for 30 project, some of the best work we’ve ever seen ESPN do.

Over the past year, ESPN Films has produced some additional films with similar high marks given by fans and media pundits. Despite the success of ESPN Films, the small group within ESPN has a very clouded future.

After churning out (producing and acquiring) the initial batch of documentaries for 30 for 30, this past year’s batch of films was significantly smaller and seemed to have some issues with brand confusion.

The music for the advertisements and overall marketing strategy of the new ESPN films was essentially the same as the 30 for 30 series, even though they didn’t fall under the same label. At this point in time, it’s pretty clear the 30 for 30 brand has distinguished itself, while many are still not aware that ESPN Films is the parent production company that will carry forward.

Even more troubling is the disarray behind the scenes within the ESPN Films group. First, jobs within the group were eliminated. Clinkscales would later become more of an infamous figure as details surrounding alleged disgusting behavior and legal battles hit the blogosphere.

We obviously have a lot of opinions on ESPN programming, but there isn’t anything as compelling, insightful, and at times emotional and educational as ESPN Films in Bristol.

With that in mind we’re wishing for ESPN to circle the wagons and double down on the initiative. A clear vision, a clear marketing/branding strategy, and a visionary to ensure the high quality stays impressive. We’ll volunteer the name of Ross Greenburg, recently departed long time HBO Sports executive to keep ESPN Films growing.

Superfights 

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It feels kind of odd wishing for something that I’ll end up paying over $50 for if it ever materializes, but for the love of God, give me a damn Superfight! The three I’m wishing for specifically are:

Pacquiao vs. Mayweather

Anderson Silva vs. GSP

Anderson Silva vs. Jon Jones

Fans want these fights badly, we’ll pay for it, and it’s good for the sport. I already feel like enough of an idiot for paying for a handful of PPV events a year that leave me wanting more. Pull the trigger and make millions of fans happy while also making millions of dollars.

An Overhaul of ESPN Gameplan

Two problems with ESPN GamePlan.

1- The games are not in HD.

2- It’s expensive and the schedule over time has become terrible.

The outlook isn’t that good either. Fox is grabbing more games away from ESPN and many, including Ourand, believe the Big East’s television rights will go to an ESPN competitor in addition to the Pac 12 Network further diluting the inventory of games for the package.

Every year the value of the package diminishes and without HD and fewer quality games, I don’t know if I’d pay half of what the package is priced at. With the games in standard definition, that’s another major issue as the games themselves look awful on big screen HD televisions where almost every other sporting event is now in high definition.

At the end of the day, ESPN GamePlan is an expensive product that offers very limited value. College football fans are some of the most passionate fans this country has. We’re wishing for ESPN to get realistic here and offer a more valuable offering at a more realistic price as GamePlan is a joke compared to comparable packages for the NFL, MLB, NBA, and the NHL.

I’ll be back tomorrow with five more wishes for 2012. Until then chime with your thoughts in the comments.

Ben Koo

About Ben Koo

Copying and pasting my Twitter bio. I'm also refusing (for now) to write this in the third person. This is me - CEO of @Bloguin, GM at @AwfulAnnouncing, world's greatest chinese jew, proud Buckeye, funny dude, and sports and digital media zealot.

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