Processing the New Sports Media Landscape

People have always been drawn to sports. They love the competition, the athletes, the strategy involved. It’s an obsession, and it’s from this need to be involved that sports media emerged. Sports coverage began primarily with photography and coverage in newspapers in the 1800’s. This largely remained the case until the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, which was the world’s the first live televised sporting event. Fans watched the game, they read about it, but the appetite for sports coverage was not satisfied. Recognizing this, Chet Simmons and Scotty Connal created the ESPN network. They premiered with the first episode of SportsCenter on September 7, 1979. It was the first 24 hour network for sports, where fans could access at any time the sports content they desperately craved. By 2011, ESPN had reached grown to its peak of 100.13 million subscribers.

The concept of ESPN was revolutionary for the time, but technology has changed, especially with the rise of the internet. New modes and platforms are now available for sports fans to engage with content. They are no longer reliant on, or limited by, ESPN and the local paper as an outlet for sports. The emergence of web content, podcasting, blogging, and social media have not only made sports content more accessible to consume, but have shattered the barriers to entry for the individual creation of sports media. Fans demand more involvement in and easier access to sports content. With the emergence and advancement of the internet, they now have this opportunity.

Fans Creating Content

Just twenty years ago, the media used to be an exclusive class in sports, dominated entirely my large media corporations and newspapers. To create content, you needed a full time job at one of these companies, media credentials, and some sort of official media training. This is because there was previously no way to distribute content to the masses without considerable resources. The internet changed all of that. The beginning of blogging and message boards began in the 1990’s, and the onset of a media revolution had begun to take place. In 2018, people have the ability to create their own web pages, post on platforms such as reddit and youtube, and download home-made podcasts with little to no cost to them.

While the casual fan usually only consumes sports content, there are people entrenched in sports culture that want more out of the experience than simply a bystander role. One of these people is co-founder of Sports Business and Analytics UVA, and co-creator of, Michael Rochlis. “Just the way I consume sports…there’s just more of an interest than the casual fan.”

People who love sports rarely just take what they are watching or what is being said by the media at face value, they are always asking questions. Now, with public databases such as 538, fangraphs, and sports reference, they have the ability to answer these questions in a verifiable way. “There’s always that extra layer, you read 538 and you understand some of the statistics…you wonder, what’s going on here and how that fits into the bigger scheme…[creating content] is very next level, it’s not just like, ‘I wanna watch the game, I just wanna see who wins the championship,’ there’s deeper questions that can be asked…I think it shows a much more constructive way to be involved in sports.”

Still, not all articles rely on advanced formulas and statistical data, but still it was rare that people were producing their own sports content just twenty years ago. The difference is, with the internet, there is now a platform to create content where it can be viewed by the public. For Michael, it has little to do with monetary capitalization, it’s much more about making a contribution to something he’s passionate about. “The goal is to be good enough to have content that some people will read, and it will be validated and reposted. I want people to say, look at what this kid wrote. I’ve never thought about a question this way, but it’s really interesting, the data checks out, and it was well written. That would be the biggest reward, not trying to get paid subscription.”

It’s not just a theoretical fantasy either, there are extremely popular sports outlets that began with just one passionate individual. The Ringer was created by Bill Simmons and got 12.71 million visits last month. His podcast, the Bill Simmons Podcast, “was the lone sports program among iTunes’ 20 most popular [podcasts].

Sure, his previous career as television personality and author had given him considerable resources, but nothing compare to what ESPN has at their disposal. Still, there is not one ESPN affiliated podcast that ranks higher than his. Someone who built an empire with even fewer resources than Simmons had at his disposal is David Locke. The radio voice of the Utah Jazz, David Locke started the Locked On Podcast Network in 2016 with a single podcast, Locked on Jazz. In 2018, “Locked On…produces more than 90 different podcasts – Locked On publishes over 400 podcast episodes every week – generating more than 3 million listens a month and growing.

Since there are free options for publishing a website or posting a podcast in 2018, the only barrier is exposure. And with social media, it is possible to gain that exposure without the significant financial resources needed for paid advertising. To promote content on the UVA Sports Business and Analytics website, “for any article, we blast out a tweet or two, and same with the podcast.”

Bill Simmons and David Locke consistently promote their content over social media, will Bill Simmons amassing 5.87 million followers by 2018. With the internet, the opportunity to contribute to the sports media landscape is out there, and fans are taking advantage. Whether or not they ever gain popularity or monetize their content, there will always be people eager to get there opinion out there in hopes that they can make a contribution to something they are passionate about.


Fans Interacting Online

Even when they don’t have the time or motivation to create a full piece of content, fans are clamoring to have their opinions be heard. There was a time when that interactions between sports fans were restricted to the people around town. The only way people could hear from their favorite player was from behind the podium or through a newspaper clipping. Players and fans have always had strong opinions, they have just never had access to the platforms that would allow them to voice those thoughts. Through social media, comments sections, forums, and players-only sites, such as the Players Tribune, a community of discourse has been created where anyone can let there opinion be known publicly. Through social media and web forums like Reddit, fans can join conversations, often using “burner accounts” that they create for this specific purpose. There were “more than 100 million NBA-related tweets heading into the NBA Finals” in 2018, and the /r/soccer subreddit itself has over 1 million subscribers.

In 2018, fans not only interact with other fans, but with players and media members as well. Athletes now more than ever can let their opinions be known through social media or on a site like The Players Tribune. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lebron James have 75.3 million and 41.7 million followers respectively as of November 2018. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith has 3.83 million followers currently. Even local journalists have thousands of followers, such as Celtics beat writer Jay King with 38.8 thousand followers.

These public figures often have strong opinions, and expressing those opinions on social platforms opens them up to response from fans. Unfortunately, this open dialogue can often devolve into “trolling,” especially with the option of anonymity. Journalist Sam Robinson notes that “people…that might not deserve [a voice] based on the way they behave online, suddenly have free access to you unless you lock your twitter account or something.” What really is validating for people is that they know that a large percentage of the public figures they interact with do actually read what is said about them. “You see players paying attention to their twitter replies sometimes at halftime, that’s something I didn’t see when I first got in the business…I feel bad for the players that will just get reemed by these fans, it’ll just be nonstop…I’ve seen certain websites turn off their comments sections.”

Fan interaction is a great way for people to be engaged and feel heard, and it’s a force that has driven popularity and interest for many sports. However, it can be demoralizing to receive that amount or criticism on a public scale, especially from people whose only intention is to cause anger and illicit a response.

Fans Demand Easy Access to Desired Content

Remember the days of sitting in front of the TV watching Sportscenter, waiting for the host to finally get to the storyline about your team? It was not that long ago when people had to diligently sit in front of a television screen, or wait for the next day’s paper, to get the sports content they wanted.

We are a society on the go, and in 2018, access is paramount. For podcasts, social media, and online sports websites, all that’s needed is an iPhone and a pair of headphones. Bleacher Report reaches 250 million people worldwide, and as cited earlier, The Ringer and The Locked on Podcast Network also have massive following. As The Athletic has shown, people are even willing to pay for content if it is well written, comes to them conveniently, and encompasses their preferred sports and teams. “The company says it has subscribers ‘well into the six figures’ spread across its 38 local markets” as of September 2018, and it is still expanding rapidly.

Michael Rochlis personally gravitates towards the Ringer, in large part because of its accessibility and wide ranging coverage. “If it’s good, I’ll read about basically everything, so broad coverage is helpful there…I follow most of the teams in the three major sports, that makes it a little easier to consume it because [the Ringer is] not just focused on just a few teams,” as regional newspapers most often are.

Social media also has taken over as a news outlet, with people like Jay Glazer, Adam Schefter, and Adrian Wojnarowski all breaking stories. Even other fans will frequently live tweet information and updates about games. Sam Robinson acknowledges that “I have to update scores live…[and] I am able to do this from afar…there’s no way I’d have been able to have done that a few years ago.”

With this increased competition from new on demand media, there is a deleterious effect on large media corporations such as ESPN and traditional print papers that might not be as convenient. According to former ESPN executive Jamie Horowitz, “‘SportsCenter’ ratings had dropped 27 percent since 2010. Over the last five years, ‘SportsCenter’ ratings in the 18-to-34 demo are down 36 percent.” Horowitz also believes that “news-driven shows like “SportsCenter” do not work well on television anymore since highlights are so readily available online.

Overall, ESPN has “lost nearly 13 million subscribers in the last six years, from its peak of 100.12 million in 2011 to 87.22 million in the most recent estimates.” As a result, ESPN has been forced to layoff a large number of its employees. “ESPN laid off around 300 employees — many of them working behind the scenes — in October 2015. Then, in April [2017], the network cut roughly 100 jobs, with the reductions coming from ESPN’s stable of on-air talent and online journalists.

Because of these challenges, ESPN has begun to increase their social media presence by constantly putting out highlights on Instagram and Twitter. They even now post short Sportscenter episodes on Snapchat. The company also developed the ESPN app as a source of sports news. They have expanded their podcast network by posting many of their on air shows as podcasts, and through the creation of programming such as 30 for 30 podcasts.

In addition to corporations such as ESPN, print news has been faced with challenges in attracting sports fans to more traditional modes of consumption as well. Sam Robinson used to work full time at St. Joseph News Press in Kansas City, but he noticed that all across the industry “positions were getting cut, wages were pretty stagnant, and the responsibilities just kept growing.”

Now he’s a self described freelance writer, and works part time for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, along with the online sites Pro Football Rumors and Yardbarker. There are options out there for sports writers, but many have moved away from traditional newspapers. “The landscape changing has kind of benefitted me because…two of the main companies I work for couldn’t have existed 5 years ago…I got on with Pro-Football rumors, and that didn’t even exist until 2014.”

Writers are gravitating towards these online sites that are more convenient, provide broader coverage, and therefore have better opportunities to be profitable. For Sam and other writers, “it’s an interesting time but it’s also a scary time because of all of the cuts being made…All of these really talented writers now all work at [the Athletic]…I don’t know that many people who still read print newspapers, which is unfortunate because this is some of the best reporting that’s ever been done but it’s done on dwindling resources.”

Newspapers have been trying to make adjustments to maximize their profitability in the modern landscape by transitioning to online and making their content easier to access, but they have yet to find a reliable business model. Sam recalls, “back when I was getting into [writing] basically everything was free, and newspapers were wondering if they were making a mistake having the online content or free and making you pay for the print…a lot of the newspaper websites now cost money, they had it for free for ten years and now they’ve switched back to making you pay for it…it’s a self sustaining process.”

One of the main problems that newspapers have had is that sports fans have to pay for the whole bundle that is the newspaper, rather than just paying for the sports section. Some newspapers now allow subscribers to just subscribe to the sports section, but it has still been difficult to compete with the broad coverage and often free content of online sites.

Regardless of how newsprint and large media corporations adjust, it has become obvious that television news programs such as SportsCenter and traditional print papers will no longer be the primary way fans consume media. People want on the go, on demand, access to the sports media that they as individuals are interested in, and the outlets that deliver on this will be the ones that thrive.

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The Economic Impact of New Sports Media

The economic impact of the shift from traditional sports media to these new forms of media has been profound. As the fan has shifted to new modes of consumption, opportunities for profit have become abundant. The podcast industry alone has grown “from $69 million in 2015 to $119 million the following year and to $220 million in 2017,” and is likely to continue this upward trend going forward.

The Athletic received 20 million in venture capital funding this year. This adds on top of the 2.3 million they received in January 2017, and an additional 5.6 million that July. The willingness for investors to sink so much money into a company such as the Athletic that is not even close to profitability shows how bullish they are on the potential for future growth.

Even the multimedia juggernaut Disney has experienced the pressure of the new sports media landscape. “Disney’s high-profile ESPN had a decrease in advertising,” and this lower advertising revenue comes primarily from the decrease in viewing audience for their major flagship networks. Disney and ESPN realize that they have to transition to more easily accessible forms of communication, specifically with the introduction of the nsew streaming app ESPN+. Even though this would compete with their major television networks, executives are acknowledging that consumers demand constant access to their content on demand, and they are adapting accordingly. Disney’s cable networks actually “had an operating loss of 5% …associated with the ESPN+ launch,” and yet the company continues to push the service.

As consumer demands surrounding sports content continue to change, media companies will be forced to adjust. With the decline in any one particular medium, opportunity has traditionally arisen in a new and expanding field. As companies like The Athletic have proven, the chance to capitalize is out there.


Technology has allowed fans the opportunity to create content, interact with the sports community, and access the information they desire from anywhere. This has caused a significant amount of disruption in traditional sports media. As ESPN and typical print struggle to adapt, new media is emerging everywhere, whether that be from professional sites or via the common fan.

The sports community is now more accessible and interactive than ever, and the means we have to communicate will only improve with new innovation. Following sports is no longer sitting in front of a TV screen waiting to see what will happen to be talked about next. The fans are driving this revolution, and they are benefitting from all the new innovations that have arisen. As new modes emerge with innovative developments in technology, fans will have even more power to engage with content on multiple levels. The way we follow sports will continually  evolve, but as it always has, it will only strengthen our unwavering obsession for sports.

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Is the One and Done Rule beneficial?

Over the past decade, the NBA has changed drastically. Before a new rule was implemented, NBA prospects could enter the NBA right out of High school. Only a selective few were big time names coming out of highschool.  Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Dwight Howard, Shawn Kemp, Kevin Garnett, and Moses Malone are the most known High school prospects that came straight from High school into the league and was very successful. There were many more athletes who tried to make that big leap from highschool to the pros and did not quite meet the expectations set out for them. To address this issue, the NBA and their Players Association approved a bargaining agreement that requires prospect entering the draft to be a minimum of 19 years old and or have completed their first year of college. Players are now forced to spend a year in college, even if they had or have no intentions of graduating.


When the rule was first established, it was meant to allow collegiate fans to see superstars like Derrick Rose, Karl Anthony Towns, and Anthony Davis for at least a year. This excitement was quickly reversed when prospects were only meeting the minimum requirements to enter into the NBA draft. Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, has spoken about his willingness to change the rule. “It’s not working for the college coaches and athletic directors I hear from,” Silver proclaimed.  “They’re not happy with the current system. And I know our teams aren’t happy either, in part because they don’t necessarily think the players who chartare coming into the league are getting the kind of training that they would expect to see.”


As you can see in the graph displayed, there has been a significant jump of one and done prospects over the past few years. In 2008, there was 16 freshman who declared for the draft and was drafted in the first and second round. There was a significant drop off of young prospects in years 2009-2015. The hype began to pick up a lot more in years 2016 and 2017. Last years’ draft had the most one and done draftees in history. 24 freshmen were drafted in the first and second round. There were 40 freshmen overall declaring for the draft.


40 freshmen declared for the draft.


meta-chartMany have questioned and have concerns about the one year out of high school rule. College coaches and college administrations disagree with the one and done rule. Many college coaches look to build a foundation with their programs. How can college coaches create a foundation with athletes only coming to their school for one year.


Schools like Kentucky, Duke and Kansas have been named the prolific one and done schools. Prospects would only go to these schools for a year and seek to enter the draft after their first collegiate season.  


In the graph above, you can see that since 2016, Kentucky has had the most one and done players coming out of there program. Duke is in a distant second following Kansas with 8 players.


Now the question is, are the athletes benefiting from one year in college? Is there another option for these prospects to take instead of one year in college?


meta-chart copy.jpegTo decipher this issue, I am going to look at their performance in the NBA to determine if the year in college helps them or hurts them.


One and Done athletes  average 1.3 more points than other players in their drafts.

meta-chart copy 2One and Done Players average less assist than other players in the Draft.


These charts do not give an accurate assumption whether their production in the NBA could be better if they could have gone straight to the league from High school.


Many believe that most young prospects are not developed enough or ready to jump into the league at such a young age. Allowing them to get more experience, exposure and training in college could propel them with a long career in the pros. Others say that if prospects want to enter the league, why should we hold them back.


This is a constant conversation that has been going on for the past few years and has reared its head again over the past few months. Not knowing what the future holds for the ‘one and done rule’, could be detrimental to the athletes and the NBA. Adam Silver is determined to come up with a solution that will well suit all parties involved.


All the NBA draft’s one-and-done lottery picks: a scorecard

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Why the Way That You “root, root, root, for the home team” is Changing the Game

Written By: Brooke Brady

“What’s it been- 30 years now of the Sunday tradition coming to the old ball game?” Ben gleams. “Where’s Jim?” Ronald turns to him and asks. “Darn box office prices got to him again. These costs just keep soaring. I’m not sure if we can keep this weekly venture up…” Ben stiffens. Ronald looks around at the cold empty seats by his side. He reflects on the time when he could barely get a spot in the nosebleeds to see his favorite team play in the sweltering heat. Now, no one comes out to the plate anymore- it’s all seen on TV.

Bat and ball has become a whole new ball game for baseball lovers around the nation as more and more people are watching from the comfort of their home. With the rise of live stream and online viewing for sports, major decrease in fan attendance to the actual game has followed according to the NY times. Not only is accessibility a cause for decrease, but also the lack of actual game play. Sources such as The Washington Post have found that box office numbers are “directly tied to the rise in strikeouts and fall in base hits.”


Baseball fans around the country have continuously complained of the changes the game is experiencing. From a major increase in strikeouts, to an excruciatingly long play time, baseball is said to be becoming the game with “not enough action” as said by the Boston Globe So what exactly does this mean for the future of baseball?

It means less money in ticket sales and less people in the stands for the entirety of the game. Wait times between plays have increased substantially. According to Sports Illustrated, “the average time between balls put in play is a staggering 3 minutes, 45 seconds.” USA Today reports that “the game is simply devoid of action, with players striking out, walking or hitting home runs in 34 percent of their plate appearances. So, for more than a third of every game, there’s not a fielder involved in the action.” 

On the contrary, sports columnist, Noah Frank, has decided that these claims are simply the “perspectives of people who watch the game every day, for work… while they may be some of the most informed when it comes to the minutiae happening on the field, they are necessarily blind to the fan perspective.”

He believes that baseball has been and always will be “entertainment.” He doesn’t think that people will stop coming to the game simply because it takes too long, but more so because it costs too much. Wtop sports reports, the truth is that “the value of such entertainment isn’t measured in pitch clocks or percentage of balls put in play — it’s measured in dollars and cents.” Frank continues to elaborate on his view that baseball as a sport is too costly. He incorporates the fact that parking has become outrageous, food prices are continuing to skyrocket, and even the ticket price has “doubled since the year 2007.” All of these factors build over time and eventually discourage people from attending the big game.


“I know it’s a hassle getting to the ballpark. I get it. Even if we’d have won 100 games, who knows if it would have been different?”

– Kevin Kiermaier (Rays outfielder)


Frank does turn to the numbers for support as well. Pointing out that the minor league has actually had a “increase in average attendance and overall since 2016.” This is because people view the minor league as the “best entertainment value” and a more “loyal fan base” found among the 160 teams.

There is no shortage of conversation among the fans and their fellow attendees. People have taken advantage of the internet and the ease of communication it has brung among the “common folk” and the big corporations which run many sports leagues.

One service in particular for users to directly interact with companies and sponsors is the social media network “twitter.” With only 280 characters, people have their opportunity to voice their concerns and opinions. The platforms main form of communication features “tweets” which are ultimately posts to a world wide bulletin board. After analyzing tweets containing the words, “mlb attendance,” it is easy to see that the dialogue around baseball turnout today isn’t a positive one. Overall, there is a trend of criticism combating the numerous claims of attendance lowering throughout the league. Audience members throw around the word “ratings” and claim that all MLB wants is to make more money.

To understand the fan-baseball attendance relationship, I decided to dig deeper and analyze the language and recurring media trends seen throughout the tweets. I found this collection of data as the best methodical approach due to the fact that many times, twitter conversations are typically candid and show a great depth of personality. They give a unique glance at the public’s reaction to minute events and show us how individuals use the network to make their voice heard. As a casual form of media, twitter engages users in a continuous conversation which can be seen by everyone. This distinctive feature distinguishes the platform from other forms of communication and social media.

There remains an open discussion among fans asking why this is happening and whether or not the patterns will continue. Many of the tweets feature linked articles or responses to prior conversations in the twitter world around MLB motivations. Most of the talk is streamed directly from personal accounts, but every now and then a touch of accredited news sources or organizations will pop up. What does this mean for the companies in charge of the big business of baseball? Are they hearing their fans out or are they simply doing what is best for the enterprise.


Nationals play Seattle Mariners 5/25/2017

“This game was moved to 12:05 from 4:05 start to get avoid rain expected later. Resulting in rather low attendance as we watch the first Seattle batter come to the plate.” 

Michael Neubert, Getty Images

One user account, @ProblemsMlb, is dedicated to the sole purpose of striking up a conversation around the issues in the MLB. A specific conversation the account pursued brought in the perspective of the family. On December 6th, 2018, he wrote a response to an initial tweet made by WOWK 13 News linking their article on the “steep attendance drop” throughout the league. 

The additional use of hashtags to advertise ones tweet has also remained relevant in the discussion around MLB. Popular hashtags include: MLB, Fans, Attendance, and even things like the mentioned above, affordability. All of 

Screen Shot 2018-12-10 at 3.52.17 PM.pngthese factors point to the fact that the fans of the MLB want particular pieces of their tweets to stick out. The hashtag gives a user the ability to follow a certain word through a like strand of tweets containing the same tag. This gives the tweets more exposure and in the case of frequent tweeters such as @Problemsmlb, a consistent track of their previous comments and thoughts.

Everyday another account updates their twitter with an opinion about the MLB and their attendance policies. These postings can range from parody articles, to statistics, to angry rants, but the fact that there is still an ongoing conversation proves to be a good thing. As the saying goes, “bad publicity is still publicity” and it can be considered that the MLB will continue to take everything and make it a home run.

An additional piece of evidence worth understanding is the MLB year-by-year statistical report with average attendance, average attendance per game, and average number of pitchers used by individual teams in the season.

“Average attendance” provides average numbers  based on the amount of tickets sold during home games. The table shows a substantial increase from 2000 until 2007, when the numbers of average overall attendance begin to drop again. This trend downward may be due to the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2007-2008 in which many people began to eliminate frivolous entertainment practices. From 2008 to 2009 is when we can see the biggest drop as explained by @ProblemsmlbSeason tickets are automatically renewed the year before, so this drop in 2009 as opposed to 2008 was probably due to the fact that people had to cancel their tickets later than they wanted to due to renewal constraints.

Screen Shot 2018-12-10 at 9.00.33 PM.pngIn the far left column of the table also stands the pitchers statistic. The only significance this pattern shows is the continuing increase in the number of pitchers teams keep on their roster. With more team members, comes more costs and more salaries to pay so as this goes up, so will prices, and then attendance will fall.

Dynamic pricing has also become a hot button for the people whom are purchasing tickets to the game. The algorithm many ticket specialists are using is said to “measure demand and price sensitivity to a particular game on a real-time basis” as fangraph explains. It’s not just a one and done deal for pricing consultants and teams alike, “many factors are considered, including the weather, a winning or hitting streak, the debut of a hot prospect and the price tickets are selling for on the secondary market, like StubHub.”

All in all, people are beginning to focus their interests and money elsewhere. After reading endless tweets about fan complaints and experiences, it was seen that people simply don’t want to spend the money and time anymore at the actual game. Families and even just regular old sports fans don’t like the amount of bills traveling from their wallet to the ticket stands. When they go to purchase their tickets or anything else included in the home game experience, they feel ostracized by their favorite sport. If prices of all aspects of baseball continue to rise, people will find cheaper alternatives to actually showing up to be the live audience.

Times are changing according to Beyond the Boxscore report which states that “the average age of a baseball fans is almost 55.” The average sports fan attention span is slowly degrading as big media companies are working towards making the next big sport faster, better and bigger. The NFL is bringing in the viewers who “don’t have the time to watch nothing happen.” Sports watchers want a lively game for their entertainment. Although baseball has remained prevalent in American culture, will it be able to save it’s long standing decline in attendance? Will it continue to be “America’s favorite past time”? It seems that question will be answered when you attend your next home game.


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