Media Musings

The  introduction of Thierry Henry drew plenty of media coverage both in the New York ara and nationally.  Articles in mainstream publications, interviews on local and national media outlets and discussion on ESPN and elsewhere.  The introduction was well managed by the Red Bulls, and other than a much maligned in studio interview with Good Day New York, Henry’s appearances were impressive and enjoyable.

Unfortunately, the FSC broadcast if Henry’s debut was decidedly unimpressive.  The booth team of Rogadino and Caliguri was below par (in contrast to the Bretos/Twellman pairing from ESPN2 the night before) and Caliguri was especially disappointing.  Stadium microphones were seemingly non-existent and picked up little of the Red Bull Arena crowd.  Replays were poorly managed, with the slow to develop Barclays graphic forcing viewers to miss live action. Cut away shots also cost viewers game action, with the FSC producers electing to show individual shots of players running rather than the ball.  FSC has experienced crews working these games, but the production showed little of that experienced.  So close to the World Cup, the poor quality of the broadcast was readily apparent.

In contrast, the ESPN broadcasts since the World Cup suggest that the World Wide Leader learned something about soccer telecasts from the month in South Africa.  Coverage has been smooth and the new pairing of Max Bretos and Taylor Twellman was solid. ESPN has definitely been heavy on the soccer in the weeks since the World Cup and they have made good use of their various booth teams.  Kyle Martino has become a rising star doing color for the games.

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Soccer Business Bits: Expansion in Portland, Friendly Fun and More

rslAnother weekend of soccer is in the books and it was another full slate for the Beautiful Game in the States.  However, before we get to the weekend, a couple of notes.  First, Michael Lewis of the Salt Lake Tribune weighs in with a detailed piece looking at the business side of MLS.  Lewis notes the importance of the internet in helping fans follow their teams when frustrated with the lack of soccer coverage in the mainstream media.  He includes some interesting anecdotes about the “old days” of MLS, when Brian Dunseth found out when his team was folding.  Lewis includes some interviews with Don Garber and others and includes some interesting financials.  The article is a good read and provides a nice summary of the League’s business growth.

In Portland, the debate over the Timbers’ effort to renovate PGE Park continues.  Last week, Justin Curzi published a piece entitled PGE Park: The Numbers Don’t Add Up.  Therein, he argues that PGE’s current capacity is sufficent for the Timbers and that a renovation is unnecessary.  He doesn’t heavily rely on data, instead making a mostly anecdotal argument, but his comments drew a pretty strong reaction.  The comments to the article are definitely worth a read and at least one was published by the paper the following day.  The fight in Portland continues, while its cousin in expansion (Vancouver) has been relatively quiet. Despite the 2011 expansion date, Portland is an unsettled situation and we will continue to follow the story.

In Philly, the US Men snuck by Panama in front of 31k.  The write-up from Philly is here. It is hard to read much into the crowd, although you would like to think that a soccer hungry city, just months away from getting its own team would have generated a better turnout for the double header.  In Seattle, 65k came out to watch the Sounders play a friendly against Chelsea.  The crowd sounded great, and by all reports, were heavily favoring the Sounders.  A big crowd also showed in in Palo Alto for the Inter/America game in the opener of the World Football Challenge (on ESPN2).  Finally, a sell-out was announced for the Galaxy’s home game against AC Milan.  FSC will broadcast the match on Monday night. milan

The Return of Beckham: The Business of the FSC Broadcast

becks2The big story in American soccer is the return of David Beckham to MLS and the Galaxy lineup.  As we have on a number of prior occassions, we thought we would blog about the business of the TV coverage of an important American soccer game.  As is typical, FSC started with a 30 minute pre-game.  The pre-game was sponsored by Geico, and included a Beckham interview, a Grant Wahl interview and the usual FSC personalities breaking down the game.

Advertisers for the broadcast included a slew of national companies, including Home Depot, American Airlines, Sketchers, Adidas, Quiznos, Panasonic, Dick’s and more. During the game, there were on screen logos for Home Depot, Adidas, Panasonic, Glidden, Dick’s, USSF and Makita Tools.   Stadium advertising included VW, Pepsi, Makita, X-Box, Napa, Gatorade and more.

The halftime show was sponsored by Dick’s, but the halftime commercials were of a lesser variety, including adds for Gracie Combat, American Airlines, USSF and more. During the second run, there were commercials from Dick’s, Home Depot, Glidden and Panasonic and FSC standard, Pro Activ.

The crowd was lively and FSC did a fairly good job of conveying the atmosphere through its broadcast.  FSC did a fairly reasonable job of advertising the upcoming Gold Cup matches both in game and during the pre/half time. Max Bretos was also sure to promote the CONCACAF and UEFA Champions League competitions on FSC.  They also did some promotion of the AC Milan/Galaxy match.   Beckham fawing was largely kept in check.

Soccer Business Bits: Deals, Deals and More Deals

crew-jerseyAs we do every few weeks, it is time again to take a look around MLS for ticket offers and bargains.  The Columbus Crew are offering the “July Mini Ball Pack“.   Starting at $19 per ticket, the package includes a mini-ball per ticket.  The package requires the purchase of 4 tickets and 4 balls.

Not surprisingly, the Red Bulls are promoting David Beckham’s trip to Giants Stadium this week.  The nationally televised game on FSC is being paired with the Gold Cup Final as part of a “Combo Pack“.   Sideline tickets are being combined for $80 with lesser seats for $55.   For the Beckham game alone, the Red Bulls are also offering the same tickets for $220 (for 4) and $180 (for 4).  These packages also include a $20 food and beverage credit.

Speaking of Mr. Beckham, the Galaxy are also pushing a “Beckham’s Back” effort for the AC Milan/Galaxy game next week.  After promoting the game through a number of different combo deals, the Galaxy are now selling the tickets on a stand alone basis. Standing room seats are selling for $50.

The Chicago Fire, are pimping an array of packages for the rest of the season.  These include a “4-4-4″ that includes four tickets, four drinks and four hot dogs for $79.  Other Fire offers include 3 game packs, 5 game packs and a 20 game flex pack.  Finally (and somewhat surprisingly), RSL is still offering discounts for the upcoming All Star Game.  These include $35 vouchers obtainable through local KFC locations.   The link for stand alone All Star tickets on the RSL website is currently down.rsl

Business Bits: United Stadium, TV Rights and More

unitedDC United’s efforts to get a stadium built in Prince George’s County took a small step forward with the Maryland House Appropriations Committee approving a bill to fund a study about the project.  United is seeking State and County funds to build a new soccer specific stadium near the Metro in Maryland.  With RFK crumbling and a stadium near the Anacostia River, PG County is likely the best option for United.  The vote is positive, but the 17-7 vote tally is concerning for such a minor measure.  Stadium projects are not popular in this economy and United may find itself without a home if it alienates the District.

UPDATE:  According to this note in the Washington Post, the Study may not go forward after all.  Because of an apparent misunderstanding of the separation of powers, the Legislature has over-stepped its authority and will have to reconsider the bill. 

According to this AP story, Fox Soccer has won the rights to televise Champions League games for the next three years.  FSC beat out ESPN for the rights: a large coup for the soccer-only channel.  At the same time, ESPN is apparently offering cable companies and other distributors the opportunity to accept an ESPN Classic for ESPNU switch. The proposal would move Classic to a sports tier, thereby significantly decreasing its availability.  In recent years, Classic was regularly used to show non-marquee USMNT games.  This switch may either force ESPN to keep soccer on ESPN/ESPN2 or significantly reduce the available viewing audience.

As we have previously reported, MLS has shown a  surprising ability to retain major sponsors in tough economic time.  According to this latest report from the Sports Business Journal, Pepsi is now part of the list of retained companies.  Interestingly, the deal will switch the sponsorship focus from Sierra Mist (which was omnipresent as an MLS marketer), to Pepsi and Gatorade.  MLS has continued to show remarkable resilience with its sponsorships on both a League and Team Level with sponsors like Panasonic and VW staying with the League.

The Morning After: MLS, WPS, USMNT

wpsIt was a big weekend for U.S. soccer fans.  The National Team was in El Salvador for a qualifier, WPS kicked off in Los Angeles and the MLS completed its second week of games.   ESPN2 televised the National Team (after not showing an MLS game this week).  Captain Morgan’s featured prominently as an advertisor (I don’t remember them investing heavily in soccer previously) and there was otherwise a fairly typical mix of national and local advertising.  Heineken and Southwest also purchased ad time.  The crew was on site (as opposed to a booth in Bristol) and the production went fairly smoothly throughout.

FSC televised the WPS opener at 6:00 EST on Sunday.  Mark Rogondino manned the booth for play-by-play.  As a founding partner, Puma featured prominently throughout.  Super Eight Hotels, American Airlines were among the sponsors along with ususal suspects ProActiv and Soccer Shop.  Just under 15k attended the event at the Home Depot; a nice opening for the League’s first game.

League-wide, attendance in MLS was disappointing in week two despite another strong showing in Seattle.  The Rapids and RedBulls opened with less than 12,500 in New York and less than 12,000 in Commerce City.  Columbus raised its championship banner in front of less than 15k.  San Jose sold out for the second consecutive week and about 16k came to RFK for United’s home opener.  Sunday was the most distressing number, with less than 7k showing up at Pizza Hut Park.

It is not terribly surprising that a rainy night in New York for the Bulls’ last campaign at Giants Stadium drew poorly, but the numbers in Colorado and Columbus are fairly disappointing.  The weather wasn’t great in DC either, but for one of the League’s perennial attendance powerhouses, it is a low number.  We have previously discussed the attendance woes in Dallas, but this number is exceptionally bad.  Fans of the team have been clamoring for a change in the front office, and if the sub 10k numbers continue, changes might follow.

The FSC game had the usual mix of Home Depot and ProActiv commercials combined with a fair amount of MLS Works and PassBack spots.  RSL’s broadcast (of  its game against Seatle), was heavily sponsored by KFC, and a local bank.  In San Jose, Amway again featured prominently on stadium singage and a half time interview with the Quakes’ VP of Marketing touched on the new campaign and the addition of a new beer garden and other stadium improvements.  We touched on that campaign here.san-jose