Seen on Screen: Vice Media Launches Online Sports Channel; FOX Sports 1 Pulls Plug on Fox College Saturday

by Jarrel Harris, Editorial Assistant

Vice Media has launched an online sports channel that is “less concerned with what happens in the stadium than on the outside of it,” according to a YouTube trailer the company released.

While major networks such as ESPN already has highlights and game coverage pretty much covered, Vice has taken a new approach to seek an opportunity to tell character-based stories with shows that will examine what players do on their days off, the lives of retired players, superfans and superstars in the making and other off-the field topics.

The channel launches with five shows that cover everything form athletes’ off-field activities (“Off Day”) to vignettes of rabid fans (“Fanfare”). The channel’s other shows feature a Q&A format (“Vice Sports Meets”), a look at retired players (“Athletes After the Fact”) and a look at up and coming athletes (“The Cusp”). The site will feature 10-12 posts per day.  The site launched with a s sit-down interview featuring New York Knicks Forward Carmelo Anthony.

Vice will focus mainly on the four major American sports: football, baseball, basketball and hockey.

… Almost a year has passed since the launch of Fox Sports 1 and the network has dealt with its share of disappointment. Fox Sports Live has evolved and grown into a decent SportsCenter alternative and the network has been able to dip its toes into a number of major live sports like BCS college football, MLB, and NASCAR. The ratings however showcases that Fox Sports 1 has had trouble-finding viewers. One show that has struggled thus far has been Fox College Saturday, hosted by Erin Andrews. FS1′s attempt to go head-to-head against College GameDay has failed miserably. GameDay outdrew Fox’s show 25-1 in ratings for the 2013 season. 25 to 1. GameDay averaged 1.83 million viewers and Fox College Saturday a paltry 73,000.

That has FS1 rethinking their college football strategy.  In his weekly media column, Sports Illustrated‘s Richard Deitsch says the network is likely to move the show to Friday night and replace it on Saturday mornings with a Vegas-oriented show

…Sports Illustrated launched an all-soccer site. With trying to capitalize on the growing sports popularity in America, Sports Illustrated has now made a site dedicated for everything soccer. Sports Illustrated launched Planet Futbol, a new stand-alone site dedicated to year-round coverage of soccer. The timing of the launch of Planet Futbol is clearly geared toward the start of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. But SI executives said there is now more than enough fan and advertiser interest to support a dedicated destination to soccer. Planet Futbol will feature a mix of text, video, audio and photos. But similar to, it will not feature live game rights and instead will be a journalistic-driven effort…

…NBC will air its first MMA bout in July as part of a multiyear deal with the World Series of Fighting that runs through 2017. The move signifies a change in strategy for the Comcast-owned company. When NBC Sports Group passed on a UFC deal in 2011, its executives said MMA was off-brand and difficult to get advertisers to support. Soon after, the World Series of Fighting bought time on NBC Sports Network, which ran two cards in 2012 and six in 2013.

NBC executives decided the series’ performance was good enough ratings-wise for an extension. In 2013, the six World Series of Fighting telecasts averaged 198,000 viewers. For 2014 to date, two telecasts have averaged 228,000 viewers. The new, four-year extension is not a time-buy, but it does not involve a rights fee, either. Rather, NBC has committed to cover some of the production costs.

The deal calls for NBC to carry live 14 World Series of Fighting events this year: 12 on NBCSN and two on NBC. More events will be added in the next few years. The events will be held Friday and Saturday nights in the 9 p.m. ET slot. NBC’s two live cards this year will air on July 5 and Dec. 27. The deal also includes a big digital component. NBC will stream the undercard on its website, making it available to anyone with a broadband connection. It will stream the bigger matches on an authenticated TV Everywhere basis…

…The WNBA’s Washington Mystics have been testing a mobile app this season, becoming the first professional U.S. sports team to stream live games locally via an interactive mobile app. Developed by the New Jersey-based company Kiswe Mobile, the Mystics Live app allows viewers to watch the team’s home games live using six camera angles, replays and real-time statistics. Users can watch the main television feed and listen to the TV broadcast booth, as well. There’s no extra charge to download or use the app.

The existence of the app could be an important step as leagues; teams and media companies look to roll out local streaming services. Unresolved issues around how much these streaming rights are worth — and who owns them — have stalled efforts to roll out local streaming services in other leagues, like MLB, the NBA and NHL.

It’s easier to test these kinds of services in the WNBA because they don’t have the same restrictions as some of the bigger leagues. By design, the WNBA is far more open in a business sense, allowing teams to implement these kinds of services more freely. Mystics executives think the app could be a way to enhance the at-game experience, allowing fans that hook into Verizon Center’s Wi-Fi to follow the TV telecast, call up replays and see real-time statistics. The Mystics are the only WNBA team using this mobile app.

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