Stadium Finds Investing in High Quality Content is Good Business

JohnWallStreet

Stadium hired Shams Charania, Brett McMurphy and Jeff Goodman late in the Summer of 2018 and the high-profile signings immediately paid off. On August 1st, McMurphy dropped a bombshell report indicating that Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer had lied as it related to his knowledge of domestic violence allegations against an assistant coach. The news, which ultimately led to Meyer's retirement, placed a spotlight on McMurphy – and by proxy Stadium – quickly raising the upstart multi-platform digital network’s profile. Over the next three months, Stadium's number of Twitter followers grew +2,047% (currently at 103K), while website traffic climbed +307.5% – validation of CEO Jason Coyle’s belief that investing in high quality content is good business.

Howie Long-Short: Stadium is taking a wise – yet seemingly obvious – approach to building out a sports media entity; establishing themselves as an important part of the sports ecosystem. CEO Jason Coyle explained that “it’s not enough to just be available. Media companies need to be the authoritative voice that the fan seeks out. We recruited guys that could break news, that would bring credibility and could add context and commentary to a story because they’re close to the source.” The strategy has worked. Less than 2 years after its launch, Stadium was on screens in war-rooms and living rooms across the country during the NBA draft as team executives and fans alike hung on Shams next announcement.

The network has also been added to upwards of a dozen distribution platforms since Coyle brought the trio of insiders aboard. That scale – along with greater brand awareness within the sponsorship community – has increased interest amongst media buyers and helped the company to turn a positive ROI on their investment in talent. While Coyle acknowledges that the maturation of the industry has certainly been a contributing factor, he said that he “knows for a fact State Farm supported our draft special because we had Shams Charania.” Heavily promoted across Twitter, the program drew 155,000 total viewers (including 2,500 concurrent throughout).

Moving forward Coyle envisions Stadium becoming a fully programmed network with news and information at its core, original programming built around insiders and a few select “well producedgame broadcasts.” He said that the company will continue to “invest in talent” (think: authoritative voices covering the NFL, MLB, NHL, the gaming sector and college recruiting) and will look to pursue live rights, but that they “won’t get into a check writing contest or put on a game broadcast unless it’s compelling programming.

That’s smart. I’m not a believer in paying millions for tier three or tier four rights. One well-known television executive recently told me that aggregating micro audiences reminded him of an old adage. “A network exec. wants to hire break-through talent for a talk show – someone who can cut through the clutter – and insists on finding a host that will rate a ‘10 out of 10’. Someone tells him that’s not possible, but says that they can bring him 5 2s.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t get the executive to a 10.

The same can be said on the publishing side. Outlets should be investing in the best writers – the ones with the best sources, that are breaking the biggest stories and can provide insight, analysis and perspective (like JohnWallStreet). Publishers churning out game recaps, regurgitating press releases and aggregating news stories are missing the point; they’re also spending unnecessarily. There is now A.I. capable of doing those jobs.

Fan Marino: Stadium wants to be the “go to sports network in the ‘free-to-air’ digital television space”, so Coyle certainly has an agenda, but he makes a strong argument for teams/leagues avoiding the temptation to sell their rights exclusively to paid streaming platforms at a premium (like: DC United). He said that “high school and college kids are not flipping through OTT menus to discover live sports programming. If they’re not waking up thinking about watching a game and actively seeking it out, they aren’t going to find it. There’s no accidental discovery with these digital services, so only the most ardent of fans who are willing to subscribe are going to watch.If a rights holder wants to grow their brand and reach the next generation of fans, then a widely distributed, free to watch platform [where they can tune in and see what's on] is an important component of a broadcast strategy."

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