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Is There Money In The NFT Fad For Sports Media Brands?

“Perhaps the windfall a media company can receive has less to do with generating income by selling NFTs and more to do with adjusting to the behavior of those participating in the trade.”

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The NBA has Top Shot. The NFL is reportedly looking into launching something similar. The sports world clearly understands that there is money to be made in non-fungible tokens. 

The Future is Now: NBA Top Shot is the New Digital Frontier | SLAM

What are non-fungible tokens? Well, first of all, if you’re cool, you call them NFTs. According to Coinbase, NFTs are “are a special kind of cryptoasset in which each token is unique”. 

Most of the cryptocurrencies we are familiar with offer a single thing for a single price. Bitcoin, for instance, was valued just under $60,200 when I started writing this. Before I hit publish though, the price plummeted by 10%. Fork over whatever the current amount is, and you get a single Bitcoin.

With NFTs, you are buying something specific. In the case of Top Shot, your investment gets you a particular highlight. That makes it possible to swing trades and make deals with NFTs in a way that is more akin to an NBA GM than a day trader.

Following so far?

Honestly, me neither, so let’s just get to the question at hand.

Art is sold as NFTs. Albums are sold as NFTs. Any bit of code can be an NFT, so is there a way radio can make money off of the trend?

In order to figure out the answer to that question, I asked my friend Jordan Holberg for help. We went school together from third grade until the end of high school. Fun fact about Jordan: when we were in sixth grade, he once made me laugh so hard I peed my pants.

He was in AP and honors classes. I mostly didn’t do homework. That meant I went to Alabama and he went to NYU. Now, I write about sports media for a living, and he has just started his own company that mints NFTs and cryptocurrency.

He is very smart. I am very dumb. A perfect example of that fact is that when we were exchanging messages and emails about this column and he referenced the SEC, he stopped to make sure I understood that he was talking about the Securities and Exchanges Commission and not the Southeastern Conference.

Full disclosure: I did not, but pretended I did.

Anyway, Jordan explained that the idea of non-fungible tokens is sort of the final evolution that futurists and the Cyberpunk genre had been envisioning for cryptocurrency all along. NFTs themselves are not a cryptocurrency. They are how you invest your cryptocurrency.

I told Jordan that between something like the NBA’s Top Shot and a band like Kings of Leon releasing their latest album as an NFT, they seemed more like something you buy because you are a fan than a strategic investment. Jordan says that it helps to think back to when you were a kid collecting baseball cards.

“Was that about fandom or investing? I certainly remember going to card shows at the Howard Johnson and drooling over a Nolan Ryan rookie card, or placing value on cards with printed errors,” he told me in an email. “Non-Fungible Tokens exist in this very fungible space at the intersection of gaming, social, and finance, and I think it’s fascinating the Internet has facilitated the existence of this new type of entity.”

Okay, so we’re talking about a “you got chocolate in my peanut butter” kind of situation. Sure, NFTs are investments, but the desire to invest in a lot of cases is driven by fandom. That means that entering the NFT market may not be viable for everyone in the sports media industry, but iconic brands like ESPN or local institutions like KFAN in Minneapolis or WFAN in New York may be able to offer fans something in this space.

I asked Jordan what would be a reasonable NFT offer from a sports media brand. I was prepared to hear him mention something like a podcast or the ability to download a show that may not be available to own or have on any other platform. Instead, I was surprised by how familiar his suggestion seemed.

“The first thing that pops into my head is community,” he answered. “It’s dead-simple, at least in relative terms, to create a gated social community experience for NFT holders. It’s like a virtual ticket that isn’t forgeable, could be non-transferable, and has the potential to constantly make money for its issuer.”

That sounds an awful lot like ESPN+ or Mike Francesa’s ill-fated Mike’s On app. I am not saying it is the wrong answer. I don’t even know enough to know if there is a wrong answer. Maybe it speaks to the idea that an NFT can be anything.

mikes on app - Jacobs Media Strategies

The other thing to remember is that before any company can make a fortune on NFTs, it may have to invest a fortune. Take Jordan’s exclusive community. Why is it different than something like an app or a subscription service? Jordan tells me that when NFTs are involved, consumers’ concerns do not stop at status updates or memes. Their investment has them thinking about much more significant factors.

“When it comes to brands, big or small, lawyers have to get involved for sure. Again, NFTs are just digital property rights, but we aren’t digital beings and the world doesn’t exist only on the Internet. Intellectual Property, indemnification, terms of service, all that typical stuff still needs to be considered and isn’t part of anything on the blockchain. That said, it’s as complicated as you want it to be, but because NFTs are forever (if you code them that way), it’s a lot to consider.”

One advantage large, well-known sports media brands could have in the NFT space is the trust factor. I cannot help but think that is part of what has driven Top Shot’s success. Sure, fans love the highlights and the players involved, but the NBA is a global entity. I would guess most NFT believers are more confident in its integrity than some other players in the space. At the very least, people dealing in NFTs can be confident that the NBA has too much to lose to openly run a scam.

Look, I’m not naive. The banking industry, Wall Street, insurance companies, government. I know there are plenty of well-known, long established entities that are perfectly capable of operating in ways that are designed to screw their customers. There is something about fandom though that makes us willing to take on some risk. We want to trust these things and people we have something invested in wouldn’t screw us.

For instance, Jordan tells me that he believes that a large percentage of the NFT art market is being driven by money laundering. “Remember, this is a completely unregulated, brand new industry, and one should never underestimate the greed of others,” he says.

He says that for consumers, the thing to remember is that an NFT is really just a contract. It says that the buyer is exchanging a certain amount of cryptocurrency for a digital entity of some sort.

“These contracts are little programs and each one has been coded by someone. There are contract standards, but it’s up to the consumer to understand what they’re getting into. There’s nothing stopping a smart contract programmer from coding the NFT to say, ‘after 30 days, destroy yourself’. That’s an incredibly daunting task for anyone other than the most technical and hardcore blockchain user, so there’s a certain amount of trust most NFT holders are placing in the system.”

r/NFT - This is a scam!
An actual piece of NFT art that went on the market last month

Companies in the media space can achieve plenty of monetary gain from the NFT craze. There is also something to be learned. Perhaps the windfall a media company can receive has less to do with generating income by selling NFTs and more to do with adjusting to the behavior of those participating in the trade.

Jordan doesn’t have predictions on what will happen. What he does know is that NFTs have shown consumers that the model social media networks, company websites, and mobile games have operated under for so long is not the only way consumers can access the content they are looking for online anymore.

“There’s going to be a huge shift between the current attention economy, where creators are paid based on engagement (likes, follows, clicks, eyeballs) and those doing the actual engagement get nothing other than their data mined and sold, to a participation economy, where everyone is compensated and has a stake in whatever it is they’re engaging with. If NFTs are based on crypto and part of a larger whole, and they have value assigned to them, and those NFTs can be bought, sold, and traded, the more compelling their use-cases are, the more functionality they provide and active the community, the more monetary incentives, policy, and governance can be created to compensate and incentivize participation.”

Technology is a constantly evolving thing, so each generation’s expectation of entertainment changes. Think about social media. The idea of being able to send a message to your favorite player after a game and the potential for them to respond directly to you was something that existed only in our dreams when we were teenagers. It makes sense then that the idea that a fan should get something more for their investment than just a newsletter or t-shirt is coming. It’s an expectation sports media companies should be thinking about right now, so that they aren’t the last ones into a flooded marketplace.

Inducing choice paralysis: how retailers bury customers in an avalanche of  options

“Crypto/NFTs have opened up a whole new world of what it means to be a consumer of entertainment and culture, and, for the moment, the sky’s the limit,” Jordan tells me. “We are very early.”

BSM Writers

Keeping Premier League Games Shouldn’t Be A Hard Call For NBC

“Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans.”

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NBC Sports is facing some tough, costly decisions that will define its sports brand for the rest of this decade.  A chance to connect with viewers in a changing climate and grow Peacock’s audience as well.  However, making the right choice is paramount to not losing to apps like Paramount+ (pun intended).

NBC is currently in the business of negotiating to continue airing the Premier League as their current deal ends after this 2021-2022 season.  NASCAR is contracted to NBC (and FOX) through the 2024 season.

NBC’s tentpole sports are the NFL and the Olympics.  

Negotiations for the EPL are expected to go down to the wire. Rather than re-up with NBC, the league is meeting with other networks to drive up the price. NBC has to then make a decision if the rights go north of $2 billion.

Should NBC spend that much on a sport that is not played in the United States? It’s not my money, but that sport continues to grow in the US.

If NBC re-ups with the Premier League, will that leave any coins in the cupboard to re-up with NASCAR? Comcast CEO Brian Roberts hinted that there might be some penny pinching as the prices continue to soar. This may have been one of the reasons that NBC did not fight to keep the National Hockey League, whose rights will be with Disney and WarnerMedia through ESPN and TNT, respectively.

“These are really hard calls,” Roberts said. “You don’t always want to prevail, and sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong, but I think the sustainability of sports is a critical part of what our company does well.”

Roberts was speaking virtually at the recent Goldman Sachs 30th Annual Communacopia Conference. He told the audience that between NBC and European network Sky, that Comcast has allocated approximately $20 billion towards these sports properties.

Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh spoke virtually at the Bank of America Securities 2021 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference and echoed that the company is in a good position to make some strong choices in the sports realm. 

“The bar is really high for us to pursue outright acquisitions of any material size,” Cavanagh added. “We got a great hand to play with what we have.”

While the European investments involve a partnership with American rival Viacom, the US market seems to have apparent limits.

Last Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway was seen by around 2.19 million people. It was the most-watched motorsports event of the weekend. That same week eight different Premier League matches saw over 1 million viewers. More than half of those matches were on subscription-based Peacock. 

Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans. A game of typical soccer fan is used to a sport that is less than two hours long. The investment in a team is one or two games a week. 

My connection to the Premier League began before the pandemic.  When I cut the cord in late 2017, I purchase Apple TV.  Setting it up, it asks you to name your favorite teams.  After clicking on the Syracuse Orange and the New Jersey Devils, I recalled that my wife has family based in London, England.  They are season ticket holders for Arsenal, and that family redefined the word “die-hard” fans.

I’ve long been a believer that sports allegiances are best when handed down by family. I love hearing stories of people loving the New York Giants because their parents liked them, and they pass it down to their children.

I’ve successfully given my allegiance to the Devils to my young daughters. 

By telling Apple TV that I liked Arsenal, I get alerts from three different apps when the “Gunners” are playing. The $4.99 is totally worth it to see Arsenal.

Whenever I told this story, I was amazed to see how many other American sports fans had a Premier League team. Students of mine at Seton Hall University rooted for Tottenham Hotspurs, while an old colleague cheers on Chelsea.

Global Is Cool': The Growing Appeal of Premier League Soccer in America
Courtesy: Morning Consult

This is not meant to say that NBC should sign the EPL on my account. The key for any US-based soccer fan is that between Bundesliga, Serie A, and other leagues, there will be no shortage of soccer available on both linear television and streaming services.

Besides, Dani Rojas did say that “Football is life.”  NBC, originator of the Ted Lasso character, should make keeping its Premier League US connection a priority.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 45

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Today, Demetri is joined by Tyler McComas and Russ Heltman. Tyler pops on to talk about the big start to the college football season on TV. Russ talks about Barstool’s upfront presentation and how the business community may not see any problems in working with the brand. Plus, Demetri is optimistic about FOX Sports Radio’s new morning show.

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BSM Writers

6 Ad Categories Hotter Than Gambling For Sports Radio

“Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life.”

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For years sports radio stations pushed sports gambling advertisers to early Saturday and Sunday morning. The 1-800 ads, shouting, and false claims were seedy, and some stations wouldn’t even accept the business at 5 am on Sunday.

Now, with all but ten states ready to go all in on sports gambling, sports radio stations can’t get enough of that green. Demetri Ravanos wrote about the money cannon that sports gambling has become for stations. Well, what if you are in one of those ten states where it isn’t likely to ever be legal like California or Texas? Where is your pot of gold?

A Pot of Gold Articles - Analyzing Metals
Courtesy: iStockphoto

Or, let’s face it, the more gambling ads you run, the more risk you take on that the ads will not all work as you cannibalize the audience and chase other listeners away who ARE NOT online gambling service users and never will be. So, what about you? Where is your pot of gold?

Well, let’s go Digging for Gold. 

The RAB produces the MRI-Simmons Gold Digger PROSPECTING REPORT for several radio formats. In it, they index sports radio listeners’ habits against an average of 18+ Adult. The Gold Digger report looks at areas where the index is higher than the norm – meaning the sports radio audience is more likely to use the product or service than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. The report, generated in 2020, indicates that sports radio listeners are 106% more likely to have used an online gambling site in the last thirty days. That’s impressive because the report only lists 32 activities or purchases a sports radio listener indexes higher than an average adult. I looked at those 32 higher indexes, and I think we can start looking for some gold.

Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life. The gambling companies who commit significant money to get results will continue advertising and chase the others away. So, the future of sports radio needs to include other cash cows.

If it is evident to online sports gambling services that sports radio stations are a must-buy, who else should feel that way?  I looked at the Top 32 and eliminated the media companies. ESPN, MLB/NHL/NFL networks, and others aren’t spending cash on sports radio stations they don’t own in general. But Joseph A Bank clothing, Fidelity, and Hotwire should! Here’s your PICK-6 list I pulled together that’s hotter than sports gambling:

  • Sportscard collectors, Dapper Labs, Open Sea- read about Sports NFT $.
  • Online brokerage firms-Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Robinhood, Webull, TD Ameritrade
  • Golf courses, resorts, equipment, etc.- we play golf at home and vacation
  • Hotwire.com, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Carnival Corporation, and Priceline.com- we’ve used Hotwire in the last year.
  • FedEx, UPS, U.S. Postal Service, Venmo, PayPal, Zelle-we wired or overnighted $ 
  • Jos. A. Bank, shein.com, macys.com, nordstroms.com- we went to Jos. A. Bank in last three months

The sports card/NFT market is 32% hotter than the sports betting market for sports radio listeners. Everything on the PICK-6 is at least 100% more likely to purchase than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. All listed are at or above indexing strength compared to sports betting. The individual companies I added are industry leaders. Bet on it! Email me for details. 

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