5ish Links

Play Ball

(First published on 4/7/17 on 5ish Links, my newsletter — more)

It’s spring. Baseball is in the air. So I figured I’d share some sports-related links that I’ve been reading recently. Apologies if sports isn’t your thing, but there are also other angles behind each of these: tech, business, psychology, greatness.

5ish Links

NFL and Amazon Reach One-Year Streaming Deal for About $50 Million

Joe Flint and Shalini Ramachandran:

The one-year agreement is valued at around $50 million, according to people familiar with the matter. That price tag represents a fivefold increase over the NFL’s agreement with Twitter for the same number of games last season.

While Twitter streamed the games on its free social network site, Amazon’s games will be available only to its Amazon Prime members, who pay $99 a year for free, two-day shipping and access to music, movies and TV shows. Amazon has more than 60 million Prime members world-wide, according to analyst estimates.

Another bad loss for Twitter. Honest question: did they get anything out of the deal last year? They got some buzz, but it didn’t seem to translate into either users or revenue, so what was the point? Vanity?

I’d bet Amazon gets a lot more out of this deal…

For Amazon, the push into sports distinguishes its programming ambitions from Netflix Inc. and Hulu, the online streaming service co-owned by Walt Disney Co. , 21st Century Fox , Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Inc. Both Netflix and Hulu have steered clear of sports and other live content.

I’m surprised Hulu didn’t make more noise trying to do this — considering they’re owned by the networks which are well-versed in sports rights.

The N.F.L. and the Business of Ripping Out the Heart of Oakland

Michael Powell on the NFL owners vote to move the Raiders from Oakland to Las Vegas:

One team owner, Stephen M. Ross of the Miami Dolphins, voted against the relocation. “We as owners and as a league owe it to the fans to do everything we can to stay in communities that have supported us,” he said in a statement.

That was so sweet of him; I hope he has put a few food tasters on his staff.

Great line. But really, how ridiculous is it that cities are still paying for these stadiums which return very little beyond the possibility of heartache, like Oakland is felling right now? This should be the way.

“He left us in the dust.”

This year’s Masters, which teed off yesterday, marks the 20th anniversary of Tiger Woods’ historic turn. ESPN caught up with some of the other golfers who were on the course for that ride.

Nick Faldo:

“He went out in 40 and back in 30 and then we didn’t see him for the next 14 years. He left us in the dust. It was a special day. It was the way he went out in 40 and then to win by 12. That’s something pretty unique. [It’s like] you miss the first corner and then don’t see him for dust. That’s really what that week was.’’

Paul Azinger:

“He was unaffected by the magnitude of what he was trying to accomplish. That’s what struck me. He wants to play well way more than he is afraid of failing. There were little things in my head that I envied in him because he wasn’t afraid of screwing up. Not everybody thinks that way. That’s an asset. … When people asked me about Tiger later in his career, I always said he wants it more than everybody else. That doesn’t mean we don’t want it. … He’s less afraid of failure than anybody I’ve ever seen. As a result he failed less often.’’

Colin Montgomerie (at the time):

“There’s more to it than hitting the ball a long way, and the pressure’s mounting more and more. I’ve got more experience, a lot more experience, in major championships than he has. And hopefully I can prove that.’’

And now:

“I’ll never forget it. I outdrove him on the first. I hit the back of the bunker and it shot forward and I got him by a yard. I could have walked in. I don’t think I saw him again all day. I think he was 60, 70 yards ahead of me all day. It was phenomenal to watch him. He knew it was going in and his caddie knew it was going in and I knew it was going in and everyone knew it was going in. The belief that he had that a ball was going to go in. Now Augusta is the most difficult to commit to and believe that the ball is going to go in the hole. Tiger had that belief at 21 years old. Incredible.”

How insane was the performance?

Notable: Woods’ 12-shot victory was the largest in any major championship going back to the 1862 Open at Prestwick, which Tom Morris Sr. won by 13 shots — in a field that had just eight players. Woods later set the standard when he won the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by 15 strokes.

And where is Woods, who should be in the twilight of his golf prime. now? Not playing, sadly.

The Best Player in Baseball Doesn’t Want to Be a Superstar

Of all the great athletes these days, Mike Trout may be the one who interests me the most. Not because I’m an Angels fan — I’m not — but because by basically all metrics and statistics, he’s so much better than every other ballplayer. Here’s Michael Baumann on him:

Since arriving in the majors, Trout has played five full seasons, and he’s won five Silver Slugger awards and made five All-Star teams. He’s led the American League in WAR five times, and finished no worse than second in AL MVP voting, including two wins. Since 1901, nobody except Williams has produced more WAR than Trout in his first six seasons, though Williams played an extra 81 games, and five of those seasons were pre-integration. Trout has the sixth-highest OPS+ (minimum 2,500 plate appearances) for a player in his first six years, though everyone ahead of him except Ty Cobb was older and played in a less valuable corner position. Trout has two 10-win seasons, a feat only five players (Trout, Bonds, and three Hall of Famers) have ever achieved. At his current pace, Trout will close in on 60 career WAR — the modern sabermetric floor for a Hall of Fame career — in early 2018, when he’s 26 years old, and with less than seven years of service time. He’ll have Hall of Fame numbers three years before he’s played long enough to be eligible for the Hall of Fame.

I mean, it’s absolutely insane. He should be the game’s biggest superstar and highest paid player. Yet he’s stuck on the Angels (who struck a genius deal a few years back to lock him in). Free Mike Trout!

U.S. Sports Leagues, Fretting Over Revenue, Warm Up to Legalized Betting

Brad Reagan and Chris Kirkham:

The lifeblood of the sports industry is the billions of dollars leagues collect from broadcast networks. With ratings softening in the era of cord-cutting and streaming, the changing views of commissioners reflect an increased appreciation for new technologies that could heighten engagement with fans — and possibly generate new revenue streams as well.

Many sports executives are especially intrigued by the potential of expanded in-game betting, a mobile-friendly type of wagering that accounts for the majority of sports gambling in Europe, according to gambling-industry executives. That type of wagering represents a fraction of U.S. betting, in large part because the legal sports-betting markets are so small that they don’t justify the required investments, these executives said.

The leagues “are reversing themselves, but in a very shrewd and strategic way,” said one lawyer who has been involved in the issue for many years. “They are trying to find ways to make money.”

Is there any question that gambling and the major professional sports leagues are officially tied together eventually? No, there is not. It’s just a matter of when.

The NFL holds the strongest stance against it — and just voted to move a team to Las Vegas. The other leagues are warming quickly to the idea. Which could not be any less surprising. That revenue is going to need to some from somewhere as television deals morph

(First published on 4/7/17 on 5ish Links, my newsletter)

Written by

General Partner @ GV (née Google Ventures). In past lives I wrote at TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and ParisLemon. A man of few words. Except when writing. 🍻

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