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The Athletic CCO: ‘Sports Fans Want Advertising’

“They are used to all the integrations you see when you go to games and when you watch on TV.”

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Most of us would prefer to skip through commercials. It is why DVR took off the way that it did and forever changed how we watch television. Sebastian Tomich, the Chief Commercial Officer of The Athletic, thinks differently.

As the subscription-based site begins integrating advertising, he isn’t worried about the user’s reaction.

“Sports fans almost want advertising to be part of their experience because they are used to all the integrations you see when you go to games and when you watch on TV,” Tomich told Ad Exchanger. “The field is so ripe to do creative things.”

When it launched, The Athletic prioritized an ad-free experience. The company’s goal was to generate all of its revenue from subscriptions. That plan changed when The New York Times acquired the business a little over a year ago.

As The Athletic begins to expand its offerings in the video and audio space, Tomich says the company does have a plan. Not all forms of advertising will be on the table.

“Pre-roll video is the one thing I know people will pay to get out of,” he said. “We’re paid products, so it’s hard for us to do pre-roll. You see it in the comments when a journalist inserts a YouTube video into the content and pre-roll ads show up with it. You get a lot of negative feedback, and we didn’t even sell the advertising.”

He told Ad Exchanger that he saw the most lucrative opportunity in the company’s app. Tomich envisions different brands owning different parts of the app, even coverage of a specific team.

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Cari Champion: Amazon Still ‘Figuring Out the Way of the World’ in TV

“I think they kind of give you the keys to the castle and say go ahead and decorate it the way you want. I love that.”

Ricky Keeler

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Cari Champion

Cari Champion hosts The Cari Champion Show every Monday-Friday from noon-2 PM ET on Amazon Prime Video. With her new show, the former host of First Take gets the chance to be creative and do what she wants to, which is to have an honest conversation with a guest. 

“I love the show,” she said on Adam Schein’s Rise And Schein Podcast this week. “I think they kind of give you the keys to the castle and say go ahead and decorate it the way you want. I love that. I get two hours a day, Monday-Friday to talk to so many different people, to cover so many different topics.

“At Amazon Prime Video, they are still figuring out the way of the world in terms of how they want to do live television, there’s just a great opportunity to explore and with traditional linear television, many times you don’t get that opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t work.” 

She told Schein that she doesn’t think the kind of conversations she and her guests have would work for every outlet.

“I think the idea of being able to have an honest conversation is exciting, but it’s also scary for a lot of entities because they don’t know what that all entails. While we are building, I think this is the time to do it so we can see what works…It’s really interesting all of the different outlets and the different shows that we have that cover everything. I bring on our traditional faces, but this is an opportunity for them to explain as opposed to having 45 seconds to respond.” 

When Champion isn’t hosting the show, she also has her podcast, Naked with Cari Champion. When she does that show, it gives her the chance to be even more honest.

“I just do it in a way I hope everyone knows on the outside looking in that it’s not gravy. No one is posting on Instagram their worst day. Sometimes, the power of social media and podcasting can be great because you remove the pretense of the camera and feeling like you have to go to commercial break and you’ve got to get in, got to get out.”

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Pat McAfee Calls Roger Goodell ‘Bush League’ Over Touchback Proposal

“This is a bullshit commissioner move.”

Jordan Bondurant

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The NFL has adopted the NCAA rules for touchbacks and fair catches on kickoffs, and former NFL special teams legend Pat McAfee isn’t a fan in the slightest of the changes.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell lobbied team owners this week to vote again on the rule changes, which would bring the ball on any fair catch or touchback on kicking plays out to the 25 yard line.

On his show Tuesday, McAfee called the efforts by Goodell “bush league.”

“Hey Rog, come on. You’re my commissioner. You’re our commissioner,” he said Tuesday on his YouTube show. “This is a bullshit commissioner move.”

Pat pointed out that for a good majority of the time, the new rule won’t have much of a bearing on games, as most kickoffs nowadays result in a touchback. But McAfee added that there’s a good chance this is going to come back to bite the league a little bit because it eliminates an element of strategy in the game.

“But at some game where it’s gonna be windy and cold, and games are gonna matter, this is gonna happen,” he said. “And everybody watching is gonna go, ‘This is the most bullshit thing I’ve ever seen in a professional football game.'”

Part of the rationale of the decision to make the rule change is to help prevent any future litigation from former players against the NFL for long-term effects of head injuries. McAfee said it was evident that was the main reason.

“It’s all just covering your ass for future problems,” he said. “I would like to see these stats that they keep saying are so prevalent and endearing to saving lives and brains that the kickoff and the punt are the only two that it happens.”

“We can’t just make the game so f–king fake and bullshit that it kind of disrepects the league as a whole,” McAfee added. “It’s always like a protect the shield thing.”

Pat went on to say that his success as a punter and kicker has contributed to the evolution of special teams play in the NFL. He really doesn’t like the fact that the changes ultimately makes special teams less valuable to the game.

“It’s a real f–king play, though,” he said. “And there’s real strategy and there’s real things to be gained from that.”

“You’re just taking away another chess move, and I don’t understand why you would want to dumb the game down,” McAfee added.

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Ian Rapoport: ‘I Would Be Surprised’ If a Thursday Night Game Gets Flexed

“I think basically is the kind of thing where, like, they want it available, but it’s only going to be used if they have literally no other choice.”

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Is all of the consternation and hand-wringing about flex scheduling much ado about nothing? Ian Rapoport was on with Pat McAfee Tuesday and said despite the NFL owners voting to bring flex scheduling to Thursday Night Football, it isn’t the weekly threat some are making it out to be.

“I would say this from what I know of this, I would still be surprised if any game was flexible,” the NFL Network insider said. “I would be surprised if any game was flexed because they don’t want to use it.”

Flex scheduling in Sunday Night Football is used to create the best matchups in the league’s marquee window. With the option coming to Mondays and Thursdays this season, Rapoport says the bar for justifying moving not just kickoff times, but days, is going to be high.

Thursday Night Football has the most restrictions. The league will have to announce any moves almost a month ahead of when the game actually kicks off. When McAfee pointed to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ visit to New England in Week 14 as a prime candidate to be flexed out of Thursday night, Rapoport outlined a very specific scenario where he could see it happening.

“It’s not going to be like, ‘Well, we have a little bit better game, so maybe we’ll do that,’” he said. “It’s going to be like, ‘Okay, we have Mason Rudolph starting versus Bailey Zappe. Like, no one will watch this. We have to move.’ That’s to me, that’s under the circumstances that you’d see a flex.”

Last season, the matchups for Thursday Night Football were especially bad in some weeks. Al Michaels even made reference to it on the air during games. Having flex scheduling could help to avoid that, but Rapoport says the option is about protecting Amazon in the event circumstances around a game change drastically, not simply placating critics.

“I think basically is the kind of thing where, like, they want it available, but it’s only going to be used if they have literally no other choice.”

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