Archive for November, 2014

A Holiday Shopping Roundup

If you prefer casually drinking coffee and wearing pajamas while you shop, look no further than Cyber Monday. The new Black Friday, Cyber Monday also offers a wide array of gifts and options for shoppers. I suppose nothing is stopping you from going shopping today in your PJs, but that is really up to you and your local clothing statutes. We here at TechGraphs love our sports, but we’re all nerds at heart. And there are no shortage of deals for our brethren this holiday shopping season.

Just like how Black Friday deals creeping into Thanksgiving Day, some retailers are kicking off Cyber Monday as soon as today. The prices over at Amazon are lower than usual — though if you wait until Monday you may get an even better rate — if you’re in the market for anything ranging from MLB team zip-up hoodies, portable chargers for your phone or tablet, or even a 3D printer.

For the video documentary enthusiasts, make sure to check out HTC’s RE camera. You can hold it in your hand or with a simple mounting bracket the RE can go on your bicycle to record everything from beautiful scenery to bad driers. Regularly priced at $200, they will be on sale all weekend (while supplies last) for half off. The waterproof RE snaps pictures with its 16 mega-pixel camera and records video in 1080p.

On the other hand, if you’re more the style to watch movies than to film them, the Google Play Store is offering some great deals. With almost 90 movies available for less than 10 bucks, Google has you covered if you want to catch up on films. On top of the entertainment available, items such as Chromebooks, Chromecast and smart watches are all being offered at discounted prices. The LG G Watch is $130 dollars off its regular price of $229 and is compatible with any Android device — not LG specific — running 4.3 or higher. Other incentives such as up to $50 toward the Play Store are running on the Samsung Gear Live, ASUS ZenWatch and Sony SmartWatch 3.

If you’re an Apple enthusiast, fear not, as the Apple Store is running up to $100 dollars in iTunes gift card with a Mac purchase or $50 for an iPhone or iPad. AppleTV, compatible with MLB.TV, HBO GO, ABC, Watch ESPN, NFL Now and more, is also offering a $25 gift card. Though it is still being sold at the $99 regular price, with the gift card AppleTV basically 25% and makes for a great gift. Special thanks to AppShopper for already posting marked down apps, including some free apps.

Factor in other sites such as NewEgg, Tiger Direct and of course PC Part Picker (all are among my favorite sites to shop), there is no shortage of incredible deals to take advantage of. Rather than fighting for parking or bruising my elbows over in-store deals, I think I’ll enjoy this coffee and only worry about whether or not I want to eat left-over turkey for lunch or dinner. Maybe both.

(Image credit via IMDB)

What Vine’s New Push Notifications Could Mean for Sports

The social media app Vine is sort of hard to nail down. Yes, it’s a tool that lets users share short videos with their friends and the world, but it doesn’t have one particular purpose. People use it to make comedy clips, post super short music videos, commit acts of journalism, and any other kind of thing that can fit in a six-second short. Vine is a great tool to blast out a video to all your Facebook and Twitter cohorts. But with our list of friends and followed accounts growing all the time, it becomes easier and easier to miss great content. Vine is hoping to counteract that by offering users the ability to receive mobile notifications from their favorite Viners. With a single touch, people can now get notified whenever an account posts a new video.

This could be seen as useful for lots of people, but I think sports fans could really benefit if leagues and teams do it right on their end. Almost every major league sports franchise has a Vine account. How much they use it varies quite a bit. But Vine could be used by these teams (and their respective leagues) to push out a good deal of highlights to fans. Certain league-specific apps can do this already, but Vine could be used as a one-stop highlight spot spanning across multiple leagues and teams.

It’s true that some teams use Vine to do this already. But the addition of push notifications taps into the immediacy of sports. Of course people can gather around a computer at the office on Monday and re-watch (and re-watch and re-watch) Odell Beckham Jr.’s one-handed snag, but a big football fan would want the ability to see it on their phone while they’re at the airport, on the bus, or even hanging at home without the game on TV.

Vine’s new push abilities compliment sports highlights as a whole. There could certainly be some TV licensing rules to deal with, but teams and leagues should see this new feature as a great potential to reach fans. We want our highlights and we want them now. Vine is making it easier for that to happen. Now it’s on the content creators.

(Image via Jason Howie)

EA’s FIFA Spreads Homegrown Interest

Impressive sales numbers aside — Electronic Arts’ (EA) FIFA games have sold over 100 million copies throughout the franchise’s life — the game has been sowing the seeds of genuine soccer interest in the United States. While the latest version of the game, FIFA 2015, has been out for more than two months now, one of the best signs of increased home interest in the beautiful game is the record of online play for FIFA 14.

Even since March of this year — prior to the United States men’s national team improbably making it out of group play in the World Cup — soccer in general and Major League Soccer in particular was growing. As a joint effort between ESPN Sports Poll and Luker on Trends shows, for the first time ever MLS has reached the same level of fandom (measured by 12-17 year-olds who claimed avid interest) as Major League Baseball.

Luker on Trends partnered with EA again to release their latest data, showing distinct growth in online play as an MLS club from 2014 to 2015. The most popular clubs, Seattle Sounders, New York Red Bulls and L.A. Galaxy, come as no surprise given the super stars such as Clint Dempsey, Thierry Henry and Landon Donovan respectively, are all available to start slotting goals home.

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It would be difficult to understate the importance of the US youth showing such an interest in the world sport for the future of the USMNT and USWNT teams. With more violent sports such as football being ruled out by certain professional athletes, specifically citing soccer, it is possible that some of our nation’s best young athletes will be turning to soccer for their competitive outlet.

(Header and graphic via EA.com)

 


ESPN Planning Debut of Pay-to-Stream Service with Cricket World Cup

We’ve all heard rumblings of ESPN launching services that allow viewers to watch MLS or NBA games without a cable or satellite subscription. As of today, they’ve only existed in rumor. According to a report by Re/code, however, ESPN may finally be entering the cord-cutter-friendly domain as early as February — though not with the sport you might assume.

Though plans don’t seem to be quite finalized as of yet, ESPN is looking to broadcast the Cricket World Cup via online streaming service come February. To U.S. viewers, this may not hold as much clout as a deal with the NBA, but it would be the first step in the eventual move away from TV-bundled streaming. As of now, services like WatchESPN and Fox Sports Go require a current cable or satellite subscription for full functionality. This makes it a convenience service for current subscribers, not a solution for those who don’t have the need/disposable income for a TV package. What ESPN is supposedly offering with cricket would pave the way to a much wider a-la-carte option — only pay for the sports you want to see.

This isn’t a shot across the bow of the streaming services already offered by the four major American sports. Were this type of streaming service to expand to leagues like the NBA or MLS, it would most likely come as an addendum to a cord-cutters current arsenal to go along with their current MLS Live or NBA League Pass subscription.

In a perfect world, we’d be able to pay one lump some to stream all the [insert sport here] games that are played during a season. But with team revenues tied so strongly to TV contracts, that doesn’t seem very likely. Certain leagues have deals with certain TV networks, and that’s just a fact of life. But if we were allowed to pay that network a little extra to access those usually-blacked-out games, that may be beneficial to both sides. Though it’s getting its start in a fairly obscure market (at least as far as U.S. watchers go), ESPN’s plans with cricket might be that pivotal first building block.

(Image via Pulkit Sinha)

A Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Scandal

As popularity in a sport grows, so too can the inherent trappings that go along with being in the mainstream. Fame and money come into it, which can sometimes lead to foul play. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a game by Valve Corporation that will be shown on the X Games in January, was hit with a massive cheating scandal over the past few days. Already three individual professional  players and two teams have been banned by Valve’s anti-cheat program, VAC.

The actual cheats themselves was detected not by Valve, but rather a competitive gaming league, ESEA. Once confirmed as a cheat, the league contacted Valve directly regarding the cheating and thus the bans were handed down via Valve Anti-Cheat or VAC. The programs used to improve the player’s aim is allegedly contained within a mouse software or on Valve’s own Steam Cloud, thus both went previously undetected by VAC as well as being usable while playing in a live-in person tournament. A game hack to improve aim such as an aimbot or aim lock, when the player has no vision or knowledge of the opposing player, is a blatant cheat.

The three players banned by VAC — dubbed as a VACation by reddit’s r/globaloffensive — are Simon “smn” Beck, Gordon “SF” Giry and Hovik “KQLY” Tovmassian. The significance of such an advantage cannot be understated, as killing the opposing team is often required to win rounds. In a competitive format, the first teams usually play a best of 3 across three different maps. First team to 16 round wins will take the map win.

These bans, as well as other players coming under suspicion, most notably Robin “Flusha” Rönnquist, come just before a major tournament at DreamHack Winter. According the DH website, the CS:GO alone portion of the tournament offers a prize pool of $250,000. Of the original eight invited teams to DH, two teams with the now banned cheaters have been disqualified.

With esports gaining more momentum and access to casual fans as well as the inquiring non-gamer, to see a cheating scandal of this magnitude hurts the CS:GO community, though not all is lost. While cheating is nothing new, other esports have had such events unfold and bounced back. In June of 2010, the StarCraft community was rocked when a match fixing scandal was confirmed in the most prestigious SC league, ProLeague. Then a total of 11 players were confirmed for throwing games in exchange for money from various gambling websites. While it is an entirely different game, it does give hope to CS:GO enthusiasts about bouncing back.

(Image via Valve’s Steam Store)

 


Dutch Football League To Unveil New Replay System?

Windmills, wooden shoes and correct calls in football. All three may soon be synonymous with the Netherlands, as the Royal Dutch Football Association (Koninklijke Nederlandse Voetbalbond or KNVB) is looking to implement a specific video referee next season (warning: you’ll need to translate the page). They would be the first association football league in the world to have a separate referee for replays.

Existing replay services such as FIFA’s GoalControl technology or the English Premier League’s Hawk-Eye system are goal-line specific where 14 different cameras capture every angle. While certainly helpful and undoubtedly needed, the KNVB replay referee would observe things more than just goals. Incidents ranging from whether a foul was a red or just a yellow card or if a penalty should be awarded or not. The replay system will also be able to include dives, hand-balls and headbutts if necessary and any action away from the ball where the on-field referee may not have vision. If Luis Suarez gets loaned to a Dutch League team, perhaps biting will be reviewable as well. No word has been handed down as to whether or not it will be able to also rule on offsides calls, however.

The video referee will be located outside of the stadium in a van with multiple monitors. Each stadium will have their own replay system rather than the NHL or MLB style replay center. Using a headset, the video ref will be able to be in contact with the on-field referee in order to rapidly and accurately call the game.

With a strong concern to maintain the integrity of both the game, especially from retired EPL referees such as Graham Poll. In an interview with BBC Radio 5 live, when asked about replay, Poll said:

“The game has speeded up. Players are more crafty and deceitful than they have ever been. Unfortunately, that is a fact of life, therefore referees do need help. To my mind, there are plenty of good ex-referees who would be happy to sit there and review situations and help the referee. They are completely independent and neutral, not at the whim of a television company providing the angle they choose.”

The KNVB looks to lead the way football fixtures are called and hopefully played. If players know they’ll be blatantly obvious on a foul or a dive, all the better to clean up the game. Getting the call correct in a timely fashion is up to FIFA, as the Dutch League submitted their replay proposal to FIFA’s rule and regulations arm, IFAB. Counting on FIFA to do the right thing is a tough thing to ask of football fans, however with the KNVB ready to set the tone for accurate replay, the correct path is clear.

(Header image via Wikipedia)

 


Pluto TV: Free and Entertaining

In yet another move to bring television to cord cutters, Pluto TV is available to freely stream over 100 channels and now works with Apple TV, Google Chromecast as well as the new Amazon Fire TV. By securing $13 million in funding from recent additions of venture capitalists such as U.S. Venture Partners and UTA — on top of prior investors in Chicago Ventures, Great Oaks Venture Capital and Luminari Capital — Pluto TV maintains their price point of zero dollars.

Pluto TV is an aggregate of online streams organized into various channels ranging from Sports Highlights, Surfing, Xtreme Sports, Pop Culture TV, a 24/7 Cat channel (because it is the internet afterall), Sketch Comedy and even different video game live streams. Most streams appear to be tied through YouTube as The Sports Highlight channel is directly tied to the ACC YouTube Digital Network channel and NHL YT channel et al and the Fight Channel is routed through UFC. Changing channels is as easy as clicking the mouse due to the different stream (or channel) options are shown in a channel guide format.

pluto2

Given the YouTube integration, there will be click ads on the bottom of the channel (red outline for emphasis, it doesn’t show up on the actual stream) like many YT videos. It is a very small penalty given the no-cost option of either viewing the channels within your browser or downloaded onto your computer. Along with the ad shown above, one can also see the video-on-demand (VOD) system at work as well. On top of live streams, you can rewind and re-watch specific parts of each stream at will and always have the option to click the “Live” button to zip back to the current moment of the stream.

pluto3

While there is no live-sports just yet, for someone who doesn’t subscribe to any cable television package or just can’t catch every highlight, Pluto TV is perfect. If you just want to watch an episode of Chopped in the background while you read or need to see the latest college football highlights, this is a free and viable way of receiving quality programming.


Fix Your Golf Game with these Amazon pre-Black Friday Deals

We’re still a little bit from the trample-fest known as Black Friday but that’s not stopping Amazon from getting on the deal game a little early. They’re running sales at their site all through this week and next, and the enterprising golfer can take advantage if they act soon. Both the GolfSense 3D Swing Analyzer and the SwingTIP Swing Analysis system can be had for a steal today providing you get in before the deals are gone. I suppose “steal” is a relative term, as the sensor+app systems are still fairly pricey even after the discount. But if you’re looking to use tech to improve your game in the offseason, Amazon’s got your back today.

The mega -retailer is promising a slew of deals over the next coming days, so whether you’re in the market for some wearable tech, a new tablet, or even a new laptop, it might be wise to keep checking back. If we come across any super deals for the sports-loving techie in our travels, we’ll be sure to pass them along.


ShotTracker Uses Sensors to Up Your Basketball Game

The idea of using technology and analytics to improve one’s skill set is no longer relegated to the pros. There are already plenty of offerings available to the consumer to help them with their tennis/golf/baseball/etc. And while other companies have tried to breach the basketball market, ShotTracker is touting a new easy and (fairly) affordable way to track your improvements on the court.

The idea behind ShotTracker is fairly simple. A combination of a wearable wrist sensor and a device secured to the net of the basket work together to help track shot attempts, makes, and misses. All that data is then beamed to a smartphone or tablet for further analysis. But the app goes beyond simple counting. Users can create custom drills and workouts, take a look at their shot map, and even follow the progress of  friends and teammates.

ShotTracker's shot map feature. (Courtesy of shottracker.com)

ShotTracker’s shot map feature. (Courtesy of shottracker.com)

ShotTracker also offers functionality for coaches. Custom workouts can be created and assigned to players. Coaches can also see which players have been practicing and which haven’t, and get a breakdown of who is improving in which areas.

ShotTracker provides something that can often go missing in practice sessions: structure. It becomes easy to just kind of mess around without knowing if you’re improving or not. With the ability to create drills around a particular skill or facet, and a way to empirically gauge  improvement, ShotTracker takes the guesswork out of practice.

ShotTracker is available now for $150, which includes a wrist sensor, wrist band, shooting sleeve, and net sensor.

(Header image courtesy of shottracker.com)

WATCH: How Data Scientists are Mapping the NBA

If Kirk Goldsberry’s name doesn’t ring a bell, his work should — especially if you’re an NBA fan. Kirk is the guy behind those super-informative NBA shot maps over at Grantland. Goldsberry is a professor at Harvard, and works on utilizing the new SportVU system to track all kinds of shot data from around the NBA.

Blake Griffin shot chart courtesy of Grantland.com

Blake Griffin shot chart courtesy of Grantland.com

He’s also a subject in a new book by Wired editor Mark McClusky. McClusky is the author of Faster, Higher, Stronger: How Sports Science Is Creating a New Generation of Superathletes–and What We Can Learn from Them. McClusky profiled Goldsberry in a video short for Wired. It’s a nice look behind the scenes of the ever-growing field of  sports analytics and sports data journalism. Check it out below.

(Header image via Grantland)

The San Jose Sharks’ New “4D” Broadcasts

The San Jose Sharks has an entirely new experience for viewers at home. For games played at the SAP Center that are also broadcasted by Comcast SportsNet California, Sharks fans can now feel the game while watching and listening to it. The Sharks have partnered with the entertainment technology specialists at Guitammer and have allowed their product called “The Buttkicker” to feel the hits of the game in real time.

The Buttkicker attaches to the viewer’s couch and is essentially an over-sized rumble pack, harkening back to the days of the Nintendo-64. The Buttkicker utilizes sensors in the boards to directly send signal to the in-home sensor. Each hit will literally be felt at home as the rumble can be felt with every board collision. The system is trumpeted by Guitammer as “4D” sports. The partnership is ready to begin on November 20 with a game against the visiting Florida Panthers.

Per David Koppet, Senior Executive Producer, Live Events for Comcast SportsNet California:

“Our goal is always to bring fans closer to the action, and what better way than to allow them to actually feel what’s happening on the ice. Guitammer’s 4D technology helps us transmit the electric energy of a Sharks hockey game right into your living room.”

The Sharks utilization of the Guitammer system is being considered a pilot program, however in the quest to bring the stadium experience to at-home viewers, the system could become a league-wide option. Big partnerships is nothing new to Guitammer as last year the company teamed up with the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) to give a similar feel of excitement to at-home ESPN2 viewers.

While the Buttkicker offers plenty of action of the sports angle, it can also be used with movies and video games as well. The unit isn’t cheap, $299.95, but for the home theatre enthusiast or Sharks fan, it isn’t unreasonable. If Guitammer can continue to expand their role in entertainment, expect more and more leagues and associations to jump on board.

(Photo via caguard)

The Future of Wearables, According to PwC

The professional services network PricewaterhouseCoopers, or more commonly known as PwC, recently had a webcast on the future of wearable technology and its market. All PwC CISs are free to register for and view, with the only requirement being a valid email address. They offer a wide range of webcasts and data ranging from automotive news to technology to health services.

Things kicked off with data from a 1,000-person poll showing 314 of them owned something defined as wearable tech. Thus the question of “what is considered wearable tech” is presented and answered. Ranging from literally the head to the feet, devices from headphones that monitor heart and steps (such as Dash Headphones, warning: auto-playing ad) to chips inserted and paired with shoes, plus smart clothing, wrist bands, watches and of course smart glasses were all considered wearable technology.

pwc

With a clear market for the fitness minded person as well as the tech-savant people, the webcast cites an interested trend. Another study showed one in five (of voting age) Americans own some sort of wearable tech. That 20% ownership rate mirrors the same rate of people who owned a tablet in 2012. Now approaching 2015, American tablet ownership is up to 40% — even when considering the slow sales of tablets for some retailers and particularly Apple iPad sales dropping for the third straight quarter.

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The same study included a poll, with speculative questions, arguably the most interesting answers were 46% thought obesity rates would drop and 42% believe the average person’s athletic ability will improve dramatically. While there is no data yet back up these figures, it is easy to see why PwC expects the wearable market to double within two years in the same manner as tablets did. In 2013 two million wearable devices were sold in the United States. If estimates for the holiday season prove accurate, that number will jump to 19 million this year.

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This age group is of particular interest to wearable tech companies. Millennials are defined as ages 18-34 by PwC represent a massive market to cater to. A study by Barkley — who differed and defined a millennial as someone aged 19-37 — claimed the millennial generation are responsible for more than $200 billion in buying power annually. Entertainment is important to them and they are the cord cutting generation. If wearables can help bring them their sports, health information or productivity in a better and more streamlined fashion, then everyone wins.

For a concise breakdown of most of the covered topics, check out PwC’s video.

(Thanks to PwC.com for the screengrabs of slides and TecSplash for the header image.)

An RPI Spreadsheet for You; Yes, You!

A Rating Percentage Index (RPI) can be a powerful tool in assessing a team’s quality when a team’s schedule may differ wildly from its peers. RPI calculations are critically important in collegiate athletics, when the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation have few or no shared opponents. RPI helps adjust for that curiosity.

Simply put, RPI is this:

The basic principle of RPI is to give 75% of the weight to other teams' records.

The basic principle of RPI is to give 75% of the weight to other teams’ records.

The formula, in formula mode, is:

RPI = (WP * 0.25) + (OWP * 0.50) + (OOWP * 0.25)

Where:

  • WP = winning percentage
  • OWP = opponent’s winning percentage
  • OOWP = opponent’s opponent’s winning percentage

What’s great about RPI is its intuitiveness and its simplicity. Though it might benefit from information like margin of victory or home field advantage (something it can account for and does in the the NCAA basketball calculations), RPI is simply an attempt to adjust for quality of opponent. It does a decent job of answering the question: “What if everyone played each other?” in a league setting where that’s impossible.

We can then use RPI for:

  • rec rugby teams with unbalanced schedules
  • ongoing office ping pong tournaments
  • high school, middle school, and rec league teams of all sports
  • Madden records with friends
  • any environment where two parties battle and one wins

Here’s the file:

NOTE: Don’t download this if you don’t trust me. The file is an Excel file with macros; these can be powerful. I encourage you to trust me, but in general, practice caution when opening an macro-enabled Excel file from a stranger on the Internet.

RPI Tool Download

When you open the file, it should look something like this:

The file comes with some default, filler data. You can remove it using the "Add Game Scores" button.

The file comes with some default, filler data. You can remove it using the “Add Game Scores” button.

If you want to jam in the results from your weekend of one-on-one basketball games, just click the “Add Game Scores” button. This will produce a list popup where you can add and remove game results:

You can remove an old record by scrolling through the selections (or clicking the "Find Prev" or "Find Next" buttons) and then clicking "Delete."

You can remove an old record by scrolling through the selections (or clicking the “Find Prev” or “Find Next” buttons) and then clicking “Delete.”

You can speed this process up by unhiding the “Raw Data” tab and deleting the unwanted rows of data. But be sure to preserve at least one row so that the final four columns retain their formulas.

To add a new score, you’ll want to click “New” immediately, then fill in the blank spots. NOTE: You don’t need to put in the scores, but since nothing is password locked in this doc, you may want to save those in case later on you feel frisky and want to add some margin of victory inputs somewhere. Once you have input the records you desire, click “Close.” We will now need to refresh the calculations, so press the big, appropriately-titled “Refresh” button. ALSO NOTE: You will likely need to adjust the row filters.

The end result should be something like this:

You may need to refresh a second time to get the RPI column's conditional formatting to work.

You may need to refresh a second time to get the RPI column’s conditional formatting to work.

If we want to drill deeper on the data, we can unhide the “Prep” worksheet, which will show each RPI and the three components that go into it.

The "Prep" tab allows us to see the full details of the data.

The “Prep” tab allows us to see the full details of the data.

Analysis:

  • Chekov may have the largest RPI, but he played only one game of Tri-Dimensional Chess — a game which he won, obviously. That’s why it’s important to note the Game Played when looking at RPI (or WP, for that matter). His one victory game against me, which is ultimately neither a big help nor hindrance because my RPI was merely .518 — so his one victory came against a mediocre player.
  • Despite winning 2 out of every 3 games, Spock’s weak competition (2 wins against Scotty, 1 against Kirk and myself) and his losses against Scotty and Kirk, undermined his otherwise impressive record.
  • The best player was probably Scotty, who lost a ton, but nevertheless beat Spock. Moreover, many of his losses came at the hands of undefeated Sulu, undefeated Uhura, and the formidable Kirk. If Scotty chose his 8 opponents better, he could conceivably have been the best player.

Analysis of the analysis: If you think these results seem skewed to favor the smaller samples, you are right. That is one of the dangers of RPI. Review that very first RPI chart. The lower the orange line (i.e. the fewer games played), the more upwardly skewed the red line (i.e. the more likely for a bias towards high RPIs). The systems settles down around ten games, so I would consider that as good an arbitrary cutoff as any other number.

If we cut off our Tri-Dimensional Chess club rankings at a minimum of 10 games played, we can comfortably assert that I’m marginally better than Kirk — and that Scotty could be possibly better than us both.

Anyway, that’s the RPI Tool. I hope you enjoy it. Please let me know in the comments if you encounter any problems. I’ve not password locked anything, so feel free to do whatever with the spreadsheet.

(Header image via Clément Bucco-Lechat)

Sony’s Playstation Vue: A Streaming Service Unlike Any Other

That sound you heard this morning was Sony Playstation 3 and 4 owners (and cord-cutters) high-fiving each other and cheering. The cause for celebration is Sony’s latest streaming services, Playstation Vue, just sent out the first batch of invites. With a streaming infrastructure already in place with their PS Now, Sony is looking to expand their online content with television. Live television that is, with full on-demand support via cloud storage.

Hands down the key difference between Vue and other services is the fact several major channels have already jumped on board, specifically CBS, Fox (including their local and national sports affiliates), NBC (with Telemundo and other sports stations) plus Viacom, Discovery Communications and Scripps. With so many major content providers ready to roll, this is an impressive undertaking for Sony.

Imagine a Friday evening of watching the Food Network  or Cooking Channel (owned by Scripps) and preparing a meal for the weekend. That meal happens to coincide with watching an English Premiere League game (thanks, NBC!), followed by some Notre Dame or maybe SEC football (kudos to CBS). Perhaps if pro football is more your style, with broadcast rights to both Fox and CBS, local NFL games would be an option on Sunday. Unfortunately we don’t know every detail just yet, so the potential for blackouts — which would be shocking, given the broadcast companies involvement — still loom.

Still, for a monthly subscription (a price is yet to be announced) and no contract a la Netflix, Playstation Vue has a massive potential. With over 34 million sales between the PS3 and PS4 in North America (those numbers include Mexico and Canada), the user base is clearly established. Sony mentioned that sometime in 2015 support for non-Sony products will also be rolled out, specifically iPad support.

Given the status as an invite only, tiered roll out, not everyone will have access to PS Vue right away. The first round of invites went to those living in New York City. Next up will be Chicago, followed by Philadelphia and then Los Angeles. With the full service is expected to go live in the first quarter of 2015, I suspect I won’t be the only one hunting for a good deal on a PS4 this holiday season.


TechGraphs Needs Writers!

The application deadline has now passed. Thanks to all that applied. All previous applicants will be hearing from us shortly.

We at TechGraphs are looking to bolster our writing staff a bit. We think avid TechGraphs readers would make for perfect candidates. We need part-time people to cover breaking tech news, review new apps and products, and provide tips and tricks for the tech- and sports-inclined.

If that sounds like it’s up your alley, send an email to wanted@fangraphs.com and put TECHGRAPHS WRITER 2014 in the subject line. In the email, tell us why you would be a good fit for us, and include a writing sample in the body of the email. No attachments please.

Prior writing experience is not necessary, but emphasis will be placed on your writing sample. We look forward to hearing from you!


NBA Announces Exclusive FanDuel Deal

The NBA just agreed to a 4-year deal with fantasy website FanDuel according to both TechCrunch and ESPN. For daily fantasy players, this means FanDuel will be the exclusive website to get your hoops fix at. Already on the NBA Fantasy site you can be linked to FanDuel and expect the association to promote it on their apps as well as their streaming ads and commercials.

Currently FanDuel offers both free and pay-to-win leagues. The prizes for these range from cash to game tickets to merchandise. Now with the association in their pockets, FanDuel and the NBA, along with money from venture groups such as Shamrock Capital Advisors and NBC Sports Ventures, will be able to reach and attract even more customers.The growth in the daily fantasy industry is on a massive rise, as FanDuel has increased by 650,000 paying players in the past three months after never before having even a third of that many in a single quarter. FanDuel claims they project to make approximately $600 million in entry fees this calendar year while handing back $540 million in prizes.

While this is new territory for the NBA as a whole, five teams had prior deals with FanDuel; the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Dallas Mavericks and Chicago Bulls. The move also includes NBA league executive Sal La Rocca as a FanDuel board member, further strengthening the ties between the two entities.

With competitor DraftKings snapping up the NHL, this deal makes sense for FanDuel. Given the massive interest and ease of use for daily fantasy leagues, it appears as though both FanDuel and DraftKings will the main entities of daily leagues going forward. With both sides throwing around millions of dollars, the money is driving even more attention to fantasy sports.

(Image credit to NBA.com) 

DraftKings and the NHL Partner Up

The one-day fantasy site DraftKings already has a partnership with MLB, but now they are expanding out to pro hockey, as well. According to Boston.com, a new agreement has been reached making DraftKings the official one-day fantasy site of the National Hockey League.

NHL-based games were already offered through DraftKings and their ilk, so this amounts to little more than marketing and product placement. Still, it shows just how large of a grasp daily fantasy is beginning to have in the sports world. DraftKings, along with their main competitor FanDuel, have been gaining lots of traction. They have bought out smaller competitors, and their ads can be seen all over sports sites and blogs, as well as during televised games. Their new partnership with the NHL should expand DraftKing’s presence even more, as they are slated to be advertised heavily on NHL-branded online entities such as their official Twitter account, NHL Mobile, and video replay and preview segments, among others.

(Header image via John Biehler)

More People Are Placing Bets on E-Sports than on Golf

NBC News has a story centered around how the rise in popularity of e-sports has led to a rise in gambling on e-sports. Writer Keith Wagstaff talks to people from Pinnacle Sports, one of the premiere online gambling sites around. And in 2014, e-sports were the eight most popular subset to bet on, beating out golf.

According to the article:

Since 2011, the year when Pinnacle began accepting bets on e-sports, the volume of trades placed on video game matches has doubled every year, Hudson said. The company has hired a team of eight e-sports traders responsible for setting lines and wagers.

This was, of course, inevitable. We humans never met a contest we didn’t like to wager on. And while side bets and friendly wagers go hand-in-hand with competition, the rise in both popularity and purse of video game tournaments is undoubtedly going to bring along its share of side action. With over 350,000 e-sports bets placed on Pinnacle alone in 2014, it appears the gamblers have officially gotten their dirty little fingers in e-sports.

(Header image via Piotr Drabik)

HTC Signs Robinson Cano as Spokesperson

Robinson Cano has had a big year. He signed a very hefty free agent contract, became a charter client for one of the most talked-about sports agencies, and still managed to be the best-hitting second baseman in the league. Now, to help cement himself as a superstar in sports, he’s signed a partnership with a tech company.

Taiwanese gadget maker HTC has announced a partnership with Cano via a press release. Cano and his smiling face confirmed as much on Twitter:

canotweet

HTC, a maker of Android and Windows devices, is hoping to break into the sports world much like their competitor Samsung has (though not without some controversy). HTC had previously launched a fairly forgettable campaign with America’s Boyfriend Robert Downey, Jr. to little fanfare. Perhaps their new partnership will help bring their (very well-made, in my opinion) devices to the American mainstream via America’s pastime.

(Header image via Keith Allison)

Reminder: There Will Be Major League Baseball Tonight!

If you’re jonesing for some baseball — and who isn’t? — then fear not sports citizen, as there will be live professional baseball being played tonight! Technically it will air at 4 am E.T., so it is tomorrow morning, but the point remains. Major League Baseball kicks off the Japan exhibition games with the opening match set for tonight.

The game will consist of MLB All-Stars going against a collection of players from the Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants. Following that game, a five-game series pitting the MLB All-Stars against the Japanese national team, Samurai Japan, will begin and the tour will close with a final exhibition game. Rather than squaring off against the Japanese All-Stars again, the MLB players will be thrown up against the national team due to the Nippon Professional Baseball commissioner wanting the national club to gain experience heading into the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Current MLB.TV subscribers will have access to all of the games or one can pay the 24.99 for the off-season package which includes every regular season and playoff game as well. With the off-season package also including over 200 spring training games, if you haven’t subscribed yet, you ought to. If you’re unable to catch the middle-of-the-night games or don’t want to pay extra to view the online stream, MLB Network will re-air the games at 9 pm E.T. the same day.

An interesting note is while the game will be broadcasted on television in Japan, current MLB.TV subscribers in Japan will not deal with any blackout restrictions. There has never been a blackout policy for countries other than the United States and Canada, however given the probable high television ratings these games could bring, it is curious — yet encouraging — to see the league take a more passive stance on blackouts.

Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell and 29 All-Stars will look to repeat the perfect record MLB had in 2006, the only other time a five-game series was played between the two leagues as well as the most recent. Three of those five games were decided by two runs or less and hopefully the games this year will be just as exciting.

(Image credit to MLB.com)