In the old days, we talked about all the new things in TV – color, remote controls, cable – the world was our oyster in TV viewing. But there was no Internet then and there were no connected TV sets back then. How did we live without those? Now two-thirds of the US, with access to the Internet, connect their TV to the Internet in one way or another.

One of the predominant ways that people connect their TV to the Internet is thru Smart TVs which are traditional TVs with full Web and Internet connectivity and interactivity. You can watch a “regular” TV show from broadcast or cable outlets, or you can watch YouTube or look at Facebook or watch Netflix NFLX, all on your Smart TV. As Dave Morgan, a long-time advertising expert and the Founder/CEO of Simulmedia, a television advertising technology company based in NYC, said, “Connected TV is a big tablet.”

The current pandemic is giving people a lot of time for a wide variety of activities (if they aren’t busy working or schooling their kids) such as watching TV, including their Connected or Smart TVs. Alphonso, a TV measurement and data company based in Silicon Valley, issued a study recently looking at Web traffic attributed to viewing of Over-the-Top (OTT) content, which is traditional TV content delivered over the Internet not through broadcast or cable. Much of the OTT content is distributed through Connected and Smart TVs.

Below is a chart that shows visits to Websites promoted by advertisers on OTT content climbing dramatically as the country began to “stay at home.” This was analyzed across eight different industry sectors.

This sort of data will certainly encourage more brands and agencies to purchase advertising inventory on OTT and Connected TV. This data is evidence that OTT content is a viable vehicle for building brands.

Allen Bush, the CMO of Alphonso, commented on the future of advertising on Connected TV programming, “Connected TV advertising is still a small fraction of overall TV spend today. Advances in measurement will help double that spend over the next few years as more brands find the right balance between performance marketing and brand marketing.”

Bush explained the increase in Website traffic due to OTT advertising, saying, “In addition to more streaming content being consumed by more households, there’s the simple fact that people are more likely now to do things online (since they can’t go) to at a brick and mortar location.” Alphonso data below shows the huge growth of OTT viewership since the lock-down.

An early proponent of Connected TV and OTT content is Christy Tanner, Executive Vice President and General Manager of CBS News Digital. CBSN, the 24-hour streaming service of CBS News, has allowed CBS “to deliver critical and timely information during this crisis,” Tanner said. She went on to say that she expects the growth of streaming audiences, consuming OTT on Connected TVs, will continue “at a rapid pace.”

It use to be that people said, “I want my MTV.” Now the data suggests that people are just as strongly demanding their OTT content and their Connected TVs.

Originally posted on Forbes

The NFL put on quite a digital party for three days as they ran their annual draft. Not only was it broadcast on ABC and ESPN, including a primetime special the first night, but it was also distributed over many Internet platforms, including and The first night ratings was over 15M viewers – much more than previous years.

In the beginning some folks were worried about how the Draft would look on TV, how the technology would work (or not) and whether the excitement of the live Draft could be maintained. While there were a few small technical glitches at the Practice Virtual Draft, held in advance of the actual Virtual Draft, the actual Virtual Draft went off with no technical problems.

At the Practice Virtual Draft there were some small problems – at one team’s General Manager’s home someone unplugged some computer monitors while vacuuming. Another GM experienced some latency problems.

As an experienced media analyst, I have watched a lot of poorly-produced shows and fewer that are well produced. The NFL staff produced an exciting Virtual Draft that many fans raved about. The producers used a large variety of technology hardware and software to display video and data on a wall of monitors in the studio. The made for TV production also streamed live fans watching the Draft, and reacting to the picks. Former NFL Chicago Bears star, Hunter Hillenmeyer, an investor at Next Play Ventures, said “I thought it was remarkably well executed given all the logistics.”

Using today’s simple video livestreaming technology we saw live the players and their families watching anxiously at home. We also had a chance to “peek” into the owners and General Manager’s homes. Some even brought their families on-camera. It reminded me of a reality TV show. The NFL put their livestreaming capabilities to good use. Throughout the show they put up 20-30 fans on one screen showing the fans’ reactions to the picks in real-time.

Many of us like to visit houses for sale and watch TV shows about buying homes and renovating homes. It was no surprise then that many viewers had their own opinions about the decor of the homes they were allowed to “visit” during the Draft. On the snarky side, some people specifically called out the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for an unimpressive basement. One tweet read: “Roger Goodell’s home looks like a 1991 Sears catalog.”

No doubt the most interesting livestream came from Jerry Jones’ yacht. The owner of the Dallas Cowboys watched from the Eugenia Bravo, a yacht that is, coincidentally, the length of a football field from end zone to end zone.

Many people feel that virtual draft was more “veritas” than “virtual”. The feeling of authenticity came through to many. Keith Seifert, NFL National Writer for ESPN, tweeted: “The @NFL‘s virtual draft revealed a level of humanity, intimacy and spartan aesthetics that was pitch-perfect amid a national quarantine and suggestive of a new way of drafting. Short version: It was great”.

Other observers were somewhat more sparing in their praise. Long-time TV analyst and Executive Vice President at ScreenEngine/ASI, a media research firm, Steve Ridge said, “Though lackluster, perhaps boring at times, the virtual draft provided a much-needed diversion from pandemic pandemonium. It was authentic, and provided a peek behind the curtain at the lives, families and homes of many. For sports enthusiasts, it sure beat watching last year’s Masters again.”

Some people have even called for the NFL Draft 2021 to incorporate more of the digital elements that were employed in this year’s broadcast of the Draft. Maybe the Virtual Draft will become the style of future NFL Drafts.

Originally posted on Forbes

Sadly, we won’t be watching or attending any sports games for awhile (quite awhile?), but luckily your phone will help you with your “sports fix”.  New mobile sports games will be coming out from Nifty Games this year. Nifty Games is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

NFL has announced that they have signed a deal with Nifty games to publish a head-to-head football title called NFL Clash that is set to debut later this year. This is in addition to the Nifty NBA Clash game that is currently in development and planned for release this year as well.

The logo for the new NFL Clash game to be released in 2020.

NFL Clash game logo


Picture of Nifty Games, CEO, Jon Middleton.




In an interview with me, Jon Middleton said, “The competitive nature of clash-style games are a lock and key fit for mobile sports games. We will be bringing NBA and NFL Clash games to sports fans around the globe, as they compete head to head with teams comprised of their favorite pro athletes.”

Jon also talked about the early founding of Nifty Games, (It) “was founded out of a love of sports – and sports games. I grew up playing sports, watching a ton of sports on TV and my co-founder, Pete Wanat and I have been in way too many fantasy baseball and football leagues together over the years.” Clearly, Jon is a real sports fanboy!

Jon also spoke about how sports games have evolved over the years and he seems worried that the blockbuster console sports games are too real. As he said “as the games market has grown and become mass market entertainment, the sports game market has actually reduced and is laser focused on simulation and realism. While this has led to some of the greatest games of all time with the Madden, 2K and FIFA franchises, the need to improve fidelity and test the limits of gaming consoles also exposed a massive opportunity in the fastest growing and now largest videogame sector…Mobile.”

Long-term Jon sees Nifty games producing more head to head mobile quick-session sports games. As we progress, we’ll stay focused on delivering fun, authentic sports games to fans around the world with their favorite players, teams and leagues as partners. The long term goal is to build the largest competitive community of sports fans on the planet. We’re excited about the future, with mobile gaming we’ve got access to most every sports fan, of every sport, everywhere.” 

Nifty also announced that they have closed a $12 million Series A fundraising round led by March Capital Partners. Defy Partners, aXiomatic Gaming, Vulcan Capital, Courtside Ventures, Transcend Fund, Century Game and OneTeam Ventures also participated in the round. Nifty Games closed a $3 million seed round late in 2018.

Advertising expenditures are being canceled, delayed, and in some limited cases increased, all in reaction to COVID-19 and the stay-at-home orders issued across most of the nation. But not all industries and companies are feeling the same effects. Companies in some industries are even glimmering bright lights for the advertising industry. But many companies are simply turning off the light, at least for now, in terms of advertising expenditures. Some advertising executives are guardedly optimistic about the near and medium term for advertising expenditures though. Statista, a business data company, predicts that approximately $26 billion in advertising in the U.S. will be lost due to the pandemic.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), a trade group of media and marketing industries in the digital economy,  conducted a study of 205 people from publishers, media platforms and advertising companies regarding how U.S. advertising revenue is being impacted by the pandemic. They reported on April 15 that both buyers and sellers of advertising expect advertising revenues to be down considerably for the period March through June of this year.

IAB expects digital advertising will fare better than traditional linear TV, print, and other traditional, non-digital advertising channels. IAB projects that digital ad revenue will be down 19%-25% vs. they expect linear TV (traditional TV channels) and print ad revenues to be down 27% and 32%, respectively. EMarketer said, “TV ad spending will likely be negatively impacted by the pandemic.” Magazines will be hurt considerably, not just in regard to advertising, but they are losing almost all of their newsstand sales, including airports, for now.

Advertiser Perceptions, a research company focused on the advertising and marketing industries, also did a study with advertisers to assess the effect of COVID-19 on the advertising ecosystem. In their report 64% of advertisers say they have held back a campaign until later in the year. In terms of outright cancellations, Advertiser Perceptions, said 44% of advertisers have cancelled a campaign completely.

Rob Norman, a long-time advertising executive and advisor/director to many companies, says that basic supply and demand are at work here. “Everything other than print have massive over-supply vs. demand,” which he indicated have contributed to “falling CPMs for TV and falling CPCs for performance-based digital” companies.

Nielsen indicated recently that U.S. video viewing could increase by 60% due to the stay at home orders. For the ad-supported TV companies this increase in viewership means more advertising impressions to deliver to their customers. However, the increased consumer time spent watching Netflix and other paid VOD services that do not show ads takes consumers away from the advertising-supported environment of traditional TV. One of the biggest negative impacts on the advertising industry is suspension of live sports, which is a big hit for both traditional and digital sports media.

LightShed Partners issued a report that indicates “less price-sensitive ad spenders are fleeing TV, with far more price sensitive brands/direct-response brands entering to take advantage of lower CPMs.” Some categories of companies are likely to reduce considerably their advertising expenditures because of the the economic fallout from the pandemic. IAB’s study says travel and tourism, brick and mortar retail, restaurants and autos will be hardest hit.

Every nook and cranny of the U.S. and worldwide economies are being negatively affected by the stay at home order due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rob Norman repeated the well-know aphorism dating from the 16th century, “It’s an ill wind that blows no one any good.”

IAB indicates that their study suggests “a more optimistic view among some for the second half of 2020” in terms of advertising expenditures.

Dan Aks, president of Undertone, a digital advertising technology and network company, commented on the future: “We see digital advertising picking up this May and onwards. We see some industries ramping up their planned ad spend in the months ahead, particularly financial services and consumer product brands.” (Disclosure: I serve on the board of Undertone’s parent company, Perion.)

Advertiser Perceptions’ study with ad buyers indicate that the top three occurrences that will cause them to resume their normal advertising expenditures are: relaxing of social distancing, slowing growth of new cases of coronavirus, or no new cases of coronavirus.

Many executives over the years have spoken about how to respond in crises affecting their companies. Nobody said it better than Andrew Grove, the former CEO of Intel: “Bad companies are destroyed by crisis; good companies survive them; Great companies are improved by them.”

We will see how the advertising chips fall over the months and quarters ahead. Most interestingly, will be to see if any traditional behaviors of ad buyers shift in the post-COVID era.

NFX, a leading VC firm in the San Francisco Bay Area, that is focused on start-ups that benefit from network effects, has released a study of 286 early stage entrepreneur/founders and 114 venture capitalists delving into the feelings of these two groups about the future of start-ups and venture capital in the COVID -19 environment. Click below for a free copy of the April 3 report.

Survey report can be found here

Both groups of people were asked when they thought the U.S. will recover from the COVID-19 crisis. Not surprisingly, the VCs were considerably less optimistic than the founders. The founders were actually rather optimistic. Just over one-third of the founders said we would “recover” by September of 2020, but only 16% of VCs felt that way. Strikingly, almost 40% of the VCs said the recovery would occur between April 2021 thru April 2022, but two-thirds of the founders felt the recovery would be before April 2021.

Founders are super worried about this crisis. Over 51.7% of them said they were very or extremely worried about the crisis. Another 25% said they were moderately worried. You wonder who the 8.4% of the founders are who felt “not worried” at all.

Founders have plenty to worry about. The two biggest concerns of founders were about venture funding drying up and about sales declining.

The venture capitalists indicate that they will be slower to deploy their investment funds into start-ups. A majority of VCs say that their investment deployment rate will be 60-80% of the rate that existed previous to the crisis.

This study is a super recent look at how start-up founders and how venture capitalists feel about their businesses due to the COVID-19 Crisis. Read the full study to better understand what start-ups are doing to reduce their costs, the impact on hiring, as well as what founders are doing to improve their physical and mental states. Those and many other pertinent subjects are covered in this report from NFX.