New England Patriots President Jonathan Kraft (left) thinks football fans will watch games differently within a few years.
Prior to the Pats’ bout against the Houston Texans last Thursday, Kraft told 98.5 The Sports Hub that the NFL’s one-year deal to stream Thursday night games on Twitter is a way of planning for the future. By the time the NFL’s broadcasting rights are up for grabs again next decade, even the word television might be outdated, he said.
“It’s more about being accretive to it and experimenting with things so that when we get to ’21 and ’22 when we have new television deals – I don’t think it will be called TV then, but streaming deals – we’ll have learned an awful lot about what consumers want and how to deliver it to them,” Kraft said.
As the co-chair of the league’s digital media committee, Kraft carries some authority on the topic. His father, Patriots chairman Robert Kraft, also leads the NFL’s media committee, which handles broadcast rights.
Broadcast rights are a major part of the pro sports business model, as live programming can still draw large crowds even as television audiences have split off due to more niche programming and on-demand services.
In addition to the Twitter deal, the NFL currently broadcasts games on CBS, NBC, FOX, ESPN, and its own NFL Network, drawing billions of dollars per year from its various partners. — ADAM VACCARO
Clean energy expert returns
Alicia Barton’s clean-energy career path has brought her back to where she started.
Barton joined law firm Foley Hoag last week, as co-chair of its energy and clean-tech practice, sharing the role with Mark Barnett and Kevin Conroy. But she’s no stranger to the law firm’s Seaport offices: She first went to work there in 2002 as an associate.
In 2007, Barton left for a long stretch in state government, working with Governor Deval Patrick’s new administration under then energy and environmental affairs secretary Ian Bowles. She eventually joined the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center in 2012 to run the quasi-public agency as its chief executive.
Last September, Barton went to SunEdison’s Boston office as a top exec in its global utility group. SunEdison famously grew to be the world’s biggest renewable energy company through a series of acquisitions, including the purchase of Boston-based First Wind. That rapid rise would be SunEdison’s undoing, though, and it crashed into bankruptcy this year.
Barton left over the summer, and has found more stable footing at the law firm. “Foley has clearly staked out a leadership position in the energy regulatory practice … and [providing] advice for clean-tech clients,” Barton says. “Those are issues that I love working on.”
The Seaport is no longer the windswept wasteland of parking lots that she saw out of the firm’s windows 14 years ago. “I started here in 2002,” she says. “If you had told me the GE headquarters would be down the street, it would be pretty far-fetched.” — JON CHESTO
Sharing economy and advice
Before Nathan Blecharczyk co-founded Airbnb, the online home-rental company worth an estimated $30 billion, he was a top student at Dorchester’s Boston Latin Academy. So last week, when Blecharczyk returned to Boston for a friend’s wedding, school leaders made sure to get him back on campus to share his story.
The 2001 graduate, who also studied computer science at Harvard before decamping to the San Francisco area, had some standard advice for high school kids: don’t hang out with the wrong crowd, get your exercise, cultivate good study habits.
But Blecharczyk also included a nod to his industry’s relative lack of ethnic and gender diversity, urging minority and female students in the assembly hall to pursue careers in science, math, and technology.
Airbnb, Blecharczyk said, has set specific goals for increasing the diversity of its workforce, particularly in engineering careers.
“You might not have role models who you can relate to in these fields. But you should know that there’s a real opportunity there, that there are companies like my own that want to hire you,” he said.
Blecharczyk also noted a recent industry study that cited Airbnb as the tech industry’s top-paying employer of software engineers. But, just to be safe, he also made clear that he wasn’t looking for dropouts.
“Keep that in mind, in a few years,” he said. “Please, finish high school, go to college, and then we’ll talk.”
— CURT WOODWARD