Yesterday the NFL announced a new video initiative called "NFL Now," which will offer fans a trove of short-form videos in a highly personalizable experience. Brian Rolapp, the NFL's EVP of Media told Adweek that the current shortage of mobile video ad inventory was "one of the biggest reasons we are doing this." I'd go one step further - I think capturing mobile video ad dollars is THE reason the NFL is launching NFL Now.
The logic is compelling - advertisers have an insatiable appetite for high-quality video inventory, all the more so in mobile, the fastest growing sector of the entire online video space but one where premium inventory is still harder to come by. The NFL itself has created some of the scarcity for football clips by limiting their licensing. While other premium content providers have pursued aggressive video syndication strategies, the NFL has been much more cautious.
With NFL Now, the league will be well-positioned to fully capitalize on the boom in mobile video ads. It's no surprise that Gillette, Microsoft, Verizon and Yahoo are launch partners of NFL Now; the latter 3 companies will all also be involved with distribution for NFL Now through their own devices and services.
Of course, what's not included in NFL Now are full game broadcasts, rights for which ESPN and broadcasters have paid tens of billions of dollars. If all that wasn't enough, the NFL is currently somewhat cheekily seeking another $800 million or so for Thursday night games already broadcast on NFL Network. That means pay-TV subscribers will, in effect, be paying twice for these games - but that's a topic for another day!
In the mobile video age, the ability to generate lots of high-quality short-form clips that fans can quickly digest and share via social networks opens up access to a pot of advertising gold. The NFL has recognized this and there is no question other sports leagues and entertainment properties will be following with similar initiatives that deliver great user experiences with huge advertising upside.