The NFL announced yesterday that it plans to exclusively stream a single game next season, a week 7 matchup from London between the Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The October 25th game will still be televised in the 2 home markets, starting at 9:30am ET, but elsewhere it will only be available online (though the NFL hasn't yet signed a digital distribution partner).
Brian Rolapp, the NFL's EVP, Media, characterized the move as mainly an experiment, meant to impart as much learning as possible (he also maintained that TV is still the best distribution option). That sounds right to me, though how much can really be learned from streaming a single game is a bit unclear (e.g. advertiser interest? technical or delivery quality? audience size?).
Late yesterday, the NFL announced it renewed its "Sunday Ticket" deal with DirecTV for a reported 8 years at $1.5 billion per year, a 50% increase over their prior deal. Going back about a year, there were rampant rumors that the Sunday Ticket package could go to an OTT player, with Google being the name most often mentioned.
In reality, though, there was virtually no chance Sunday Ticket was going to go to OTT, and so the DirecTV renewal comes as no surprise. As I wrote over a year ago, there were at least 5 big challenges to a Google-NFL deal in particular. These essentially boil down to a combination of online video not being mature enough yet to exclusively handle marquee sports broadcasts and the incumbent TV ecosystem desperately needing to retain marquee sports broadcasts like Sunday Ticket.
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.
I'm pleased to present the 205th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Colin is in London this week and shares observations on the intense battle for broadband subscribers in the U.K. BT has been aggressively laying fiber in a bid for broadband subscribers. It recently spent about 1.4 billion pounds on soccer rights to supply its BT Sport channels. Colin says BT has seen lift in both broadband and pay-TV subscribers as a result. One wonders whether Google could try something similar here in the U.S. by bidding for NFL and other rights somewhere down the road?
Speaking of the NFL, it and Major League Baseball were in the news this week for filing a brief with the Supreme Court urging review of broadcasters' challenge to Aereo. The leagues basically asserted that if Aereo is deemed legal, more of their games will migrate to cable, which of course has been happening anyway. Meanwhile Aereo's lead investor Barry Diller said this week he could see a 35% adoption rate for Aereo long-term, primarily driven by millennials. This would be hugely disruptive if it were to happen.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (18 minutes, 11 seconds)
The Internet has been buzzing this week with the idea that Google may bid for the NFL's Sunday Ticket package, which is with DirecTV through the 2014 season. The root of the buzz is a story in AllThingsD that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell met with Google's CEO Larry Page and YouTube's head of content Robert Kyncl and that one of the things they discussed was Sunday Ticket.
Did they seriously discuss Sunday Ticket or was it the last item on a list of things they were spitballing? Who knows. But let's assume for a moment that Google actually WAS interested in Sunday Ticket. Could it happen and does it make sense?
There's certainly no financial impediment for Google. DirecTV pays about $1 billion/year currently. Even if Sunday Ticket's value increased by 50% (which is less than the 60-70% increases the broadcasters and ESPN paid to renew their NFL deals in the past 2 years), it would still be small change for Google. Rather than the money, I see at least 5 big challenges Google (and the NFL) would have to surmount:
If you think your monthly pay-TV bill is already pretty expensive, then brace yourself for rate increases that will definitely be happening over the next several years, particularly in certain geographic areas of the U.S. Why? Because the cost of programming continues to spiral, led by sports. In fact, over the past 24 months, at least $80 billion has been committed by broadcast and cable TV networks to televise sports in the U.S. (note this includes $6 billion, the minimum either News Corp. or Time Warner Cable will likely pay for TV rights to the L.A. Dodgers' games).
The chart below itemizes all of the deals that I'm aware of; no doubt there are others as well that aren't included. Also not included are the expected increased costs of renewals for some of sports' highest-profile events like the Super Bowl and NCAA March Madness in coming years.
Daisy Whitney and I are pleased to present the 41st edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for November 20, 2009.
This week Daisy leads off with thoughts on what the NFL is doing with both online and mobile video, based on her recent interview with Laura Goldberg, GM of NFL.com.
I then dig deeper into my post from yesterday, "YouTube Direct is Yet Another Smart Move" in which I explained why YouTube Direct, a new initiative which was unveiled earlier this week, makes a lot of sense for both YouTube and its content partners. I've been impressed with how YouTube continues to evolve away from its wild-west UGC roots, finding ways to add value for both its users and also for its partners. Listen in to learn more.
Click here to listen to the podcast (12 minutes)
Click here for previous podcasts
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I was only able to catch a little bit of the Titans-Steelers came last night on NBCSports.com, but what I did see was pretty impressive. This was the first of the "Sunday Night Football Extra" games that NBC Sports and the NFL plan to stream live this season. NBC Sports is using Silverlight for the first time, and the live HD broadcast included 5 different camera angles to choose from. Akamai is providing CDN services and Microsoft's Smooth Streaming for delivery.
NBC has been a pioneer in the delivery of online sports content, and with the 2008 Beijing Olympics setting a new standard. The NFL is not alone in pushing into online delivery though. As I noted recently in "2009 is a Big Year for Sports and Broadband/Mobile Video," there have been a ton of new initiatives this year across baseball, basketball, football, golf, tennis, auto racing, etc.
I'm looking forward to having Perkins Miller, SVP, Digital Media and GM, Universal Sports, NBCU Sports and Olympics on my discussion panel at VideoSchmooze on Mon evening, Oct 13th in NYC. No doubt he'll have lots of great insights and data to share about how the season is progressing.
The next game on NBCSports.com is this Sun night, Bears vs. Packers, 8pm ET.
Following are 4 news items worth noting from the week of August 17th:
CBS's Smith says authentication is a 5 year rollout - I had a number of people forward me the link to PaidContent's in-depth coverage of CBS Interactive CEO Quincy Smith's comments at the B&C/Multichannel News panel in which he asserted that TV Everywhere/authentication won't gain critical mass until 2014.
I was asked what I thought of that timeline, and my response is that I think Smith is probably in the right ballpark. However, these rollouts will happen on a company by company basis so timing will vary widely. Assuming Comcast's authentication trial works as planned, I think it's likely to expect that Comcast will have its "On Demand Online" version of TV Everywhere rolled out to its full sub base within 12 months or so. Time Warner Cable is likely to be the 2nd most aggressive in pursuing TV Everywhere. For other cable operators, telcos and satellite operators, it will almost certainly be a multi-year exercise.
NFL makes its own broadband moves - While MLB has been getting a lot of press for its recent broadband and mobile initiatives, I was intrigued by 2 NFL-related announcements this week that show the league deepening its interest in broadband distribution. First, as USA Today reported, DirecTV will offer broadband users standalone access to its popular "Sunday Ticket" NFL package. The caveat is that you have to live in an area where satellite coverage is unattainable. The offer, which is being positioned as a trial, runs $349 for the season. With convergence devices like Roku hooking up with MLB.TV, it has to be just a matter of time before the a la carte version of Sunday Ticket comes to TVs via broadband as well.
Following that, yesterday the NFL and NBC announced that for the 2nd season in a row, the full 17 game Sunday night schedule will be streamed live on NBCSports.com and NFL.com. Both will use an HD-quality video player and Microsoft's Silverlight. They will also use Microsoft's Smooth Streaming adaptive bit rate (ABR) technology. All of this should combine to deliver a very high-quality streaming experience. But with all these games available for free online, I have to wonder, are NBC and the NFL leaving money on the table here? It sure seems like there must have been some kind of premium they could have charged, but maybe I'm missing something.
Metacafe grows to 12 million unique viewers in July - More evidence that independent video aggregators are hanging in there, as Metacafe announced uniques were up 67% year-over-year and 10% over June (according to comScore). I've been a Metacafe fan for a while, and their recent redesign around premium "entertainment hubs" has made the site cleaner and far easier to use. Metacafe's news follows last week's announcement by Babelgum that it grew to almost 1.7 million uniques in July since its April launch. Combined, these results show that while the big whales like YouTube and Hulu continue to capture a lot of the headlines, the minnows are still making swimming ahead.
Kodak introduces contest to (re)name its new Zi8 video camera - It's not every day (or any day for that matter) that I get to write how a story in a struggling metro newspaper had the mojo to influence a sexy new consumer electronic product being brought to market by an industrial-era goliath, so I couldn't resist seizing this opportunity.
It turns out that a review Boston Globe columnist Hiawatha Bray wrote, praising Kodak's new Zi8 pocket video camera, but panning its dreadful name, prompted Kodak Chief Marketing Officer Jeffrey Hayzlett to launch an online contest for consumers to submit ideas for a new name for the device, which it intends to be a Flip killer. Good for Hayzlett for his willingness to change course at the last minute, and also try to build some grass roots pre-launch enthusiasm for the product. And good for the Globe for showing it's still relevant. Of course, a new name will not guarantee Kodak success, but it's certainly a good start.
Enjoy your weekend!
World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has created an innovative user-edited video application called "Smash-Ups" to engage its fans and drive excitement for this Sunday night's "WrestleMania 25th Anniversary" event. It's a great example of how long-form video can be segmented and made available to users to exercise their creativity in support of the brand. In this case, WWE is also offering a $5,000 prize to the user who creates the best clip.
I've been a fan of these kinds of mashup or re-mix apps, going back to a post I did in August '07 about the one that Universal Pictures and Metacafe created for "The Bourne Ultimatum." More recently, NFL has had success with its NFL "Replay Re-Cutter" launched last fall. I continue to believe they offer a clever way for fans to engage with the brand and potentially tapping into archive content that likely isn't creating any current value. The clips create new video views and incremental ad inventory. And as the clips are shared by users they also become a cheap source of viral marketing.
WWE gets all this. Brian Kalinowski, WWE's EVP, Digital Media said, "The WWE is renowned for its passionate fans and compelling content, and WrestleMania Smash-Ups allows us to bring both together in an innovative, engaging broadband video experience....unleashing the full value of our library of tens of thousands of video clips to drive greater engagement from our viewers and enhanced content monetization." In addition to the video clips, Smash-Up lets users edit the segments provided, and insert audio tracks and title cards. If there's one downside, it's that the maximum clip length is 2 minutes, which is not a lot of time for hard-core fans to create a meaningful montage out of 25 years of classic footage.
The Smash-Ups are powered by Gotuit, a company I've written about which has also recently announced it is powering Major League Soccer's "QuickKicks" video portal and remix and Lifetime's "Movie Mash-up" feature. As CEO Mark Pascarella and VP &GM Patrick Donovan, explained, a key Gotuit advantage for all these initiatives is that no new video clips are actually being created. Rather, by using Gotuit's metadata and indexing capabilities, the content provider can tag particular scenes and present them as clips. When users create their mixes, they're actually just combining a series of "virtual clips" - time-coded in and out points in the underlying long-form video files. This makes managing these activities a lot simpler and cost-effective. The Smash-Ups also showcase how the Gotuit UI can be fully customized and integrated with WWE's look-and-feel.
WWE is monetizing the clips through both sponsorships (THQ) and ads. A pre-roll or mid-roll is inserted up to a maximum frequency of 1 ad per 2 minutes of content (a Gotuit setting the content provider can adjust). Users can share their creations with embed code or via email. WWE has also done a great job promoting the Smash-Ups, enlisting its superstars to make their own videos which are posted on YouTube.
These user-edited applications (especially if they're part of contests with meaningful incentives) are a pretty compelling tactic for content providers to drive viewership and monetization. I expect we'll continue to see more of them launched.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
I got a tip yesterday about "Game Rewind," a feature that NFL.com has apparently launched in the last week or so. For a mere $20/season, you can now watch full, commercial-free replays of all the season's games. The video is delivered in terrific quality by Move Networks, and as seen below, also offers a side window that shows a synopsis of the game's scoring. I'm not a huge football fan, but since I missed the exciting end of last week's Patriots-Seahawks game, I simply dragged to the fourth quarter and sat back and enjoyed (btw, how nice is it to watch commercial-free?!).
One suggestion for the NFL team: introduce EveryZing's MetaPlayer, Gotuit VideoMarkerPro or Digitalsmiths (or someone else's metadata-based search technology) so that fans can quickly retrieve only the highlights they care about (especially for the fantasy crowd). If I just want to see Matt Cassel's touchdown passes, it would sure be nice to enter that phrase and be shown those specific highlights only. Still, Game Rewind is a very cool new feature, of course only possible courtesy of broadband delivery.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
As many of you know, in general I'm a big-time advocate of syndication as a strategy to permeate broadband video into all the "nooks and crannies" of the Internet. Many content providers have embraced this path, most recently Hulu and CBS (with its Audience Network). The purpose of syndication is to ensure that content reaches users where they currently visit, as opposed to requiring them to come to a new destination. That "destination-centric" approach was of course the way the traditional media industry worked.
But the NFL shows that syndication isn't right for everyone. In instances where there is genuinely unique content, it can make sense to pursue a pure destination strategy.
To illustrate, yesterday I missed part of the Patriots-Colts game. Though I did catch the end, I was eager to see the big plays. During the parts of the game I saw there were several promos for video available at NFL.com. So post-game I started pinging the NFL's site and it turned out that within about 1 1/2 hours of the end of the game, there was a 5:13 edited montage posted. It included most of the big plays and was available exclusively at NFL.com.
The NFL caused a kerfuffle earlier this year when it issued highly restrictive rules governing use of and monetization of its game video. But having had this experience, I think they made the right call. When you have must-see content and own all the rights, I think it is indeed better to pursue a destination strategy. You get all the views. You get all the monetization. You get all the site loyalty and cross-promotion opportunities. You get everyone linking to you. And you have the exclusive archive.
It's rare to own something as valuable as NFL game video. But if your video does have similar attributes, then I would encourage considering destination over syndication. If you go this route though, being highly proactive to serve users' interests, as the NFL is doing, is essential to success.