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Analysis for 'NCAA'

  • VideoNuze Report Podcast #114 - Sports Rights Fees and OTT

    I'm pleased to be joined once again by Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group, for the 114th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for Dec. 16, 2011. In today's podcast Colin and I discuss the escalation in sports rights fees, player salaries, sports networks' affiliate fees and pay-TV rates.

    Earlier this week I wrote about the massive, $254 million contract baseball slugger Albert Pujols signed with the Angels and how a new 20-year, $3 billion deal with Fox Sports enabled the team to afford the deal. But that's already old news, because since then the NFL signed $28 billion worth of deals with CBS, Fox and NBC (on top of the $15.2 billion renewal with ESPN agreed to in September), and ESPN forked over another $500 million for broader rights with NCAA.

    Why does all this matter? Because as I've said repeatedly throughout the year, these deals are largely funded by non sports fans, through their ever-higher monthly pay-TV bills. As Colin and I agree, it's an unsustainable trend that's largely being enabled by consumers' ignorance and inertia about what they're paying for. Coincidentally, just today the NY Times has an article on this topic, the first one I've seen from a mainstream newspaper. The  byproduct of escalating pay-TV rates is that they're opening the door for OTT alternatives to thrive. Listen in to learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (16 minutes, 11 seconds)



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  • Thought Equity Motion Raises $25 Million For Cloud-Based Video Asset Management

    Thought Equity Motion has raised $25 million from Shamrock Capital Advisors to further develop its cloud-based video asset management platform and expand globally. As Kevin Schaff, CEO and founder of Thought Equity Motion explained to me last week, the company is capitalizing on the media industry's shift from analog to digital work flows which is improving operational reliability, saving capex and opening new revenue opportunities.

    Thought Equity Motion has optimized its cloud service for media companies that want to move from storing high-value libraries on tape or on local hard drives to doing so in the cloud. First and foremost, Kevin said the company's focus is on secure, redundant master file storage. Thought Equity Motion's cloud is particularly suited to large video file sizes with high throughput ingest and encoding. The company is now ingesting 1 petabyte of video per month, a dramatic increase from just 6 months ago. Files are kept at a secure, enterprise-class physical storage facility with on-demand encoding and access.

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  • NCAA's MMOD Offering In-Game Highlights, Powered by Digitalsmiths

    An exciting feature of this year's NCAA March Madness on Demand (MMOD) is the availability of highlight clips during the games themselves. This near-real time metadata tagging and indexing capability is being powered by Digitalsmiths, and it represents a key milestone in the online sports experience.

    As I described last month in my review of MLB.com's "Fantasy Baseball Commissioner" product which this season will include in-game highlights as well, these initiatives move metadata tagging and indexing from the realm of on-demand libraries to live streams. Digitalsmiths' GM Patrick Donovan wrote a post about this last Thursday, and I got a chance to catch up with him about it further.

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  • NCAA MMOD Runs Home Page Takeover Ad On NYTimes.com

    Speaking of sports, here's how big a deal live streaming of March Madness on Demand (MMOD) has become for the NCAA and its TV partners CBS and Turner Sports: yesterday, which was the tournament's big kickoff, the parties ran a pricey full-page, rich media takeover ad on the NYTimes.com home page (see below). MMOD has developed into the highest-profile live online video sporting event of the year. It's hard to believe any real college hoops fan doesn't know about MMOD's availability, but with the NYTimes ad, clearly the parties weren't taking any chances.

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  • It's NCAA March Madness On Demand Season Again

    Speaking of sports, Turner Sports, CBS Sports and the NCAA announced this week that March Madness on Demand will be back online and free to users yet again. MMOD is by far the highest-profile sports event offered live online and the NCAA and networks just keep on improving it every year. For the 2011 tournament, the big new drawing card will be an iPad app, along with new features like personalized channel lineups, social interaction and live stats updates.

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  • NCAA and Thought Equity Motion Renew Deal For Video Archive Access

    The NCAA and Thought Equity Motion are announcing this morning a multi-year extension of their technology and rights management agreement. Last March, in conjunction with the NCAA Men's Basketball March Madness, the "NCAA Vault" was introduced, which contained searchable access to every moment of video from the last 10 years of the final 16 teams' games. One of the things I was most impressed about with the NCAA Vault is how flexibly exact clips could be found and also how fast the response times were.

    In the renewed deal, Thought Equity will also be adding other NCAA Division I championship events like Women's Basketball and Baseball and Wrestling, plus add social media capabilities and enhanced metadata. Thought Equity will also be working with the NCAA to identify other rights windows and business models.

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  • New "NCAA Vault" is More Evidence of Archived Assets' Value

    This year's "March Madness" men's college basketball tournament is just around the corner and in addition to the now-customary live streaming of the games (and this year an iPhone app for additional streaming), a new feature was introduced last week: "NCAA Vault" - a video index to every single moment in "Sweet 16" history for the last 10 years. NCAA Vault is powered by Thought Equity Motion, a technology provider that partners with media companies and rights-holders to digitize, deliver and monetize video assets. Last week I spoke with Thought Equity's CEO and founder Kevin Schaff to learn more about how the Vault works and the background of the deal with the NCAA.

    Kevin explained that Thought Equity indexed all 150 of the Sweet 16 games' video with rich metadata for players, teams and highlights. This yielded a searchable database of 6,000 moments, which users of the Vault can tap into in a number of different ways. They can search by player, team, year, game or description of the play they're looking for. For more casual use, the  Vault also presents lists clips of great shots, blocks, plays and finishes, plus most outstanding players and current stars. In addition to being a standalone site, the Vault is linked to from the March Madness main site.  

    When you search for a specific play, it will load and when done, the remainder of the game will continue playing until you want to move on. I can say from doing this several times that watching a play quickly and addictively morphs into watching several minutes of the game itself. Below the video window there's a text description of each play in the game. If you scroll the list and begin clicking on different plays what you'll immediately notice is how fast the new video loads and begins playing. Kevin explained that part of the reason is because the system is simply moving to a new cue point in the existing video file (in other words a new video file hasn't been created). This is a similar technique other indexes use; still, I don't think I've ever seen a new clip load as fast as these do. It's comparable to the experience of changing TV channels.


    Thought Equity is very mindful of how, for some users, the Vault will be essentially a "stock video" database and so it has done several things to really enhance its value. Most important, it has created a Publishing Guide, which provides URLs to each of the moments so that writers and fans can search for incorporate links to just the plays they want. Conversely, if you're watching a video highlight and want to link to that moment, one click generates a URL for that clip. Thought Equity has even integrated the bit.ly URL shortener, so that you get a Twitter-friendly URL to use. Finally, Thought Equity has created an API so that 3rd parties who want to integrate the database, or pieces of it, with their own services, can do so easily.

    Kevin explained that Thought Equity's model is to partner with media companies and rights-holders to license exclusive rights to their archived assets in order to create rich, searchable video databases. In the Vault's case, monetization is through advertising and CBS will sell the new high-value inventory. Thought Equity has worked with other media partners (e.g. Paramount, HBO, NY Times, BBC, etc.) with a monetization mix of advertising and licensing (i.e. the "stock" model). Over 10.5 million hours have been indexed to date with many more on-deck.

    From a user's standpoint, the Vault is another exciting example of how the combination of online video and indexing technologies opens up access to memorable sports moments. Consumer usage creates the ad opportunity, but equally interesting are the myriad professional uses of the video. For bloggers and others running sports-oriented sites, the Vault opens a ton of new upside. Last week I wrote about how MovieClips.com is trying to create a similar Vault-like experience for movie clips; no doubt others will follow as the value of archived assets becomes increasingly apparent.

    What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required).
     
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  • Why March Madness on Demand is Such a Winner

    The first round games of the NCAA's March Madness are a week from today and the hype surrounding the tournament is in full swing. But the tournament itself is no longer the only story; the broadband-delivered "March Madness on Demand" has become a big part of the 3 week experience as well. Since converting from a subscription service to a free, ad-supported format 4 years ago, CBS Sports and the NCAA have made MMOD a huge winner, providing plenty of lessons for others. These include:

    1. Under the right circumstances, free with ads beats paid with subscriptions. It was big news back in '06 when CBS converted MMOD from subscription access to free, ad-supported. In retrospect, it looks like a stroke of genius. The $30M in ad revenue MMOD will generate for CBS this year would have required 1.5 million of the old $20 subscriptions. Hitting that subscription number would have been miraculous. With the free model, instead of allocating scarce marketing dollars and resources on acquiring temporary subs, CBS can focus on promoting the games, selling ads and striking high-quality distribution deals - 3 things that networks do very well. Free vs. paid will be a perpetual debate for premium video, but solid market research, well-thought out business cases and a willingness to experiment can lead to big payoffs, as MMOD has shown.

    2. Well-executed online access burnishes the brand. Following the above, MMOD is a huge win for the CBS brand and for the NCAA. Fans love MMOD and appreciate the easy online access. Of course, anything for free is always well-received, especially in a down economy. Large audiences mean lots of cross-promotional opportunities for other CBS programs. Abundant media coverage means the brand gets tons of free promotion. And the list goes on.

    3. Advertisers love being a part of engaging, high-quality online experiences. The increase in MMOD ad revenue from $4M in '06 to $30M this year speaks to advertisers' interest. It's no surprise that big brands are increasingly challenged to access large target audiences and have their messages heard (that's why the Super Bowl maintains its massive appeal). MMOD offers an exciting, immersive and interactive avenue to augment brands' on-air tournament spending. MMOD gives CBS ad sales teams a formidable differentiator. As AdAge notes, that helped CBS retain wounded GM as an advertiser, while the company dropped the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards from its media plan.

    4. User experience matters, a lot. MMOD is a hugely complex undertaking for CBS, but delivering a positive experience that lives up to the hype is ultimately what matters. In the past, not knowing how many simultaneous users to expect or what bandwidth would be required, CBS cautiously proceeded with its so-called "waiting room" model. That's now been eliminated, and everyone can watch on-demand. This year CBS is also offering a high quality or "HQ" option, powered by Silverlight. Overall, CBS's player is clean and easy to use. My experience in the past has been that the ads are obvious, but not overwhelming. All of this registers with users and contributes to a positive experience.

    5. The side dishes complement the main meal. There's no question that the games themselves are the primary attraction. But CBS has been clever in augmenting the games with lots of other stuff that contribute to the overall experience. For example, if you go to the site now, you can see highlights of past championship games. Then on Sunday will come the selection show. There's a Facebook integration, widgets and the "Selection Sunday Challenge." And this year CBS is also introducing mobile access, albeit for a fee. Add it all up and CBS has been able to build a far larger franchise around MMOD than just offering the games themselves.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

     
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  • Silverlight Gets Nod for March Madness

    Microsoft's Silverlight notched another high-profile win with yesterday's announcement by CBS Sports and the NCAA that CBSSports.com's March Madness on Demand (MMOD) will offer a high definition option using powered by Silverlight.

    Over the past few years MMOD has become the signature online video sports event, with CBSSports.com successfully converting it in 2006 from a paid, subscription based model to one fully supported by ads. The payoff has been evident: in '08 MMOD had 4.8 million unique visitors (a 164% increase over '07) who watched 5 million hours of live video (an 81% increase over '07).

    CBSSports.com is building on its MMOD success by offering the higher quality option via Silverlight this year. Users who download the plug-in will get 1.5 mbps streams vs. the standard player's 550 kbps. Once again, all 63 games, from the first round through the championship game will be available. For office workers unable to watch on TV, online distribution continues to be a compelling value.

    With MMOD, Microsoft is continuing to push Silverlight into high-profile sports events. Recall that Silverlight's inaugural run, supporting the 2008 Summer Olympics, was executed superbly. It showcased new features like multiple viewing windows and instant rewind/fast-forward. MMOD promises yet another premier opportunity for Silverlight to show its stuff.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

     
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