Friday, November 17, 2006

YouTube's Deal with the NHL Will Change the Landscape of Sports Media

As I discussed the rumors in previous posts, the National Hockey League and YouTube have officially agreed to a deal in which "the league will provide the video-sharing site daily footage including game highlights and behind-the-scenes features" (Sports Business Journal, 11/14/06). YouTube will create an exclusive NHL channel and supplement its NHL content with user-generated hockey material. Similar to YouTube’s recent content-sharing deal with CBS, YouTube and the NHL will share revenue through this deal. As part of the agreement, the NHL will have the right to "remove protected content from the site posted by others".

This deal with the NHL is YouTube's first official partnership with a major professional sports league in America. However, many don't anticipate YouTube's growth to end with the NHL. YouTube VP/Content Kevin Donahue said "We are in active conversations with the other leagues, and are making a lot of progress... this is a true milestone for us. We anticipate creating a truly great forum for hockey fans." The NHL recently signed a deal to make full-length games available through Google, so the YouTube deal strengthens the NHL's online presence. Additionally, the NHL has been making strong attempts to begin offering live online streaming of games, and an option is expected to be available later in the season.

Obviously, the NHL is ahead of the curve when it comes to utilizing new media to promote its sport. The NHL realizes that the Nielsen TV ratings don't necessarily reflect the number of fans their game is reaching. In today's world, people are becoming exposed to sports through outlets other than television and newspapers. Websites, blogs, fantasy pools, and online streaming videos all expose the sport to more fans than ever before. Many professionals in the industry believe that this YouTube-NHL deal will change the media promotion in professional sports forever. Wahsington Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis said Google’s efforts with YouTube will "change the new media landscape as other entities, including sports teams and leagues, try to aggregate and centralize their video content." Leonisis believes that once this is done, it will give advertisers the opportunity to "sell selectively.”

Along with online video content, the NHL will be exploring the area of blogospheres to create revenue in the future. With the Washington Capitals creating a large blogging community, Ted Leonisis explained that he believes the team will “begin selling advertising and search fields, while building tools and syndicating out across their entire blogosphere”. In theory, these new ad units will allow advertisers to buy a presence across the team’s entire online community. These new forms of advertising will create additional revenue for the league, while increasing the team’s presence in the online market.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

NHL Leads the Way with Alternative Marketing Strategies for the Evolving Sports-Media Market

Tape-Delayed Hockey Games Now (Legally) Available Online

It's been announced that the NHL has signed a multi-year video content deal with Google Video. The NHL will contribute full-length regular season games to Google Video, which will make the games available for purchase online. In addition to the regular season games, select “classic” NHL games will also be offered. The promotion will begin with a free two week trial, and following this, games will be available for $2.99 each (SportsBusiness Journal, 11/1/06).


The NHL decided to make this move after attempting a test run of similar proportions during the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. Last year, the NHL made condensed playoff games available for purchase on Apple's i-Tunes store. With the positive results, the NHL has decided to expand this marketing strategy, offering full games online. As part of this deal, Google is set to tailor a portion of the video download store exclusive to official NHL content. This section will also incorporate user-generated videos into its webspace, making the site user-friendly and interactive.

“This is obviously an on-demand world where people want what they want, when they want it, and where they want it,” said NHL Interactive CyberEnterprises President Keith Ritter. “Google is a place where we definitely need to be.” With poor television ratings across the nation, and a decrease in ticket sales, the NHL has maintained a strong effort to bring hockey to both hardcore fans and potential fans using alternative marketing and promotion methods. Among these methods are: the opening of an NHL retail store on sixth avenue & 47th street In N.Y, the launch of the social-networking NHL Connect, the creation of an NHL women's clothing line, and a dramatically redesigned league Web site. The NHL understands that, although fans may not be watching the live games on television, there is still a demand for the product, and there are methods of reaching potential fans via alternative marketing strategies.

NHL Connect is a social-networking site that will be linked with NHL.com. The site will allow fans to make personalized profile pages (similar to myspace.com) which include podcasts, photos, and links to news articles. Fans can connect with each other and share ideas, thoughts, or even competition through NHL Fantasy Hockey games. The newly revamped NHL.com emphasizes fantasy gaming and showcasing of individual superstar players. Through interviewing each of the other four American major league sports on their Web strategies, the NHL designed a model "aimed at best serving both the NHL and its fans.”

With increasing efforts to offer live streaming of games online, the NHL is taking large steps towards increasing its overall fan base through non-traditional marketing strategies. The league is using new media to increase the exposure of its sport, all while making sure to give fans what they want, when they want it. The results of these strategies may not be evident immediately, however one can be sure that the NHL is using innovative new technology to reach fans that may not come to the game or watch it on television. Time will tell if the effort was worth it.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Free Online Video as a Means of Alternative Sports Promotion?

In the past, sports leagues have demanded that their video footage appear exclusively on their web sites or on licensed broadcast partners. All videos needed the express written consent of the sports league to copy, redistribute, or rebroadcast any of these videos. This was done to protect the image of the league brand. Today, however, many major American sports leagues are “struggling to understand the role of online video where fans can watch their copyrighted video clips” on other Web sites, according to Greg Johnson of the L.A. TIMES.

With the rapid growth of web video upload websites, such as YouTube, unauthorized sports video clips are available to the masses with the click of a mouse. Sports fans upload thousands of sports videos without the official permission of the sports leagues and make these videos available to other fans. When learning of this, it immediately comes to mind that professional sports leagues would have a huge problem with their clips being used without their consent. This definitely is the case with some sports leagues, such as the NBA, which regularly requests for video upload websites to remove footage that violates their copyright agreements.

Major League Baseball has taken a very firm stance on this, as they have made it unambiguous that its baseball “footage shouldn’t play anywhere other than MLB.com and its affiliated club websites”. While YouTube’s search engine does identify almost 1,000 MLB videos, very few include game footage from licensed broadcasts.

Following MLB’s lead, the NFL has also taken a firm stance on this. NFL Dir of Corporate Communications Brian McCarthy said that the league is “taking ‘aggressive’ steps to ensure its ‘long-standing policy’ of protecting its content.” The NFL “uses an in-house legal counsel and an outside law firm to police Internet portals,” but still. YouTube and other sites “still have plenty of NFL game videos in their digital vaults.”

While most of America’s major professional sports leagues have strongly opposed video upload websites using their authorized, copyrighted content, the National Hockey League has done the opposite. Coming off a strong season after their 2004-2005 lockout year, the NHL has been exploring alternative means of marketing their sport to the average sports fan. Staying true to this alternative marketing philosophy, the NHL has shied away from “down too hard on hockey fans” that upload NHL videos onto web sites such as YouTube. While the league has requested that YouTube take down long action videos, the site still presents short, highlight reel type video highlights. The NHL has embraced video upload websites as a means from alternative promotion of their sport. NHL Exec VP/Media Doug Perlman said, “We spend millions of dollars to stage the games, we created what’s a very valuable intellectual property. We have a young, tech-savvy fan base. We know they’re interacting with our sport very differently than in the past ... which makes it very important for us to strike the right balance” (the Sports Business Daily 10/23/06).

While many sports leagues are putting forth time and energy in an attempt to regulate this new media, the NHL has accepted its presence in the marketplace and has subtly incorporated it into its new marketing strategy. The NHL knows that this free promotion can only help their league gain the attention of casual sports fans, while also offering an alternative means for reaching these people. Sure, one can argue the NHL may be more accepting of these websites due to its current situation in the sports marketplace. With TV ratings at an all-time low in America, and with a whole season lost to a labor dispute, the NHL may be a little desperate. Of course, the NFL and MLB do not have these types of issues, so they offer more resistance to the idea of the public using and sharing their copyrighted material.

However, the NHL’s acceptance of new media could help them rebound from their lockout as they strive to build a new base of young fans. By regulating their content on these websites, the NFL and MLB can guarantee themselves that they are shutting out a certain portion of the public that could possibly take a liking to their sport. On the flipside, the NHL realizes that these websites are giving their league a new opportunity to reach potential new fans, so the NHL embraces the sites. It will be interesting to see if the sports leagues unite in their disapproval of their property being misused on these video upload websites, just as leading music artists banded together to voice their disapproval over Napster and other music-sharing websites. With YouTube recently being acquired by Google, its my belief that we will see more regulation in the near future.

Friday, October 20, 2006

TNT and Nascar Looking to Integrate New Media Into Ad Sales Strategy

TNT, which begins an eight-year, $640M rights deal next year with NASCAR, is “floating a package to potential advertisers that would eliminate ad ‘pods’ during its race coverage in favor of a framing device that would allow for messages — including full-motion video and audio — mostly along the bottom of the screen,” according to Lefton & Ourand in this week’s SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. TNT sources said that talks are “preliminary” and added that the net is “looking for 10 to 12 advertisers to make its schedule ad-free.” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 10/16 issue).

As technology advances, advertisers are constantly searching for the top new methods of reaching the maximum amount of consumers for the longest time periods possible. This is occuring because advancements such as Video On Demand (VOD) and Digital Video Recorders (DVS) are changing the landscape of the advertising industry, with consumers gaining more control over what they watch and when they watch it.

In the past, viewers were forced to watch their favorite shows at the times that networks designated the shows to be aired. Viewers had to sit through countless commercials in order to watch their favorite programs in their entirety. The VCR made it possible for viewers to record their favorite programs onto a VHS and watch the programs at their convenience. However, this process was a bit of a hassle because consumers still had to purchase VHS tapes and fast forward through the commercials that took up roughly 25% of their favorite program's airtime.

With the DVR and VOD, viewers can skip right through commercials and watch what they want, when they want. They can also gain access to added features, past programs, etc. through VOD. This poses a major problem for advertisers, since their expensive commercial spots are literally being skipped over by viewers. Advertisers pay large sums of money to place their commercials in specific programs and at specific times. But technology has found a way to empower the consumer with the ability to completely shut out the advertiser.

As advertising faces these new challenges, the industry has been struggling to find new ways to make sure their brand gets the promotion and airtime they want. This new "framing device" idea being pitched by TNT and NASCAR is a proposed solution to this new problem. The framing device seems like a great idea, as 10-12 advertisers would have exclusive access to the entire race. The race could be brought to viewers "commerical free", while advertisers would still have a strong presence in the race. However, many people have expressed doubts about the new concept.

Octagon Racing Group Exec VP & COO Mark Coughlin said the technology is “great experimentation, but they are going to have to experiment on pricing to attract buyers.” Basically, he believes that the asking price of TNT/NASCAR is too high, and that advertisers won't be willing to pay top dollar for an experimental new method of advertisement. Another skeptic, Optimedia Exec VP & Dir of National Electronic Media Larry Novenstern, said, “I would ... argue that unless I’m getting the full screen and full attention of consumers that advertising is less valuable than a regular spot.” This argument emphasizes doubt in overall utility of the ad method itself. Mr. Novenstern sounds like a traditionalist with his comments, still sticking to the belief that commercial spots are one of the top forms of advertising. But what if viewers skip through them?

A final expression of doubt comes from Lefton & Ourand when they note that other advertiser questions include “possible viewer backlash, the value of adding clutter to sports’ most cluttered commercial environment, and the reaction of car sponsors, who might feel that the value of their on-track branding would be reduced by in-race advertisements” . These doubts span all aspects of advertisement, with fears that consumers will reject the concept, major car sponsors will reject the concept, and the overall concept won't be effective. To me, these arguments seem to be based in a fear of change, not of the technology. People will always doubt and question things that they do not know much about, for the fear of the unknown consumes them.

If this technology were to be used and became successful, it would change the entire landscape of sports television advertising. The industry fears these changes and will oppose them on all fronts. However, in the end, the technology has empowered the viewer/consumer so much that changes need to be made. This is only the beginning.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

We Live In A "Fantasy Sports" World

Consider this:

Time Warner Cable subscribers in Green Bay, San Antonio, Austin and Columbia, South Carolina, will have access to the MSO’s Cable Fantasy Football Tracker, which allows them to “keep track of player performances onscreen while viewing another channel.” The service launched in Green Bay last year (MULTICHANNEL.com, 9/19). Everest, the local MSO in K.C., has also launched its own Fantasy Football Tracker (MULTICHANNEL.com, 9/19).

That's right. American's can't get enough football. From 9 AM on Sunday morning until 2 AM on Tuesday morning, American's can watch football and related football news coverage on ESPN, CBS, NBC, NFL Network and FOX. That means that one could sit on the couch for nearly three straight days and watch the National Football League exclusively. Football consistently draws the highest sports ratings in our country, destroying its Nascar and Major League Baseball competition on a weekly basis.

Americans not only love watching football, but they love feeling like they are part of the league. This phenomenon is best seen through the most popular fantasy sport, which is fantasy football, ahead of fantasy baseball and fantasy hockey. Millions of Americans participate in fantasy football leagues every year, whether they're run through yahoo, cbs sportsline, sports illustrated, espn, or another independent host. In these leagues, people get to run their own team, choose their own players through a draft, and manage their team throughout the season in an attempt to accumulate higher scores than the other competitors in the league. Some leagues are run for cash wagers, while others are not. Either way, millions of Americans are watching their televisions closely on Sundays and Mondays, as they attempt to monitor the progress of "their fantasy players".

Knowing how much attention fantasy leagues have garnered, cable MSO's like Time Warner have created new technology that enables viewers to keep tabs on their fantasy players without missing one minute of the NFL games. By doing this, the MSO’s are using new technology to keep viewers watching, while creating a sense of personalization for the viewer. Fans can keep tabs on "their" fantasy players all day long, without having to log onto their PC and check the internet for scores and statistics.


Additionally, MSOs are creating a new means of reaching viewers with advertisements. This fantasy sports tracker will be live on screen all day and will give advertisers the opportunity to tag their logo onto the screen, all while reaching thousands of veiwers per second. It gives advertisers instant access to viewers and households, while creating an association with the NFL and Fantasy Football.

MSOs are taking advantage of this new media technology in an effort to increase ad sales, increase ratings, and increase the personalization of their programming. In the coming future, more advancements like this fantasy football tracker will be available to MSOs as they strive to improve their ratings and ad sales. Interactive television and VOD give advertisers new methods advertising, while creating a personalized, interactive sports experience for their viewers.

As a sports fan, I am excited by these recent developments. It makes the sports viewing experience more pleasurable and exciting. It keeps me informed about the leagues I follow, and gives me access to more information than I could ever need. However, I am concerned that new media and technology could potentially cause an overflow of advertisements in sports programming. I don't want to be bombarded by ads and logos as I watch my favorite team play. Hopefully MSOs will keep the power in the control of the viewer, but it is doubtful that the MSOs will turn down ad dollars to keep the sports viewing experience pure. Sports fans will just have to wait and see.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Blog to Examine Emerging Media Technologies and Sports Television

Greetings! Thank you for visiting my blog.

The game plan for this blog is to examine the latest technological advancements in media and their relationships with sports television and advertising. From HDTV to VOD, sports on television have recently taken great strides in providing viewers with the best sports entertainment experiences one can have in their own living room. Just as the viewers are benefiting from these great advancements, so are the advertisers! New media allow advertisers to reach viewers in more ways than ever before, while providing numerous methods for advertisers to create strong associations with the sports leagues and teams that they sponsor.

It is surely an exciting time for sports fans and advertisers alike. I am personally in a great spot, being a sports fan and working in sports advertising sales. My name is Anthony Tsigourakos. I am in my second year of the MCIS program, but I am pursuing the degree on a part-time basis, so this is only my fifth course in the program. I began the program one semester after graduating from Rutgers College with a B.S. in Sport Management. I just can’t get enough of Rutgers! I currently work full time as a Sports Media Sales Planner for National Cable Communications in New York, NY. I am extremely interested in new media and advertising. I am maintaining this blog because it will directly applies to my current job and future career aspirations.

I hope this blog can share some exciting new information on sports media and advertising, while also allowing myself and others to give our opinions and ideas regarding the effects of new media on sports television and advertising.

Check back for updates. I hope to keep you informed and entertained!