SBJ/20090817/This Week's News

NeuLion clients relaunching sites

Chris Wagner, executive vice president of NeuLion, asks his university clients a simple question: Do you want your official Web site to be a scoreboard or do you want it to make money?

With an eye on enhanced video capabilities — and the enhanced revenue stream that the schools hope will follow — 14 NeuLion university Web sites will relaunch on the veritable eve of the college football season. What these sites have in common is an improved video player with a more dominant position on the front page and a deeper menu of video offerings.

Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, Oregon and Nebraska are among the schools that are buying into the upgraded video technology that NeuLion believes will drive their Web revenue to higher levels.

The relaunch incorporates several new design elements, including a cleaner front page and easier navigation. Revenue typically comes from subscriptions to insider content and advertising, and is shared between the school and the Internet manager, NeuLion.

Among 14 new-look college sites: Georgia

Some of the sites will feature their own TV page, such as Oregon’s GoDucks.TV, which offers programming options throughout the day. Georgia has similar ideas, including producing its own Bulldog “SportsCenter” type of show each day.

“We want the experience of watching video on these sites to be just like turning on the TV at home,” Wagner said. “This has the potential to change how a fan interacts with the school. If you create something engaging, more fans will show up and they’ll stay longer. It also amplifies the brand and the Web site becomes more a part of the recruiting process.”

NeuLion also is using the relaunch as an opportunity to rebrand from its former name JumpTV to NeuLion. The two companies merged in 2008, shortly after JumpTV had acquired the college Web site business from XOS Technologies.

The JumpTV brand will be phased out as more of NeuLion’s sites relaunch with the new video technology and refreshed looks.

With each new look will come a greater emphasis on the video. On Georgia’s site, for example, the video screen will stretch all the way across the front page. Other sites similarly will feature the video offerings in a more dominant position on the page, with less clutter around it.

“We’ve gone through some redesigns and it’s gotten a little too fancy, a little too busy,” said Steve Malchow, a senior associate athletic director at Iowa State, one of the NeuLion schools updating its look and video technology. “The video becomes a huge anchor for the page and it gives your eye a place to start as you consume the front page.”

Without getting overly technical, Wagner said NeuLion’s video, which will be delivered in high definition, has eliminated the time required for a video to buffer. “When you watch TV, the screen doesn’t have to buffer, so why should it when you’re watching TV on the Internet?” he said.

The idea is that the longer fans stay on the site, the more apt they’ll be to buy stuff, whether it’s season tickets, the latest hat or T-shirt offering, or other school-branded gear.

“I don’t know if the financial impact will be immediate, but it does open the door to create new revenue streams,” said Alan Thomas, Georgia’s associate AD for external affairs. Thomas said the Bulldogs will offer about 85 percent of its video for free and the other 15 percent will be available by subscription only.

“We’ve all been slow to get to this point,” Thomas said of the college space. “The Web site has been more of a tool to put out a release. But it needs to be more of a destination.”

NeuLion, whose clients also include the NHL, NFL, Professional Bull Riders and the Indy Racing League, will also roll out enhancements such as the Game Center and Game Tracker for fans who want to follow the game with the radio play-by-play. Ad space is incorporated into those elements.

Most top schools aren’t able to stream live video of their games because broadcasters own those rights.

The other NeuLion schools working on a relaunch or video upgrades this month include Boise State, Duke, Kansas State, Minnesota, Mississippi, Mississippi State, North Carolina State and Virginia.

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