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Conferences see gold in video vaults
Published January 3, 2011
Before the Big Ten obtained the rights to its archived games from ESPN in 2007, conferences gave little thought to such ownership in the past.
Until then, networks typically kept the copyright to the broadcast games. The Big Ten, though, was on its way to creating a new TV network, and the conference knew those "classic" games would be critical to the 24/7 programming needs of a linear channel.
Since then, as conferences like the SEC and ACC negotiated new media deals, they made sure to get archival rights to their historical games. Even though those conferences decided not to start their own networks, they're viewing archived games as critical content and revenue-growing opportunities that are centerpieces to their digital strategy.
"Non-live rights, we believe, have a value of 10 percent of the live rights," said Kevin Schaff, CEO and founder of Thought Equity Motion, the Denver-based firm that works with leagues and other media entities to digitize and monetize their video content.
"This is a huge growth space for a lot of rights holders and their partners," Schaff said. "Our business is to increase the value of that content and make it a better ad unit for our partners."
Thought Equity and Raycom Sports last month unveiled the ACC Vault, a collection of old games that can be accessed online via the league's official website, TheACC.com, or Vault.TheACC.com.
"The appetite for these classic moments and games has been strong, and I believe that the Vault will be a valuable resource with incredible potential as we look to the future," said ACC Commissioner John Swofford.
The site launched with about 100 basketball games that have been televised by Raycom, the ACC's longtime media partner. The ACC Vault is expected to grow with more basketball and football games from other broadcasters as they're obtained and digitized by Thought Equity.
The firm also is behind the NCAA Vault (Vault.NCAA.com), which launched a year ago with a decade's worth of games from the Sweet 16 through the championship game of the NCAA tournament.
"The first year, we really didn't expect to generate revenue from the Vault," said the NCAA's Greg Weitekamp, director of broadcasting. "We did have a sponsorship with Capital One, sold through CBS, but future revenue will depend on the growth of the Vault. The way to grow is to continue adding new content and diversifying the content."
Thought Equity envisions mostly bloggers, social networkers and other professional writers using the ACC Vault's publishing guide to link highlights and moments that go with their stories and Internet posts.
"We think over 50 percent to two-thirds of the traffic will come from people utilizing links to help tell their stories," said Raycom's Colin Smith, vice president of new media and distribution. "There's a lot of content out there, but it's not always searchable and high quality. As people consume the content and share it socially, much of the traffic will come from places like Facebook."
One of Thought Equity's chief competitors is XOS Digital, which created the SEC Digital Network and has worked with the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics to create a NACDA Vault.
XOS Digital's approach with the SEC has been different than Thought Equity's with the ACC. The SEC's old games are available via download from SECDigitalNetwork.com for $3.99 per full game, and the menu of games goes back to the 2009 season.
Most of XOS' energy has been spent in the "near-live" category — creating highlights from games that day or that week. For example, if users want to see Auburn quarterback Cam Newton's passing stats, which show that he completed 14 passes, they can click on the 14 and see each completed pass.
"Your history is your history and that has value, but the real value is in the live rights," said Randy Eccker, co-founder and executive chairman for XOS Digital. "We're changing the way we talk about live versus non-live. If live events have the most value, near-live has the next most value. The key is getting the content from campus to the consumer as quickly as possible."
Thought Equity and Raycom are going with an ad-supported model that doesn't charge for access to archived games, but will provide selling opportunities for Raycom with new ad inventory.
"Traffic to TheACC.com is strong, but I don't think anyone is going to get rich right away by selling this transactionally," said Raycom's Smith. "What we're doing is packaging the digital properties with other sponsorship opportunities. That's where we see a much higher realization of real dollars put toward this, as part of an umbrella approach."
Thought Equity tags every frame of these archived games so that users can easily search and find specific moments. What Thought Equity's research shows is that users spend an average of 93 seconds on a site with games from start to finish. But sites that offer searchable moments and game highlights — for example, all of Michael Jordan's dunks at North Carolina against Duke — drive average consumption time up to 14 minutes.
"User control is why YouTube is so huge," said Dan Weiner, Thought Equity's vice president of marketing and products. "Users can pick what they want, when they want it."