SBJ/October 8-14, 2012/Colleges

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  • NeuLion launches new college apps

    NeuLion has launched a new line of mobile applications for smartphones and tablets so that its college clients may take advantage of the larger screens on new smartphones.

    The new apps are rolling out during the college football season, enabling schools to offer their premium online content to fans through phones or tablets in high definition.

    The apps will let NeuLion’s college clients provide premium content on smartphones and tablets in high definition.
    “The screens are getting bigger and that makes all of that streaming HD video look even better,” said Chris Wagner, NeuLion’s executive vice president. “Samsung has always pushed the big screen on its Galaxy and now we’re seeing Apple catch up with the largest screen it’s had on the iPhone. More people are buying and connecting with their smartphones, and that’s driving subscriptions and download fees for the apps.”

    It’s too early yet to say just how much more revenue schools will be able to generate from the new mobile apps, but it’s clear that they’re positioning themselves to service fans on their mobile devices, in addition to the online experience.

    Across NeuLion’s college business, it has seen mobile and tablet traffic increase 113 percent year over year. The mobile traffic now accounts for more than 25 percent of NeuLion’s total traffic on its college network.

    Most schools, including those working with NeuLion’s chief competitor in the space, CBSSports.com College Network, offer subscription-based, all-access channels that show news conferences, highlights, player features and some live Olympic sports. That’s standard fare these days online. Such subscriptions run $10 to $12 a month.

    Not every school has gone the subscription route, though. Clemson, for one, was insistent on making its content free in order to get it in front of more eyeballs, but the Tigers are the exception.

    “We look at it as more of a brand-building play,” said Mike Money, Clemson’s director of marketing. “It’s important to get this video content in front of our students, our recruits and our fans for free.”

    NeuLion’s new mobile apps enable subscribers to use their password from the website to access video content on their smartphone or tablet, all in HD.

    Of NeuLion’s 175 college clients, 125 of them are now offering mobile websites and more than 60 have launched school-branded apps. Wagner said the apps provide the better viewing experience.

    The smartphone apps typically run $4.99 to download and the tablet apps are $9.99. Revenue is split with the schools.
    Many of NeuLion’s newest clients have cited video as the reason they recently signed with the company to manage their digital operations and deliver new products. North Carolina, Miami, Clemson and Texas A&M have signed with NeuLion for the start of this football season. Maryland is coming on board next season. NeuLion also is operating BTN2Go for the Big Ten Network.

    CBSSports.com College Network, meanwhile, has added Virginia and Rutgers this season.

    “More than half of the U.S. population will have a smartphone by next year,” NeuLion’s Wagner said. “People are getting connected through their phone or tablet and they’re staying connected longer. That’s why we’re seeing traffic numbers go up. Everyone used to have one device — a PC. Now they have three devices with their PC, smartphone and tablet. All of this makes the timing for fans perfect because of the bigger screens, the faster processors for HD video and the 4G networks.”

    NeuLion is designing its apps to take advantage of the viewing trends with live and on-demand content, as well as game-day information that includes traffic, parking, pregame and postgame updates, and coach and player interviews. There’s also a condensed version of the game that can be watched without all of the huddles and commercial breaks.

    It’s not just the big schools that are benefiting. FCS member Appalachian State, which launched its streaming video offerings in HD this past weekend, has seen annual subscriber revenue from GoASU TV surpass the $100,000 mark, more than double what is was a few years ago.

    “We’ve seen steady increases in our mobile apps,” said David Jackson, Appalachian State’s associate athletic director for public affairs. “Every once in a while, there is surprise that a school our size can deliver what we can, but as people get more comfortable with using their phones like this, there’s an expectation for this kind of content.”

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