SBJ/June 3-9, 2013/Facilities

Barclays Center to sell ‘digital ticket’ to some events through deal with NeuLion

Barclays Center has signed a multiyear deal with NeuLion to provide exclusive digital streaming of live events at the Brooklyn arena, NeuLion’s first agreement directly with a sports facility.

The technology company, owned by New York Islanders owner Charles Wang, has leaguewide streaming deals with the NFL, NBA, NHL and the NCAA, among other sports properties.

NeuLion tested the service in December.
The new service provides a “digital ticket” for fans who do not have a ticket for a Barclays Center event to watch it on their personal computers, tablets or smartphones, said Chris Wagner, NeuLion’s executive vice president and co-founder.

There are restrictions to the service tied to the rights holders of events. Brooklyn Nets games are not available due to existing deals in place with the NBA, said league spokesman Mike Bass. Those include NBA League Pass International, powered by NeuLion, providing content to more than 200 countries outside of North America. As a result, the Nets are excluded from the arena’s deal. But for college basketball games, boxing and concerts, the arena could sign streaming deals with promoters, said Fred Mangione, the Nets’ executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

Barclays Center, run by the Nets and AEG Facilities, is responsible for signing streaming deals with rights holders. In turn, the arena would pay NeuLion a fee from the revenue it generates from those agreements, Wagner said.

The arena can select a business model that works best for the rights holder, Wagner said, whether it’s pay-per-vew, subscription, or free views supported by live commercials and sponsorships sold by the arena and the promoter.

As of last week, Barclays Center had not signed any streaming deals. Arena officials plan to wait until they have more than one event committed to using the technology before making an announcement, Mangione said. The arena, which opened in September, will play host to about 200 events, including Nets games, in its first full year.

Rather than driving revenue, the Nets see the NeuLion service as an add-on for promoters as they book events at Barclays Center. It’s also part of the arena’s marketing strategy to offer something new in its second year of operation, he said.

Some arena managers question the value of streaming live events. Concert acts determine whether content can be streamed, and many artists are against it because they feel promoting out-of-venue technology diminishes the experience for paid attendees, one facility manager said.

Others, such as Joe Ferreira, chief content officer for Learfield Sports — a company that manages sports media rights for 50 colleges, including partnerships with NeuLion at several schools — see streaming of live events continuing to escalate as more consumers turn to mobile devices as their screen of choice.

NeuLion tested the service at Barclays Center for the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational, a college basketball event in December. It was a free offer, using the arena’s video feed plus audio feeds tied to the six schools who agreed to stream game content, Wagner said.

The event was one of 40,000 live sports events NeuLion streams annually, he said. In addition to the audio feeds, viewers have the ability to choose multiple camera angles, instant replays and related content.

“It’s not just about streaming … it’s the experience we’re creating,” Wagner said.

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