SBJ/June 23-29, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

League refines its NFL Now expectations for clubs at summit

With weeks to go before the launch of the NFL Now digital network, the league used its recent Digital Media Summit to outline the expectations placed upon clubs for the new venture and quell their initial concerns.

Much of the third annual summit, held at NFL Media headquarters in Los Angeles after two years in Austin, Texas, as an adjunct to the South By Southwest festival, was devoted to the specifics of NFL Now. The service is to debut in August and will provide a customizable stream of football content across digital platforms including desktop, mobile and streaming video devices.

After the venture was announced during Super Bowl week, some clubs expressed concern that NFL Now could conflict with their own websites, and industry sources said there are still pockets of resistance around the league. But four months later, many of the specifics have been completed and presented to the clubs.

Among the key refinements: A requirement for clubs to provide 21 to 25 video segments a week during the season for NFL Now has since been supplemented with time components. The tweak will allow clubs developing particularly long segments of content to edit it into smaller chunks and have it count more against their base obligations. Also, any content produced by teams for NFL Now will also be usable on the team sites.

“We spent a fair amount of time at the summit talking about all of this,” said George Scott, NFL Digital Media general manager of club sites. “Any time you launch a new product, there’s going to be some apprehension. This is definitely a huge change in terms of what we are asking of the teams. But we sense much more excitement around this now than when it was first announced.”

Kevin Griffin, Cleveland Browns vice president of fan experience and marketing, said the weekly content requirements for NFL Now present an aspirational element for teams beyond what had been occurring on their own sites. “By this sheer volume of content that’s now being created, it’s up to us to be really creative and figure out new and interesting ways to meet those obligations,” Griffin said.

Scott declined to outline the specifics of the content obligations or revenue model inherent in NFL Now. But he said clubs will share in advertising and subscription revenue generated by the venture, and that there are incentives for teams to sell inventory within the platform.

Among the key goals for NFL Now is to broaden its overall distribution footprint and get league content onto new and emerging platforms. A focus has been to secure agreements with companies such as Amazon, Yahoo, Roku and Microsoft, among others, with more deals expected by the fall.

“This platform has incredible potential to further engage NFL and Falcons fans and also creates a platform to reach a younger demographic on their schedules and devices,” said Jim Smith, Atlanta Falcons executive vice president and chief marketing and revenue officer.

The Digital Media Summit included senior level league officials such as NFL Media Chief Operating Officer Brian Rolapp, Scott, and Chief Digital Officer Perkins Miller. Also on the agenda were presentations and discussions with outside speakers such as Patrick Donahue, Los Angeles Kings manager of digital media; Jeff Mirman, Turner Sports vice president of marketing; Josh Nafman, Pepsi senior digital brand manager; and executives and writers from comedy site Funny or Die.

Staff writer Daniel Kaplan contributed to this report.

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