OnScreen Media Summit: Superserving Sports Fans on the Web

OnScreen Media Summit: Complete Coverage from Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News

The notion of “superserving” sports-mad fans came up repeatedly in the session Live Streaming For Sports: Friend or Foe?, the final segment of the B&C/Multichannel News OnScreen Media Summit in New York Tuesday. Operators discussed balancing out satiating hungry fans with live games on the Web, while also making sure vital affiliates don’t feel short-changed.

The session was paneled by CAA Sports Media Ventures CEO Chris Bevilacqua, Versus President Jamie Davis, HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg and NBC Sports and Olympics SVP of Digital Media Perkins Miller, and moderated by B&C editor in chief Ben Grossman. The panelists agreed that NBC’s Web strategy for the 2008 Summer Olympics was a “watershed” moment for sports on the Web. Miller mentioned some 6,000 highlight clips online, showcasing lesser wattage sports like wrestling and sailing and assembled by a trusty crew of NBC interns, drawing a massive viewership, and marketers that advertised both on air and online enjoying a 31% boost in brand recall. He said NBC did not see cannibalization of its on-air viewing due to the high Web traffic. “It’s the glue that connects them back to the broadcast,” he said.

The panelists spoke of enhancing the sports fan’s experience with Web features like a Lance Armstrong camera during Versus’ Tour de France coverage or a Web-only boxing program on HBO.com, but stressed that the needs of distribution partners—be they MSOs or stations—must be taken into serious consideration. “We can’t cut out our cable operators,” said Greenburg. “We can’t go direct to the consumer.”

The sports mavens suggested that the potential for monetizing mobile video was certainly part of the long-term gameplan, but it would be some time before that represents a substantial revenue pool. “We’re having a hard time monetizing broadband video, so mobile is a long way off,” said Miller.

And besides being a growing revenue source, the panelists said the Web represents a relatively low-risk forum for trying out offbeat programming that might not be a fit on air. “It’s a neat place to experiment and create,” said Greenburg, “and see if we can lure the casual fan in.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.