Schools Diversify Content as Digital Media Changes Broadcast Landscape

23 Jun

Chris Kesicke, Ben Godwin and Brian Hommel from XOS are seen here with client Jennifer Martin from the University of Alabama.

REPORTING FROM ANAHEIM, CALIF. — Schools and athletic conferences are beginning to change the way they view and value their content. Once the sole domain of broadcasters on both network television and cable, a number of schools are rewriting their existing deals and taking control of how their content is used across the Internet and mobile space.

Representatives from the powerful Southeastern Conference (home to five national championships in the past seven years) shared details of their content sharing deal with firm XOS Digital during a panel titled “The Future of Digital Content” at the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics conference at the Anaheim Convention Center Tuesday.

In 2008, the SEC signed a 15-year broadcast deal with CBS worth an estimated $55 million annually. Part of that agreement gave the SEC control over how it used its images and videos for the Internet and mobile devices, and the conference hired XOS to head its digital strategy. While neither party would disclose how much the deal was worth, XOS’ Chris Kesicke, director of Partner Relations, said most high profile agreements are based on a revenue-share model.

“The key principle behind the digital network is taking content, repurposing it and then distributing,” said the XOS’ Assistant GM Ben Godwin. In the SEC’s case, the main portal is the conference’s website with all video and images leading back to the page. Besides game highlights, content included news clips on a recent Florida baseball game, NFL draft reports and interactive box scores.

The SEC generates revenue by wrapping the video with sponsor messages, and charging for certain downloads, like iPhone and iPad apps (typically 99 cents), as well as video on demand (the decisive Florida-Alabama game in 2009 costs $3.99 to download).

“These apps are things we update each year,” said Godwin. “The ’09 football app is out; we’ll launch a new app for 2010 in the fall.”

One of the conference’s most successful rollouts was the SEC widget. XOS has 160 affiliates that aggregate the conference’s content onto their website. Sites like the Athen’s Banner Herald newspaper carry the applications on their website, and these widgets will post live scores and highlights (up to 30 minutes post game) for all Georgia games.

“The schools get the distribution and a little bit of rev-share, we get the eyeballs,” said Godwin.

At the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, the school worked with the SEC to create three DVDs commemorating the team’s championship run, said Jennifer Martin, the school’s director of licensing. The school uses social media tools like Facebook and Twitter, along with traditional email marketing, to drive traffic to the video retail site.

“We sent out a ‘Tide Mail’ to a network of over 144,000 fans every time we had a new DVD or product that has our content from the XOS/SEC digital network,” she said.

XOS also handles enforcement for the SEC and monitors the Internet for violations. Besides warning advertisers who misuse official images of the league, XOS also helps schools lay claim to their internet identities — XOS helped obtain control of the “LSU” profile on YouTube after it discovered that a user of the same name was using the ID to broadcast a single video — a ping pong game between two tweens.

Not all conferences chose to split their broadcast deals — the Mountain West Conference allows CBS college sports to license and distribute all of its content, while the Big 10 Conference scrapped its TV deal and runs its own cable network and online campaign. — Dave Brooks

Interviewed for this article: Chris Kesicke & Ben Godwin, (877) 967-3444; Jennifer Martin, (205) 348-7731

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