Flowers likes the smell of streaming small-market sports

By Carl Lindemann

Everyone knows that major league sports or collegiate broadcast properties are paydirt for those marketing to mass audiences. But what about lesser-grade ores like Division Three contests? Is mining this just chasing after fool’s gold? For former pro football player Richmond Flowers, the trick to making it worthwhile to find content for niche audiences is reaching far and wide, high and low into Division Three leagues and offering online access inexpensively to the institutions that control the content.

“Say a small school has a hot prospect they’d like to recruit, but it isn’t in their budget to fly them out to visit the campus initially. Being able to provide the prospect a video stream at only a dollar an hour is a cost-effective way to provide a taste,” said Flowers.

Flowers also points to other opportunities including using such footage as a way to connect with alums. What better way to strengthen such relationships – and the fundraising that comes from it – than for schools to offer access?

The trick is making it worthwhile for a streaming media supplier to service these smaller institutions that may only deliver a few hundred hours of content each. How do you aggregate these to make it worth anyone’s while to bother for a few hundred bucks?

Flowers is working with Big Planet, a fully owned subsidiary of Nu Skin, the multi-level marketing company. Big Planet was originally conceived as a way to offer such online communications to Nu Skin’s 800,000 independent distributors in 45 countries. The setup costs had to be negligible to make it work for what is largely a part-time sales force. Flowers had long wondered about ways to tap into this wealth of untapped sports content. When he saw what Big Planet offered, he saw how it could be adapted to open the doors for institutions wanting to gain such micro media capabilities.

While the whiff of anything connected with multi-level marketing may send most scrambling, Big Planet is basically a Move Networks reseller. Move Networks is an innovative spin on video distribution that has the likes of Fox, ABC and CW Network on board. Move Networks claims to deliver an average of some 80 terabytes of full-length TV episodes daily, about what YouTube sends out. Move Networks’ special technology requires viewers to install a simply downloadable player. This is a major league technology that delivers quality video at less cost than traditional technologies. The problem for anyone not in the same league as a major broadcasters looking to move terabytes is getting Move to take an interest. Joining Big Planet’s aggregation of tens of thousands of small-time users may just be the ticket. The tradeoff is whether the middleman markups don’t eat all of the savings that Move offers.

Flowers, it should be noted, is reputed to be the role model for Forrest Gump. As the movie goes, Gump overcame childhood ailments and disabilities to unexpectedly become a champion track star. Flowers, too, has been a role model for a generation of athletes growing up in the South.

The former NY Giant and Dallas Cowboy was an unlikely sports hero who, too, overcame being anemic and asthmatic health issues to become a high hurdle phenom. An injury kept him from going for the gold in Mexico City in ’68. Given his keen eye for this overlooked market and will to overcome, don’t bet against his current task of building this micro market for sports streaming video.