CSVS 2010: What’s Next in College Sports Video?

During a week fraught with talk of conference expansion and the reshaping of college sports, SVG’s second-annual College Sports Video Summit brought together some of the biggest players in college sports video to discuss what is next in this rapidly changing landscape. The final panel of the two-day event featured a variety of representatives from the Collegiate Commissioners Association, NCAA, and broadcast networks.

The Future of Streaming
Universities and colleges are streaming more events than ever on Web and mobile platforms, and this trend is only expected to expand over the coming years.

“Schools that are looking at building a high-quality digital platform are going to be in the best positions,” said Greg Weitekamp, director of broadcasting, NCAA. “There’s going to be certain events that will continue to have TV coverage, and there are others that will be on a more digital network. They have to build a digital platform that allows their fans to really see the games. A lot of the conferences have put themselves in a good position to do that.”

However, not all college video pros are convinced that streaming is the future. While it represents a valuable outlet for distributing video, TV — and the big money that goes with it — remains king.

“Trust me, there is no iPad [app] on my list of things to create,” said Duane Lindberg, assistant commissioner, Pac-10 Conference. “I can’t emphasize enough the importance of TV as we know it today. We are structured to be compensated through a TV contract. Sitting here the past few days, I was very impressed by the passion that everyone has for streaming and campus productions, but the model right now doesn’t seem to be serving as a significant revenue source. We need TV and the TV model to have a reliable revenue stream.”

Regardless of their view on the future of streaming, all panel members agreed that the level of production for streaming has changed dramatically. HD-quality streaming video is an absolute must for schools that want to hold viewers’ attention.

“The days of a single camera behind home plate for a baseball game are gone; consumers aren’t going to accept that,” Weitekamp said. “In the streaming world, they expect what they see online to be comparable to what they see on TV. You have to invest a little more into it, or people won’t watch it.”

TV Deals: Long-Term vs. Short-Term
Following last month’s landmark 14-year, $10.8 billion deal between the NCAA and Turner Broadcasting for the television rights to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, many questioned the length of the agreement. Nonetheless, most agreed that the security blanket of a 14-year deal outweighed other concerns.

“I think the security of a long-term [contract] made a lot of sense for the NCAA, even if they may have left some money on the table in 10 years,” said Tom Odjakjian, associate commissioner, Big East Conference. “There’s so many more options now; look how many networks there are now. They had to make a decision, and I think it was the right one. We’re making up some of these rules as we go along, and we’re having trouble agreeing.”

Although no long-term TV-rights deal can include all possible scenarios for the future, Weitekamp argues that faith in your TV partner is integral to success. “You have to trust in your partners that they’re going to maximize your rights,” he said. “I can remember, in our old CBS agreement, mobile wasn’t really thought of. In 2004, we got in a bit of a [disagreement] with CBS about it, but look how far [March Madness on Demand] has come. You may lose out in the short term, but, like CBS did with MMOD — it’s a $40 million property — the final product is [worth it].”

What About 3D?
One question that has erupted with the development of 3D sports production is the prospect of  a separate rights deal for 3D sports programming.  Currently, 3D has fallen under the umbrella of overall television-rights agreements, but this may change should 3DTV sets and programming catch on over the next 12-24 months, as many expect.

“I did not think that 3D technology infringes on the rights that we sell for TV,” said Lindberg. “There is still a long way to go with [3D sports programming].”

Weitekamp added that primary concern lies with whether 3D cannibalizes the viewer base of other rights deals. “Do you give up 3D rights to a TV partner? Does it cannibalize the result that you’ve already sold? We obviously don’t want that to happen, so we have to be very careful to keep our [TV partners happy].”