DIRECTV Turns to NeuLion for ROOT SPORTS Digital Platform

The DIRECTV Sports Network took another step in the development of its ROOT SPORTS brand last week when it announced an agreement with Internet-TV-technology company NeuLion to use its digital platform to power newly launched Websites for three regional sports networks.

Working with ROOT SPORTS, NeuLion designed brand-new, interactive Websites, including on-demand sports-video content. The three networks, — formerly FSN Northwest, FSN Rocky Mountain, and FSN Pittsburgh — were rebranded ROOT SPORTS in April with the start of the Major League Baseball season.

“The content-management system of ours that they are using will allow non-technical people to very quickly publish articles, update articles, publish videos, and run promotions,” says NeuLion co-founder/EVP Chris Wagner. “Any piece of content that those local ROOT SPORTS networks want to make available to local fans they will be able to publish to the NeuLion platform and than have it consumed by those local sports fans through ROOTSPORTS.com.

“You don’t have to go to an HTML guy to change your Website,” he continues. “The world is moving quick, and those local fans want the stuff right away.”

NeuLion, which also provides media platforms for the NHL, NFL, and numerous colleges and conferences, uses a Flash-based video player, but ROOT SPORTS can publish its videos in H.264, and NeuLion will transcode the video for ROOT SPORTS apps on devices that use iOS, such as iPhones, iPads, Android phones, and various tablets.

“NeuLion’s experience in delivering sports content to any Internet-enabled device and content-management system offered ROOT SPORTS what we were looking for,” said Geoff Walker, VP of marketing, DIRECTV Sports Networks. “NeuLion’s brand-new ROOT SPORTS online sites are prominent pieces in our rebranding efforts. Local sports fans are able to easily find the sports content they’re looking for: video, promotions, scores, and articles.”

ROOT SPORTS collectively broadcasts sports events from more than 25 teams and conferences through exclusive programming and distribution partnerships to more than 8.7 million viewers across 18 states. To get the most out of those extremely valuable rights, networks have a strong desire to protect that content online. Wagner feels that one of the most significant effects of the agreement will be ROOT SPORTS’ ability to “geofence” its content, a feature that has become more common as regional sports networks (RSNs) continue to thrive.

“I think this is a good first step toward regionalizing a lot of sports,” says Wagner. “Our focus has initially been with big leagues and with clubs, and now we are finding a lot of interest with RSNs that want to geofence and target local fans and a local market and are using digital to do that.”