Thursday, June 13, 2013

And Here is Your Distribution Network

It is one thing for NeuLion to propose a set-top box that will take the athletic department's "channel" and make it simple for end users (read: boosters who aren't tech savvy) to hook up to TVs.

Quite another for Intel to break that last barrier and push for set-top boxes to bring streaming content -- along side other cable channels -- to the public.  The New York Times gives us the blow by blow.

Much broader than the five-year ago (and spot on, I might add) NeuLion concept, this Intel box is not another Apple TV or Roku for stored content.  It is more like Aereo, the controversial cable-over-the-air system that was recently ruled legal.

Welcome the Fill-In-Your-Mascot channel to your fans.

Well, if you have any content rights left that haven't been vacuumed up by your conference.

Notre Dame may still prove the genius, and also Texas, for not allowing their ancillary "Long Tail" niche content to be aggregated into the 24/7 filler for conference networks.

Which guess where those conferences can get quick adoption?  Same said Intel box.

What stops this from happening?  Money.  Pure and simple.  Without the funding via cable systems that support the major sports networks and traditional broadcast networks rights fees, conferences can't have the payouts that help support the majority of BCS athletic programs.

I can make an argument for either side of this situation.  The real important factors to consider:

This could be the iTunes moment that breaks up the existing cable system like the 99-cent download crushed the music industry.

Freedom has a price, and that could be a drastic impact on university bottom lines.  If indeed the future is free, complex advertising arrangements to funnel viewers into these "free" broadcasts are necessary.  Just because CBS has the NCAA tournament streaming doesn't mean they aren't monetizing those streams and protecting them against "restreaming".  Right now, the resource poor universities need only cash checks.  Whole different world when you have to hustle the sponsors.

Quality content is not free, and the online world is cycling back to that understanding when it comes to journalism.

Fans who will see this as a great solution to all those expensive cable packages or pay-per-view events will see the ecosystem collapse.  In regions, you may see more alliance moves like this one between Learfield and the lead institutions of Montana.

Some will win.  Some will lose.   And the bottom line -- both in dollars and figuratively -- is change is not on the horizon any more.  It is here.

And a tip of the link hat to D1.ticker for two of today's important stories.

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