In my long-ago days as a sportswriter, I remember watching an early version of SportsCenter with my editor, who nodded toward the screen and said, “that’s killing what we do now.” What he meant was, no longer could daily newspapers remain relevant by filling up column-inches […]

In my long-ago days as a sportswriter, I remember watching an early version of SportsCenter with my editor, who nodded toward the screen and said, “that’s killing what we do now.” What he meant was, no longer could daily newspapers remain relevant by filling up column-inches with wire-service box scores and game recaps. By the time our paper hit the doorstep, SportsCenter had been on not once but several times. The highlights game was over, for both newspapers and the three-minute sports-guy recap at the end of the local nightly news. SportsCenter was next.

Fast-forward a couple decades, and there are signs that the Internet may be replacing SportsCenter as the go-to guy for immediate highlights gratification. With the ability to become broadcasters themselves — either through conventional means, like a dedicated cable channel, or directly through the web, leagues everywhere are reining in broadcast rights and keeping content more exclusive, even making a few bucks per highlight in the process. Right now, ESPN is at the height of its power, charging premium fees from cable operators for the right to carry the channel. But for how much longer?

Given its size, reach and ability to shine a big spotlight on slam-dunking stars, ESPN isn’t going away anytime soon. But it doesn’t take much of an Internet expert to figure out that user-selected, on-demand highlight offerings are a better use of anyone’s time than sitting through several cycles of ESPNews or waiting for the next SportsCenter to catch your team’s highlights, or the winning moment from that day’s big event.

According to a story in Monday’s New York Times, online replays of the ongoing NBA playoffs are selling briskly at $3 per game. Mentioned in the story is a forthcoming ability to search through such clips for highlighted plays, probably via technology like that from startup Gotuit, which similarly indexed highlights in clips for the NFL draft.

As leagues start to compete with traditional broadcasters for eyeballs on the web, cable and TV, expect them to withhold the best content for themselves, or offer saturation in their niche, to vie for the eyes and wallets of the soon-to-be-overstuffed couch (and laptop) potatoes. In the end, it always comes down to time — how much of it you have, and how much of it you’re willing to spend to get to what you really want to watch.

Clearly, ESPN is a leader on the Web as well as on cable, already with more offerings — written word, audio, video, still photos — than you could consume in several seasons of casual sports-surfing. But the leagues, owners of the content, are starting to go places ESPN can’t, like allowing fans to clip, save, mashup and share actual action footage. So what happens to SportsCenter if the leagues start keeping the highlights to themselves? Funny as they may be, nobody’s going to watch the SportsCenter announcers say booyah to each other for a half-hour stretch.

  1. I bought the MLB.com game of the week on iTunes last week for $2 and it was awesome. Commercial free baseball is a great experience – with plenty of product placement of course.

    All media industries face drastic change via the web and I don’t know why sports would be different. The live component will be the biggest issue – but that’s only a matter of time I’m sure. Just watched a fantastic talk re this general issue last night btw, at http://www.integratedmedia.org/nav.cfm?cat=14&subcat=123&subsub=0

    See also one of our favorite users at SplashCast – http://spursreport.com A great mixed media basketball fan site.

  2. [...] Continue reading at NewTeeVee Share/E-mail | Sphere | Print | Topic: Asides, Web | Tags: ESPN, Online Video, SportsCenter [...]

  3. Of course we are going to see more and more traditional TV and movie distribution movie online. Traditional programming is easy to time-shift and supply on demand, it is positve for both the provider and consumers.

    It will be interesting to see how the live sports and breaking news segements shake out. Could the net support a live feed of the superbowl? Or the World Cup?

    Highlights, game recaps and “year in review” type sports programming will flourish over the next year.

  4. I actually think Live Action Sports will be extremely important to broadcasters and cable companies. I think it is only a matter of time before technology will be available for full HD live action over an IP network. But holding exclusive rights over this feed will be critical – I also think this is why the NFL launched a network, recognizing that it may be the best way for them to control their live action content across multiple platforms.

  5. Makes sense however consumers want to congregate and share an experience for certain types of content (over a few beers, hopefully), so watching sports shows on TV is here to co-exist. Clip, Save, Mashups etc., allows for sharing but somewhat isolated consumption on a computer screen.

    Once Apple TV et al get mainstream, that’s when the fun will start.

  6. Paul Kapustka Tuesday, May 8, 2007

    What I’d really like to see/have is the ability to program my cable box via my PC. But I doubt the cablecos are willing to give users that much control.

  7. John Gorman Tuesday, May 8, 2007

    Not sure walled garden is a smart model.. Fans are usually fans of multiple sports related to their city and consume content in a horizontal fashion across different sports. Web 2.0, discovering clips, using Digg recs, and thousands of sports related blogs and news sites is the model they should also embrace..

    Also, sports are unique in their LIVE element, its one big real time social network with mass passion. Stay tuned for interesting things to come here :-)

  8. john, get in touch with me at justin dot shaffer at mlb dot com, love to hear more about what you’re alluding to.

  9. [...] Kapustka recently wrote a post on how changing media consumption in the sports world could herald the end of SportsCenter. In a world where on-demand highlights are just a click away, I can understand his skepticism [...]

  10. [...] clamping down on the amount of game footage news and broadcast outlets can use (and yeah, we told you this might happen), programmers are looking hard at niche or ancillary content to beef up their [...]


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