With viral video phenoms, Internet sitcoms and online movie rentals grabbing the headlines, it’s easy to forget that an old teevee stalwart like sports could truly transform how people watch online video. With its recent moves, TBS is developing a lock on the broadband sports market. Today the network extended its deal with NASCAR to operate its official web site. Last week TBS expanded its relationship with the NBA to oversee the league’s broadband properties. TBS just relaunched PGA.com, and there are rumors it will soon be running digital ops for Major League Soccer.
The video plays generated by some of these properties are nothing to sneeze at. In 2007, NASCAR streamed more than 25 million videos, and the PGA Championship alone generated more than 2 million streams. And as more people get accustomed to watching video online, those numbers are bound to go up.
It’s like TBS is applying Viacom’s “thousand front door” strategy to sports. Instead of creating a central hub and trying to get the rights to a bunch of different sports, TBS just partners with each league. That way TBS gets to sell ads across official content — in this case footage from games — that it doesn’t have to create (or develop, or produce) and split the revenue. According to BusinessWeek, Turner also gets paid a management fee to run the sites.
Plus, TBS’s mix of media outlets helps it drive traffic from old teevee to new teevees and vice versa. Watch the live event on TBS and then go online to NBA.com to join the community of fans to talk about the game or make video highlight reels. Oh, and be sure to watch the ads on both.
And because TBS is managing the entire digital operation for each of its partners, the NBA, NASCAR and the PGA are less likely to switch to another company. If TBS were only licensing content, that arrangement could be dropped almost immediately. But by weaving itself into the process, TBS creates added value. Why would the league go through the hassle of finding someone else to take over? By now, running an official sports site should be pretty turnkey for Turner, not so for any competitor.
Granted, TBS doesn’t have the biggies: baseball and football. The NFL took back its broadband efforts from CBS because it wanted more control, and Major League Baseball has its own extensive broadband presence, including the Major League Baseball Advanced Media, which already operates web sites for other properties.
But in true Internet fashion, TBS can score success in the medium-to-long tail of sports content.