Turner Sports Pulls Off a Coup With NCAA DigitalPosted by rtmsf on September 22nd, 2010
Ten years ago we were carrying around a mobile phone that weighed about a half-pound and was the size of a baby’s arm. The Internet was ubiquitous but you still needed a land line in most places to access it. Remember that comical drill? A quick burst of dialing notes followed by a cacophany of beeps and hisses on the external modem resulting in a satisfying echo effect that signified that you were, once again, online (at the blistering pace of 56k speed, mind you). Google was a small search engine company that hadn’t really caught on yet, while iPods were something more closely aligned with the horrendous Star Wars prequels than an Apple product. The word “blog” had not yet entered the popular lexicon, The Facebook was still four years from its genesis, and Twitter, well, let’s just say that tweeting was something left to our aviary friends.
The point of this trip down memory lane is not to make everyone feel old, but rather to show that technology, more than just about any other part of our lives, changes very quickly. We can remember Michigan State’s Mateen Cleaves cutting down the nets in Indy like it was yesterday; but the thought of using dial-up web access seems like the paleolithic era at this point. Some of the changes are predictable, natural progressions — from land lines to wireless Internet access, for example — but others, such as the burst of social networking applications, come as a bit of a surprise. If you can predict right now what the “killer apps” will be in 2020, then you are a lot smarter and prescient that most, and you’ll likely become a rich man as a result of it.
The majority of folks, even those inside the industry, cannot accurately make those predictions. For every incredible success story like YouTube there are a hundred other technological failures. Which is why Tuesday’s announcement of Turner Sports’ agreement with the NCAA is a brilliant stroke of strategic maneuvering. NCAA Digital is a fourteen-year agreement between the two parties that allows Turner Sports complete control to manage and operate the NCAA’s digital platform. From the joint press release:
Turner Sports and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) jointly announced today the formation of NCAA Digital, a 14-year agreement in which Turner will manage and operate the NCAA’s digital portfolio and strengthen coverage of all 88 NCAA championships. NCAA Digital encompasses NCAA.com and additional NCAA digital platforms including mobile web and applications, as well as other connected devices. Turner will enhance editorial coverage and the technology behind live video streaming, stats, highlights and social media interactivity, as well as manage ad sales for NCAA digital platforms. Turner will focus its efforts for NCAA Digital on all 88 NCAA Championship tournaments across 23 sports (men’s and women’s) in all three divisions, with a commitment to increased original programming, studio shows, enhanced selection shows, live video for those events and related features. Turner Sports plans to re-launch NCAA.com during the first quarter of 2011.
The key here is the length of the contract: fourteen loooooong years, the same amount of time as the NCAA’s new deal with CBS/Turner for broadcast rights to the NCAA Tournament. Television, however, is a relatively known commodity. It changes at a much slower rate than computer and web platforms have in the past two decades. But digital media including live video, social media and enhanced editorial coverage? Well, this is interesting. In the last five years alone, the ways that sports fans can interact with their teams and games through numerous online media platforms has exploded. We can probably assume that the rate of change will continue at its current pace or faster, but it’s difficult to imagine exactly how that environment will look in 2015, much less 2020 or 2024. We can definitely say that it will be different, though, and very likely provide an even better fan experience.
Terms of the deal between Turner Sports and the NCAA were not disclosed, but we cannot contemplate a situation where this doesn’t turn out to be an absolute steal for Turner down the line. Whatever new technologies develop over the next decade, they will have the ability to implement as part of NCAA Digital, and it’s doubtful that the Big Dance will become any less popular. If done correctly and with good thinking and planning, Turner could help re-invent what it means to enjoy the NCAA Tournament to an entire new generation of fans who will grow up never knowing what a DiscMan was.