The college football season is upon us.
College football is big business and sits at the heart of a multibillion-dollar rights deals between universities and the big TV networks.
Advertisers consider live sports one of the most effective ad platforms remaining, since sports are among the few kinds of programs today’s fickle audiences will watch live. But fans are shifting their TV-viewing to mobile gadgets, and broadcasters are scrambling to deliver sports on smaller mobile screens.
The Pacific-12 Conference, which groups universities in the western United States, has its own cable channels and owns rights to about half its football games. These feature top-tier teams like Oregon and USC. The conference has been aggressive in the mobile TV space. Last year, it launched Pac-12 Now, a suite of online sites and mobile apps, and this summer it completed that offering with a new Android app.
These services allow the Pac-12 Network cable TV subscribers to watch the very same college football and sports broadcasts on PCs, smartphones, and tablets.
When Pac-12 Now launched, only a small handful of mobile video pioneers — including ESPN and CNN — offered true “TV everywhere,” or simultaneous mobile versions of their live TV channels.
Business Insider’s paid research service, caught up with David Aufhauser, vice president and general manager of digital at Pac-12 Networks, and asked about the challenge of bringing college sports to smartphones and tablets.
This BII Q&A has been abridged, and edited for clarity and brevity. BII subscribers have access to the full version.
BI Intelligence: When you were looking at bringing the Pac-12 to mobile, did you ever consider whether or not it was worth the investment?
David Aufhauser: We are 100% owned by the conference. We own ourselves. Obviously dollars come into the equation, but we are able to make decisions on a longer term and a bigger vision. Did we contemplate the future opportunity from a monetization standpoint? Yes. But was it the driving factor? No. The driving factor was all about connecting fans. Our feeling is that if we do that, the money will come.
BII: Has the audience uptake of Pac-12 Now been up to expectations?
DA: It has been awesome. 40-five per cent of our digital audience now accesses Pac-12 sports content on mobile devices via the mobile Web or our apps.
BII: You mentioned bringing fans together. Does that mean social media?
DA: There are two things we do that cut across everything, and one of them is that we make everything mobile, and the other is that we make everything social. At launch, we wanted to make it drop-dead simple to share.
BII: What’s challenging about delivering programming on a mobile app or mobile site?
DA: We have an incredible amount of really great content: 20 sports per school, and 12 schools. Our challenge is to focus on helping audiences find and navigate that content on mobile. I’ll admit we have a lot of work to do there.
BII: What are the frustrations around mobile video?
DA: It’s complicated. I think that a lot of companies that start to dive into video, especially on mobile, think of video as this big bucket. We’ve realised there are three buckets of video. There’s live 24/7, which is TV everywhere. That’s what we do. It’s a 24/7 live linear feed that’s going all the time. Then there’s live ad-hoc. That’s stop and start. It ends when the game ends, and then you’re done. And the third is video-on-demand. Each one is a different animal.
BII: How do ads work on your mobile apps?
DA: The ads are the same as on TV, and sold as a package with our TV broadcast ads.
BII: Where are we with mobile video advertising? Is the big brand money there yet?
DA: Generally, I think we’re just starting to scratch the surface. I don’t think advertisers actually know what direction they’re going to take yet.
BII: How are you positioned for a world in which ad campaigns cut across devices and screens?
DA: We’re in a unique spot, like some other sports conferences and leagues. Not only do we have a television network, mobile and Web apps — we also in some cases have in-stadium. So we actually can flow across experiences. An advertiser can come to us for a fully integrated marketing program, and that’s really at the end of the day what they care about.
BII: Don’t TV advertisers demand to pay less for a video ad when it’s viewed on a small mobile phone?
DA: Why is a viewer on a mobile phone less valuable than if the same viewer is watching on a TV? That makes no sense. It’s the same content. It’s the same viewer. At some point that will change.
BII: How will mobile video advertising tie in with the rest of the ad business in three to five years?
DA: While it’s great to show a 30-second spot, or a 15-second spot, to me that’s just one piece of it. We’ve got to be able to go to an advertiser and say, ‘you’re going to get your 30-second spot, but we’re going to integrate you with something cool around social media, and by the way if you go to the stadium there’s going to be an in-stadium campaign that ties it all together.’ It’s not about putting an ad in a mobile app per se. That’s my two cents, anyway.
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