It is no secret that sports and television go hand-in-hand. In recent decades, the combination has reshaped the entertainment and media landscape. From the first televised Super Bowl to the emergence of league-owned networks, sports have changed not only the very fabric of the television marketplace, but the marketing and advertising industry itself.
But now, a new revolution is in full swing: the emergence of Internet television. It is changing the way we view content, and consumers, marketing gurus and advertisers are taking notice.
As this growing medium looks to gain credibility, it may once again turn to sports. An alliance could be the cornerstone of the movement to integrate Internet television into households across the world.
It appears professional hockey is taking the lead in this coming revolution.
In September, the New York Islanders introduced “Islanders TV” to season ticket holders. The channel, which is the brainchild of Islanders owner Charles Wang, is delivered over an IPTV platform provided by NeuLion, Inc., a company founded by the computer tycoon. Now available to all fans, it offers exclusive coverage of team press conferences and pre-game strategy sessions, features a reality show that gets up close and personal with the Islanders Ice Girls, as well as a section which gives viewers interactive opportunities including the ability to upload their own videos and create buddy lists.
But the National Hockey League was not satisfied with merely having a franchise delve into the IPTV world. The league has reached two deals which will help it showcase content over the Internet. First, it partnered with Google to provide games-on delay and other footage to site users. Then, last week, the NHL became the first major sports league to join forces with YouTube when it reached an agreement to run video highlights of games and other league content on the site. The NHL will also have its own brand channel.
These moves present new opportunities for professional hockey. It may also develop a new landscape in the sports marketing and advertising industry.
The Islanders see their channel as an opportunity to hone in on fans. “If you are an Islander fan you normally get games on television and radio,” says Josh Bernstein, the club’s vice-president of communications who also runs the site. “But outside of that, you get very little Islander coverage. It’s often tough to find highlights on the local news or coverage of Coach Nolan’s press conferences. So we figured what better way than to bring it to the fans ourselves and give people access to things which they have never seen before.”