More on NHL <3 GooTube

Last week the NHL announced a partnership with Youtube.  A lot of the press was generally positive.  Few claimed it was monumental, but it still meant the NHL was trying new ways to broadcast their product.

The Star had an article that covered the deal and then offered a “so what” response from a few internet marketing experts.

“It’s pure PR,” said Steve Safran, a Boston-based Internet consultant. “It’s encouraging people to share clips from hockey games, which is something they really don’t do right now.”

I’m not sure what this opinion is based off of as there are tons of NHL clips on Youtube.  Eric McErlain’s response was to link to an Ovechkin search.  Tons of the clips I make for hockeyfights.com are on Youtube, and they all get plenty of views.  One clip I uploaded myself, Campbell’s hit on Umberger last spring, was one of the most viewed clips of the month.  There’s no category there.  Not “sports”, any clip, on the entire site.  It was uploaded on the 22nd of the month, and someone else took my clip and uploaded it under their account too.  That clip was also on the top viewed list.

Another snippet:

“The only reason this deal was done was because the NHL was going to make YouTube remove all of the copyrighted NHL clips. So YouTube says, `Okay, we’ll host whatever you want for free just so it’s not negative press,’” said Dan Rayburn, executive vice-president with Internet consulting company Steaming Media.

Rayburn said the deal was of minimal value to the NHL.

“Why not host the clips on the NHL.com site and drive traffic there?” Rayburn asked.

“Why give YouTube the traffic when the NHL will get no revenue in return? If the NHL was smart, they would take the same route that (baseball) has gone and actually make money from their content instead of giving away their videos and hoping they will see something in return from a share of advertising revenue.”

I don’t know Dan Rayburn, and he seems to have a good background in streaming media, but I think he’s pretty off here.

There would have been minimal negative press surrounding Youtube taking down NHL clips if it happened (or if it does).  Youtube’s been pulling down NFL and MLB clips all year.  The Comedy Central clips got some ink, but the NHL would have just been another sports league sending over the yank down order.

The other leagues are constantly spending time and resources keeping up with users posting videos.  The NHL doesn’t have the resources the other leagues do and when faced with the option of constantly sending over takedown notices after videos are reposted (which they are, routinely), they also had the option to possibly profit off of them.

Hosting is something.  Bandwidth costs money, lots of it.  Now the NHL can have a variety of clips hosted, for free, and go beyond their normal highlight scheme whenever they like.

The GooTube will have money.  Youtube, now owned by Google, will undoubtedly start to bring in good advertising revenue.  The NHL could host all their own clips (and for the record, they still do have a videos page on nhl.com), but when selling advertising, they’re doing it for the NHL and the NHL only.  Youtube can sell advertising for “hockey”, for “sports”, for anything really, and with any possible category of video Youtube will attract a wide range of advertisers, many the NHL would not be able to sell to themselves.

You can’t post your own train wreck.  This could make or break the success of the NHL-Youtube deal.  While the NHL might post a hit here and there, they’re not going to post the cheapshots, dirty hits, fights or brawls (not that there really are any anymore).  The fans will though, as I mentioned before, most of the clips I make for hockeyfights.com do wind up on Youtube.  Will the NHL remove these, claim them or just let them be?  One thing’s for sure, sports news shows like SportsCenter are already benefiting from showing these highlights over and over, the NHL should in some form too.  For PR reasons the NHL obviously can’t highlight certain things, but if fans post them on Youtube, or its sister site Google Video, the NHL can do nothing but gain attention, and possible revenue from it.  You have to think if Caps’ owner Ted Leonsis will point to his franchise player Alex Ovechkin dropping the gloves for the first time this past preseason on GV, that most of these clips will remain live.

It seems like a little thing to point to, these random hit and fight clips, or maybe a goal compilation (there are a good number of nicely done ones out there, many also involving the Caps’ Ovechkin), but this is the real user generated content.  Everything else is standard highlight reel material.

The question is how far will the NHL go in what it allows fans to post?  Goals are a given, saves are a must.  Hits?  Fights?  Maybe… but what about that interview in between periods with someone’s favorite player?  Some local broadcasters might consider that even more copyrighted than game footage, but what could introduce people to the players more than someone making a clip of that and sending that link around?

The underground effect.  Youtube is way overground, but it’s not nhl.com.  Despite being owned by Google, it’s still not “the man”.  Bitter hockey fans are still hockey fans.  They watch, they might be willing to upload or simply share a link to a clip, but they’re not going to do it for the league itself.  They will on Youtube.

It’s still not nhl.com.  Youtube has a wide audience.  Through the related videos feature or just a random search, non-hockey fans might wind up watching hockey clips.  That simply won’t happen if this was nhl.com-only.

Exposure never hurts the NHL, and even if the revenue sharing deal doesn’t produce huge results, it’ll obviously be more than they’re making from these clips now.

Like any deal, the success of it hinges upon how the companies involved will take advantage of the possibilities.  The NHL should take full advantage of everything its fans offer up.

Posted by David M Singer on Nov 21, 2006 at 02:05 AM
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