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Old 10th June 2007, 11:32   #1
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Default New game is digital media

New game is digital media
Committee already kicking around ideas
By Mike Reiss
Boston Globe June 10, 2007

The first year of Roger Goodell's tenure as NFL commissioner has been highlighted by a stronger player-conduct policy and a focus on global expansion, topics that have received extensive attention.

Yet behind the scenes, the wheels have begun spinning in an area that ultimately might define Goodell's reign: continued economic growth through digital media.

Goodell has quietly formed a seven-member digital media committee that, not surprisingly, includes Patriots president Jonathan Kraft, one of the league's more innovative, forward thinkers. Others on the committee include Seahawks owner Paul Allen and Redskins owner Dan Snyder, and among the group's goals is to generate new revenue streams through emerging technology.

"Right now, we haven't scratched the surface with what we can do with digital media," said committee member Bryan Glazer, executive vice president of the Buccaneers.

The possibilities could change the way fans watch games, play fantasy football, and receive information about their hometown teams. Consider some of the ideas discussed:

1. Interactive television. Projecting that every home in the country will have the capability to watch TV interactively by 2010, the league could create a special console that allows fans to choose the pictures they see during games. In essence, viewers could pay to be their own TV directors, choosing from various camera angles, audio streams, and replay options.

2. Radio growth. With more cities becoming covered with WiFi, it opens the possibility of computer IP addresses being accessed through the radio. So a "radio" show like the Patriots currently produce on their website -- originally designed to reach displaced fans through the computer -- could essentially compete with radio stations in the Boston market.

3. Cellphones. While there is potential revenue to be earned with ring tones -- by tapping into the league's extensive audio library -- the NFL also sees how phones are becoming mini-computers. Glazer envisions a setup where fans could register with their favorite team and, for example, the minute a player is drafted, the phone would beep and highlights from the player's career would appear. Or interviews with players and press conferences from coaches could be transmitted.

4. Fantasy football. With approximately 20 million fans playing fantasy football last year, the NFL can be more aggressive in its efforts to capitalize on that market, using video highlights, an enormous statistical database, and prizes (e.g. dinner with Tom Brady) to better compete with other fantasy football providers.

At the NFL meetings in March, Kraft concurred with Glazer that digital media represents an untapped area of economic growth.

"Digital media and all of its components is really the next big piece of virgin territory for the league," he said. "Sometime over the next decade, all the elements that make up digital media could grow to be as important to the league as our television rights fees are today, without impacting our live television windows and the rights fees associated with those."

The NFL exploded onto the television scene by creating its own network in November 2005, and even the casual observer can see that the league is attempting to grow a model in which the six days leading up to a game become as lucrative as the games themselves.

The NFL recently announced a policy that limits media websites from offering more than 45 seconds of audio or video content, a move that is being fought by those outlets. In essence, the NFL is taking ownership of what has become valuable content.

And while digital media is a potential windfall for the league, it also opens up new possibilities for consumers.

"What's happening now is that the committee just formed and the NFL is just starting to develop a strategy here," Glazer said. "Nobody is rushing into anything -- this is a long marathon, not a sprint -- but it's always fascinating to see what the next thing is, and what's coming."
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King
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