NFL seizes back control of its online video destiny

3 09 2007

The U.S. National Football League (NFL) has regained direct control over some of the most valuable online video out there by hosting material on its own site, ending a seven-year partnership with CBS Sportsline.

The NFL’s new approach gives it more say over the context in which its material is presented, as well as leverage when it comes to setting advertising rate cards. The move also rekindles the debate over whether walled gardens limited to the content of a single provider, or syndication via broader aggregators will win the day.

For certain genres of content — sport and new release movies as examples — restricted availability via a single destination will likely continue to work. But for everything else, TV shows included, it’s an approach which flies in the face of one of the most established consumer beahviours: the way in which they watch TV and that this is never limited to a single channel or network.

It’s the latter approach which informs emerging plays from the likes of Joost and Babelgum, with one current downside, neither has yet to sign up a breadth of content providers which make either service a destination in their own right.

Hulu.com, the soon-to-launch online TV portal JV between NewsCorp. and NBC Universal (NBCU), promises to redress the balance, and even now it’s clear that at least one of the partners is re-thinking its distribution relationships with third parties, such as last week’s revelation that NBCU is to end its deal with iTunes. 

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