IPTV Panel brings new focus to broadband video challenge

By Carl Lindemann

For many in the industry IPTV and broadband distribution of sports content remains a relatively unknown territory as yet mapped out only in broad detail like 16th century maps of the New World. But a panel discussion on IPTV issues at the SVG League Technology Summit looked to fill in some of those details and bring attendees into the age of Google maps.

Broadband service providers, for example, need to do more than just go from SD to HD to keep users happy. “It comes down quality, how to increase customer satisfaction,” said Joe Inzerillo, MLB.com’s SVP, Multimedia and Distribution.

The question is, quality on what platform?

“That’s the whole challenge,” said Grant Nodine, NHL.com VP, Technology. “Fans have come to expect HD, but on what devices?”

Nodine suggests that the online product might be like the difference between what HBO offers via cable versus DVD packages of shows.

“The online product should be different from what’s on the TV side adding features, camera angles, commentary,” Nodine said.

Understanding how these added features work in conjunction with the broadcast product is also key according to Andre Mendes, Special Olympics Chief Information Officer.

“There needs to be a stratification of different content for different platforms. You might want to see highlights on your telephone, but if you’re watching a game for 90 minutes, you’ll want to see it on a big TV,” Mendes said.

Understanding the interest in clips for portable platforms means making the material searchable.

“The promise of the Internet is in making produced, single clips searchable, so that is available. Eric Weinstein, NBA Entertainment Director, Broadband.

Mendes suggested another promise of the Internet – creating interactive, participatory experiences. “Fans want to participate in their sports. NASCAR has virtualized the environment allowing the audience to step into the experience of 43 cars on the track. Getting to the next level is allowing the fan to run the 44th car,” said Mendes.

Of course, all this value needs to generate a reward for content creators, producers and distributors. MLB’s Inzerillo noted his organization’s success with a paid subscription model, as well as the opportunities for advertising-driven revenue models.

“We have over a million paying subscribers. There are (advertising) dollars hanging out there ready to be spent. There are natural breaks in game that we can do things, like pitching change, that don’t exist in regular media. These offer the kind of unique opportunities that advertisers are looking for,” said Inzerillo.

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