To Future-Proof the Fan Experience, Oregon Extends NeuLion Partnership

The University of Oregon’s athletic department is always looking for new ways to bring fans closer to their teams. With new devices, such as the iPad, hitting the market almost daily, it can be hard for an athletic department to keep pace with the influx of new ways to stay connected. To ensure that Ducks fans do not miss a beat, Oregon has extended its partnership with NeuLion, an IPTV service provider, to create a Sports Technology Partner Program, a team effort designed to give Ducks fans the best applications on the newest devices, no matter where in the world they are watching.

Looking for More Than Money
Oregon already had a partnership with NeuLion, which manages the athletic department’s online rights, Website, and digital strategy. In negotiating the renewal of that deal, the university was looking for more than just a financial return from advertising and subscriber fees.

“We wanted to use this as an opportunity to jump on the front end of technology,” explains Joe Giansante, senior associate athletic director at Oregon. “Through our discussions with the folks at NeuLion, we came up with something that not only enhances the financial viability of our digital strategy but ensures that our fans are going to be on the front edge of any new emerging technology.”

Innovate, Create in the Online Space
To avoid being bogged down in long-standing contract obligations when new technologies come out, Oregon keeps its online business separate from its multimedia-rights business. That separation allowed Giansante to enhance the athletic department’s relationship with NeuLion through the Sports Technology Partner Program. The program enables Oregon to deploy NeuLion’s media tools over mobile, iPad, game animation, Internet television, and other IP-enabled devices to enhance the fan experience on any screen.

“This partnership is all about trying to be innovative and creative,” Giansante says. “Concretely, it means we’ll be the first ones out with the kinds of applications that our fans will be able to use either in-game or around the world. We think of our brand now as an international brand, so we have to be able to deliver the content that we’re creating everywhere. I think that’s the biggest thing: the fans are going to benefit from all of these new technologies and see a big difference.”

The first application to come out of the partnership is an iPad app that allows Oregon to create unique in-game experiences for its fans. Testing of that application is set to begin soon.

“We’ll have them and give them to people, who can order food or watch replays at different angles from their seats,” Giansante says. “They’ll have a different in-game experience from what other people would have. And with this application, consumers at home can access our programs as well.”

Other applications and technology components expected to be components of this partnership include enhanced iPhone applications, Internet TV box for sports-television viewing, NeuLion’s Live Game Video Editor, and end-to-end sports media services.

Staffed for Technology
The responsibility for inventing and developing these new applications lies with NeuLion, whose strong suit is technology. However, Giansante expects to dedicate one of his staff members to working directly with the provider, to ensure that the right products are being created to serve Ducks fans.

“They are a technology company, so they’re on the front edge of coming up with these ideas,” Giansante says. “We work directly with the NeuLion office, but part of our financial arrangement was to dedicate resources to have somebody work directly with them. We will probably adjust one of our Web people to work directly with NeuLion on a daily basis.”

Also helping to drive the relationship between the athletic department and the technology provider is the background of the leadership at Oregon. Giansante’s career has taken him through television creation and regional sports networks, and the online manager comes from a Website-creation background, with experience developing hardware and software.

“Because our backgrounds are not as athletic administrators, even though we’re doing that now,” Giansante says, “we probably bring a little bit different approach to the job than the traditional athletic department would.”

That approach is designed to future-proof the department’s operations, at least for the next five years — when this deal comes up for renewal.

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