CSVS 2011: Digitizing Archives Is Equal Parts Monetization, Conservation

College athletic departments, conferences, and networks are constantly on the prowl for valuable content that can create new revenue streams. But, for many, a potentially lucrative asset is sitting in their own backyard: their video archives. At SVG’s College Sports Video Summit on Tuesday in Atlanta, professionals from conferences, networks, and media companies discussed not only how to preserve this content but also how it can add value to their non-live telecasts.

“I know many of you are trying to figure out how to monetize these libraries of content and expose that content to your fans,” moderator Ken Adelson, VP of sales, East Coast, Integrated Media Technologies, said to the CSVS crowd. “That is the key because the actual games, in many ways, take care of themselves. But the archive allows us to generate programming outside the game, and that can be extremely valuable.”

NASCAR Media Group
In the case of NASCAR, digitizing its archive was a matter of necessity rather than monetization. With 80,000 hours of footage on aging tapes that were rotting away and, in an effort to preserve the history of the sport, the league undertook a massive digitization project.

“Our investment was made more as an emotional decision about conserving the history of the sport than it was an ROI decision,” said John Martin, managing director, business operations, NASCAR Media Group. “We honestly did not see any ROI model that said you can make money on all this old footage.”

Today, NASCAR has one of the most digitally advanced archival systems of any sports league in the world and, according to Martin, has begun to see the ROI that was thought to be an impossibility.

“Obviously. the technology was key to this whole process,” he said. “Once we got organized, we were then able to monetize it in the anthology format, such as ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentaries … and some behind-the-scenes programming.”

ACC Vault
Raycom Sports faced a similar dilemma a few years ago. It was faced with 30 years’ worth of Raycom/JP Sports games on tapes that were literally falling apart in the back of the company’s offices.

“We knew we had to not only preserve those assets through digitization but also monetize these assets,” said Colin Smith, VP of distribution and new media, Raycom Sports. “We knew there were people out there who wanted access to them and would potentially pay us for them.”

In an effort to exploit this aging tape archive, Raycom partnered with Thought Equity Motion (TEM) to digitize and license out these assets. They created the ACC Vault, a consumer-facing video library that allows fans to view online hundreds of ACC basketball games dating back to the early 1980s. Raycom and TEM are currently working on Vault for football.

“[The ACC Vault] has been very successful for us, but it was definitely challenging,” said Smith. “You need to be slow and deliberate, or you can end up spending a lot of money. Then you need to ask yourself  ‘Is this a business expense, or is this a marketing expense?’ You have to be able to answer that question yourself.”

SEC Digital Network
In the summer of 2008, the Southeastern Conference was faced with the decision of creating its own network or selling its rights to a broadcaster. In the end, the SEC opted to sell its rights to CBS and ESPN but, in doing so, regained rights to its archive of games. With this content back in-house, the SEC partnered with XOS Digital to create the SEC Digital Network, an online platform that allows fans to access a library of archived SEC games as well as shoulder programming.

“We are just trying to create value around the non-live broadcast window using our own content,” said Charlie Hussey, director of marketing and licensing, Southeastern Conference. “And I think the [SEC Digital Network] has gone a long way in doing that.”

March Madness Video Hub
When Turner Sports took over NCAA.com and the NCAA’s digital platforms following last year’s landmark Turner-CBS deal for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, it was handed a mass of March Madness archives. In an effort to exploit them, Turner Sports partnered with Thought Equity Motion to create the NCAA Vault. Extensive metadata management enables users to search through a universe of tournament highlights by player, team, round, type of play, and a variety of other tags.

“The goal was to provide fans with a spot on the Website to get any highlight they could possibly want from the men’s and women’s tournaments,” said Mark Johnson, VP of business operations, Turner Sports. “The key for us was to have the accompanying metadata with those highlight clips to allow the user to search and find exactly what they were looking for.”

Click here for SVG’s comprehensive coverage of the College Sports Video Summit.