Friday, February 15, 2008

Why HLN? -- Advantages of the Horizon League Network

The other day someone posed an interesting question to me… “Why HLN?” My first thought was, ‘why not?’ But, as I started to think about the question a little more, I came to the conclusion that I needed to be able to answer it with facts that supported and proved broadband distribution is the best model for the Horizon League.

I went to work on some preliminary research and started with three major categories: Cost, Control and Exposure. I felt that these were the major advantages that broadband distribution had over the television model.

The financial aspects of the model are by far the easiest to prove. Instead of having 10-15 games on regional sports networks, the League is able to produce hundreds of events each year at the same cost.

Control is a little harder to substantiate, but I see three distinct advantages of the broadband model.

1. Games can be played at desired times
2. All commercial time and additional online inventory available to sell
3. Ability for Horizon League to brand games

In the TV model, these items are for the most part out of the League’s control. The games will be played when TV dictates, commercial time will be split (with the vast majority going to the network producing the game) and the brand will be consistent with the other telecasts.

What does having control mean in the end? Essentially, more money, or the opportunity for more money.

Finally, the toughest item to prove would be exposure. I would say in the world of sports the ultimate exposure is primetime on ESPN or a weekend afternoon game on a major national network (i.e. CBS). It’s tough to argue against that, but when looking at the overall “potential” audience, these networks are limited compared to broadband.

CBS reaches 112.8 million homes (Nielson), while ESPN and ESPN2 are in about 96 million homes (ESPN). By the end of 2007, broadband reached approximately 300 million homes worldwide (eMarketer). This is where the reach of broadband gets scary. According to my math, the Horizon League Network is available in at least 187 million more homes than CBS.

To counter my own argument, which yes, I am allowed to do since this is my blog… the area that broadband distribution still falls short compared to television is the acquisition of the casual fan. In the TV world, people click through channels in an attempt to find something on. This gives the consumer a chance to accidentally stumble upon a show or event that they did not know about. Contrarily, the Internet does not give the user the ability to “click-through” channels. The Internet’s answer to this is search. With companies like Google and Yahoo!, you can be very specific and never come across a topic that deviates from the general topic your search. In the next post or two, I will breakdown our strategy behind finding the casual fan through search and other online tactics.

Obviously, this is only the starting point for an answer to the question “Why HLN?”

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