Apple has just announced that they will carry full-length video downloads of college bowl games on the iTunes Music Store this year. You can already subscribe to season passes from ESPN College Football and Fox Sports that include pre-game analysis, player interviews, and future game coverage and highlight reels. I think the idea is outstanding. It creates a product for rabid fans of a particular school (or pro team) to collect. I’m pretty sure that if the schools and their broadcast partners market this correctly, they can charge a small premium for this type of content (over what they get for regular TV shows on iTunes) and still reach a huge percentage of the fans that would want to download this content.
My alma-mater doesn’t have an (American) football team, but we did win a national championship this year in the “other” football. I coach high school soccer and my son plays for a local club team and I have a huge interest in watching the game, or at least highlights, but there isn’t a current option for me to watch it. I would definitely pay a few bucks if CSTV were to put together even a 5 minute highlight reel and put it up on iTunes. They already put some of their ads online, so I know that they are aware of the possibility.
But I think these examples are just the tip of the iceberg in the story here. iTunes is enabling a whole new way to market media. Bowl games are not really niche products, but they have a limited lifespan for those that want to watch the whole game. Broadcasters can repackage the content by marketing to collectors and fans and they will reach a new market that brings in additional, previously untapped, revenue. Sure, I’m aware of the offers on TV to buy Super Bowl and World Series highlight DVD’s, but going through iTunes is going to make this a lot more accessible to the general public, particularly college students that (I suspect) would never buy a $20 Super Bowl DVD, but would buy a $6 season pass or a $2 highlight program to watch their team compete on the national stage and save that memory forever.
The best play I can think of right now is for College Sports TV (owned by CBS) to put up all the small school and non-network sports coverage they have in their archives on iTunes. They have their own streaming video service, for those that don’t subscribe to the channel through their cable or satellite company. But I don’t want to pay $15/mo to see streaming content, I want to pay $2 to see the Gauchos defeat the Bruins for the College Cup. And I want to carry that around on my iPod so I can heckle anyone I ever see wearing a UCLA sweatshirt on the street. Heck, I might even pay $15 just for that.