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DIRECTV invests in LiveClips, expect customizable clips on NFL Sunday Ticket soon

by Jack Berkins on December 7, 2013

liveclips-directvIn another move to further establish itself as the TV sports provider, DIRECTV has recently purchased an equity stake in LiveClips.com. Live Clips is a service that lets rights owners and licensees quickly and easily create video clips of live games. More importantly, it categorizes and tags each highlight by player, type of clip (run, pass, etc), teams involved, etc. The end result for DIRECTV subscribers? They eventually might be able to control, filter and organize sports highlights, in real-time. So, for example, if you have Adrian Peterson and Manning on your fantasy squad, you’d conceivably be able to watch JUST their clips, almost immediately after they happen. All the highlights are automatically generated so once the system is working, there’d theoretically be very little manual intervention on DIRECTV’s side. Pretty cool, huh?

Now, is this definitely how DIRECTV will use LiveClips’ technology? No one outside of DIRECTV knows for sure but given LiveClips’ infrastructure and DIRECTV’s recent strategy, it’s likely to be something similar. Here are a few possible scenarios:

NFL Sunday Ticket features

1) Fantasy highlights – Every year or so, DIRECTV makes a concerted effort to improve the NFL Sunday Ticket. From multi-game screens to stat trackers, they’re always looking to add value to their flagship service. Having exclusive rights to NFL Pay-per-view doesn’t come cheap, so ramping up coverage and support of growing industries (like fantasy Football) is a smart use of R&D dollars.

User interface-wise, it could be as simple as piggy-backing on the current stat tracker feature…ie, next to a player’s real-time stats/plays, a new menu automatically adds the associated clip.

In this scenario, if treated like the other recent NFL Sunday Ticket features, there’d likely no additional cost to DIRECTV subscribers — the only caveat might be the hosting/streaming fees. If DIRECTV projects significant costs, it might be introduced as a premium add-on (the service is still novel enough to warrant it).

2) Free access/preview – of course, DIRECTV’s ultimate goal is to attract new customers…either from DISH or cable. So, marketing-wise, LiveClips could be used as a cool publicly-available feature either on DIRECTV.com or a free preview channel. Theoretically, anyone (subscriber or not) could follow all or part of their fantasy team. Since a fair percentage of folks ONLY subscribe to the Ticket to monitor their players, I wouldn’t expect unlimited access from a free service. A capped number of highlights/teams/players could be nice win-win though — prospective customers have some fun with custom highlights and potentially catch the bug for more NFL access.

Since this scenario requires heavy lifting and testing, I wouldn’t expect it anytime soon.

Plan B if they don’t renew the NFL Sunday Ticket

DIRECTV’s current contract with the NFL for exclusive rights to the Sunday Ticket expires at the end of the 2014 season. At approximately $1 Billion a year, it’s a hefty fee and only getting bigger. The NFL is actively pursuing other TV providers (DISH, cable, Google TV, etc.) and making no secret of it. Possible scenarios include a non-exclusive partnership where multiple providers have access to all or a predetermined number of games. Since this option creates logistical issues for the NFL (delivering content to different technologies) and completely eliminates the huge exclusivity premium, I wouldn’t expect them to go that route…of course, if the price is right, you never know.

Back to DIRECTV, LiveClips might just be their insurance policy. If they lose part or all of their live NFL access, it gives them a novel way to keep at least a portion of their hardcore NFL base. At the end of the day, I can’t imagine DIRECTV losing out on the NFL (they have WAY too much invested) — things are likely to change though. If DIRECTV has to pay significantly more to keep the NFL, you can probably expect a rate increase for the Ticket or associated features…best case scenario, the growing (global) demand for the NFL allows DIRECTV to absorb the extra fees. Time will tell.

For now, look forward to how they use LiveClips, likely to be released in early 2014.

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