NFL.com recently re-launched with particular focus on the video section. The site is now the only place to find game highlights online – a fact the league heavily promotes on other video sites such as YouTube.

 

NFL VideoNFL Highlights Skyscraper
Above: NFL.com’s new video section and skyscraper banner used on YouTube.

 

The footage now offered by NFL.com is truly much richer than in the past. Their video site offers an extensive selection of content specific to every team including hours of highlights packages, interviews and press conferences, all well organized, easily accessible, and free.  But the fact that there is nowhere else to get highlights means the bar is set very low.

A link and e-mail option is provided for every piece of content but forget about embedding it. Media conglomerates like MTV have come to see the benefits of allowing their content to be freely distributed across the web, but NFL.com, with its much improved exclusive hub, wants to be the ONLY place on the internet to watch professional football.

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The NFL’s expansion into content production has gone far beyond that of any other professional sports league. The NBA and MLB have experimented with cable networks, but never pushed them. Television production it is not their core competency, and value in their eyes lies in providing the best experience to the greatest number of fans through existing networks.

The NFL’s previous experience in content production comes largely from NFL films. NFL Network relies heavily heavily on NFL Films for content and much of the original material on NFL.com is created in a similar style. Don’t get me wrong, NFL Films can create an entertaining product, but it plays a lot different on a big screen than it does online. 

If NFL Films were to syndicate its content to broadcast partners and online outlets, the competition for eyeballs would force the league to produce a product better oriented for viewing on the web.  I understand that the NFL wants to maintain exclusivity, but it would do the league some good to think of what’s best for fans.  I want the greatest viewing experience possible, and shuffling between columns at ESPN and footage on NFL.com is not it. 

While late last week the league relented in its pursuit of complete exclusivity, exempting broadcast partners from the 45-second limit  placed on other sites, these sites still are prohibited from posting highlights. ESPN has responded by replacing highlight packages with analysis segments. Hardly an even exchange.

 

Compared with the editing and creativity of highlight packages produced by professionals at other networks, the NFL’s content is dry and lacks originality. But then they don’t need to be original, they hold a monopoly on content. And if you don’t like it, stop looking for highlights online.  The television broadcast of SportsCenter will gladly welcome you back.

Ben Homer is a contributing writer from Online Video Watch.

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