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Last March, Notre Dame launched one of the first team-specific streaming apps, Fighting Irish TV. The app didn't include any live sporting events but included a vault of historic Notre Dame football games, press conferences, bonus video content, and more.
At launch, the app was free to download, and as of right this second, appears to still be free, although it was reportedly so successful that the school is exploring subscription models.
They weren't alone. Maryland was technically first to the market, with Terrapin Club Plus. Clemson+ launched last summer, as an exclusive add-on for members of their booster organization, IPTAY. Then similar services were launched for Oklahoma State (OSU Max) and Arkansas (Hogs+).
Those schools won't be the last to launch similar services.
Thanks to an open records request, we can confirm that LSU plans to launch a similar content offering, called LSU Gold.
In addition to UNC and South Carolina, industry sources tell Extra Points that Penn State is also expected to launch a similar service in the near future. Other major programs are considering doing so as well.
Content-wise, these are similar channels
Right now, it's not possible for LSU or Clemson to force fans to download the app to watch an exclusive live broadcast of a football or basketball game. The schools sold those rights to ESPN, and the four-letter network is paying a gazillion dollars to broadcast those games on the ESPN family of networks. At the moment, all the school-specific streaming apps are pretty niche products, meaning a school might not want to park a major live event on there, even if they could.
At present, these are hubs for what might be called overflow content. If your school has a weekly radio show for a coach, that content might live on this channel. If you own rights to historic broadcasts, you can throw those in there. Clemson's channel is teasing new podcasts, and in the NIL area, it may benefit departments to use these platforms to better showcase the voice and personality of specific athletes.
At any rate, P5 athletic departments produce so much stuff, that simply having an easy place for fans to browse through it all can be beneficial.
But in order to really attract eyeballs, departments probably need to also create new, original programming. OSU Max and Hogs + work with Sport & Story to produce original documentary-style content, with high level production values. Some schools may have the capacity to do this in-house, but most, likely, do not.
I talked to Sport & Story's Bo Mattingly last week to better understand what makes for good original content, and how these networks fit into athletic department master plans.
The interview was produced for Collegiate Sports Connect, a completely free network for college sports industry professionals (and those interested in becoming industry professionals), full of original interviews, including many produced by me. But for those that don't have CSC accounts and are interested in the interview, the full conversation is here. We talk about how his company works with athletic departments, what makes for interesting unique content, and more:
While the types of content may be pretty similar across these different platforms, the department goal may not be. Bo and I talked about this, at around the 7:40 mark. Here, I asked what the specific goal was for Hogs+. Is this meant to be a new revenue stream, just like tickets, parking spaces and hot dogs? Is the true value in the user's data? Is it a fundraising play?
"I would sum it up like this. We're creating original content, on a weekly basis....six, ten, twelve pieces of original content a week...and we're also taking a lot of free content, content that exists on YouTube, on social media, and we're putting it on this platform, so in lives in one platform, on demand, in a place where fans can always find it.
"You're creating a platform for fans to access on their Smart TV, or their phone, or on the website, and consume all of this the way you consume other content. And we see that as an appreciating asset."
Anybody involved in the Creator Economy would tell you that building an audience is the hardest part of any endeavor...once you have the audience, you can always figure out other ways to monetize it. Mattingly didn't view Hogs+ or other channel projects as necessarily needing to be cash-positive from subscriptions in year one (he told me the 8.99/mo fee is mostly to subsidize the cost of high-end production value programming), but that the audience and platform could potentially be used to drive revenue in other ways.
A school could potentially integrate merchandise and commerce partnerships from within the platform, he told me. I floated the idea of potentially using the sports programming as a magnet for other, non-sports university programming, like public service events or musical productions, he said that would also be a possibility. Clemson appears to be using theirs as yet another incentive to join IPTAY.
For some schools, it might make sense to keep all of this content free, and simply use the app as a way to collect user data, strengthen relationships in their fan community, and perhaps sell a few more sweatshirts and season ticket packages. Maybe others decide to create higher-quality TV productions and try to create another resource for their MMR partners to drive revenues. Maybe smaller programs build a smaller version of a streaming app, but make it almost completely student-run and driven. There are plenty of possibilities, depending on what exactly a school can spend, and what they're hoping to accomplish.
But if a school is going to do this, they owe it to themselves, and their fans, to do it right
There isn't anything automatically wrong with creating a subscription product. This newsletter, of course, is a paid subscription product.
But I am sensitive to the fact that most consumers are probably subscribing to a lot of stuff right now. A fan who wanted to see every major college basketball game wouldn't just need to pay more than $60 bucks a month for YouTube TV or a cable package, but they may also need to pay for ESPN+, and potentially even other sports streaming services. If a school is going to ask for fans to cough up another few bucks a month, knowing what else the marketplace might offer at that price point, they need to make sure they aren't taking advantage of fan goodwill.
Simply opening the proverbial vault, throwing a bunch of 1980s broadcasts that look like they were shot on a GameBoy Color, sprinkling in a few student-led productions and some college lacrosse highlights probably isn't going to be enough to justify an extra price tag. If a school doesn't have the administrative capacity to handle the marking and operation in-house, or the budget to bring in the right partners, maybe this isn't the best priority right now.
Plenty of major college brands haven't launched one of these things yet, and maybe they never will. But more channels are coming this summer, and other large brands are at least considering the idea.
If you're an absolute superfan...the kind of degenerate who sits at their desk in late May and wonders how they could watch a football broadcast from 1994...you are my kind of person. And you just might want to consider keeping that credit card nearby. Just in case.
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