NFL to launch new digital video service, seeking to increase revenue from mobile advertising

NEW YORK, N.Y. – The NFL, already a more than $9 billion a year business, is seeking new revenues from the expanding mobile advertising market.

The league will launch a digital video service called “NFL Now” this summer, which will offer game highlights, archived NFL Films footage and original news and analysis programs.

Brian Rolapp, the league’s executive vice-president of media, called mobile advertising the “fastest-growing revenue stream” out there.

“What you hear from advertisers and sponsors is: ‘We want mobile and we want video,’ which is one of the reasons we’ve done this on top of the fan demand,” Rolapp said Thursday. “There’s a reason there’s advertiser demand — there’s consumption.”

Rolapp expects the advertising inventory to be sold out when the service debuts at a yet-to-be-determined date. But the real value is having a platform already established as the market increases.

“To use an analogy from another sport: We like to skate where the puck is going,” Rolapp said.

Basic content will be free on smartphones, tablets, computers and some consoles and streaming devices, including Xbox One. Full access will be available for a monthly fee, which has yet to be determined, offering another revenue opportunity.

Rolapp said users will have to watch a short ad before viewing some videos, but probably not all. The service will allow fans to customize their feeds to focus on particular teams and players.

Meanwhile, the NFL is also trying to increase revenue by selling some of the Thursday night package of games, previously all on NFL Network, to an outside partner. Rolapp said that Super Bowl week had slowed down the decision-making process, but an announcement will likely come soon.

The networks who bid have not expressed concerns about the league’s desire to simulcast the games on NFL Network, Rolapp said. It’s possible that the broadcast on NFL Network could be slightly different than the one on the other channel, as ESPN recently did with multiple options for viewing the BCS title game.

The NFL’s goal is to both draw more viewers to NFL Network and expand the audience for the Thursday games. NFL Network is in about 62 per cent of the country’s homes with televisions.

The league plans to do a short-term deal to see how the new Thursday night experiment goes.

“Thursday is a tremendous opportunity for a football night,” Rolapp said, “and we think it can be as big as those traditional franchises Monday and Sunday night.”