The largest brands in college athletics aren’t just athletic departments, buoyed by strong football and basketball programs. They’re content companies.
No athletic department knows this better than Notre Dame. Back in March, the university partnered with WMT to launch a new product, Fighting Irish TV. The app, which runs on mobile devices and smart TVs, gives Notre Dame fans a one-stop shop to watch overflow football programming (like Notre Dame’s Pro Day, or various press conferences), historic Notre Dame football games, original documentaries, and more.
Unlike other OTT services like Netflix and HBO Max, Fighting Irish TV is free to download and watch. The value proposition, at least at first, wasn’t about generating revenue from subscription fees, but about building customer loyalty. Fighting Irish TV gives the entire university a new way to engage with their most loyal fans. That engagement gives Notre Dame user data that could potentially be used to sell tickets, apparel, or even fundraise for the university itself. It also gives additional exposure to Olympic sports programs and other personalities that might be left in the shadow of the school’s famous football program.
Of course, Notre Dame could always decide to monetize it with subscriptions at a later date. Sports Business Journal reported that the initial launch was so successful that the school is already considering launching a potential subscription-tier.
Clemson could potentially launch a similar product as well, and Maryland already has one. You could see how large athletic departments across the country could build out similar offerings, too.
Major athletic brands are doing this because they understand the importance of engaging fans, especially your most devoted fans, in ways beyond the traditional sports broadcast. Entities — be they brands, rightsholders, or other stakeholders — are leaving money and attention on the table by failing to take advantage of that passion.
For some, the answer might be to create apps with overflow and shoulder programming that can be viewed on demand. For others, the answer might be to reform the traditional broadcast itself, with a more engaging platform for audiences that also gives brands, media partners, teams and leagues the tools they need to capitalize on that attention.
But Notre Dame, and others in major college sports, are right to keep experimenting. As an athletic brand, you already have a massive library of content. It doesn’t do you any good for that content to sit in various Youtube channels, or worse, in the archives, collecting dust.
You should use it. If you give fans a reason to watch, they’ll keep coming back, long after the final snap of the season.
(this piece was contributed by StreamLayer CEO & co-founder John Ganschow)