Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Brave New World

TigerBlog recently entered the iPhone crowd.

Now he can't figure out what he used to do in his spare time, back when he wasn't playing "Scramble Words" and getting second-by-second updates on Jeremy Lin.

TigerBlog used to love the comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes." While it was no "Bloom County" and lacked characters like Opus the Penguin and Bill the Cat, it was still a high-quality strip.

And who knows, maybe it was where the original idea for "Toy Story" came from, what with the way Hobbes came to life when nobody else was around.

There was one Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin asks his dad: "why aren't we hooked up to an on-line service so we can connect with other computers," to which his dad replies: "because it's bad enough we have a telephone."

In truth, it's hard to imagine how TB used to get by back in the days when he had just a flip phone, with only calls and texting available. Of course, those days were about two weeks ago.

It's not that he wants to be glued to his phone. Quite the contrary.

It's just that once the ease of staying in tune with email or taking pictures that can actually be used on the webpage or seeing that Lin had nine points and six assists at halftime against Toronto (by the way, TB can't believe how that game ended) or what the other Ivy scores are - not to mention playing Scramble Words - it's impossible to imagine not having that kind of instant access.

TB was a holdout, that's for sure.

That sort of immediate access comes with it a certain lack of privacy, so that people who are trying to get in touch with you expect you to respond immediately.

As an aside, TB still hasn't gone down the whole "Suri" path.

Anyway, TB's introduction to the iPhone came around the time he was interviewed (under an alias) by Jonathan Tannenwald for his very well-researched and well-written piece on the current state of Ivy League sports and television.

The two are not unrelated.

As TB understands it, Tannenwald's piece started out of a question about why last Friday's Penn-Harvard men's basketball game wasn't televised. From there, all kinds of questions grew about the bigger picture of where the Ivy League is in terms of a national television package and how Ivy League games come to be on TV.

Tannenwald was able to get fairly forthcoming comments from Ivy League executive director Robin Harris and Penn AD Steve Bilsky, as well as TB.

Basically, unlike a league like the Big East or SEC, the Ivy League schools have traditionally retained the TV/streaming rights to their home contests. Whereas schools from power conferences view TV rights as a revenue source - one that is enhanced by pooling the league's schools - the Ivy League is much more interested in the exposure.

One way to earn that exposure is to pay for air time, though that can be prohibitively expensive. Another way is to not pay but to also get no financial benefit, so that all advertising goes to the production company.

Princeton is fortunate to be in its ESPN and Verizon Fios arrangements, which guarantee multiple events across several sports in the case of ESPNU and greatly enhanced videostreaming quality (in the case of Verizon Fios).

Still, there are more questions than answers about TV right now:

* is there a large audience for Ivy League athletics on TV?
* is TV more important than videostreaming
* should Ivy schools move their streaming to a centralized website with a pay-once philosophy, so that fans can buy one Ivy package and get every school's feed, even if it hurts the revenue streams that have been created under the current setup?
* should it be a free or pay model for videostreaming (see above for revenue issues)?
* how much should be invested in improving streaming if the audience numbers aren't there now?
* would audience numbers go way up with higher quality streaming?

And most importantly: what's next?

These are questions to which TB does not currently have the answers. At the same time, he has some ideas of what he believes to be the case.

Right now, the league and its eight schools are working hard to figure out what the answers to those questions are and what to do about them.

This is all being done in the context of television possibilities as well.

For TB's money, there is no bigger issue that the league's athletic communications/marketing offices - and the league itself - is currently discussing.

Oh, and whatever happens, the idea of making sure that it can all be found on your iPhone - or whatever you're using now and whatever will replace it in three years - has to be part of the discussion.

In the meantime, TB has four games of Scramble Words to play.

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