A major part of what makes sports so enticing and addictive is that they connect individuals to something much larger in real time. Whether they’re in the stands cheering with thousands of other fans, frantically checking Twitter for updates, or arguing with friends after the game, fans want to be connected to each other and to content.
On Monday, 10 of the 12 member schools released revamped athletics websites; the remaining two, Utah and USC, will launch new websites in the future. The schools’ individual pages are tied to the main Pac-12 site and share content, including live streams for games.
The moves are part of the Pac-12’s broader digital strategy, which has included consolidating all of its media rights, launching the Pac-12 sports network, and creating apps for fans to watch content anywhere.
Pac-12 Digital VP David Aufhauser tells me the network has put a “maniacal focus on what fans want,” and will adjust the site based on fan feedback from the beta launch.
The major change for fans will be the increase in content available via these event pages. Let’s say you’re a big Stanford football fan, like me, and you want to check out every game of the season this coming fall. Each game will have its own event page on the Pac-12 site where you can check out previews, game highlights, post-game interviews, and other content.
But football isn’t the best example, because there’s already so much content out there. Say you’re a big fan of a less-popular sport that’s rarely televised or covered by other media. Not only can you watch live streams of the events on the Pac-12 website, but you can now have the same experience as a football fan (albeit with less media) on unique pages for each event.
Aufhauser tells me the Pac-12’s goal is to keep these event pages live and archived, so you could go back in a few years and re-live these events.
He adds that the network’s next big challenge will be finding ways to connect fans on game day no matter where they are or how they’re watching. Unfortunately for fans, though, this won’t include making much premium content, like football games, available via the web or Pac-12 apps. He says that the network will be working to find a balance between free content online via live streams and content that is tethered to cable subscriptions for the next 5-10 years.
“I think it’s always — well not always, but for longer than I think people realize, especially in sports, it’s going to be about finding a balance,” Aufhauser tells me. “There’s a lot of banter in the industry about going over the top. There’s no question that that is an industry trend…but the cable and subscription providers are being innovative, too.”