NFL Now Is About Web Video Ads, Not Cord Cutting

No YouTube, Facebook or Twitter distribution deal—yet

It's not as easy to find NFL clips on the Web as you might think. That's because the NFL hoards them on In fact it's easier to find Bad Lip Reading NFL videos on YouTube than anything from the league, which makes it tough if you want to relive that Eli Manning to David Tyree catch again and again. 

As a result, the NFL sells out of Web video ad inventory all the time, says Brian Rolapp, COO of NFL Media. And presumably at Hulu-esque CPMs, rather than ad exchange CPMs.

NFL Now, the league's coming digital network, should remedy that problem.

"From a business standpoint, that's one of the biggest reasons we are doing this," said Rolapp. "If we hear one thing consistently from advertisers, [it's] they want mobile and they want video, and there's not a lot of good places to put their ads online. NFL sells out. There's not enough impressions to go around. And this is really a great place for brands."

And it should be a great place for NFL junkies, who've been perhaps frustrated by the league's walled-garden mentality with Web video. Cue up the Eli clip. Or the Peyton clip. "You can do that if you want," said Rolapp. "If we know you like Peyton Manning, we'll serve you lots of Peyton Manning content. If you like the one highlight … you'll see it again."

Still, it's somewhat surprising that the NFL isn't launching NFL Now on YouTube, or at least partnering with the Google-owned video platform. It doesn't mean the league won't, according to Rolapp. "We could," he said. "What this product is designed to do and will do is go on any device and any platform. Among the three different distribution partners we announced, an Xbox is different than Verizon and is different than Yahoo. So we think this can live with different platforms and different partners. We have been talking with a lot of the obvious people."

In case it's not obvious, NFL Now is not about cord cutting. The new service, due in July, is not going to carry any games. It's not the sports world's HBO Go.

"It's meant to be complementary," said Rolapp. "We don't believe this is cannibalistic. Originals are a core part. This is not repurposed TV. we have studios in L.A. that we've built out for this." 

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