Last week, AOL Inc. and ESPN announced that they'd reached an agreement that provides AOL’s audience access to a majority of video from ESPN, including news, highlights and analysis. The deal strengthens AOL’s collection of high-quality online video content and significantly boosts its sports-related offering. In a press release announcing that ESPN and AOL had struck the premium video syndication agreement, Matt Murphy, ESPN SVP of Digital Video Distribution, said, “AOL’s network will provide sports fans a truly engaging online experience with ESPN-produced and ESPN-branded premium video.” He added, “We see a real opportunity in our ability to curate and syndicate locally relevant content to AOL’s vast network of local sites.”
The highlights of the deal include:
- ESPN will provide AOL with ESPN-branded news, highlights and analysis, including video content seen on SportsCenter and other ESPN programs, covering a wide array of sports.
- AOL will syndicate ESPN video content across both its owned and operated sites – such as AOL.com and The Huffington Post – along with its network of partners that includes 1,700 publishers such as Cox, Gannett, and the Boston Globe, as well as mobile phones, tablets and connected TV devices.
- In conjunction with AOL editors, ESPN’s production facility will help program content across the AOL network so that consumers reading text articles on both AOL’s family of sites and its partners’ sites will be served relevant ESPN videos providing an optimal consumer experience.
- The library of ESPN videos will also be housed in a brand-specific channel on the AOL On Network (on.aol.com/espn), AOL’s video platform that launched in 2012 and exclusively features curated, premium video content.
- Ad sales for this video content will be led by ESPN, and revenue will be shared by both parties along with AOL’s syndication partners.
- Content distribution began on Oct. 8.
In the press release, Ran Harnevo, SVP of AOL Video, said, “ESPN’s leadership in high-quality sports content is second to none and their selection of AOL as a syndication partner at this scale underscores the strength of our network.” He added, “This is an important moment for ESPN, AOL and our partners, who can now take advantage of compelling sports video content in order to deepen engagement with their readers.”
What's So Significant About The Deal?
Now, any deal between ESPN and AOL should be considered significant. ESPN, the world’s leading sports entertainment company, features more than 50 assets – seven U.S. television networks, ESPN International, ESPN Radio, ESPN.com, and ESPN The Magazine. ESPN is 80% owned by ABC, Inc. (an indirect subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company) and 20% by The Hearst Corporation.
And AOL Inc. isn’t chopped liver. As Carla Marshall and I reported a couple of weeks ago, AOL has climbed into second place with 55.9% more viewers than it had a year ago. According to comScore Video Metrix, AOL reached 71.2 million unique visitors in August 2013 and they watched 992 million streams that month through the AOL On Network.
The home of a world-class collection of premium brands, AOL creates original content that engages audiences on a local and global scale. The brand company also helps marketers connect with these audiences through effective and engaging digital advertising solutions.
For example, AOL Networks hosted the industry’s first-ever Programmatic Upfront on Sept. 23, 2013. It featured major agencies and brands making upfront financial commitments for 2014. This milestone event focused on how technology and automation are disrupting digital advertising. Pioneers including Nate Silver, editor-in-chief of ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight blog, and Dr. David Plans, co-founder of BioBeats, shared their perspectives and experiences that demonstrate how technology and automation can unlock creativity.
And on Sept. 17, 2013, AOL On launched the newest addition to its lineup of original programing – FLAT OUT. The documentary series, which is co-produced by NASCAR Productions and Vuguru, features 10 unscripted episodes that grant viewers an all-access pass into the life of 18-year-old NASCAR driver Dylan Kwasniewski as he balances family, friends and newfound celebrity status on and off of the track.
What Does This Mean To Internet Marketers And Video Content Producers?
Well, I’m not saying that you should stop focusing most of your attention on YouTube. YouTube continues to be ranked as the #1 online video content property with 167 million unique viewers in August 2013, followed by AOL with 71.2 million. And YouTube continues to get the highest number of streams at 17.4 billion, followed by AOL with 992 million.
What I am saying is that you should start focusing some of your attention on AOL. The company has changed a lot over the past 18 months and has now become the #2 online video content property.
In fact, AOL might want to consider adopting the “We try harder” tagline that Avis dropped last year. Hey, it’s just a suggestion.