"The league, working with Silicon Graphics, is setting out to create a digital archive of the entire filmed history of its games, from legendary contests between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers to seemingly meaningless late-season games between out-of-contention teams. The archive will be available at NBA.com. The league unveiled the project Thursday night at SGI's offices here...
If the project, which could take as long as six years to complete, goes as planned, fans should be able to get their hands on clips of just about any hoops moment they want, and even create their own personalized video reels...
The program involves archiving all new footage on a sophisticated digital storage system as well as the painstaking transfer to digital media of nearly 60 years of footage currently stored on aging videotape. It's aimed at making any filmed moment in the league's history accessible to anyone, from coaches to fantasy-league fans."
What's incredible is that the league SEEMS to be pretty forward thinking about how all this may be monetized:
"The NBA won't wait until the whole thing is done, and could start rolling out bits of the project as early as next year, but it's not yet clear how the league will charge for it.
Hellmuth speculated that NBA fans could pay for the right to compete to create the best custom highlight reels, which they would upload to NBA.com. He said it was also possible that fans could pay for the right to sift through the archives and create personalized content that they could then burn onto DVDs on their own computers."
You can knock me over with a feather.
Here's a tradition-bound, incumbent sports organization, willing to undergo the expense and effort of transferring six decades of video footage onto a sophisticated platform capable of interaction with potentially millions of rabid fans over the Internet, WITHOUT putting onerous restrictions and defining silly, over-priced billing models BEFOREHAND.
We'll see how this evolves, but this could potentially be the model that other incumbents may choose to emulate as time goes on. If so, it's a very big deal, in that it potentially breaks the log jam to getting lots of relevant video in the hands of fans to do any number of incredible things with.
The NBA seems to be following Fred Wilson's mantra for content in the post-Web 2.0 age:
1 - Microchunk it - Reduce the content to its simplest form. Thanks Umair.
2 - Free it - Put it out there without walls around it or strings on it. Thanks Stewart.
3 - Syndicate it - Let anyone take it and run with it. Thanks Dave.
4 - Monetize it - Put the monetization and tracking systems into the microchunk. Thanks Feedburner.
This is what they're doing. Presumably they'll allow users to Microchunk it, after freeing it. And then figure out the syndication and/or monezation models afterwards. How very Web 2.0 of them.
I'm looking forward to seeing what Mark Cuban thinks of all this...or if he contributed to the decision-making behind the League's announcement.
Granted, this is but one VERTICAL category of content, controlled by a SINGLE ENTITY, with a very large, impassioned fan base that would presumably be interested in the WHOLE BODY of video inasmuch as it covers the entire sport of professional basketball.
It remains to see if this approach translates to other categories of video content that is more fragmented in type, constituency and ownership.
And although this could be truly groundbreaking for content on the web, much has to occur before we'll be able to judge this in reality. But it's a great preamble to a historic first step.