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Sprint is in the NFL Radio Business

Here’s yet another tidbit you won’t read about in the radio trades:

Sprint Offers Subscribers NFL Radio – The live, cell-phone-accessible radio broadcasts will be available to all Sprint wireless subscribers who purchase a basic data plan as part of their services.

Sprint Nextel subscribers will be able to listen to live radio broadcasts of National Football League games this season as part of new partnership between the wireless provider and sports league. The live, cell-phone-accessible radio broadcasts—the centerpiece of the new NFL Mobile Live platform–will be available to all Sprint wireless subscribers who purchase a basic data plan as part of their services. In addition, as part of the agreement a select group of premium subscribers will be able to view live broadcasts of the NFL Network’s eight Thursday Night Football games on their phones starting on Nov. 6.

There are a few lessons to take away from this:

1. Content, content, content.

For some reason, many broadcasters confuse the term “content” with “the stuff that’s on our air.” When I use the term “content” I mean the material that’s of serious interest to listeners. Stuff they will seek out. Not filler. Not commodities. McDonalds and NOBU may both offer “food,” but that’s where the similarity ends, and don’t think for a moment the patrons don’t know the difference.

In this case, the content is owned in its entirety by a third party – not a radio company. When it comes to professional sports play-by-play, radio is a distribution channel, not a content owner. Thus we will lose out to the owners of content in deals like this.

Our solution – yours and mine – is to develop our own content – magnetic, unique content – and license it across all distribution channels.

Note that this does NOT necessarily mean you are limited to the brands you have over-the-air.

2, Do mobile phone companies need radio?

And by that I mean radio companies.

The answer is “yes” only if your content is unique enough to make yourself essential to the mix, or if you offer wraparound benefits that are non-trivial, such as a network of advertising and the capacity to sell it.

3. Mobile service providers recognize that strong content can move equipment and subscriptions.

This is great news if you’re in the “content” business and lousy news if you’re in the distribution channel business.

I’ll let you decide which one you want to be in.

Yes, “the content business” is easier said than done. Like everything that’s worth anything.

4. Isn’t this kinda like satellite radio?

…in the sense that a deal is made to offer content as a driver for subscriptions to the service itself.

Yes it is. In fact, this is very bad news for satellite radio, where professional sports play-by-play is a major subscription driver.

And it doesn’t help that satellite has – until recently – viewed itself as being in the business of selling radios.

When I can hear my football on the phone in my pocket instead of the radio sealed in plastic at the Best Buy, which do you think I’m more likely to choose?

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