Two IPTV deals reveal technology’s potential for sports

Sports distribution via IPTV appears to be gaining traction with a pair of recent announcements.

Last week, the Indy Racing League (IRL) signed an exclusive deal with Whiteblox to provide the league with online broadcasting services for all practices, time trials and races through 2009.

Then, private IPTV network solution provider NeuLion announced Islanders TV is providing on-demand programming for the New York Islander fans worldwide. The channel, which provides original content created by the hockey team and its partners, is unavailable through any other means. Exclusive programming includes events leading up to a game, detailed post-game locker room interviews and analysis.

Like Islander TV, the Whiteblox deal with the IRL gives fans with an appetite for sports coverage not satiated by conventional cable and broadcast sources a way to get more of what interests them. Earlier this year, WhiteBlox and Indy Racing teamed up for an online broadcast of the Indy 500, which drew hundreds of thousands of viewers. More than 1 million viewer minutes were logged.

Both also give the sports organizations involved a previously unavailable avenue for self promotion and marketing. For instance, fans with Islander season tickets receive a special login ID to access Islanders TV for free.

Interactivity is another strength IPTV brings to the sports distribution market. For example, the Whiteblox-IRL coverage of this year’s Indy 500 let viewers instantly choose between six in-car cameras in addition to the main view, all of which were being broadcast live simultaneously. They could even conduct live chats with fellow fans and access fan polls.