Thursday, October 13, 2005

An Open Letter with an Idea for US Soccer and MLS

Hello US Soccer and MLS,

I have this idea that I think could help expand the fan base of this wonderful sport we call soccer. This has nothing to do with formations, training styles, logos or getting Bruce Arena on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (although that would be fun). No this idea has more to do with the PR aspect of the game.

Yesterday Apple announced the release of their new video iPod. This little device will allow people to take video with them wherever they go.

Currently iPods control about 75% of the portable player market and there are no signs that this number will decrease anytime soon. So that means that a lot of folks are going to buy these new video players, but what are they going to watch on them? Well currently, not much. You can watch downloaded movie trailers, music videos or home movies, but as far as professional produced, non-music oriented material, there is very little from which to choose. However, Apple also announced an interesting deal with the ABC television family to allow some recently run shows to be sold the next day in their iTunes store (for example, last night's episode of Lost is now available in the store).

Anyway, this is where you guys come in. What if you did a weekly 10-15 minute show highlighting the game? I know the MNT WCQs have just finished and the MLS season is coming to a close, but you could still discuss various players, past games, information on the various teams (MLS) and there are also the Women's and the various Under-age teams to discuss. Plus, you both have a connection to the ABC family (ESPN is part of it) so maybe you could use this as an inside track to the iTunes store.

But why bother doing this? As I stated before, people are going to buy these machines even if there is limited content currently available. So people will want to see their new gadget at work, thus they will be open to new types of entertainment. It's like when DVD players first became available around 1998. There were only a few hundred titles from which to choose so people (like myself) often bought movies that they might not otherwise purchase just to see what this new equipment could do. However, unlike movies, soccer is not something that is static. If you get people watching that otherwise might never tune in, you might just hook 10% of them to keep coming back. In the long run, that will help build out the game.

The good news is I don't think it would take a lot to make this happen. Both the MLS and US Soccer have video available on your sites. Also, US Soccer does podcasting, which could easily become v-podcasting. You would have to move over to QuickTime technology, but that is not as inconvenient for the end users as it use to be. All and all, this would not take much of an investment.

I know there are many that will think this is a waste but lets be honest, soccer is still a minor sport in this country. If we want this to change, we need to get on the cutting edge of something. Soon enough baseball, the NFL, NBA and NHL will embrace this technology. They will wait a bit to make sure the water is safe, so to speak, but, as long as Apple doesn't fail miserably, they will dive in. Once that happens, it will be difficult for any other sport to get noticed in the wake of the big four. However, if we are there first, all the sports attention will be on us.

This will not suddenly make soccer the number one sport in America, but every person that just takes a look will have already learned more then they can in most newspapers or even on most non-soccer specific websites. This is an opportunity and I hope that soccer makes use of it.

Thank you,
Mike H


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