- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 26, 2006

The NFL this week announced it will next year begin operating its Web site in-house, instead of continuing to shop it out to CBS SportsLine. This is probably a savvy move by the NFL. It gives the league full control of how it wants its sport presented online, from games streamed over the Internet, to fantasy games and interacting with fans. It will serve as a direct extension of its NFL Network cable channel, and perhaps most importantly, the control-conscious NFL can choose the type of information it wants to distribute. We can expect nothing but positive news about the NFL on its official Web site from now on.

Major League Baseball has been operating its own Web site for several years, and now has a highly-profitable advanced media division. It’s surprising the NFL, generally seen as the most business-savvy sports league, is a little late in the game here.

I’m very curious to see what the NFL does with its Web site. A league flush with cash could easily pump millions of dollars into the operation and turn it into something revolutionary, if it has the vision.

Here a few of my suggestions on how to improve the Web site:

  • Live streaming of out-of-market games. Baseball does this with its MLB.TV service, and so should the NFL. It may require a confrontation with DirecTV, which paid the NFL a freightload of money to offer the NFL Sunday Ticket package, but I don’t think that’s an insurmountable obstacle.
  • Better consolidation of television information. For most fans, trying to figure out which games will be televised in which markets can be a pain. As a reporter, I’m lucky because I get e-mails from each network explaining the breakdown of regionalized coverage each week. But without that, it’s a tough process, and I usually don’t find out what game I’m seeing until I turn on the TV. The NFL can enhance this service by allowing fans to use the Web site to program their DVR or TiVO to record games they might miss.
  • The ability to buy and download all games televised on the NFL Network as well as all NFL Films specials.
  • Better, simpler and more customizable box scores and game updates for us fantasy geeks. If I have Clinton Portis in my league, I want to know exactly what he’s done and how many point he’s racked up for me without scanning through the box score. The stat tracking services out there are pretty good, but could be faster and easier to read.
  • These are just a few thoughts. Anyone else have any ideas how the NFL can improve its Web operation?

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