One of the overarching themes of the current sports media landscape is that we’re in the midst of a digital revolution.  In 2015 more and more sports content is being consumed and watched online, Yahoo is even going to be streaming an NFL game.  Think about how crazy that would have sounded fifteen or even five years ago.  Given the digital shift, sports media companies are evolving to keep up with the times, and get ahead if possible.

In recent times we’ve seen major players like ESPN, Yahoo, and Sports Illustrated go through major renovations on the digital front.  These updates have been largely done to put a premium on video content and improve the browsing experience for computer, tablet, and mobile.  The response to these rollouts has been, to put it kindly, mixed.

Now it’s NBC’s turn to join the party.

Imminently, NBC Sports will be revealing a revamped and other digital properties.  The updates are widespread and include…

– The first re-design for Pro Football Talk in six years.
– A more unified version of the Sports Talk verticals (PFT, etc.) and the NBC Sports proper website and a consistent look and feel across NBC’s digital properties.
– Increased prominence for NBC Sports Live Extra throughout the new website.
– Automatic links to sync with the local NBC Sports Regional Network of the visitor’s location.
– On-demand video content in curated categories featuring clips from NBC’s web and television properties.
– A full schedule for NBC Sports Live Extra up to a week in advance.

There are quite a few upgrades here that are encouraging from the point of view of the sports fan.  Pro Football Talk has developed a huge audience and NBC Sports Live Extra is simply a must-have for all Premier League or Olympics fans.  However, the homepage hasn’t really been able to break through in the way that ESPN, SI, or even partner site Yahoo have in the digital realm.  Hopefully the bringing together of all of NBC’s digital properties and a more unified presentation can help NBC to be more relevant overall in this area.

The lesson for NBC from these other prominent redesigns form their competitors is this – functionality will be key.  I know my browsing experience on SI and ESPN’s new sites aren’t exactly what they used to be (especially on the computer) under the new designs and it impacts how long I spend on each site.  And although look and feel are very important, ultimately it’s the user-friendliness that will determine how successful the newly revived truly is with readers.

UPDATE: We had the opportunity to ask SVP & GM of Digital Media Rick Cordella a couple questions about the new site design rollout via e-mail.  Here’s that Q&A…

AA: Many of the recent re-designs (Yahoo, Sports Illustrated, ESPN to a lesser extent) haven’t been quite as well-received as the companies have hoped for in that it’s not quite as user-friendly as older versions. What steps has NBC taken to ensure that the multi-platform approach will have a better rollout?

Rick Cordella: It’s common for users to initially be taken aback when a site re-designs. We’re prepared for that. However, we constructed this site to give our users the content they want in a more intuitive way. We’re providing easy access to our strengths — live sports and player news — no matter how they enter the site and everywhere they go on the site. The re-design also drastically improves our mobile presentation, and creates a more consistent, branded look across the many facets of and our local businesses in our RSN markets.

AA: As there’s a mention about greater prominence for NBC Sports Live Extra, how important is that platform to NBC’s digital efforts moving forward? How does this re-design put NBC in a better position for the continuing digital evolution across sports, especially as relates to games and live rights?

Rick Cordella: Compelling live video is some of the most-desired content in all of media, not just sports. And we have rights to stream many sports’ premier live events. The re-design allows us to surface that content more easily. Whether it’s Sunday Night Football or The Dan Patrick Show, users will not need to go fishing to find it.

Another unique element to is our player news, powered by NBC Sports-owned Traffic around our player news peaks not during the fantasy season, though that is certainly when a significant volume of consumption occurs, but around hot stove for baseball or free agency for football. Player news is not just for the fantasy fan, but a unique way to consume sports news in general. We want to raise the profile on that particular type of content.

And, of course, fans increasingly crave greater flexibility to view events on desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs. We want to create the best experience for our users, no matter how they choose to access our content.

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