There’s an interesting article about Marvel Comics on TechDirt worth reading [via Techmeme]. The premise? Marvel is following in the footsteps of the recording industry — straight towards being a non-player in the online world. To me, it sounds like Marvel Comics is shooting themselves in the foot. Fighting online distribution of old content is almost pointless — instead of trying to stop the inevitable, embrace it and earn revenue as a result. Put all your content online and sell advertising against it. Or, at a minimum, let people pay to download it (some people will). People are going to get your content one way or another, it’s just a matter of if you or someone else will help them get it.

I’ll admit, I was never a huge comics collector (I have bought about 5 in my lifetime that are still at my parents house in my closet), so this issue doesn’t really affect me nor do I care what Marvel does with their business — but I can easily relate this same issue to the vast library of video footage that the NFL and NBA has in their archives, but isn’t profiting from.

Barry Sanders is by far and away my favorite football player of all time. When I was little, I used to relish the Sundays the Detroit Lions were on TV just for the chance to see Barry juke a defender (or two or three or four) and run 80 yards. That was 10-15 years ago. Where can I watch Barry now? Is there anywhere I can buy an entire Detroit Lions game from Barry’s prime? I’ve searched and haven’t found anywhere. If the NFL sold them on a game by game basis, would I buy quite a few? You bet I would (the quantity would depend on price).

I loved Michael Jordan like any other basketball junkie who grew up in the 1990’s. Why doesn’t the NBA let me download/buy old Chicago Bulls games? Who knows — but whatever logic it is, I think it’s an idiotic business decision. They are leaving massive amounts of money on the table. What Chicago Bulls game do I have on video? Well, I have all 6 games of the 93-94 Bulls vs Knicks play-off series on DVD — but it’s a burned copy, with extremely low quality, copied from an old VHS recording; and Game 6 cuts out halfway through the game. Why? I couldn’t find anything else to buy. Seems pretty stupid to me. There’s obviously a demand for complete video footage from old games, but the NBA isn’t cashing in. Sure, they have the 2007 play-offs for download — but frankly, I’d rather watch games from the 1980’s & 1990’s than last years play-offs.

So, the lesson? Companies with desired content should embrace online content distribution — it’s not going away and they are leaving money on the table by ignoring the opportunity.