SVGU Q&A: Boston University Ices Streaming

For universities that routinely showcase one sport in particular, streaming can be a great way to gain exposure for the institution’s less-heralded events, as long as the athletic department has the support and funding to make a viable production. Boston University, best known for its competitive men’s ice hockey program, is experimenting with streaming events for some of the school’s other varsity teams under the watchful eye of Dan Satter, assistant director of athletics for marketing communications. SVGU’s Carolyn Braff caught up with Satter to discuss what BU currently offers when it comes to streaming, as well as some of the options the school is exploring for future events.

What sports content do you currently stream on your website?

Right now we have streamed almost all of our men’s ice hockey home games. That’s our biggest sport in terms of popularity and national following, so it makes sense to start with it.
But this past spring we started streaming women’s lacrosse games. We streamed all of our regular season women’s lacrosse games and we have intentions of expanding upon that next season, as well.

How do you get the content?

Our hockey arena, Agganis Arena, is relatively new. It opened in January of 2005, halfway through that hockey season, and it’s fully equipped for video board production. There are already cameras that are being operated to provide the feed for the video boards, so we just use that feed for the online stream. There isn’t necessarily a dedicated streaming crew; it’s just part of the game production crew’s responsibilities.

What about other sports?

We use that same setup for any game that we play in Agganis arena. We have played a couple of men’s and women’s basketball games in there, just a few a year, so those games have been streamed as well because that venue is ready-made for it.

For the games at Agganis arena, another way we have our staff use that feed is, once the game ends, they create a three-minute highlight video. Through our CBS College Sports All-Access player on our Web site we’ll have the entire game archived, but we’ll also post a three-minute teaser highlight package on our Web site that is also available within All-Access. We send it off as a podcast into iTunes, as well.

What equipment do you use?

The company that we work with is called Pack Network. It’s a relatively new company made up of a couple guys who worked in sports information at the America East conference and at Northeastern University. They have all the equipment and we use them for all the productions of the lacrosse games. (Read more about the Pack Network here.)

Right now we work with a couple of video cameras. The production is really basic in the sense that they’re not specialized TV equipment cameras. They’re just what would be a high-end camera you would purchase at a Best Buy-type place.

Who staffs your productions?

Pack Network brings in a crew of folks who are experienced with streaming operations. They’re the ones providing the cameras and gear to toggle between camera shots. They also do a graphic overlay that has the score and time bug permanently on the screen. They do the production as a silent partner, so the content is still run through our website and we’re still calling the shots on everything.

What is the biggest challenge you face to extending your streaming offerings?

We continue to have conversations about expanding our content or bringing it in house. The lacrosse thing kind of snuck up on us. Our team was ranked in the top 10 in the country this year. We knew we were going to be pretty good, so we thought it was a sport we needed to jump on when it happened. Pack Network presented us with an easy solution for the time, but bringing the production in house is certainly something that we will evaluate.

Streaming is something colleges and university athletic departments need to bite the bullet and budget for. While the up-front expense is certainly something that would scare people off, I would say cost isn’t the worst deterrent, because at some point you’re going to have to pay for it. Finding the staff that’s going to operate it, having an in-house staff or staff of students, is going to take a lot of time to manage and seek out people who are qualified enough.

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