CSVS Q&A: Phil Sharpe, Senior Vice President of Technology, Turner Sports

In anticipation of the inaugural College Sports Video Summit (CSVS) to be held June 9-10 in Atlanta, the Sports Video Group has assembled a seasoned advisory committee that includes some of the game-changers in the business and technology behind college-sports broadcasting. Each week leading up to the event, College Sports Video Insider will feature an interview with a different member of the College Sports Video Summit Advisory Committee. This week, Turner Sports SVP of Technology Phil Sharpe shares his thoughts on the state of college-sports video production and how CSVS can help change that landscape.

When you look at the landscape of college-sports video production, how would you characterize the industry?
Most of it is economics-driven. You can see that the schools with the strong programs — which usually mean they have more money to spend — go for the higher-end production operations. However, you also see money being invested at the conference level, such as the Patriot League. Although it may not be as much as the big schools, they’re investing money into sports video production, and the products and tools to enable them to do that are out there.

The cost of producing good-quality video and distributing it has significantly dropped over the last five years, and that has enabled a lot more of the lower-level, smaller-conference schools to get into this game and participate. I’m seeing people be a lot more innovative about how they do these things, too.

I’m also seeing a lot more interest on behalf of some of the big media players in getting into the space. We’re still seeing record-level rights deals being done. We’re still seeing folks come in and not only take the major sports but also take the Olympic sports into their rights deals and assist schools and conferences in doing video for those sports.

Why is CSVS an important event?
For the last five years, the cost of video delivery and production has gone down. I think it’s time for folks to get together and share what we’ve learned, because the economy has taken a turn for the worse, and I think, at this point, everyone needs to help everyone else out.

We all need to do more for less, and my experience is, the best way to do that is to learn from other people. I think the summit is a good way to do that.

You are participating in the closing session, titled Lights, Camera, Action! The Next Era of College Sports Production Technology. What do you think attendees can take away from the discussion?
One of the key things we’re going to bring to light is some of the techniques, software, and services that are out there that people may not be aware of. One of the things that we encounter a lot at Turner is the world of social networking and user-generated content. On CNN, we have our I-Reports technology that we developed ourselves, but it’s not rocket science; it’s just well-built. It enables folks to contribute video very easily.

There are more and more of those services out there, and I think a lot of the minor colleges — and even some of the Division I schools, for their minor sports — can start to leverage some of those services at very low cost to put video out there.

I use the phrase “put video out there” very deliberately. One of the things that we’ve learned at Turner is, it is no good putting video where you want to put it and hope people come find it. You’ve got to push it out now to where people are. There’s a blend, just like TV. If you want to use a subscription product, you’ve got to use your teasers, push them out to the public, and then pull viewers through that content to the more rich content that you’ve got. If the video is all free, there’s no reason to hold onto it.

These schools have to be very conscious about what they’re trying to achieve when they start producing college-sports video. Is it for recruiting or marketing purposes? Are you hoping to make money out of it? Depending on what your answer is, you’re going to do very different things with the video. I think our panel will definitely bring to light some of the technologies that folks aren’t aware of and, in tough economic times, technologies that schools can probably avail themselves of to do more than they thought they could.

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