WebStream Productions Moves Beyond NCAA Championships
WebStream Productions was founded in 2006, primarily as a streaming provider for the NCAA.
“In the first year, 95% of what we did was NCAA content,” says company President John Servizzi. “In the second year, it was 75%, and now it’s 50% of what we do, which is still a lot, but we’re starting to spread our wings a little bit and get a little more diverse.”
In addition to producing most of the NCAA’s 88 championships that do not make it to television — such as fencing and Division III football — WebStream produces 450 events for the Horizon League Network, 72 minor-league baseball games for the Indianapolis Indians, championships for the Missouri Valley Conference, men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball for Butler University and IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis), and the American Legion World Series.
Says Servizzi, “We’re getting to the point where we’re going to average two to three events a day over the course of the year, which is impressive when you’re talking about a company of nine.”
For those productions, WebStream Productions has 10 flypacks, which it stores at a distribution warehouse off-site from the company’s studio. Under Servizzi’s watch, the company is just as capable of streaming a standard basketball game as five holes of golf for the NCAA championship.
“What small streaming company is stupid enough to attempt to cover five holes of golf?” Servizzi laughs. “The first year, we shipped everything to Albuquerque and built a control room in a pro shop on a golf course and strung 20,000 ft. of fiber. We ran intercom on Cat 5 cables lying on the ground.”
Since then, the flypacks have made those golf productions far less haphazard, but they remain low-cost.
“The NCAA is loving it because we produce four days of coverage for less than what they pay for a day on TV,” Servizzi says. “And we probably got the same number of viewers because dotcom has such great traffic.”
In addition to event production, WebStream runs the Website and iPhone application for the Horizon League Network and cuts highlights for NCAA.com. Four DirecTV boxes in the WebStream Productions control-room feed into a basic audio/video switcher connected to an AJA converter box. Using the DVR functionality of the DirecTV systems to pause and rewind the video, an editor cuts the highlights on Apple Final Cut Pro.
“We’ve got four monitors set up, so it’s easy to watch,” Servizzi says. “During the women’s tournament, we’ve gotten really good. There are four games going on simultaneously, and one person is cutting them.”
WebStream cuts 200 highlights for NCAA.com during each championship season in November, March, and May, using a system that costs between $600 and $700 per year. Comparable highlight-production systems, he says, can cost upwards of $6,000, but WebStream Productions has built its business on finding low-cost, high-quality solutions.