‘The Road to CSVS’ Webinar Series Pulls Back the Curtain on Digital-Network Development
The Road to CSVS Webinar series is designed to explore topics critical to the success of video at the university-athletic-department level. SVG, in partnership with NACDA, will host a new Webinar each month leading up to the fourth-annual College Sports Video Summit (CSVS) in Atlanta in June.
For several decades, the quickest, most efficient way for a university to increase its exposure was to have one of its athletic teams showcased on national television. Today, even with the growing number of professional networks popping up across the country, getting TV time can be difficult for some conferences and can be downright impossible for what are typically referred to as the “Olympic sports.”
As a result, many schools and conferences are utilizing their rights and taking distribution of their athletic content into their own hands.
Sponsored by XOS Digital, “Digital Networks: Managing and Distributing Video To Reach a Larger Audience,” the third edition of the Webinar series, offered an in-depth look at how colleges and conferences can reach their fan base and build a broader audience through the use of technology.
With nearly 150 industry professionals in attendance on Tuesday, Tom Buffolano, moderator and chair of the CSVS, was joined by Mark Bryant, director of multimedia, Big South Conference; Jeremy Guy, director of communications, Mid-American Conference (MAC); and Barry Loudis, VP, Digital Sports Networks, XOS Digital.
When it comes to a digital network, it’s much more than streaming a handful of live games that the university or conference holds the rights to. It’s about creating a complete experience that can serve as a destination for fans seeking out content.
“When we started streaming, we wanted to make it easy for all the fans of all of our member schools,” said Bryant, whose conference partnered with NeuLion for Big South Network’s video platform. “Having one place to go for all the video seemed to be the best way to do that.”
When boiled down to its core, the mission is simple: get the brand out there.
“Our main goal in putting together this digital network was to reach as many people as we can with our product,” said Guy, who went with XOS Digital as video provider. “So what we decided was to offer all of our football, and men’s and women’s basketball games that were not exclusive to ESPN, on our Website so there was a one-stop shop for all things MAC.”
At Big South Network, which pushed out its video over Windows Media, Flash, and MP4, nearly 700 live events are streamed per year: all football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball games (that haven’t already been sold to a national provider) and a minimum allotment of soccer, baseball, softball, and lacrosse games.
The Big South offers a centralized conference video player that also uses channels, or “skins,” to customize the player to individual universities, helping member schools with their exposure and branding.
The MAC Digital Network launched in July and has established itself as a reputable media platform that will stream 600-700 live events this academic year and uses a similar programming outline to that of Big South.
At both conferences, the schools are responsible for producing all events held on their campuses, including any championships they may host.
As the number of distribution channels continues to grow, having an athletics Website simply doesn’t cut it in the current media marketplace. In addition to Websites, schools across the country are pushing out original content to fans through mobile devices (smartphones and tablets), smart TVs, and connected devices (Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3).
“For us, smart TVs and tablets have been a big push in the recent months, and it sort of connects the two,” said Loudis, whose company, XOS Digital, is partnered with more than 120 universities and conferences. “We feel, as cable continues to evolve in its business model, connected TV devices and tablet devices are really this driving force in the market right now, and it’s where we have invested a lot of our energy.”
That’s without even touching the various social-media services, with which both the Big South and MAC are heavily involved.
“In the past year and a half, we’ve really gotten into pushing everything out via social media,” said Guy. “I believe that a lot of people feel that the age of press releases and reading a lot of text are just a thing of the past. People are always on the go, and they want their news fast.”
Having a centralized location for a video network is essential, but it’s crucial for content creators to take their product to fans on their home turf, be it Facebook, Twitter, etc.
“From my perspective, a network is more than just in the broadcast sense of getting games up and out but is also in other sense of networking,” said Bryant. “So many people become a part of this online community, and, when we announced that we would be adding another school [Longwood University, Farmville, VA, joins the Big South effective next academic year], we had a major spike in our Twitter and Facebook feeds.
“Social media is a major key for us getting in with fans that truly desire to be engaged.”
Be sure to check sportsvideo.org for an archive of this Webinar, including a full audio file and PDF files of presentation materials, including equipment lists for the participating panelists’ productions. In addition, be on the lookout for updates on the next edition of The Road to CSVS, coming up in February.