SVG College Q&A: Campus Insiders EVP/GM Crowley Sullivan
A year ago, Campus Insiders burst onto the scene as a relative unknown and, in 12 short months, has had a sizable impact on both the execution and general fan perception of digital-exclusive production.
Formed as a partnership between IMG and Silver Chalice, Campus Insiders offers unrestricted content — live studio shows, video-on-demand (VOD), more than 2,000 live games — on multiple platforms and distribution points. The company has also attracted marquee talent, with Seth David and Bonnie Bernstein hosting their own exclusive shows.
SVG caught up with EVP/GM Crowley Sullivan to discuss what lessons he has learned so far and what fans can expect in the company’s sophomore campaign.
Campus Insiders enjoyed a very strong first year. What lessons did you learn that have you even better prepared for year two?
The amount of progress we’ve made in what really is just a year’s worth of fully operational offerings is kind of amazing when we allow ourselves to stop and consider how far we’ve come. One of the biggest things we’ve learned is that there are countless untapped elements that we can continue to integrate into our business that we haven’t even thought of yet.
When we first launched, live games weren’t even a part of the business model. Now, as we kick off this school year, we’re prepared to produce and broadcast over 2,200 live events in concert with our conference partners. This demonstrates that we should always be challenging ourselves to come up with the next idea that can drive our business forward.
In terms of live event production, what innovative workflows have you used to keep costs down and the number of events available up?
First of all, we’ve been fortunate to be able to create very powerful and authentic partnerships with remote-production companies like ProAngle and Kitay Productions — veterans with the willingness to try new things who have allowed us to be able to find innovative production approaches while maintaining financial responsibility. In addition to that, our partnerships with the conferences have brought about production approaches that allow for the contributions from the schools themselves and the students who are studying event production. When we consider the combination of these approaches, it’s easy for us to see how we’ve been able to deliver high-quality productions while finding effective ways to manage costs. It’s all about the partnerships we’ve cultivated.
Do you enjoy programming exclusively for a digital audience, and what advantages does that model afford you?
I loved my years at ESPN as a member of the production team and then the programming team. I learned a great deal about the strategies and approaches within each of those media disciplines, and I’m grateful to have had those experiences.
However, having the opportunity to program within the digital space is a far greater experience due to the freedom it affords. There are no boundaries within which we need to “fit” programming. There are no limits to ways in which we can create original concepts. There are no hurdles that we must jump over in order to bring creative concepts to life — and all of that is due to the digital space being an environment that only increases the ability to be creative.
In what ways have the conferences and institutions that you have rights deals with made themselves a part of the production process?
All of our conference partners have made themselves a part of the production process, and that, in many ways, is what makes our overall approach to our partnerships unique. We aren’t a company that is dictating anything at all to our partners. On the contrary, everything we do with our partners is a collaborative process and only leads to a stronger relationship and, ultimately, a better product. Each conference we work with is truly helping us build every aspect of the partnership. Some operations say that about their partnerships. We’re actually doing that.
What are you looking for Campus Insiders to achieve in year two?
Our team is so excited about the foundation that we have built over the last year. As we enter into this school year and look towards the live events and the new original programming that we’re launching, we all are very optimistic about the growth that we will continue to achieve throughout the coming year. Enhancing our live broadcasts, growing our own personality-driven content, growing our written editorial component — all of these things excite us. And we’re thrilled about seeing our offerings continue to give all of our partners — conference partners, advertising partners, distribution partners — a platform that allows us all to grow our businesses together.
On a lighter note, who do you think is going to make the first College Football Playoff?
I’m as fanatical a college football fan as there is, and I can’t remember a season with more excitement and intrigue due to the advent of the College Football Playoff (another group with whom we are proud to be partnered). I have spent the last six months having countless debates with colleagues and friends about who will make the College Football Playoff, and my own list looks like this (with the obvious allowance to change my picks in December after each of these teams has failed to live up to my expectations): #1 Florida State, #2 Oklahoma, #3 Michigan State, #4 Alabama. While it might be cliché, it’s undeniable in my view: until someone knocks off Florida State, the defending national champion with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, is the favorite to reclaim the title and be the first team to raise the College Football Playoff Trophy next January. And I can’t wait for it all to start.