There are some things that even master multitaskers can’t accomplish easily; among them is being solely responsible for preparing, producing, and distributing a successful live streaming program for multiple college sports. If you’re trying to do it all, cut yourself a break! Instead, take a page from Ron Smith’s book. The sports information director (SID) at Westmont College, Ron started broadcasting live sports there nine years ago. Since then, he’s learned more than a thing or two about how to turn a small, narrowly focused live stream for college athletics into a broadcast network that reaches an entire community.
Broadcasting Live Sports: Networking To Succeed
The live streaming program at Westmont College currently covers eight sports and live streams between 80 to 90 games a year. Ron maximizes the potential for his live streams in three ways: using student workers, connecting with local cable channels, and expanding the content of his live streams.
As the person in charge of the program, Ron’s live streaming responsibilities focus on providing training, purchasing and managing equipment, keeping the equipment in working order, and scheduling broadcasts. But when it comes to game day, “It becomes—at that point—a student broadcast. The program wouldn’t be possible otherwise.”
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There are often 15 to 20 students involved in producing Westmont’s live streams. They’re divided into two sets of crews: on-air broadcasters and production techs. Any given broadcast has two broadcasters and three production technicians on-site.
- On-air broadcasters open the broadcasts, provide play-by-play as well as color commentary, and handle pre- and post-game interviews with coaches and players. They also research every game they’re involved in before it starts.
Student broadcasters come from a number of majors and have different interests. Some are interested in sports broadcasting as a career and others have different goals entirely. What ties them together is at least some knowledge of sports. Everyone in this group is required to take a sports broadcasting practicum class, a one-unit course that can be taken up to four times.
- Production techs handle the audio equipment (broadcaster headsets, wireless mics, hooking into the PA system for announcements), video equipment (setting up cameras), graphics (bringing in live data from the scoreboard), and production (pulling all the components together—including pre-recorded video ads and interviews—and providing direction to the broadcast). Production techs also receive training, but they don’t get academic credit for it.
Local Cable Channel Distribution
Offering interested viewers a chance to see games live is great, but it’s even better if you can maximize your production team’s time and effort by expanding viewership.
According to Ron, the school’s live stream attracts around 250 viewers per broadcast, with another 50 viewers watching archived versions of each event. To broaden the program’s reach, he works with the local cable channel, TVSB (TV Santa Barbara). His team records the broadcast, edits it, and then delivers a final copy to TVSB. This provides content for public access television in the Santa Barbara area. TVSB replays each of the sports broadcasts four times, making it accessible to every Cox Cable subscriber in the community—about 48,000 households!
Broaden The Content Scope
Part of Ron’s rationale for starting the live streaming program was to use it as a platform to spotlight all of Westmont College—not just the athletic program. To that end, he likes to incorporate short, pre-recorded videos into the live stream that promote the school and let people know more about what’s happening on campus. For instance, the promotion may feature non-athletic activities, professor interviews about current research, student accomplishments both inside and outside the athletics program, or activities happening around campus. This allows the sports live stream to benefit the entire college—and it makes a difference to the students involved. “For [the student workers], it’s an exciting thing to be part of—they know they’re making a significant contribution not only to the athletic program but also to Westmont as a whole.”
Start Building Your Network
It might take time to build an effective network for your live stream program, but be patient—Rome wasn’t built in a day! If you’re not sure how to get started or need some expert advice, set up a 30-minute consultation call with us here at Stretch. We’ve helped a number of colleges and universities (including Westmont) get their live streaming efforts off the ground, and we’ve tackled all the challenges that broadcasting live sports has to offer. Let us be a resource for you, too!