Taking Local Sports National2/13/2012 12:01 AM Eastern
High school sports proponent PlayOn!
Sports is looking to graduate from the regional to the national
level, as it eyes a full-time service launch this fall.
Having cultivated relationships with school associations in
21 states over the past five years, PlayOn! has become the nation’s
largest rightsholder, producer, distributor and aggregator
of high-school sports events.
The Atlanta-based company, helmed by former Turner executive
David Rudolph, has been exhibiting high-school sports
and other related school fare across TV, mobile, DVD and Web
platforms. Consumers access PlayOn! Sports’ broadband content
through portals that are branded to the state associations.
PlayOn! presents year-round programming, including football,
basketball, baseball, competitive cheerleading, cross
country, golf, gymnastics, soccer, softball, swimming/diving,
tennis, track and field, volleyball, water polo, weightlifting
Th e company also has been
syndicating telecasts of toplevel
events to ESPN, the
worldwide leader’s broadband
service ESPN3 and Fox
Sports, as well as disseminating
live, tape-delay and
to Comcast, Time Warner
Cable and Charter Communications.
Come fall, Rudolph said, PlayOn! Sports, which had conversations
with nine of the top 12 distributors in January,
wants to launch the first national linear network devoted
to high school sports.
“Last month, we made our pitch,” Rudolph, who launched
and ran regional network Turner South, said. “With feedback
from the distributors, we’re going to come back and talk about
business solutions on different platforms.
“The short- and long-term goal is to launch the linear
The PlayOn! push comes as distributors are placing increased
emphasis on high-school sports as a subscription
driver and retention tool.
Rudolph pointed to Cablevision Systems’ dedicated network,
MSG Varsity, which serves students, parents and
schools in New York City’s tri-state area, and the recent acquisition
of expansive rights in California and New Jersey
by Time Warner Cable and Verizon Communications’ FiOS
TV, respectively. Regional content providers in the game include
Wazoo Sports Network, which shows Kentucky school
contests on television and the Web.
Rudolph said PlayOn!, whose origins
trace to Turner’s streaming service for
Atlantic Coast Conference sports, ACC
Select, aspires to do on a national basis
what MSG Varsity is doing on a regional
PlayOn!’s CEO noted that the evolution
of sports coverage began nationally
with professional games. With expanded
capacity through cable, more and
more action from those ranks, plus collegiate
fare, proliferated on ESPN, TNT
and regional sports networks.
With digital, the natural progression
has been to high-school sports, which
has than 2.5 million events nationally.
Last year, PlayOn produced more
than 8,000 events, crowned 1,000 champions and generated
more than 15,000 hours of live and ondemand
event coverage from 21 states across
the country. With no shortage of opportunities,
the company is looking to up that ante to
15,000 events in 2012.
Over the next six months, PlayOn expects to
reach accords with up to six more state highschool
athletic associations, pushing its reach
to 65% of the U.S population. When the network
launches, events will be aggregated under
a common site.
Rudolph said PlayOn!’s national network
also will feature original series, studio
shows, news, documentaries and
He said Comcast approached Play-
On! in 2011 about developing a national
VOD product, and sponsors
expressed interest in a broader forum.
“Many potential sponsors also expressed
interest in investing with us
if we grow nationally,” he said, and
those conversations inspired the company
to make the national jump.
Currently, PlayOn! is generating annual
revenue of $15 million, Rudolph
said. About 70% emanates through
license and content syndication
fees; 20% through advertising, including clients BlueCross
BlueShield, Country Financial and Verizon; and the balance
from providing technology support to schools and the production
Advertising is expected to assume increasing importance.
Rudolph said PlayOn!, which is looking to push its revenue
base toward $50 million in the years ahead, will look to
fund growth out of operations, but has access to more capital.
Last September, 2080 Media Inc. which operates as
PlayOn!, completed a Series C round of financing totaling
$7.2 million, led by Buckhead Investment Partners, as
well as extant investors Hamilton Ventures and Imlay Investments.