Fall Scorecard: Sports Goes Down Digital Stream - Multichannel

Fall Scorecard: Sports Goes Down Digital Stream

SCHOLASTIC, COLLEGE TEAMS PUT WEB VIDEO IN PLAY
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With the fall semester in full swing, a number of new digital high-school and college sports services are now in play, assisted by NeuLion.

The Plainview, N.Y.- headquartered company is teaming with the Ivy League on a new multiplatform subscription service. It’s also providing TV Everywhere support for Bright House Sports Network, a linear channel covering high schools in 16 Florida counties.

The tech firm also continues to serve as the technology partner to MSG Varsity, Cablevision Systems’ prepschool network in the New York tri-state area that has transitioned from linear TV to interactive and Web platforms.

Elsewhere, PlayOn! Sports has expanded its national footprint with high school sports with the debut of new subscription service NFHS Network, while Time Warner Cable is expanding its commitment to prep-school gridiron fare on its regional sports networks.

NeuLion has deals with the National Football League, National Basketball Association, Ultimate Fighting Championship, Major League Soccer and National Hockey League, as its Sports Platform provides a solution for worldwide digital delivery of live events from the aforementioned organizations to fans’ multiple Internet-connected devices. More than 200 colleges, universities and conferences, including the Pac-12 and Big Ten, also work with NeuLion to power their digital experiences.

Following are some of the digital school-sports networks taking the field this season.

The Ivy League Digital Network: This new service comprises a conference-wide channel, as well as individual sites for each member school, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania. The latter four schools had been working with NeuLion on their own sites.

The network, powered by the NeuLion College Platform, provides live coverage, including picture-in-picture aspects, and on-demand video and audio content from each school. The content is accessible on PCs, smartphones and tablets. Starting Sept. 6 with men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and defending women’s field hockey national champion Princeton, the Ivy League Digital Network is scheduled to present more than 100 live events this month. Over the course of the year, action from the 33 women’s and men’s sports played by conference members will be streamed.

The conference is providing a complementary graphics package that the schools can use while maintaining their own branding elements, according to Ivy League associate executive director for communications Scottie Rodgers.

Packages for the league-wide channel are $119.95 for a year, $49.95 for four months and $15.95 for one month. School-specific channels run $89.95 per year, $39.95 for four months, $10.95 for one month and $9.95 for a single day.

Rodgers declined to specify early buy-rates for the service, which the conference began marketing back in July. “We’re pleased with what has happened so far. We’ll have a better sense after football kicks off [on Sept. 21] as to how fans will purchase the service [during its freshman] year.”

Bright House Sports Network: NeuLion is enabling the linear Bright House Sports Network, which kicked off in 2009 and is available to subscribers in the MSO’s Central Florida footprint, to jump into the TV Everywhere game for the first time. Authenticated Bright House Networks subscribers can now watch 250 live games, up from 200 last year, on the linear channel, as well as on PCs, smartphones and tablets.

The video is available in real-time high-definition quality, with the NeuLion player enabling the MSO’s subscribers to pause, rewind and re-watch a game immediately after its conclusion and see instant highlights made possible by the company’s live editing software.

“We looked at what NeuLion does nationally, with MSG Varsity and on the collegiate level,” Bright House Networks general manager Paul Kosuth said. “The video player is second to none, and so is the mobile application. I’ve never seen video as clear on my iPhone.”

Non-BHN subscribers are also getting a chance to check out the action via pay-per-view ($6.95 per game) and monthly ($9.95) options for the first time this year. “It’s an added value for parents, who are not Bright House customers, to have a chance to see their kid play,” Kosmuth said.

MSG Varsity: Now in its fifth year, MSG Varsity, which has laid off a number of its employees, no longer offers a linear feed on Cablevision’s channel 14, now home to information about Optimum services and programming promotion.

The service, which the MSO has been using as a retention and acquisition tool, offers more than 500 professionally filmed games and events during the 2013-14 school year that, with an assist from NeuLion will be live-streamed to authenticated subscribers on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Shortly after their conclusion, encores of these presentations become available on-demand on interactive channel 614, which will also feature DVR functionality, enabling parents and their progeny to rewind and exult in the students’ athletic accomplishments. Contests will be archived for the entire school year.

NFHS Network: A joint venture of the National Federation of State High School Associations and PlayOn! Sports, which had been presenting programming from schools in 26 states, the NFHS Network now is working with schools in 32 states. Each of the 51 NFHS state association members has the opportunity to join the NFHS Network to showcase its high schools, student athletes and tournaments.

During the 2013-14 school year, the digital subscription service expects to double the 20,000 events that PlayOn!, which is helmed by former Turner exec David Rudolph, made available a year ago.

Content is accessible through NFHSnetwork.com and a mobile web site. Viewers can purchase subscriptions for a day ($6.95), month $14.95, season ($49.95) or year ($89.95).

In addition to viewing the NFHS Network online, users will soon be able to tap an iPhone app, while an Android app also is in the works.

Time Warner Cable: Marking its biggest commitment to scholastic sports to date, the MSO this fall will televise 300 high-school football games involving more than 500 institutions on its various sports channels around the country, including contests in New York, California, Texas, Ohio and the Carolinas.

The MSO’s Southern California division is letting subscribers vote online to determine six Friday-night games for its SoCal 101 channel. Voters will pick which games the regional channel will ultimately produce and air, starting Oct. 4.

TAKEAWAY

A number of authenticated college and high-school sports programmers will kick off with the fall sports season.

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