SVGU Q&A: University of Cincy Pushes Streaming Boundaries

The University of Cincinnati is a member of the Big East conference, so any streaming operations coming out of the school are restricted by the Conference’s television contracts. However, Tom Gelehrter, manager of New Media & Broadcasting, who often works as a one-man show to get streams of his school’s events online, contracts are the least of his challenges. Gelehrter spent some time with SVG-U breaking down the biggest barriers he faces to increasing the Bearcats’ streaming offerings, starting with getting an extra pair of hands (or two) in the control room.

What sports content do you currently stream on your website?

Right now we stream all of our men’s basketball and football press conferences live, whether it’s post-game or our Tuesday press luncheons for football. We also stream any other special press conferences, the hiring of a coach or an AD for example. We stream all of that live on the website, GoBearcats.com. We also stream live video for volleyball home matches, women’s basketball home games and starting in the fall we’ll also be doing live video for men’s and women’s soccer. Next spring we’ll also do live video for lacrosse.

Can you stream live?

For football and men’s basketball, we cannot stream the video live. Moving forward, there is a part of the contract where 72 hours after the game you can stream the archive for six days or until the next game. I need to get to a better point where I’m capturing the game as it is, encoding it and putting it up 72 hours after, so that we have that extra content.

How do you get the content?

I use a Pinnacle capture device, but where the video is coming from depends on the location. Sometimes it’s my consumer brand camera; sometimes we take the scoreboard feed. For volleyball and basketball we use the scoreboard feed; for basketball press conferences we have a camera setup that’s permanently attached on the wall in the media room, so we use that.

What equipment do you have access to and who pays for it?

I got here in August of 2006, and when I got here I spent a lot of money to set up our department. I talked to some different people at then-CSTV about what we needed, did some research on the Internet myself, and found a capture device that seemed affordable and did what it needed to do.
As far as what we would like to build to further that area, that’s going to take a lot more money. When we bought the capture device, we were trying to get something on the cheaper end.

Who staffs your productions?

Productions are staffed by either me or a intern. I’m a one-man show except for my interns. A lot of it I’ve been learning on the fly. I went to Syracuse so I have some experience, but since I graduated I’ve done almost all radio. I had not done much TV prior to this, and obviously when I was in school, the new media/Internet stuff was not really relevant at all. At that point, people were streaming audio of games, but nobody was really streaming video. I didn’t train a lot in that regard in school, so I’ve taught a lot of it to myself. Also CSTV pointed me in the right direction, teaching it to me over the phone and sending instructions for me to read. A lot of it has either been instruction via our partners or just kind of learning it myself and running with it.

What does your streaming partner, CBS College Sports, provide?

Guidance, ideas and suggestions on what to buy. They’ve helped me through setting up static IP addresses, which is difficult in a university setting, because our IT guys are not ecstatic about opening up portals to outsiders. I’ve got five or six IP addresses set up now across campus at different stadiums, rooms, arenas, and even in my building I’ve got a different IP on every floor. The two different sides of the arena have different IPs, so I could be streaming volleyball on one side of the arena and if I want to go inside and stream a press conference, there’s a different IP.
The folks at CSTV were really helpful in working with our IT people because I don’t understand the IT portion of it. I just want to be able to press a button and make it work. They were really helpful in doing some conference calls with the IT people to understand what we need so that they could see through and pick up what I’m sending them.

What is the biggest challenge you face to extending your streaming offerings?

People, money and equipment. It’s a matter of having bodies and having computers. A lot of times I can’t stream during the fall when volleyball and soccer are going simultaneously because I’ve only got one capture device and one computer. For volleyball, I don’t need a camera because I punch into the video board feed and for soccer, we’re just going to drop a line from the manager’s camera, but I still need a computer and a body that understands and knows how to do it.
I have been lucky with some really good interns, but they also have lives and classes. For me, the biggest challenge is having the bodies. I travel with football, so weekends are wiped out for me. I can’t be at soccer matches on Saturday when I’m in South Florida or Pittsburgh.
There are plenty of anxious students; it’s a matter of organizing them and training them. I generally send out an email to the whole student body – that’s 39,000 people. We have a fairly new electronic media program here and I get a lot of people from that area.

How about the equipment challenges?

We have a TV set, but we don’t have any TV cameras. I know there are plans, but it’s all a matter of funding. We have been in a situation where we’re trying to get ourselves out of debt that was created before most of the current administration got here, and one of the biggest obstacles has been finding the funds to put together something that would be a TV-quality-type studio where we could do our coaches’ shows and I could do the interviews that go on the website instead of just doing it in front of a black backdrop on my wall.