CSVS Q&A: Chris Wagner, EVP and Co-Founder, NeuLion

In anticipation of the inaugural College Sports Video Summit (CSVS) to be held June 9-10 in Atlanta, the Sports Video Group has assembled a seasoned advisory committee that includes some of the game-changers in the business and technology behind college-sports broadcasting. Each week leading up to the event, College Sports Video Insider will feature an interview with a different member of the College Sports Video Summit Advisory Committee. This week, NeuLion EVP and co-founder Chris Wagner shares his thoughts on the event and the state of the industry.

Give us a feel for the state of the college-sports industry when it comes to video: where are we?

I think there’s a big movement in quality of video. That’s a driver, because video quality in college — and we’ve also seen it in all of our pro sports leagues — is a key component to driving up your traffic and driving up engagement time. If that video quality and the experience of the engagement on the site, if those things are high, you’ll find much higher traffic and engagement time, and higher traffic and engagement time is something you can monetize, whether it’s in advertising, subscription, or pay-per-view.

The college marketplace is very focused right now on taking advantage of some of the newer technologies out there, like adaptive streaming, which leads to taking HD programming over the open Internet and streaming it in a fashion that’s a better experience for the viewer (eliminating buffering, improving picture quality). New technologies right now are really helping to do that, so the colleges are interested in taking advantage of that.

Why is an event like the CSVS timely?

There’s an end-to-end aspect you need to be able to accomplish in order to be able to move to higher video quality. I think what SVG provides to the people that are going to be at the event is all the pieces of that ecosystem. You can’t take non-HD and create HD, because quality in equals quality out, so how do you produce quality HD programming?

What SVG is doing with this college group is helping them better understand that ecosystem of suppliers and technologies that can help them take advantage of technology to increase the quality of the fan experience. From producing HD content to encoding it, how it gets delivered, how do you monetize it — all those things are something that SVG offers this group.

Video is where the world is going, so a college must be video-centric. If they’re not cutting-edge, then they’re not a university. Video is the key to how you engage, and whether it’s alumni or students or parents, video is what keeps people engaged.

With budgets constantly tightening, how can colleges use video to become more cost-effective?

Colleges have a workforce — whether it’s paid or unpaid — at their schools that they need to harness. My personal view is, the athletic departments tend not to reach out to the university. Kids are actively looking to get intern opportunities, paid or unpaid, and those intern opportunities embellish their résumé.

The IPTV space, open Internet, and video HD space are all things that people have a high interest in. There is a convergence between television and the Web, and, if you’re interested in being a part of that, especially if you’re enrolled at one of these universities, you become an active participant in how to create content. And content is key to these school Websites, because, if the content is interesting and engaging and you can deliver it at a high quality, then you’re going to have more fans show up.

The schools have a perfect opportunity to tap into that market, and I think one of the things that we need to do at this Summit is show them how to do that, because they can tap into that market and not have to spend a lot of money on personnel.

What are you most looking forward to at CSVS?

From a NeuLion standpoint, we’re right in the heart of the storm, because we’re an HD-content provider and our core market is sports. We have a lot of lessons learned over the last three to four years on how to take colleges into over-the-Internet video services and how to make money, and how to do that from end to end. Because that’s our core market, we get an opportunity to work with that same group of suppliers that we work with every day to help these colleges move to better video experiences. It’s our business, so that’s why we’re on the board, and that’s why we’re so closely connected with what SVG does.