CSVS Q&A: Colin Smith, Vice President of Distribution and New Media, Raycom Sports

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, Colin Smith, VP of distribution and new media for Raycom Sports, offers his thoughts on the turning point at which the college-sports industry currently stands.

When you look across the board at the state of college-sports video, where is the industry heading?

I think, before you start addressing college-sports video, you need to understand where the college-sports industry is in general. It’s a very interesting time for college sports and athletic departments because you’ve got more money being moved around than ever before in the history of college athletics — through bigger and more lucrative TV deals, escalating coaches’ salaries (not only for head coaches but for assistant coaches), and larger and more well-appointed venues. There is a shift towards this greater amount of money that’s being moved around, and schools need a lot of money to keep these athletic departments up and running. Most of them are operating in a deficit.

In terms of college-sports video, it’s not a priority yet at many athletic departments, but I do think that we’re at a turning point. Costs of video production and video streaming continue to drop, innovation is very high, and schools are starting to really understand the importance of building, distributing, and exposing their brands to the general public — and more important, to alumni and influential donors or possibly people that would not have been donors before.

Are athletic departments thinking about video now more than they were five years ago?

I think many schools are revisiting their campus infrastructure and their video departments to more actively accommodate live-video production and streaming, and that’s all a positive thing. This really wasn’t happening five years ago the way that it’s happening now across the country.

Many schools are also creating new microsites around their most desirable properties and content — whether it’s something like Duke basketball or a football-recruiting site for a big Division I program. The college sports video landscape is all directly tied into that, and of course, you have to have an active video and athletic department to accommodate all that.

All in all, bottom line, they’re starting to treat video and how that video is managed and distributed as a new and separate business unit.

The College Sports Video Summit takes place June 9-10. Why is this a timely event?

Now is the perfect time to do it because we are at this turning point. Schools aren’t going to have huge budgets right now to throw at video, so having an event like this provides a great place to share ideas and best practices. A school or conference in the Midwest may not be familiar with what the schools in the Southeast or ACC are doing, and so often, these schools don’t have the chance to come together and discuss those ideas.

This will be a great opportunity to see the new innovations that are out there for college-sports video — whether it’s a group like PlayON!, which is really streamlining the whole live-video experience, or groups like NewTek that, on a quarterly basis, come out with better, more innovative, and less expensive tools to produce, distribute, and manage your video.

This event will be a great place for the schools and conferences who don’t often get together to really find out what’s working for them and maybe some things that they need to stay away from as well.

The panel that you are on, Video: The Game-Changer for College Sports, is all about using a video strategy to build strong businesses and brands. What are you looking forward to discussing?

I’m anxious to hear what everyone’s doing at their schools. There are so many intelligent, active people working in the space that you just can’t keep up with what everyone’s doing.

More important, I think something that’s going to benefit everyone is hearing how the other schools and conferences are treating video like a business unit or, if they’re not, how do they convince the athletic department that it needs to be treated like a separate business unit with its own identity or it’s not going to get the exposure and attention that it deserves.

It’s going to be important to let everyone know that they need to help convince these departments that you may not see immediate returns on those initial investments. You can’t anticipate turning a profit immediately; sometimes, it takes three to five years down the road before you start realizing the core benefits from that business unit.

What other panels are you looking forward to attending?

I’m anxious to see some of the techniques that schools are using in terms of campus collaboration, tapping into their journalism schools or schools of communication to keep costs down. I’m really anxious to see how they are tapping into the student body and using that student body as a resource. When we first started ACC Select with Turner three years ago, the whole premise was based on using students to do all of the production around ACC Select. These schools have 10,000 students on campus, so it shouldn’t be that hard, but it is hard because someone has to be there full time to manage that workforce.

When we started ACC select, that’s what we thought was going to happen, but that’s not necessarily what happened. After three years, we’re now starting to see many of the schools move in that direction, whether it’s hiring a student who’s recently graduated to manage their ACC Select productions and all of their video content or a school like Miami that’s utilizing the school of communication to manage their ACC Select productions.