CSVS Q&A: Leslie Wurzberger, Associate Athletics Director, Marketing, University of Washington

The College Sports Video Summit (CSVS), to be held June 9-10 in Atlanta, has gained enormous traction in the college and university community. With the Summit just a week away, anticipation is building as college and university video professionals look forward to meeting with their conference, television, and online partners. Leslie Wurzberger, associate athletics director, marketing, for the University of Washington, will be attending the Summit and spent a few minutes with SVG to discuss what she expects going into the event.

When it comes to college-sports video production, what is top of mind for BCS-level programs like yours?

One of the biggest questions that we are constantly asking is, we have to be in the content-generation business, but what does that mean for us? There are some schools that have been in the video-production business for years, and a lot of those schools seem to be in smaller markets, where, in order to have any video presence, they had to get into that business themselves.

Those of us who are in bigger markets, who have different types of opportunities with partnerships and maybe have sold our local-television rights to third parties, we’re still trying to figure out what our strategy should be. Can we accomplish what we want to through outsourced relationships in our own market, or do we really need to take control of that and bring it in-house? If we do bring it in-house, what does that mean?

The professional teams realized a long time ago that the video people they had on staff, that were working on the coaching side of video, were not going to be the ones that could really satisfy their consumer-based video needs. Some schools have already figured that out, but I think there are a ton of schools that haven’t.

Once you do figure out what video to produce, how do you begin to monetize it?

Our multimedia-rights partners have huge obligations to us to try to monetize our content. While, from a marketing perspective, we’re looking at it from those objectives, the people trying to monetize the video aren’t necessarily the same ones that benefit from being in control of the content.

It’s a very confusing landscape, and there’s a lot of people who I think understand what they need to do, but the technology of that is very intimidating.

How do you hope CSVS can help navigate that landscape?

My knee-jerk reaction when I heard about the event was that someone needs to be in this space. I think this is going to be a great event. We all know that we need to be in the video-production space, but I don’t know that anyone’s really cracked the code in terms of the best way to go about it.

What’s the biggest challenge you face to increasing the quantity and quality of your video offerings?

It’s a resources question. I think it’s the people as much as it is the equipment. Some schools don’t really have a choice; they just have to get into the business, buy their own stuff, do everything in-house. But when you’re in a large media market like we are, does it make more sense to get into that business yourself, or can you establish a good partnership with a third party who can do it for you?

I think that’s one of the biggest questions: how are you going to purchase the technology, and then where do you find the people that are going to manage it? And is this a new thing that comes on top of everything else that you’re doing when you talk about budgets, or can it replace something that you’re doing just with a shift in focus?

We have a campus television station, and they’re trying to figure out their future, but there are a lot of units on campus that are in the same boat we are in. They know that they need to be producing content, but they’ve never monetized anything, so the whole concept of being able to generate that return on investment is foreign to them. Our medical school has invested a lot in video production, but they’re really the only campus unit that has made the investment in a video strategy

You are on the panel Twitter This. What are you looking forward to discussing?

I think everyone’s in the same boat with the social-networking technologies. It’s kind of like when the Internet started: everyone knows that they need to be in the space, but no one’s really sure what that exact right strategy is.

At the University of Washington, we have a new football coach who came from USC, and [USC head coach] Pete Carroll is obviously one of the early adopters of that social-networking strategy, so our head coach is following in his footsteps. But it’s not something that only your marketing or your athletic-communications people can adopt as a strategy, because someone on the inside has to be part of it. It’s a very different distribution of content.

You not only have to believe in that strategy, but you have to be able to sell that to your different programs, get them to understand that it’s going to have to be a commitment from someone that’s really on the inside part of that program.

If you’re at a school like ours, where you have a new coach and they’re interested in being on the cutting edge, it’s not so difficult. But not everybody works in a situation like that. In college athletics, we’re not always the early adopters of anything, and if you’re at a school that’s very deep in how they’ve always done things before, getting that buying in and investment for something like social media can really be a challenge.

Can social media be used specifically to help grow interest in Olympic sports?

I just think it’s a matter of scale. Olympic sports have a smaller audience, but social media can be a valuable strategy for those sports because it’s very impactful in building a community with the people that are really interested in building that relationship with you. The football side is just so much bigger in scale, and you have a lot of different levels of people that you’re talking to. People are interested in softball, for example, in a specific way, whereas you have a lot more people that have a varying degree of interest in something that’s more widely known, like football or basketball.

To join Wurzberger and dozens of other college and university video professionals at the inaugural College Sports Video Summit, visit www.csvsummit.com.