CSVS Recap: If You Build an Infrastructure, the Broadcasters Will Come

By Carolyn Braff

Mid-tier athletic departments would love for broadcasters like ESPNU or CBS College Sports Network to roll onto their campus to televise field-hockey or soccer games, but most campuses do not have the infrastructure that those networks require to make the production work. In fact, most athletic departments are unaware of what that infrastructure is and how to go about building it. With that in mind, the Saturday Afternoon Live panel at SVG’s inaugural College Sports Video Summit, held last week in Atlanta, discussed the needs of broadcasters and colleges for live-event production on campus.

“Ideally, every school will build an infrastructure that will serve our needs as broadcasters and theirs as campuses,” said Patty Power, SVP of operations for CBS College Sports Network, opening the discussion.

Indeed, schools want to build that infrastructure — but are not quite sure how to do so.

“A lot of schools just don’t know where to start,” said Joel Kitay, president of Kitay Productions, which works with athletic departments at varying levels of video sophistication to produce in-game entertainment. “You need to get advice from somebody who can immerse themselves in your system. You need to get somebody who’s done it, who has been to NAB, who has been in the trenches.”

Athletic departments that do not ask for help from the get-go can easily find themselves equipped for disaster.

“Schools that have not reached out for help beforehand think they have this great facility, but it turns out it’s only good for one thing,” observed Dan Margulis, senior director of programming and acquisitions for ESPNU.

Added Kitay, “Flexibility is the key. You have to entertain thoughts of what’s down the line and put a plan in place. I have clients putting in HD scoreboards even if they have SD control rooms, so that they maintain the hope of upgrading. I think that’s really smart.”

The Big Ten Network — an all-HD, conference-specific 24/7 television network — has a similar philosophy. All 11 Big Ten member schools are encouraged to include HD and streaming capabilities in any venue they build or upgrade, from the football stadium down to the tennis courts.

“It’s very important for us that our schools take advantage of that opportunity so that we can do high-definition broadcasts from those venues in the future,” said Bob Lanning, senior coordinating producer of the Big Ten Network.

Powers agreed. “HD is the preferred method,” she said. “We can work with the different schools on their individual choice of flavors, but HD is becoming the standard.”

As Jon Rees, VP of operations for The Mtn. – Mountain West Sports Network, pointed out, building a video infrastructure to support live-event productions should serve as a benefit not just to the athletic department but to the university community as a whole.

“That infrastructure will serve not just sports content but institutional needs as well,” he said.

Once the university agrees that other departments can utilize that same video equipment on non-game days for everything from videoconferencing services to departmental promotional videos, the cost of the buildout becomes far easier to absorb.

Plus, as Margulis explained, advancing technology is sewn into the fabric of college campuses.

“Universities tend to have the advantage of technology because they are institutions of learning,” he said. “At the network level, we tend to drag. Athletic departments should bridge the gap between educational purposes and their athletic goals.”