LSU Baseball Gets Highlights on the Fly

With 56 games on the regular-season schedule during the 2011 season, fans of LSU’s baseball team do not have time to fall behind. To help its fans stay on top of the action throughout the season, LSU has added a live-editing tool from NeuLion to its Geaux Zone subscription video offering. NeuLion video editors cut highlights live, as the games happen, so that, minutes after the final out, LSU fans can catch all of the highlights — and a full condensed game — on the athletics Website.

“The immediacy of postgame highlights and having full- and condensed-game video available is big,” says Todd Politz, sports interactive manager for LSU Sports Properties. “The highlights are typically available for me to publish within five minutes after the last pitch. They’re doing all of the editing live, so that cuts down on the time. It’s been a real boon to our subscriber base.”

Highlights by the Handshake
While the fans are watching the games at home, a NeuLion editor in New York is cutting highlights live, as the game takes place. Editors condense the games by pulling together all of those highlights to produce a 20-minute version of a two-hour baseball game. Previously, the LSU staff took five hours of postproduction to do what NeuLion can now do as the game is happening.

“In the pro leagues, we publish the highlights about two minutes after the action,” says Chris Wagner, EVP of marketplace strategy for NeuLion, noting that the company provides this live-highlight service for the NBA, NHL, and NFL. “For LSU, based on the way they want to service the work, we publish 30 minutes after the game ends.”

College video rights are complicated, so, although NeuLion is able to publish highlights a few minutes after the game ends, LSU’s rights agreements do not always allow for such punctuality.

“With this live-editing tool, we can produce content very quickly, and it can also go out to smartphones or tablets,” Wagner points out. “You can get the highlights two minutes after the action, save the school four to five hours of postgame production work. Fans get things a lot faster, and the school saves time and staff. Now it’s just a matter of sorting out what the rights are, fitting within those agreements, and determining how quickly we can publish.”

For LSU, even sticking to that 30-minute window is a big win for baseball fans.

“If I can watch the game or a condensed version of the game tonight after it’s over, that’s a heck of a lot better than watching it the next morning, when it’s irrelevant,” Politz says. “Baseball is so popular down here; it’s the perfect Southern sport. You can tailgate for it, and you can enjoy it from the parking lot, the stands, or on your computer.”

Now in High-Definition
For the first time, this year, LSU is producing HD feeds of 34 of its 37 home baseball games (the other three conflict with SEC-TV). The feed, which is a reproduction of the scoreboard show at Alex Box Stadium, consists of a two-camera shoot for non-conference, midweek games; a three-camera shoot for non-conference, weekend games; and a four-camera shoot for SEC conference games. The 11- to 15-person crew includes three fulltime employees, freelancers, and a fulltime intern.

The live games, as well as the highlights, are shown through NeuLion’s portal, utilizing adaptive-streaming technology, which runs anywhere from 400 kbps to 2.2 Mbps, depending on the fan’s available bandwidth.

“The quality is terrific; it’s better than I really imagined,” Politz explains. “We always put HD in quotes because it’s hard to determine what the user’s bandwidth is going to be. The quality here really is amazing. It’s not like old video that gets choppy, gets fuzzy, and then it’s back. It’s great technology, and it’s good for the average fan. You don’t need a huge bandwidth to sit back and watch a baseball game.”

NeuLion also worked with LSU to develop a new fan player for 2011 that offers streaming viewers live stats and social integration into Facebook and Twitter, in addition to the highlights and condensed games. With the added features and higher quality, LSU has increased its advertising by more than 80% and has doubled the number of people watching the live streams from last year.

“The school has to be behind the production quality, and LSU is,” Wagner says. “They’ve made the investment to make certain that they’ve got good-quality video. We’ve started to roll this live-editing tool into our college network, so, coming this fall, all of our schools that have HD and want to do the same thing for the fall sports will be ready to go.”