Don’t Blink: A Look Back at a Year that Changed College Sports Video

By Tom Buffolano, Chairman, College Sports Video Summit

So much has happened in the past year in college sports that the landscape is almost unrecognizable from where it ended in 2011. The sheer amount of programming is growing, the rights pool is measured in billions of dollars, and the pressure to produce a higher quality product and distribute it to fans across all forms of broadcast and digital platforms (and in venue) is sometimes overwhelming.

CSVS Chairman Tom Buffolano

Tom Buffolano

So what does that mean?

College sports is a big business that networks, conferences, and schools collectively have made a huge investment in, or will. Football — in particular, the BCS — is king.  Men’s basketball, especially the NCAA Tournament, is an event along the lines of a Super Bowl where even the less-than-average fan becomes ‘mad.’  The thirst for more and more college sports drives this investment, and it attracts brands and advertisers like nothing else. To sleep on this phenomenon is to get left behind, in much the way that Usain Bolt accelerates in the middle of a 100-meter dash and leaves his competition in his wake.

We take our lessons from ESPN, which is spending feverishly on college football; ESPN3 for working with colleges to create a professional product transmitted over IP; Fox Sports, both national and regional, for expanding programming beyond football and basketball and spotlighting schools like the University of Oklahoma; Turner and CBS Sports, for the breadth and depth of March Madness; and NBC Sports and Notre Dame Senior Associate Athletic Director John Heisler, for birthing the Fighting Irish football deal in the 90s that was ahead of its time.

I am thrilled that we see more and more schools taking it upon themselves to become professional in their production. Ball State University/SportsLink and Chris Taylor, Florida State’s Seminole Productions and Jim Garbarino, University of Central Florida and John Kvatkek, the aforementioned University of Oklahoma (SoonerVision) and Brandon Meyer, South Carolina’s Gamecock Productions and Paul Danna, Penn State and Jim Nachtman, St. John’s and Mark Fratto, and Rochester Institute of Technology and Mark Fragale, to name a few. I also wanted to recognize J Stern at Ole Miss, retiring after 25 years, who has been a stalwart in video production and one of the most entertaining people in the industry.  They are not only producing great programming, but they are training the next generation of broadcast professionals. This was exemplified at the annual College Sports Video Summit, where we presented awards to student producers for the first time in the College Sports Media Awards.

There were two successful network launches in 2011 and 2012 — The Longhorn Network and the Pac-12 Networks (seven networks in a few short months – incredible). Both are examples of how far the value of college sports rights have come in the last few years. On the other side is The mtn. (Mountain West Conference’s regional network), which closed its doors after seven years. What did we learn from that?

As we move towards the next College Sports Video Summit in May, I am sure that the college sports landscape will undergo more changes. What mitigating factors will decide the success of networks that rely in a dual-revenue stream? What will the landscape dictate in terms of innovation? What will the consumer demand? What new technologies will emerge that will enable us to create a better product? And what is the ultimate fate of the Big East?  The landscape seems to be undergoing more of a revolution than evolution.

I want to thank, in particular, the members of the SVG CSVS Advisory Committee, who are integral to the success we’ve had over the years in shaping our conference.