Local High School Sports Play-By-Play Broadcasting

The changing dynamics of high school sports have created threats and opportunities for broadcasters particularly with small market radio.

The pandemic has accelerated the need for broadcasters to respond now.

Local radio play-by-play in small town Missouri has always been one of the most important ways broadcasters have served their local communities. However, now the demands of the audience have made it critical for stations to expand the way they broadcast the games. The demand for these changes are also creating tremendous revenue opportunities.

Many stations are now not only doing audio play-by-play, but they are also doing video streaming of those same events. There are cost effective ways to do that and increase revenues at the same time.

The threat to local broadcasters is from national companies who sign exclusive streaming agreements with local high schools in exchange for “free” remote streaming cameras. The real threat is that some high school administrators believe that “exclusive” means all types of coverage including audio radio broadcasts, when it actually only means video streaming. Schools sign these contracts because they think they can make money by signing over their rights to regular season events. Viewers who want to watch the games have to pay a fee. In the first four years, these five-year contracts pay very little money to the schools because they are actually paying for the cameras!

The audience may want to see video of the games. However, they also want to hear play-by-play. Local broadcasters are still the best way to do this.

In simple terms, there are two things that broadcasters who are currently doing play-by-play of high school sports need to do if they are not already doing it:

  1. Have a great relationship with their local school administrators.
  2. Develop their own or pay a vendor to provide a video streaming service.

Broadcasters need to protect their ability to continue to broadcast regular season games, and they need to make sure the administrators know that video streaming alone is not broadcasting. It doesn’t mean administrators can’t sign exclusive deals; it just means that broadcasters should still be able to do audio broadcasts of the games (they just might not get to video stream them).

There are different ways broadcasters can provide a video stream. They can expand the skills of current staff to do their own, pay someone locally as an independent contractor or pay a vendor a fee to provide the software, equipment and technical support.

The greatest opportunities for additional revenue come in doing all kinds of non-sporting events, many that could be sold to customers who are not airing traditional ads on a local station!

Church services, class reunions, weddings, funerals, family reunions and local businesses expanding their services (such as exercise and art classes) are all events that are now streamed.

The MBA wants to help. Several years ago we had a how-to video streaming session at our annual convention. There are Missouri broadcasters who are doing very well with this video streaming. We are working at providing at least one if not several webinars on this subject. Please stay tuned!