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Local sports coverage and high school football: broadcasters' new roles.

Local Sports Coverage Implements New Playbook

November 1st, 2016   ||    by Todd Wasserman   ||    No Comments

Local sports coverage has long presented a challenge for the media industry: Although there is intense interest, the potential audience size is fairly small. Fortunately, changes in the media landscape have led to new opportunities.

Mashable reported on a Scout Media service that provides video and news coverage of high school sports on a national level. And in Raleigh, North Carolina, Capitol Broadcasting’s NBC affiliate WRAL-TV recently began offering a live stream of up to seven different simultaneous high school football games.

This programming, said to be the first of its kind, opens up new avenues for high school sports coverage, though streaming video on Facebook may pose a challenge for such efforts.

Raleigh’s Program

WRAL’s program includes a live in-studio show called HighSchoolOT Live that offers in-game updates from up to seven high school football games across the area. The show streams local sports coverage from 6:55 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays during the season.

According to TVNewsCheck, the show can even display multiple games at once and has full instant replay capability. Using the feature, fans can check out top plays as they happen and watch on their computers, phones, or tablets. Capitol Broadcasting’s new media GM, John Conway, told the publication that “It’s very lightweight on what it takes to deploy—a camera, tripod, transmission unit, and a photographer to operate the camera.”

Though the station hasn’t released any stats, the hashtag #HSOTLive has garnered a lot of conversation on Twitter, which features a trove of video clips and interviews.

Other High School Sports Coverage

WRAL isn’t the only media outlet to realize the promise of local sports coverage. Scout Media in 2015 was drawing about 9.5 million monthly unique users with its mixed coverage of college and high school sports, according to Mashable.

Facebook also saw an experiment with high school sports programming when Time Warner’s Bleacher Report streamed a game at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas, through Facebook Live, reports AdAge.

These moves come as high school sports emerges as a lucrative form of local content. In 2011, the New York City public school system inked a two-year, $500,000 contract with Cablevision’s MSG Varsity Network to broadcast various high school athletic events, reported CNBC at the time. The California Interscholastic Federation also signed a 15-year, $8.5 million deal with Time Warner Cable to broadcast high school football playoff games at about the same time.

The Future of Local Sports TV

Years ago, broadcasting such games wouldn’t have made sense because the individual audiences for each game would have been too small. But the age of media fragmentation offers both a means for broadcasting such content and the ability to make it a profitable business model.

The hyper-local focus can draw both local businesses and national brands that want to convince consumers they understand local communities. With this in mind, you can expect a lot of broadcast execs will be watching WRAL’s experiment closely.

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