Livestreaming with BlueFrame allowed West Jefferson High School to bring recognition to its players and reach fans from coast to coast. 

Like many athletic directors during the pandemic, Mitch Daulton sought a way to overcome live attendance restrictions and give fans a way to watch his program's games. He chose to livestream his games with BlueFrame, now part of Hudl. It was an instant hit in the football-obsessed community of West Jefferson, Ohio. 

Attendance restrictions are gone, but livestreaming is here to stay at West Jefferson High School. “It’s been a very, very positive influence on our community,” said Daulton. It’s also been lucrative. West Jefferson brought in $5,200 in revenue over the 2021-22 school year, an impressive feat for a school with an enrollment of roughly 300. But for Daulton, this initiative has been less about the revenue and more about the impact on his community and his athletes.

Bringing West Jefferson Nationwide

West Jefferson’s livestreaming journey started in 2020 when the Ohio High School Athletic Association loosened streaming rules and gave schools the green light to stream games using the platform of their choice. Local broadcaster Todd Bell approached Daulton to suggest BlueFrame—and offered to man the broadcast. 

Having a seasoned pro in the booth added a professional feel to West Jefferson’s broadcast. So did the capabilities of BlueFrame. They used Production Truck to add stat trackers and scores from around the league on-screen, giving fans a better, more interactive experience. It resonated from coast to coast. “We’ve got alumni that live in California,” said Daulton. “They’ll tune in and watch the games. We even had someone from Maine watch last year.”

Broadcaster Todd Bell brought a polished presence to the booth for West Jefferson.

Connecting with the community—both near and far—is core to West Jefferson’s strategy for standing up a successful livestream. Bell conducts pregame and postgame interviews with players and coaches, and he’ll share score updates and clips on social media during the game, so fans who can’t attend or watch the stream can still keep up with the action. This is designed to create a fan experience that reaches fans both inside and outside of the stadium. “It just helps further the ties between the community and the team,” said Daulton. “The opportunity is there now for everybody to view a game at your school.” 

Social media is West Jefferson’s most effective weapon for community outreach. West Jefferson promotes each upcoming broadcast on Facebook, Twitter and the school website. “It’s the best way to mass produce it,” said Daulton. They also include instructions for viewers to tune in, making an already easy process even more user-friendly. 

Getting the Community on Board

West Jefferson offers a pay-per-view broadcast, which is crucial in helping them drive revenue. Daulton was aware there might be some pushback from fans who didn’t want to pay to watch the game. Luckily, the quality of BlueFrame’s broadcast helped deter any reservations from the community. “Since they’ve seen the product, they’re like, ‘Oh ok, we understand. That’s a really good streaming system,’” said Daulton. “Charging gives you an opportunity to bring funds back to your program. Giving people a quality product makes it hard for them to say no.” 

The community has found ways to get their money's worth. Local restaurants and bars will buy the stream for Friday night football games and broadcast it for patrons to watch. Daulton even heard an instance of a group of friends gathered by a bonfire, watching the broadcast on a projector. 

But even with all the new ways to watch, Daulton was optimistic that offering a livestream wouldn’t take away from live attendance. His optimism was validated; streaming had a minimal effect on attendance for West Jefferson and even other schools in the conference that offered it. 

Plus, Daulton views it as a way to grow the West Jefferson brand. “To me, that's a better impact for our school and our kids to get that recognition [that streaming provides,]” he said. “We might lose a couple of people from attending in-person, but in terms of branding and recognition and image, that’s the bigger picture for us.”

Opening New Doors for Athletes

Daulton is bullish on what livestreaming has done for the school and community. Most important to him may be the spotlight it puts on his athletes, and the recognition they now receive. “Look at what the kids get,” he said. “They get an opportunity to be viewed across the country by alumni or grandparents that may live in Florida or wherever they are.” 

An aspect of Hudl streaming that his athletes love is the ability to download, and then own a broadcast. West Jefferson players will play a game on Friday night, and then download the broadcast to watch on Saturday, like a prime-time college football game. It’s a young athlete's dream to be able to watch themselves on a professional-level broadcast, with a talented broadcaster narrating their successes. And for just $5, they can keep it forever. “Kids can view it at home the next day or parents can download it and show it at the graduation party,” said Daulton. 

This feature is so meaningful to Daulton and his athletes that he recommends other athletic directors make it a point of emphasis to their community. “The benefit of the branding and the opportunity to promote your kids is ultimately why we do it,” he said. “We’ve used that as our focal point. Our kids are able to go watch themselves after Todd Bell calls their game on a Friday night.”

The Big Picture

As a small school, West Jefferson had to get scrappy to reach this level of livestreaming success. For other small schools, Daulton has two pieces of advice. 

First: Attitude and effort are everything. “We went into this determined to pull this off and provide something for our student body,” he said. People can be resistant to change, but emphasizing the exposure that it brings to the kids helped accelerate community buy-in. 

Second: Stay the course and focus on the big picture. “It takes time and effort and tech, but look at our brand now,” Daulton said. “We’re opening up West Jefferson to alumni or people who lived in the area who may not be in Ohio anymore. We’re gaining fans.”  

It’s hard not to notice what else the Roughrider program has gained through livestreaming. Faraway fans and alumni have a way to connect with their hometown program. Local fans gained a new way to watch. Athletes have a level of exposure they’ve never had before. And the athletic department earned a sizable amount of revenue. The big picture at West Jefferson High School looks pretty sweet.