Student population: 1,000

County size: 22,386

Sports using Focus: 3

How they monetize: Pay per view and sponsorships

Amount made in 2020–21 school year: Several thousand dollars

Johnson Central offers the most sports of any school in the eastern half of Kentucky. Not every sport generates revenue, but they all have related costs, from uniforms to officiating fees. The money made from admittance tickets and concessions at football, basketball, soccer and baseball events all help support the entire athletic program. 

So when the pandemic caused limited seating capacity, monetizing the livestreams from their Hudl Focus camera became a necessity to make back lost gate revenue.

“Last year was the perfect year for us to dive in and do it, and it proved to be very successful,” said principal Noel Crum.

“Monetizing this, in the long run, it may be the only way a lot of schools are going to be able to maintain their sports and provide the safe equipment their kids need. Either that or start dropping sports.”

Getting Started

One monetization option does not rule them all. For Crum and Johnson Central, it was clear from the beginning that there’d need to be a mix of sponsorships and fan-driven revenue. 

“We live in a very rural area and there are very few large companies. There are not a lot of businesses to pull from, and the same few people get hit up for everything,” said Crum. “We were in fear that if we relied solely on sponsorships, [...] we wouldn’t be able to get enough. But we did feel like there were some sponsors that would be willing to join and be involved.”

They were able to find about ten different sponsors to help offset costs across several sports. To locate those sponsors, they asked their student-athletes who have connections to local businesses to reach out. Whether you’re in a close-knit community or a big city, spreading word about sponsor opportunities through the people who will benefit is often the best way to do it. 

Crum and Johnson Central’s media relations coordinator Kevin Connley then looked to other options. They decided to find a broadcast partner that would give them flexible subscription and pay-per-view options. BlueFrame Technology provided just that. 

Not only is it a partner of Hudl, making it seamless to send the feed from their Hudl Focus camera to the broadcast software, BlueFrame also gives schools options: they can pay a fee of $1,000 to make their broadcasts available to view for free, but they also have the flexibility to do pay-per-view for some events and keep the majority of the proceeds. 

Auto-tracking cameras make it easy to provide excellent game footage to broadcast viewers.
Fans get the best angle possible with Hudl Focus.

“For football games, we charged $10 because that was some of our biggest audiences and they only play once a week,” said Crum. “For basketball season, there’s considerably more games so we lowered that price to $6, which was the same price it would cost to come to the game. We looked at it like, well we’re actually saving you money because you may have three people in the home watching one stream. [...] If it’s a family at home, you’re actually saving money.”

There was no shortage of viewers for their broadcasts. For the ‘20–21 school year, they had more than 1,000 orders across multiple sports, and they didn’t get started until midway through the fall season. By the end of football season, when they were able to gain momentum on promoting their broadcast, Connley said they got 341 pay-per-view orders for a single game—the semi-final matchup in the playoffs.

“We were a little concerned that we’d get criticism for charging for the streams, but everyone was really positive,” said Crum. “We tried to keep it reasonable, like for basketball, the same price you’d pay to come to the game you could watch it at your house. We felt like it was a fair trade-off because had we just gone with free streaming, [...] I just don’t know that we could have met the needs of all our sports.” 

Keeping It Going

Crum plans to pick things up right where they left off last year.

“The thing we like about it is we’ve noticed we’re getting people, like relatives or people who’ve moved away, who could never come and watch a game,” said Crum. “This provides opportunities for people to be able to tune in from wherever they are in the county and see our kids participate.”

If anything will change, it’ll be stepping up their promotional efforts. They didn’t get a chance to start broadcasting until the middle of the fall season in 2020, and promoting their broadcast came even later. They’ll get a fresh start for the ‘21–22 school year. 

When it comes to advice for other schools looking to monetize their existing livestream, Crum highlighted the importance of focusing on the big picture. “Don’t listen to the skeptics, don’t worry about potential criticism,” said Crum. “There will be people who appreciate the opportunity to watch the games.

“If it’s someone already offering free streaming of all the games, you might have a different bridge to cross. [...] If you’re in that boat, you’ll probably need to do a campaign to let people know expenses are going up and revenue is dropping. Say, ‘If we want to keep all our sports, we’re going to have to start charging.’

And if you have the right setup, the broadcast might be able to speak for itself. 

“The quality is amazing,” said Crum. “The Hudl cameras are very good, Blueframe is honestly very high quality. You have your score embedded on the screen, it’s very professional. It’s a very professional look and feel they get to have for the game.”

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