- Student population: 350
- Town size: 1300
- Sports using Focus: 4
- How they monetize: Sponsorships and pay per download
- Amount made in 2020–21 school year: ~$15K
Providing game footage to fans isn’t new for Liberty Center High School (Ohio).
“We actually started doing this in 1996,” said LC Tiger Sports Live program director Mark Bly. “Back when we’d record it on a camera that weighed about 60 pounds and used VHS tapes.”
Parents, people in the community and the local television station all wanted copies of games. To be able to reproduce that footage, the school quickly realized they needed to monetize it—that’s where local sponsors came in.
“The school is the center of our community, we’re a very small town,” said Bly. “The generosity of the people has always been there. Since 1996, we’ve never needed to charge people pay per view.”
Every year since, demand has grown. The film went from being on VHS to DVDs. Bly knew getting it online was next.
“Being a tech guy, I knew technology was changing,” said Bly. “Nobody had VHS, nobody even has DVD players anymore.”
They added Hudl Focus auto-tracking cameras to their gyms to get the best possible angles. And when the pandemic happened in 2020, Liberty Center wasn’t caught unprepared. They simply needed to step up their options.
With a history of including audio commentary in their game footage, Bly knew he needed a broadcast software to uphold that tradition—preferably one that would make it easy to go from DVDs to online streaming. Production Truck by BlueFrame Technology was the answer. Wondering why?
“We just thought that BlueFrame has worked with a lot of schools and sports streaming, it’s kind of what they specialize in. The Hudl cameras steered us in that direction, and a lot of their graphics and overlays, the add-ons, really fit well.”
There’s no rule that says you have to chose just one way to monetize your livestream. Liberty Center proves it. The booster club covered the cost of the BlueFrame subscription, so ad revenue from sponsors could go towards offsetting costs and making up for lost gate revenue in the 2020 school year.
A lot of their sponsors are the same ones they’ve had since the 90s, from local businesses to generous alumni, grandparents and even great-grandparents. For new advertising opportunities, they look to social media to get the word out.
“We got two brand new sponsors this year that aren’t in our school district, but they’re in our county,” said Bly. “They saw us on Facebook and said ‘Hey, we want to get involved in this!’”
With sponsorship money coming in, LC Tiger Sports Live was able to keep their live broadcasts free for fans, a priority for the school and Bly.
“The administration of our school system just didn’t feel the need to charge people during the pandemic. They said, ‘Everything’s bad enough right now. Is it gonna help or hurt? Yes, there’s a revenue stream there but c’mon.”
“We had many schools in our area that bought into the NFHS network and charged people $7.99 to watch the game and then couldn’t make it work. Or the internet fluctuated. And the backlash from that was terrible. We also had some internet problems, we’re in a rural area and we’re lucky if we get one bar. But we got less of a backlash because it was free.”
Another way they keep live broadcasts free is by charging a fee for broadcast downloads. BlueFrame’s minimum is $4.99 per download.
“We charge the minimum,” said Bly. “We really have not tried to make money at this, we’ve only really ever tried to get what we need.”
All you have to do is look at the stats to know that fans are appreciating the broadcast.
“The reaction to this being on the internet has been phenomenal. We had over 20,000 viewers last year, from 48 different states and in eight countries.”
Game Day Process
As producer of their broadcasts, Bly is very familiar with what happens on game days.
- He arrives a few hours early with their Mac computers and sets up a test recording to make sure the panoramic view and the tracking view are both set.
- Overlays are next—he makes sure the title sponsors are loaded and team information is correct.
- Then it’s time to run through a final checklist: sound check, video check, overlay check and internet check.
“The elimination of the camera and cameraman requirement [with Hudl Focus] was substantial for us,” said Bly. “It’s just so much easier.”
Another crucial factor to Liberty Center game days is their beloved commentator Mike Whitman, or “Spike” as he’s better known. He has been commentating games since the 90s simply because he loves Liberty Center sports. “Everybody knows Spike,” said Bly.
Broadcasting has been the name of the game at Liberty Center and it’s not going anywhere. In fact, this year Bly and Spike will be broadcasting their 500th basketball game.
Eventually though, the broadcast will be taken over by a classroom of students. A new broadcasting class is starting for the ‘21–22 school year. Bly is looking forward to getting more students interested, to get the next generation involved.
As far as advice for schools looking to start up their own broadcast in the future, Bly says working with the IT department to get things set up correctly is crucial.
“Make sure that you address the technical issues of the school. That has been the downfall of most of the people in our area that were not successful at monetizing it and got such a backlash. [...] You have to be able to deliver a quality product.”