The Iowa Community College Athletic Conference (ICCAC) has been leveraging Hudl’s livestream­ing technology to bring fans closer to their teams across the conference. We sat down with leaders from the schools and from the conference office to learn more about the benefits of streaming through Hudl Production Truck, Hudl Focus, and other key Hudl technologies.

There’s an overwhelming amount of livestreaming tools in the public marketplace. It can be incredibly daunting to an athletic director or coach to find the “right fit” for their program. In this new era of collegiate athletics, programs are trying to connect with their fans where they are - both in the stands and on their couch at home. 

Hudl builds tools to simplify that process for organizations, from the camera to the big, or small, screen. The fourteen member institutions in the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference and for leadership at the conference offices, have been leveraging Hudl’s camera and livestreaming technology at the highest level for over three seasons now. 

We invited some of the ICCAC’s administrative staff and coaches to sit down with our team to talk more about how they’ve built a successful livestreaming hub for their conference, and to understand what the future holds for its member institutions. 

Here’s what they shared with us. 

Can you share a little bit about what the conference was doing livestreaming wise before its partnership with Hudl and where you guys decided to take those steps to find a partnership?

Yeah. Looking back when you first approached us in 2018, I think our schools were kind of all over the place on a number of different platforms, whether it was YouTube or the Cube, and things like that. I looked at Boxcast, Stretch, Flowplayer. I mean, there's a number of things. I think we only had three schools that were on BlueFrame at the time.

So we were all over the place. And over the next couple of years, a couple of teams signed on. As you got more in front of our athletic directors and we showed them what it is, the schools spoke on how well it worked and saw what the product was. By August 2020, we were all signed up for the ICCAC Sports Network.

What were some of the things you think that that really helped kind of align everybody in one direction? Some of the goals you guys had as a conference and as individual members that that kind of reached that point?

From the conference office and from our league especially, we're trying to be the best league we can be. Our Commissioner likes to say if we're not the best conference, we're tied for first, and we like to kind of be the flagship for a lot of things in the NJCAA and streaming just became one of them.

I think just the cohesiveness that we were looking for from our conference, we'll let our schools do anything that they want. I think that they understand that once we get together as a whole, which they ended up deciding– just getting in front of the athletic directors, continuing to show them the importance of streaming and then the market kind of dictated it too.

Whereas fans and parents began to see that, you know, they're on their phones, they're seeing what's available and how things are going at other levels. And then the expectation becomes that. So I think our athletic directors realized that is the expectation and then they just went that direction of, "hey, we got to we’ve got to stream our games."

Shane, tell us a little bit about Iowa Western and what your philosophy has been with video streaming? How the adoption of Hudl has helped with those goals for your school?

Absolutely. We have a very large athletic department here. We have over 800 athletes in 24 sports, so we were using the BlueFrame product before the Hudl + BlueFrame merger. And for us, that merger just kind of brought two worlds into a great combination because coaches were already using Hudl for video breakdown, doing clips, and game tape exchange for four different sports.

Now with BlueFrame and Hudl combining the streaming process, it's just gotten easier. We've got new Hudl cameras installed, our soccer fields and our basketball courts, where our coaches can record practices. We can stream great games with less labor, having to find people to run the cameras and things like that. That's made it a lot easier.

It's just been a very, you know, comfortable transition as Hudl and BlueFrame's products have combined. And the biggest thing for us is with a large athletic department being able to get as many of our sports promoted and on a stream. So families can see their students that are here from other states, other countries all across the world. We've got people tuning in to Reier Sports Network to watch our athletic contests on a regular basis.

Sara, do you mind touching on that and how the addition of the Hudl Focus cameras has helped your streaming as well as your athletic teams?

Yeah, it's been a really easy transition with our Hudl Focus camera. We've been streaming, I think I started here in 2007. It was one of our first products for us to stream, so we've been streaming that long. We started with BlueFrame, but like Shane said, manpower to find someone to run the camera, to run the computer, to put the score up, etc. Now they head to the Focus app, hit the button, green light turns on, we're good to go. It's made life so much easier with the Hudl Focus camera.

Can you touch on the value that the Hudl Focus camera has brought you guys as a team from from a coach's perspective?

The Hudl Focus camera, I mean, it's been a game changer for our women's basketball program.  The first thing I do when I walk in the gym with our recruits is tell them about that camera and the power that it has for our programs. You know, this morning before the meeting, I'm watching our practice from yesterday. So it's just tremendous as a coach to be able to have video access and be able to see those plays, what kids need additional help. We were working on close outs. It really could give me that live feedback and then I was able to get our roster uploaded. So all of our student athletes have access to every practice, every game. I know our kids are going to be super excited. I let them know that their account has been uploaded as of this morning so they can start watching. 

From a coaching standpoint, for our athletes, it's just been a true blessing and I really enjoyed the product.It's been a huge, huge bonus for us as we move forward with our women's basketball program and our athletic department.

Jarrett at Northeast, you guys have the benefit of a media production group on campus. Can you explain how Production Truck and your streams have gone with the ease of use?

Yeah we try to do everything in-house as much as we can because we have the broadcasting and media arts program at Northeast. Production Truck is integrated into the curriculum for all those students to get first hands on experience with all that, including with the Tricasters. Our instructors do a great job of teaching from the first semester. They integrate not only the media and broadcasting students, but also the audio recording students so they can learn on all the same platforms just in case we need additional coverage for other games. It's been a huge game changer for us. We honestly wouldn't know what to do without it. I have great stories to share from parents across the globe about how they can watch our streaming services at Northeastern. Once a student is able to learn through our curriculum, they then go on and move on to a four year school and, you know, work for someone like Nebraska and Husker Media and HuskerVision. We've even had students going to K-State where they've even said learning the items that they did at Northeast and Production Truck has been an essential part of their learning experience.

What are some highlights from your fans and student athletes on the effort that you guys put towards livestreaming?

Graduation time, when parents come to watch their son or daughter walk across the stage, they just sing praises.They're very thankful for us streaming and letting them watch their child play a game at home or away. It has become more of an expectation now. I think it's been a great addition.

Shane, do you have anything to add to that about Iowa Western?

I think some of the same things we hear from our fan base and parents and family members all the time– how reassuring it is that they can see their kids on the field playing in their sport, soccer, baseball, softball, whatever. We actually one year had a kid that was injured during a game and it was a serious dislocated ankle. While we were dealing with the athletic trainers and the ambulance to get the student taken care of, the mother was calling his phone on the sideline and the coach was talking to her because she was watching it all live back home in Europe. So it really allows families to feel comfortable about the decisions they make on where they send their children to go to college, especially when they're states away or countries away. That's probably the number one thing we get, is how easy it is to just go to the website, click a button and you're watching the game.

The specific network that the ICCAC has with Hudl, we call it branded destinations. There is a branded website that features all the content from from across the conference, but then also dedicated mobile apps for iOS and Android as well as streaming apps like Apple TV, Roku, Amazon. 

Dan, do you have anything to add to that about how broad of a reach that is for the conference and what you guys have seen as far as the growth of that over the last five years?

I can say from a conference standpoint, last year I was at a regional softball tournament and we have two brackets going on– we have an A and B bracket for our championship. So I can't be at both. So I was watching one of our games going on at the same time while I was at the other one and just the ease of going back and forth on your phone in this app– it is just really easy.

I know the commissioner, he'll sit at home on conference game nights for basketball and he'll have it pulled up on his TV and he'll be going back and forth watching every game. So I know he utilizes it a lot as well. That's become really handy for our office, for one just monitoring and two just for the ease of access of getting our teams showcased across junior college athletics.

Some people look at the video streaming as a great opportunity to get a specific message messaging out to a fan base, whether that's through pieces from the college or partners, both locally and regionally. Jarrett, you guys specifically have some advertising or messaging that you guys get into your broadcasts. Describe how you guys do that and what types of of spots those are?

Our pieces are kind of guided by our broadcasting department as well. Some are student led. They go out for an assignment and work on a story or commercial on campus, and then they broadcast that through a streaming platform as well. Or some of the pieces are in a bank where they can go and pick different commercials and set them for different games and stuff.

Shane, with Iowa Western and some of your broadcasts for football and I think a few other sports, you guys have a radio station partner that is then incorporating some ads into your broadcasts. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?

For our football games, our radio station's on-air talent is also the voice of the Reiver's. So when we're streaming, we send a media crew with the football team on all the road games, all their home games, and simultaneously they are doing play by play on our livestream through Production Truck. 

Then at the same time, it's being sent to our radio station and it's one of the top five Omaha metro radio stations in the area. So that works pretty seamlessly to where we can multitask, I guess you could say, of putting a radio broadcast out and as well, have play by play on our video stream. So I know a lot of smaller schools may have a radio station in the area that will want to come in and do play-by-play. You can connect that into the stream. So you have a little bit higher quality product when you can put that professional announcer doing the play-by-play of the game and stuff like that into your stream rather than just having a crowd mic go in.

With Hudl's platform, there's the option to do pay-per-view. We see a wide range of options there from our small college clients. Some opt to put the paywall up, others opt not to due to a variety of reasons. The majority of the conferences in Iowa do not do pay per view. Sarah, can you explain why you see more value in keeping your broadcasts free versus putting up a paywall?

We want anyone and everyone to see what our athletes do, what other school's athletes do. I just feel like the more we get it out there, the better it is. We just want to display our kids. We partner with NC22, and during baseball season they do our live broadcasts and just getting them experience, letting people listen to them, just makes it great.

Jerrett, you guys are also free to view. Anything to add there about from your perspective on pay-per-view versus free?

We just want to make sure everyone is able to watch the Hawks. I got a video of a parent in New Zealand jumping up and down on his couch in his chair, of us winning a soccer game from 26 hours away. And I feel like if we don't provide that free access for him, you know, he may not be able to watch his son play soccer. I think it makes a big statement for everybody.

Shane, with my experience with Iowa Western, when we first got you guys on board there was a paywall up and you guys were very successful with it, to be honest. You guys have shifted back to free too. Explain the value that you see.

I use the analogy, I don't step over dollar bills to pick up pennies. You may make a little bit of money off your pay-per-view. But when you look at the analytics of views, schools I've been at when they charge, they maybe get 10% of the viewership. When it's free, people want to tune in when the game is going on. They don't want to go back and watch it on demand later. They've already seen the score by that point. So I just feel like it's us providing for our fan base and our customers. When we put it out there as a free option, it doesn't restrict anything. The ability to sell advertisements– our corporate partners all get a certain amount of time on air with their businesses, logos and things like that. I think we can make more money through that option than trying to nickel and dime moms and dads who want to watch their sons and daughters play on our field.

How valuable is livestreaming for recruiting new players and showcasing their talent?

The livestream and our Hudl Focus camera has been a huge thing. And it's one of the first things I tell our recruits. They always want to see how we play, how they're going to fit into our system. So even our recruits we've had on campus this year, I mean, obviously we haven't started games, but I'm sharing our live stream from last year. It's all on there. It's archived. So they can see all of our games from last season and kind of see how we play and how they fit in. So that's been a huge asset for us. And then a big part of what we do at a community college, obviously, is we're helping our kids get on to that next level. So we're constantly helping our kids get recruited and talking to other coaches. And so it's been tremendous for me to have the Hudl Focus camera to be able to share practices with coaches. If they can't make it to our gym, we can share our livestream game links, or we can share with those coaches. It's really been a great addition, and just really helped me with the process of getting our players placed and recruited because that's pretty much the lifeline of our program.

Can you walk us through like what gameday looks like and how much easier that's been for you guys with the addition of the Hudl Focus cameras?

I would say the process has gotten so much easier to stream. In the past we would have to and we go into B cloud, set of up to stream, make sure everything was ready. And then 15 minutes before we go up, make sure it was ready to stream.  Now our coaches go in at the beginning of the season and set every game up so it's ready to go. I did nothing. It's awesome. 15 minutes before that green light came on. We knew we were golden and it's been great.

The other thing with that is we still do use Production Truck when NBC22 does our productions of our basketball games. So I feel like we're the best of both worlds – using our Hudl Focus camera when we don't have live broadcast commentators there, then using Production Truck with NBC22.

What are some things you all are looking at for the future?

I think we're excited because we've had multiple programs that had individual contracts with Hudl and we moved to a department wide contract. So, you know, having access for an account for every program, you know, like our e-sports program is something I never would have thought of, would have benefited from a Hudl account. They are capturing their contests, clipping out, doing highlight reels and doing editing for prep on opponents, kind of just like the football coaches are doing but doing it in any sports arena. 

So some of the additional tools that we received from that department contract have been very beneficial. And then for us, we've always kind of been a manual set up where we have a camera, the Macbook and the Production Truck software running our streams. Now we're just getting these new Hudl Focus cameras installed into our facilities, and what we found is it's less labor for us and easier to do it. And then as well, it's a higher quality video than what we were getting with our standard tripods and camera. So we're looking forward to learning the new technology and equipment and expanding on that, getting play-by-play incorporated into those Hudl Focus camera streams as well.

Dan, from a conference perspective, do you guys have any vision that you're looking to capitalize with more schools, doing more broadcasts and obviously getting more participation within the network for the conference?

Whether it be exposure or whether it be higher quality of stream, I think the market of what fans want and the technology that we can give them will always dictate where we're going to go as a conference. I'm sure Ai will work itself in, maybe there'll be live stats or something that can be incorporated by tracking players or just keeping the score or anything that is able to reduce the need or the pressure or the time commitment of our schools. Staffing to help them make it an easier process to give them exposure and quality feed is kind of what we're looking for. Like Sarah said, more sports and more streams is kind of what we're looking at.

This has been awesome to hear from you guys. We're proud to partner with each school within the conference as well as the ICCAC Sports Network overall. So thanks for your time today and we look forward to continuing this partnership.

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