September 17, 2013
The 2012 MHSAA Update Meeting Opinion Poll revealed a lack of support for eliminating rules that restrict live video broadcasts of member schools’ regular-season contests.
That’s okay. Unrestricted video broadcasting could adversely change the look and nature of educational athletics. Going slow may be going smart.
However, in the long term, we think we can manage live video broadcasts – even of some regular-season events – if we do two things: (1) control the platform, and (2) charge for the product.
If we control the platform, and thus the brand and content, we control the look and feel. And we protect the message of high school sports.
If viewers pay to view the content through a subscription fee, we preserve the revenue from contest ticket sales and participate in the monetization of the video productions of those contests.
“Television” is rarely free to viewers today. Ninety percent of people who watch video broadcasts of sporting events today pay for that privilege through the basic package or add-ons of their monthly bill from a local cable provider or national satellite TV company. Many 20- and 30-somethings have cut the cable cord for television and access video programming from the Internet, paying for the specific events or packages they wish to watch.
With all this in mind, we are engaged with two video broadcasting initiatives.
The first is expansion of the School Broadcasting Program. We are breathing new life into this four-year-old program during 2013-14 by providing more on-the-ground support. MHSAA staff is monitoring program quality, and we are designing educational and awards programs that will further distinguish this program from all other school broadcasting options. There is now an option for live broadcasts through a pay-for-viewing subscription model. Read more about the SBP here.
The second, newer initiative is the launch of the NFHS Network which has the potential to aggregate the state-by-state video broadcasts of high school athletic association tournament events across the US. In total, this dwarfs the online football programming potential of the NFL or the online basketball programming potential of the NBA. And with many thousands of other events in dozens of other tournaments, there is more than enough content to populate a compelling digital network that is a safe and reliable platform for educational athletics. Read more about the NFHS Network here.
Neither of these initiatives is easy; if they were, they would have been attempted and accomplished years ago. Each has some risks, as do most projects of real significance. The MHSAA is invested in making both successful for those who participate in and follow school sports in Michigan.