Fans of Carroll County high school sports unable to make it to the local stadium or gym for a game might soon be able to watch their favorite team or student-athlete playing live via smartphone or other electronic device.
A company partnering with the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) made a presentation to the Carroll County Board of Education about a system that would let community members stream sporting events remotely for a monthly fee.
The NFHS is the body that governs high school sports competitions across the United States. NFHS partnered with the company PlayOn! Sports to create the NFHS Network, a live-streaming platform.
Kiki Enderle, of PlayOn, made an offer to CCPS at the January school board meeting. The company hopes to strike a deal where they would provide the automated camera equipment to the school system at no cost and would eventually begin to split subscription fees for the service with the school system.
They would also generate income from advertisements.
The cost for consumers would be $10.99 for a month-long pass or $69.95 per year. They would have access to all of the content on the NFHS Network, not only events streamed in Carroll.
After the first three years, the network would begin to share revenue from streaming passes with CCPS. The company also offers the option to begin the revenue sharing immediately if a school pays $1,000 upfront for the equipment.
The agreement would be for five years, with the possibility to renew.
Schools would own their content, Enderle said, and coaches and athletic directors would not have to pay a fee to watch game footage. Footage can be provided to local TV stations after the fact, she said.
Enderle said the network would provide installation, video storage and training on how to use the system at no cost.
The network pitched itself to the board as a way to increase parental involvement in their students’ school lives and a way for out-of town family to keep up with their students’ games. The NFHS network has additional tools for coaches to re-watch game footage.
The network would provide two camera units to each high school in Carroll, Enderle said.
The platform could be used to stream other school events such as graduations, music concerts or theater productions.
In Maryland, several counties have already joined the NFHS Network including Anne Arundel, Montgomery and Baltimore.
Michael Duffy, CCPS Supervisor of Athletics, said the county’s athletic directors did not foresee this affecting gate revenue from people attending games in person.
“If it’s pouring rain [during a] game, people might stay home and get that subscription. But for the most part, our parents and student fans and community fans who want to see our games want to go and see our games. So we don’t feel that this is going to eat into that,” he said.
He said that many statewide competitions are already part of the NFHS Network.
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Central Office staff recommended that CCPS accept the offer.
Cindy McCabe, Chief of Schools, said they were in favor of the communication and connection it can provide for people who can’t be physically present at games.
Pixellot produces the cameras and software used by the network. High-definition quality-capable cameras are encased in a protective shell and wall mounted. A computer is used to run the software that makes the cameras automated. A scoreboard device pulls data from the scoreboard and embeds it into the stream.
No one is needed to operate the camera or the computer. The presentation included footage of a game captured by the camera, which uses motion tracking to follow the action on the court or field. They have created an algorithm individualized for every sport.
Enderle said that as a former athletic director, the last thing they need is more things to worry about before a game.
“The only thing we need schools to provide is an outlet. We provide everything else,” she said.
Schools that are part of the network have a choice between manual production, meaning game footage produced by students, and automated production through the Pixellot technology. Many use both, Enderle said.