SVGU Q&A: John Antonik, University of West Virginia Director of New Media
Coordinating video content featuring 16 varsity athletic teams between a marketing office, athletic department, third-party consultants and broadcast partners is no easy task, but John Antonik has found a way to walk that line. As director of new media for the University of West Virginia, Antonik serves as web coordinator, business developer and streaming operator, among other things, taking steps to put WVU’s new media on the map without overstepping the bounds laid out by the school’s broadcast partners. Antonik took some time out of his busy schedule to explain to SVG-U how he manages to roll three jobs into one.
What sports content do you currently stream on your Web site?
In the Big East conference, we have a fairly all-encompassing television contact with ESPN. In previous contracts, we were not permitted to stream any basketball events because ESPN had the rights to all of them, but this year the contract was reworded to allow individual schools to have the ability to stream any events not carried on the ESPN family of networks. We took advantage of a few opportunities there. There were about four or five opportunities that we had to stream men’s basketball home games, and we decided to try it on a pay-per-view basis. We didn’t have any opportunities to stream any live football events because they were all covered under our television package.
Right now we stream our soccer home events, some women’s basketball games, gymnastics events and wrestling. Streaming is something that we look to continue to grow, and the decision will be a collaborative effort within our department. Our deputy director of athletics has a strong television background and I work closely with him and the marketing department.
What equipment do you have access to and who pays for it?
We’ve purchased quite a bit of equipment on our own. We have a good radio and television department on campus, so we have resources internally that we can use. We have talent here that we can use as well. We went out and purchased a NewTek TriCaster. We have been able to recycle some cameras that were either phased out or no longer of use to the television department, so we have three fairly good cameras that we can use. We have some mini DV cameras that have been cycled out, as well, so we’ve been able to maximize our resources.
Who staffs your productions?
This year, to make these streams work, I was at just about every athletic event myself. I don’t see us hiring anybody else right off the bat, but realistically you could have somebody full-time just to manage all of this.
My training was in public relations and I would say I was one of the earliest to move over from sports information into this. We started streaming events in 1999 and I learned on the fly by picking up a manual and learning how to run the equipment. From the time I started, my computer expertise was limited, so I just had to turn it on and figure out how to do it.
We’ve had access to the journalism school to have students help operate some of our productions. We’re trying to maximize our resources on campus to make this work. We do have some help on campus; we have people with specific expertise that have directed live events, or have been subcontracted out to do ESPN regional games, so whenever I have a question I can ask them. We have access to people that are skilled in graphics, camera operation, video editing, so I can go to those people with questions, but basically you’re just picking up a book and teaching yourself how to do it.
Even when you do have help, when you’re dealing with pros that shoot for television, they don’t necessarily realize that with streaming, you’re shooting for a small box. If you’re shooting a normal wide shot, that’s not necessarily going to translate on the Internet. When we do interviews, I always have to remind them to get a tight shot.
Aside from live game coverage, what else do you offer online?
We do tons of on-demand video and we provide some podcasting. The school has a relationship with iTunes so we send them some things that they take through RSS, so it’s still stored on our website.
What is the biggest challenge you face to extending your streaming offerings?
Being able to get capable people to put on the events. My staff right now is just basically me and one other guy, so we have to be very resourceful. The opportunities out there are numerous. Conceivably, we could stream every athletic event, and that would give non-traditional TV sports the ability to be viewed. It’s all a matter of cost-benefit and getting enough people to do it.
Because the technology is still fairly new, everybody is still trying to determine who they are, and that’s what we’re going through right now. The discussion that we’ve been having internally is do we want to continue to have this subscription service, or do we want to maximize our exposure to some of these other sports, the non-traditional TV sports like soccer, and offer them for free? If we did go to a free model, we would obviously have to offset that with some advertising, since there are costs incurred.
There is also the issue of having the proper bandwidth and proper bit rate to stream the videos, and how do we connect with people that are watching the broadcast? How do we promote it? These are all questions that we have not answered yet.