WebStream Productions Adds Low-Cost Studio

WebStream Productions streams nearly 1,000 events a year for its clients, ranging from NCAA swimming and diving to Butler’s championship run through the Horizon League basketball tournament. Without a home studio, however, much of that content — especially that produced for the Horizon League Network (HLN) — was game-focused, leaving many fans dark before the game, at halftime, and after the game. Thanks to a modest investment in a new studio, however, WebStream’s productions have taken a step toward legitimacy.

“The studio is a future investment,” explains John Servizzi, president of WebStream Productions. “The biggest weakness I see with the Horizon League Network is that we don’t provide enough content to the schools to use. Most schools don’t have programming that happens at the half, and there’s a lot of opportunity in that time.”

Give Fans Content at Halftime
HLN fans who tune into the game broadcasts, he has found, do not click off during halftime, so, instead of giving them a 15-minute hodgepodge of content provided by one of the participating schools, he intends to take advantage of that captive audience to give them 15 minutes of game-related content.

“I can use that time to sell the school, the league, other institutions, and the things the league is doing,” he points out. “If the goal of HLN is league branding and marketing, I’m not doing right by the Horizon League if I don’t seize this opportunity.”

In addition to marketing opportunities, having a studio adds legitimacy to the HLN product.

“We’re sometimes seen as the kids with the cameras,” says Servizzi, who oversees a full-time staff of nine and a part-time staff of more than 30. “If HLN is to be taken seriously, we have to make it look like that. Painting a room black and putting a logo on the wall doesn’t do it for me anymore.”

“Low-Cost but Good”
Instead, he made an investment in two local, Indianapolis companies to design and build out an impressive studio, complete with rotating LCD monitors, a sleek design, and red-and-blue color scheme that bleeds professionalism. The studio is supported by an adapted flypack, which includes Canon XH A1 cameras retrofitted for studio purposes, a NewTek XD300 TriCaster for switching, and teleprompters from Prompter People.

“Everything we’ve chosen is low-cost but good solutions,” Servizzi says. “For our next steps, I’ve got my heart set on those little Sony dome cameras that are robotically controlled in HD. I think, budget-wise, we can make those work.”

His current Canon cameras are HD-capable, but, from a streaming standpoint, he says, 16:9 SD looks just like HD.

“And everyone perceives it to be HD,” he adds. “For what we’re doing, why would we spend a fortune to try to be something that we’re not? I think what we’re doing is good enough.”

From Web to TV
What WebStream is doing is so good, in fact, that the made-for-Web product has been run on regional television stations in several markets.

“There is this neat crossover where we’ve been able to take some of our product and provide the online method of production to regional TV,” Servizzi explains. “It’s somewhere in the middle: it’s good enough to put on TV, but it’s not a quarter-of-a-million-dollars kind of concept.”

He is proud that WebStream Productions has no debt, so, instead of taking a leap into the unknown to purchase top-of-the-line equipment, he is happy to stay where he is, producing quality content with low-cost equipment.

“I don’t want to be the guy that is beholden to all these other people that have all these other interests and know nothing about what it is that I do,” he says. “I’ve got no room for vanity.”

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