Fox Sports Wisconsin Gets Hyper Local With Prep Zone Live Streaming
High school sports are a commodity on the rise, with linear networks like MSG Varsity and broadband outlets like ESPN3.com offering high school football, basketball, and other sports a record level of exposure. Now Fox Sports Wisconsin is taking it to the next level with Prep Zone, a multiplatform service that offers four simultaneous live streams of high school football games from across the state.
“The goal here is to create a user experience across multiple platforms for high school sports,” says FS Wisconsin SVP/GM Mike Dimond. “Last year, we launched Prep Zone with Fox Sports North, but, this year, with FS Wisconsin launching, we have really stepped it up with multiple platforms.”
Each Friday night, Prep Zone offers live-game streams from four regions (Milwaukee, Madison, Appleton/Green Bay, and Central/Eau Claire) on FoxSportsWisconsin.com, as well as in-game highlights online and on mobile devices.
FS Wisconsin launched Prep Zone on Aug. 19, and a handful of other Fox Sports RSNs have followed, including FS North (now in its second season), FS Ohio, and FS West.
Four Venues Each Friday
When We Were Young Productions produces the four game feeds using NewTek TriCaster portable production systems and an average of two cameras. The streams include on-site announcers, replays, and graphics (including a mini Fox Box displaying the score and game clock).
If the venue offers sufficient Internet access, the live stream is encoded and transmitted via the TriCaster. However, many venues do not offer such a connection. In these cases, When We Were Young transmits the stream via a LiveU portable video-over-cellular backpack.
All four streams are transmitted over Akamai’s content-delivery network (CDN) and delivered to the viewer’s Coincident TV-designed video player. Viewers can watch all four games simultaneously in a quad-split arrangement or a single game in full screen. The interactive player also features live-chat capabilities and social-media integration.
A FS Wisconsin editor also produces in-game highlights for all four games, posting these clips to SnappyTV.com within seconds of the play’s occurrence. Users can simply click the “highlights” button on the video player to access video clips and share them via Facebook or Twitter. In addition, Webcast game producers alert viewers to important game updates through the live-chat section.
These highlights are also available via third-party media outlets, including ESPN Milwaukee (radio and Website), JS Online, OnMilwaukee.com, and WisSports.net.
In the Stands and on the Road
This year, the SnappyTV highlights offering is available also on mobile devices. FS Wisconsin worked with Phizzle to create a WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) site where fans can access these highlight packages on a variety of mobile devices. Users simply text “Prep Zone” to 234234 to access highlights for each game.
“As a parent of a former high school football player, I know that it’s exciting to be in the stands, and you would never want to miss a game,” says Dimond. “So there is a mobile application for this as well that allows parents in the stands or anywhere to view these highlights and show them off.”
Only the Beginning
While it may sit atop the popularity hierarchy of high school sports, football is only the beginning for Prep Zone. FS Wisconsin plans to live-stream a total of 230 high school sports events this year (93 of which will also air on the linear network), including games and matches from nearly all 27 Wisconsin high school sports. Wrestling will be represented in six simultaneous matches on Prep Zone.
“We have a daunting task in front of us this year. It starts with football, but that will be the easy one. This is the eighth year that we have rights to all 27 Wisconsin state championships, and we’re taking it further than we ever have before.”
FS Wisconsin will also produce and televise all seven state football division championships on the linear network (these will not be streamed).
“You have to find an economical way to do something like this,” says Dimond. “With the volume of games that we’re doing, rolling out a truck [to each game] is simply not economically feasible. But the beauty of this is, the match between high school sports and a regional sports network. RSNs are based on passionate local fans, and high school sports [attracts] those fans.”
Fox Sports Wisconsin’s Prep Zone can be accessed HERE. Live games are available every Friday night; highlights can be accessed at any time.