The Western Athletic Conference (WAC) had gone through substantial changes leading up to 2013. Several schools in the conference had moved to other conferences that had more competitive football programs. The conference began focusing on basketball and had recruited several new schools with solid basketball programs. As the conference was reinventing itself, there was a need to promote and manage the sports and schools and the distribution of conference competitions and games. The WAC owned all distribution rights to all games, and was looking for a way to distribute and monetize these competitions.
The Western Athletic Conference hired Piksel to help plan and launch a new online video network, The WAC Sports Network. The management of the WAC envisioned a portal where fans, students and family could login to watch a game, check scores, and learn more about teams and players. The initial challenge was to assess the live streaming capabilities of each school, including solid internet connections, video equipment, and the personnel needed for game day broadcasts. Piksel sent two of us on a tour of seven schools to document capabilities and needs, and to make recommendations to the Conference management team regarding baseline capabilities and any gaps that we found at individual schools.
Traveling with Kevin Burke, a consultant from the Rockbridge Sports Group, we visited each of the seven schools, met with the Athletic Directors and coaches, and documented the capabilities and any gaps we found along the way. We presented our findings, and the WAC management team took steps to ensure each school had what they needed for game day broadcasts. We began building out the WAC Sports Network (https://www.wacsports.com), leveraging the Piksel software stack known at the time as MediaSuite. We trained each school to login to the portal, setup live streams, and manage their recordings and other pertinent data. In early 2014, the WAC Sports Network was launched.
Leveraging the Piksel platform, the Western Athletic conference was able to stream live basketball games, soccer games, volleyball games, tennis matches, swim meets and much more. They were able to schedule and run advertising against the network, with rich viewer statistics and reports to help track success. The network viewership grew quickly; the schools, the WAC management and the fans were thrilled with the new portal.
Not too long ago video networks were limited to over-air or cable delivery. As the internet has become more robust, and video cameras and production equipment have become more powerful and less expensive, the barrier to entry for an organization to launch their own online video network has lowered significantly. Even with these advancements, one challenge that we saw across all schools, and within other organizations, was finding trained personnel who could run the equipment. Camera operators, sound technicians, replay technicians and video engineers are but a few of the roles needed to stream a live game. Many of the schools had well-developed student training programs, with solid stables of available students for game day broadcasts. For those schools that were struggling in this area, we helped document and share the best practices for student engagement and intern programs. One of the most exciting aspects to this effort was seeing students being snatched up by ESPN after graduation, based on their knowledge and experience with cutting edge equipment and software used for the live broadcasts.