Keeping live-streamed sports channel free eliminates major obstacle for attracting audience

The continued adoption of live-streaming events is substantial and has produced new opportunities for all involved. To maximize these opportunities, these events need to be kept free to watch.

Zachary's Takeaways

  • Your competitors in this space include premiere paid channels like Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix and more.
  • Student producers of your content benefit more from a larger, free audience than a small, paid audience.
  • Your marketing budget, if it exists at all, can’t compete for audience growth against top competitors.

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Live-streaming videos from schools should be free to their audience

The continued adoption of live-streaming events is substantial and has produced new opportunities for all involved. To maximize these opportunities, these events need to be kept free to watch.

Consider these key factors in this decision:

Audiences – This can be broken down into two key types of people most likely to watch: A) alumni, particularly the youngest alumni who are now at college; B) parents and close family living in the area.

Group A isn’t going to have a lot of disposable income, so asking them to pay $4 a game or $99 (or more) a year is a stretch. Plus, they are not used to paying for this content. They are used to lots of free content on social media, with the exception of high-end streaming (Netflix, Amazon, etc.) for which they may or may not be directly paying (perhaps they share an account with family members).

Group B is already going to be at most games, so to charge them to see a replay of the game (if they would even want that) isn’t very welcoming.

These two audiences are your most passionate, and each is hard to turn into paying customers. Also consider your potential audience size, which is relatively small if not tiny compared to other professional content producers.

Competitors – Your rivals in this spot, and yes you do have competitors, are Netflix, Amazon, and many, many other free and paid content providers. They provide engaging, highly entertaining and well produced content. And some still struggle to grow a paid audience for certain shows. Can you compete against them in a paid environment?

Quality – You can’t compete on quality, not video quality and not announcer quality. Your quality will not match most of other streamed content (cameras, camera angles, replays, graphics, buffering, etc.). Instead focus on what makes you different, and that is you have the only stream of the local sports teams. Celebrate that by inviting any and all interested fans to watch.

Marketing – The competitors spend lots of time and money (and have lots of established communication channels to reach audiences) to get people to buy their product. A school does not have either of those generally, and as such will struggle to properly market their videos.

Dependability – There are many reasons a live broadcast would not occur as scheduled (weather, illness, technical issues, lack of experience with equipment, etc.). If you can’t deliver a quality, consistent live-stream event, you will lose customers, and possibly lose money through refunds. When people pay for a product, the level of expectations soars, and for good reason.

Student interest – I’ve listed this last because it’s just a hunch: students will care more about having 500 people watch parts of a close football game, than having 50 paid subscribers and only a percentage of those watch each game. The easiest way for schools to gain an audience of hundreds early on is on the school’s Facebook page (where you can’t charge people to watch the video).

When more people watch the game, more people comment on the game on social media, and more people (including their school friends and staff) tell the students ‘thank you.’ If these things happen consistently, student engagement will rise dramatically.

For the best interest of students, use of staff time, and the expectation regarding media content, keep your live-streaming events free to the public, and seek to offset costs through donations and sponsorships.

A note on potential revenue loss: Prove it. Prove it to yourself that your stream is so good that people don’t want to drive a mile or two to watch it in person, and your gate revenue suffers. Road games will be different. (Technically that’s not your gate revenue.) However, you can stream road games to build interest for home games.