SBJ/September 3-9, 2012/Colleges

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  • In-stadium network adds screens

    College Gametime Network, the product that builds advertising and other content into live video feeds inside college venues, has added four premium schools — Ohio State, Oregon, Auburn and Mississippi — and now has a client list that reaches 30.

    A Charlotte-based company, 10 Foot Wave, launched College Gametime Network in 2009 as a way to spice up the in-house video feeds that go to screens throughout college football stadiums and basketball arenas.

    The software takes the in-house feed and blends other content, such as lineups, stats and trivia around the perimeter of the screen. It also builds in advertising inventory on the screen that the network shares with the school’s multimedia rights holder.

    College Gametime Nework adds content and ads to video feeds at schools like Arizona.
    Virginia was the first school to jump on board, and Georgia, Wake Forest, Syracuse, Tennessee and South Carolina soon followed. Most of CGN’s clients are schools in the ACC and SEC, but the network is gradually moving west, with the addition of Oregon and, earlier, Arizona, marking important steps.

    Earlier this year, East Carolina and Washington State signed with the network, and Ohio State was among the most recent additions to continue the company’s steady growth. The deal with the Buckeyes provides the network with 500 screens in and around Ohio Stadium, making it the largest property in the network.

    College Gametime Network touts that screens in its football and basketball facilities will reach 17 million fans at 700 football and basketball games in 2012-13.

    “Schools are putting a lot of resources into the fan experience in most stadiums, so our product is a conversation most people are willing to have,” said Shawn Becket, general manager and senior vice president of CGN. “This is an opportunity to generate new revenue from a source that most schools haven’t been monetizing in the past.”

    The ad inventory typically is split between the schools’ rights holders and the network. Whatever CGN sells, it keeps, and likewise for the rights holder.

    Schools are using the inventory to package into their corporate sponsorship deals.

    CGN, on the other hand, sells its inventory on a cost-per-thousand basis, and uses a variety of third parties to help sell the advertising across what is becoming an increasingly national platform.

    Among the third parties that CGN works with are companies that aggregate and sell advertising inventory, both at sporting events and in non-sports environments, like Access Sports Media, Brand Boards (a company co-founded by former Anheuser-Busch marketing executive Tim Schoen) and Vukunet, an NEC company.

    “We’re looking at this as a national network that gives advertisers broad coverage,” Becket said.

    Often, the new ad inventory is not spelled out in the contracts between schools and their rights holders, like an IMG College or Learfield, so there can be uncertainty as to who controls it.

    CGN’s Becket, a former property general manager at Pittsburgh and Baylor, said the rights holder usually has to go back to the school to negotiate the terms for the inventory. Once that’s settled, CGN does its contract directly with the rights holder, although “I think it’s really important to talk to the associate AD in charge of fan engagement as well,” Becket said. “If the school is on board, it usually helps push along the conversation with the rights holder.”

    Each school receives the software and any necessary equipment for free to get CGN integrated into the stadium video feed.

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  • UW aims IPTV at all venues

    The University of Washington has signed landmark deals with Daktronics and Harris Corp. to develop a digital communications network covering about 10 sports facilities at the Pac-12 Conference school.

    The deals are 10-year agreements with a combined value of $17 million, tied to technology upgrades at Husky Stadium and Alaska Airlines Arena, said O.D. Vincent, Washington’s senior associate athletic director. The cost includes $11 million for new Daktronics scoreboards and LED screens at the stadium and arena. In addition, Harris Sports developed a $6 million Internet protocol television network, the tech engine driving exclusive video content to a combined 800 television monitors at both facilities.

    The IPTV system will debut at refurbished Husky Stadium when it reopens for the 2013 season.
    Rendering: COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON
    Together, Daktronics and Harris Sports have the potential to expand their systems to all buildings on campus, although connecting school facilities outside of sports is not yet under consideration, Vincent said.

    The depth of the technology as it relates to the university’s sports venues is thought to be the first of its kind in the college space, said Bob Jordan, the school’s consultant and former vice president of design and construction at MetLife Stadium. Jordan played a principal role for the IPTV installation at the NFL home of the Jets and Giants.

    IPTV systems are common in the major leagues but not so much at colleges. A few college venues such as KFC Yum! Center in Louisville and Florida Atlantic University’s year-old football stadium have IPTV, but none are operating to the extent of what is taking place at Washington.

    “I don’t know of anybody that has done this … to coordinate, integrate, transmit and brand content across an athletic campus from a centralized location,” Jordan said. “It’s on par with any pro facility.”

    The athletic department, with Jordan’s expertise, made a strategic decision to pursue new technology linking the arena and the stadium, which is closed for the 2012 season during a $250 million renovation. The stadium reopens next fall after two years of construction.

    The IPTV system, run by a central control room in the arena, helps power all screens at both the stadium and arena. The arena, with 120 monitors, plus the new center-hung and LED boards, is up and running after officials flipped the switch Aug. 24 for a women’s volleyball match.

    When Husky Stadium’s retrofit is completed, 680 monitors will function as digital menu boards and advertising displays. Similar to big league venues with IPTV, those screens can change concession prices and segment sponsors’ messages, all with the push of a button.

    Over the next several years, the school intends to connect its baseball, softball, soccer, track, tennis, crew and other venues to the network.

    “We wanted to make sure that there was a path for the future set in place to have all the venues at a comparable level,” Jordan said. “Daktronics came up with the idea, and it quickly became part of the package.”

    For tech upgrades at the smaller venues, Daktronics established a reserve fund at Washington where the company will contribute $1.2 million over the next six years to cover the costs for new digital monitors at those facilities, Vincent said.

    The Daktronics/Harris deals should ultimately generate significantly more revenue for the school’s athletic programs as the new technology is pitched to existing and potential sponsors, officials said. Those deals extend to the 12 founding partnerships the school is selling to help finance Husky’s renovation. For the stadium, it is difficult to project the increase in revenue “since it is such a large overhaul from our old building,” Vincent said.

    Washington’s total tech package “puts the university in a different league” compared with other schools, Jordan said. “The paradigm changes for selling and branding different events,” he said. “It changes the way they sell with more precise distribution of their product.”

    For the rest of the Pac-12, the millions every school receives as its cut from the league’s new television networks could be used for similar tech upgrades at their facilities, said Mike Arthur, general manager of Harris Sports & Live Events, the Harris Corp. division that works with teams and venues. In turn, schools can leverage those IPTV installations to develop “compelling” inventory tied to video content at their arenas and stadiums, Arthur said.

    In Seattle, the tech deals also go a long way toward extending the life of Washington’s 92-year-old stadium and 85-year-old arena.

    “We developed a solution to stand the test of time,” Vincent said. “For us, the trick here is to develop a legacy renovation.”

    The cost to install the arena’s new center-hung board and LED screens comes out of the stadium renovation budget. Vincent estimated the school saved about $3 million by consolidating the process and bringing the arena piece of the business into the overall deal.

    “The thought was if we could bundle these systems, it would be more affordable and much more integrated,” Vincent said.

    Washington’s deals show “great creativity and vision,” said consultant Russ Simons, managing partner of Venue Solutions Group in Nashville, a firm that advises sports facilities on renovations.

    “In many cases, just the creation and repair and replacement plan [for scoreboards] is a monumental task,” Simons said. “Recognizing when capital dollars are likely to be spent, a school can look for economies of scale as a variety of projects are being conducted on campus.”

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