SBJ/Aug. 5-11, 2013/Colleges

Fluhr’s Spreecast enters college space with USC

Spreecast, the social video platform started by StubHub founder Jeff Fluhr, has found its entrée into college sports through an arrangement with the University of Southern California.

The Trojans launched their Spreecast partnership last week with a 45-minute video chat with first-year men’s basketball coach Andy Enfield. The chat coincided with the release of USC’s basketball schedule and the start of season-ticket sales.

USC basketball coach Andy Enfield’s Spreecast chat drew more than 8,000 people.
“It went much better than our expectations,” said Jose Eskenazi, USC’s associate athletic director for marketing. “We had more than 8,000 people view it and that’s a pretty big number for us in basketball, especially on a brand-new platform.

“The way I see it, Spreecast is like Skype meets Twitter and they went on a date.”

Spreecast enables viewers to put themselves on camera next to the person being interviewed for a full video experience. Side panels provide space for chats and reaction that run concurrent with the interview.

The video player is compatible with Facebook and Twitter, meaning users of those social platforms can engage with their friends and even embed the video player on different sites — a website, a blog or a Facebook page.

The motivation behind Spreecast came from what Fluhr said was too much text-dominated social media. He wanted a platform that would replace some of the text with video, enabling users to have a face-to-face experience online.

With the platform gaining momentum through partnerships with media outlets like the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal, Spreecast entered the college sports space with the Trojans.

In its first year, Spreecast was mostly a place to find interviews with celebrities, like Reese Witherspoon, who used it as a way to interact with her fans. Studios like Warner Brothers also have used timely interviews to promote movie premieres.

“We definitely think there’s an opportunity in college sports, and maybe a similar opportunity in pro sports,” said Fluhr, who sold StubHub to eBay in 2007 for $310 million. “We’re all about connecting people around common interests, and colleges have displaced fans all over the country. Being able to provide this forum where fans can interact with coaches and players is a big opportunity for us.”

There is not an immediate cash exchange — just the use of the video platform by the Trojans, at first. The school promoted the inaugural chat with Enfield through its social media outlets and email to fans.

But there is a revenue component that will come into play as USC’s Spreecast chats gain a critical-mass audience. The video player provides an opportunity for advertisers to run pre-roll or mid-roll commercials, and the border of the player offers space for display advertising.

For the Trojans’ first chat with Enfield, they used that space to promote basketball ticket sales. But at some point in the future, that space will likely be sold to a sponsor.

Spreecast and USC would share in the revenue from ad sales. Fox Sports is the Trojans’ rights holder for sponsorship sales.

“There is some revenue potential with sponsorship and advertising,” Eskenazi said. “We’ve chosen not to do that yet. We want to keep it as organic as possible. But there could be some sponsor integration at some point.”

Colin Evans, who worked with Fluhr at StubHub and joined him at Spreecast late in 2011, led the talks with Southern Cal and will be looking for other opportunities in the college space. Evans, vice president for business development and content at the San Francisco-based Spreecast, said there’s a bigger play in higher education for the company.

“The entire college space is interesting to us, from athletics to alumni relations, fundraising, development, lots of things on the education side,” Evans said. “Athletics is one piece of a much larger pie.”

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