The NFHS Network has not only helped fans watch their favorite high school teams this fall, but it has also brought over $25 million back to athletic departments who are missing out on traditional ticket sales in 2020.
Days of grabbing a seat in a crowded bleacher section for a high school football game certainly feel long gone in 2020. But school athletic departments have learned to adjust in the wake of COVID to ensure student-athletes can compete during what has been a modified fall season.
And it is a group of Atlanta-based entrepreneurs who are making sure fans can still safely watch their favorite high school teams from the comfort of their own home.
In partnership with Atlanta-based PlayOn! Sports, over 44 high school state athletic clubs have started using the NFHS Network to help fans and families keep up with their favorite teams despite stadium restrictions.
With a monthly or yearly-subscription, fans can use the NFHS Network to keep up with their favorite schools in everything from baseball to wrestling. Games and matches can be watched “anytime, anywhere” through smartphones, computers, or connected devices.
PlayOn! Sports’ CEO David Rudolph, an Atlanta-based entrepreneur and Georgia Tech alum, has worked to ensure high school athletes still have a virtual cheering squad during this unprecedented sports season. But the NFHS Network has also helped athletic departments, which rely heavily on ticket sales, to stay afloat this year.
In fact, NFHS Network’s revenue-sharing model has distributed $25 million back into US schools, and their platform has garnered over 1.1 million live views in the first two months of the school year.
“Our ability to live stream athletics enables us to play a key role in fan viewership while returning an important revenue stream to schools. The program reflects our ongoing commitment to helping our partner state associations and schools manage through these challenging times.” Mark Koski, vice president of the NFHS Network.
While ensuring that schools bring in revenue during the uncertainty of 2020, live streaming has also brought some other unintended positive benefits for athletic programs and high school players across the country.
While avid football fans are joining the platform to capture that ‘Friday Night Light’ feeling, streaming has helped bring attention to sports that are often overlooked at the high school level.
“We have limited capacity in our stadium due to the pandemic, so this year more than ever there’s been a lot of anticipation about livestreaming our current football season over the NFHS Network. We’ve just begun our football season, but what we’ve especially noticed is that some of our minor sports which started their seasons earlier—JV and varsity volleyball and softball—have been very popular with viewers,” said Josh Matthews, athletic director at Pope High School in Marietta, Georgia. “We only have good things to say about our partnership with the NFHS Network and are appreciative of its leadership in livestreaming high school sporting events.”
Since July, the NFHS Network has provided over 4,000 free video production units (Pixellot) to schools to ensure quality livestream feeds are available at no additional cost to schools. The NFHS Network has allocated $200 million in capital to ensure all schools have the production equipment needed for any upcoming live streams.
High school sports have changed a lot since Hypepotamus talked with PlayOn! sports last December following their Series B round announcement. But it is clear that Atlanta is leading the way in bringing fans and student-athletes together in a safe way this year.