With approximately 2.5 million high school sporting events hosted around the country every year, and more than 8 million American student-athletes, the potential revenue from live streaming of high school sports is estimated by PlayOn! Sports at $2 billion annually.
Atlanta-based PlayOn! Sports has already tapped into this emerging market, charging $9.95 a month for viewers to access high school sports online. The company intends to launch a digital ticketing system this fall, making it possible to collect valuable data about the fan base for athletic brands and other advertisers.
Zach Leonsis, GM of Monumental Sports Network, told Fortune.com, “High school has always been this untapped giant,” especially since live streaming an event is significantly less expensive than going the traditional television production route, and the recent surge in online viewing makes the venture more than profitable.
According to Leonsis, shooting a game to stream online with 1 to 3 cameras runs up a bill of about $2,000, as opposed to a television production’s budget of hundreds of thousands.
The challenge, though, for digital media companies looking to make a profit, is reaching what Fortune.com calls “critical mass viewership,” as the fan base for high school sports is highly fragmented and firms often have to sign a license agreement for media rights to each individual school.
Kyle McDoniel, head of Yahoo’s college sports recruiting digital platform Rivals.com, told Fortune.com, “It's such a hyper local endeavor that it is really difficult to build a business.”
The good news for digital media companies is, if they are compensating a local school for streaming rights, it is likely only a few thousand dollars, or a small portion of their revenue.
Other digital media companies looking to get into the game of online high school event streaming are Monumental Sports Network, Pluto TV and Time Warner Inc.’s Bleacher Report.