We talk a lot about how to produce a successful live stream, but if you’re in college sports, you know it isn’t about just a single stream—it’s about producing and managing five, 10, 15, or sometimes even more, depending on how many athletics you’re live streaming.
For Mike Wells, associate director of athletics at Occidental College in Los Angeles (Oxy), this is familiar territory. He’s been broadcasting live sports at Oxy for six years and now manages the production of more than 10 live streams. He sat down with us briefly to give us the lowdown on how he makes it all work (though he’d be the first to say that, sometimes, it doesn’t all work!).
Athletics Live Streaming For 10+ Sports
How many live streams do you typically have going at once?
For us, event start times are usually staggered. In the spring, we stream baseball, softball, women’s lacrosse, and women’s water polo. In the winter, there’s swimming and basketball. In the fall, there’s volleyball, football, soccer, and men’s water polo. Sometimes, two events happen simultaneously, which we can broadcast on our two channels provided by Stretch, but there are rarely three things going on at once.
How do you ensure that you have the right equipment for a variety of venues?
We have five facilities—two outdoor fields, a stadium, a pool, and a gym. For most outdoor events, our setup is pretty standard and very portable: a tripod, one camera, a MacBook Pro, a mixer, and a headset. We use one camera for most events, but we do have a couple other cameras in case one is needed for another event taking place at the same time. The quality of our cameras varies, so if we have simultaneous streams, I’ll pick and choose cameras appropriately, depending on the type of the event and the venue. The gym, on the other hand, has a remote-operated camera controlled from inside the media room, which I believe is a pretty standard setup.
We try to upgrade equipment occasionally. That’s possible thanks to the monetization of our live stream, which makes some people happy and others unhappy! But the money really helps. At the end of the year, we typically break even with our live streaming costs, which includes our live streaming platform and our student helpers. Sometimes there’s money left over to invest in another laptop or another camera, or to swap out cords, etc. Often we’re just trying to maintain the program, but we do try to upgrade when we can and get a better camera, for instance, to improve our live stream.
What’s your staff like? How many people help out?
We’re like most Division III schools, where you might have one or two sports information directors (SIDs) and maybe a graduate assistant to do the work. (I was previously a SID at Oxy before becoming associate director of athletics.) I also have a lot of excellent volunteer help, and we’ve had great success with interns. The good thing is, our students are smarter than we are. So once you teach them how to do the basics, they usually run with it. Students receive compensation similar to that of a work-study program—for instance, the same as you’d pay a scorekeeper working at a game.
How do you train your volunteers?
As a SID, you have to recruit as much or more than coaches do—at least if you’re doing your job right. I’m always looking for people on campus who have a passion for sports and some type of background in sports. Maybe they play a sport one season and are willing to work in another or played lots of sports in high school but aren’t currently on a team. I find them, start training them, and try to get a feel for how reliable and committed they’ll be as a worker. If I think it’s a good fit, I’ll invest time in them as a person so that they essentially become an extension of myself, because I can only be in one place at a time. The better your students are, the better your chances will be of juggling a number of different responsibilities. Treat them well so they want to stay involved.
What are your primary areas of focus in terms of managing multiple live streams?
Managing staff is the biggest one. In addition to training them, you have to plan in advance to ensure you have the staff to work every event and that everyone knows what they’re doing the day of.
You’re also constantly involved with troubleshooting during any live sports broadcast. You’ll bump into technical issues occasionally, and 90% of them are related to the strength (or lack thereof) of your internet signal. Where you can, I’d advise plugging into ethernet, like we can in our stadium and the gym. But always be prepared for a variety of technical difficulties, and remember—things are bound to go wrong. Don’t let that stop you. Most people are appreciative that you’re making the effort. Live streaming has become the expectation whenever possible. If you can, you should be doing it.
Is your athletics program ready for live streaming?
If you’re ready to either start broadcasting live sports or need help implementing and managing multiple event streaming, we can help.We stream more than 65,000 events every year here at Stretch, many of which are collegiate sports (including all of Oxy’s games!). We’re always happy to talk you through your setup or give honest advice about equipment, processes, or anything else related to your athletics live streaming efforts. We’ve got your back!