When it comes to competitive sports—especially when the players are kids—parents and family are everything. They are the financial and emotional support system, the transportation, the cheering section. But sometimes, a parent or family member may not be able to make it to the game and may miss seeing their child, grandchild, or sibling compete.
Now, though, there’s an easy way for relatives and friends to be “at” every game. “We like to say that with WatchmeSports, every computer is a front-row seat to your loved one’s games,” says Travis Hopkins.
Hopkins is the vice president of WatchmeSports, which he modestly says is an Internet service provider. But the fact is, it’s much more than that. In a sports landscape where it’s all about winning and losing—where one team or individual ends up holding the big trophy and where vanquished opponents, while better for the effort, still go home with the runner-up prize—WatchmeSports has come up with something that makes everyone a winner: the athletes themselves; parents, families and friends – and the sports venues.
The formula actually is simple: WatchmeSports provides facilities and organizers of all types of sporting events (along with plays, dance recitals, etc.), with the ability to live stream multiple fields, courts, and venues to the Internet. And, while the broadcasts are live, the events also are archived, so they can be watched (and re-watched) any time it’s convenient for the viewer.
So not only do the athletes get to be seen by a wider audience (in fact, a potential worldwide audience), but also family and friends who can’t be onsite can still see all the action as it happens, and can even go back and see the archived footage at their convenience.
And for sports venues or organizers? They charge a nominal fee to each user to view the webcasts of these tournaments.
With tournaments and events of a certain size, as long as there is proper bandwidth available, WatchmeSports will provide free training, support, help with financing equipment and more.
“We’re essentially a very low-cost broadcast network and it’s virtually risk-free for most facilities or organizations,” Hopkins says. “Their revenues will more than pay for their equipment and other costs. With our financing program, all the risk is on us—with certain facilities, we can get them up and streaming almost immediately for no upfront costs. We tell sports organizers and facilities this will pay for itself, and we mean it.”
How does WatchmeSports work? “We’ll go to a facility and install the equipment,” Hopkins says. “Our weatherproof cameras can handle anything.” The cameras are mounted to cover the best angles for all types of fields and sports events.
“Ideally, we look to partner with bigger facilities that host events and tournaments year after year. We train their staff on how to use the software, then it’s all them,” he says. “They operate it, they can make their streams as simple or as high-tech as they want: They can simply let the cameras stream from fixed locations, or they can zoom in to get more intimate shots, manage different camera feeds, announce names, etc. The broadcast can be as simple as they want, or they can make it like an ESPN-type of broadcast. We have some great examples of all types of broadcasts on our website, www.WatchmeSports.com.”
The live broadcasts are made possible through a unique relationship between WatchmeSports.com and independent producers that are physically at the events controlling the footage. (In fact, the producers can be facility staff members themselves.) The producer’s film moves through WatchmeSports’s software, then to the company’s server space in Fort Worth, Texas, and finally to the event’s website—a process that takes less than 45 seconds.
The production software provides anyone willing to take advantage of the free training with all the tools needed to execute a professional TV production. This includes instant replay, zoom in/zoom out, multiple sources for cameras, graphics, etc. With one demonstration and one first-hand broadcast under the supervision of WatchmeSports’s veteran production team, anyone with a video camera, computer and access to broadband Internet is ready to be a producer. For those who already invest so much time in these events, it’s an exciting way to participate and generate an income at the same time.
The video goes out to consumers through the WatchmeSports servers. The company also provides a free embedded media player so there can be live feeds on the facility’s own website, so viewers just go to the facility’s website to watch the events. The facility or organization gains web traffic because parents, friends and family are going right to their own website to see the kids playing. “We want viewers to feel like they’re right there at the facility itself enjoying the game like they’re sitting in the stands,” Hopkins says.
Webcast for Every Sport
Some of the events and venues that WatchmeSports have broadcast recently include baseball tournaments at The Ripken Experience, at both the Aberdeen, Md., and Myrtle Beach, S.C., locations. In fact, including the Ripken events, this past summer WatchmeSports supported six large baseball facilities, with live streams of 2,500 games per weekend —and that barely scratches the surface of WatchmeSports’ capabilities. “The volume of content this system is capable of putting out there is phenomenal,” Hopkins notes.
In addition to baseball and softball, WatchmeSports has worked with USA Boxing, USA Karate, USA Badminton and the National Barrel Horse Association producers to bring events to consumers via the web. “USA Boxing has been a terrific partner,” Hopkins says. “We do all the national events for them, including the National Championships, Junior Olympic Trials, etc.”
The company has also broadcast fencing and soccer, among other events. “The variety is amazing,” Hopkins says. “We just finished a basketball solution, including a unique panoramic view, covering the entire court, so we’re really excited to jump even more heavily into basketball. And volleyball will go right along with that.”
The WatchmeSports service actually was started by John Howell of Fort Worth, who was involved as a hobby in rodeos and racing horses. In 2003, Howell developed software for managing and producing barrel races for rodeo events. He soon realized, though, that families are more decentralized than ever before, and often it wasn’t possible for family members to be at sporting events, including when his own daughter was playing basketball out of state. So, as Internet bandwidth became more prevalent and digital cameras became better, he plugged into what he had already built to broadcast live on the Internet.
Now, the collaboration of services and content offered by WatchmeSports gives both producers and communities a unique and powerful tool capable of monetizing any tournament or community event.
“What we do truly benefits all parties involved,” Hopkins says. “It’s economically viable for everyone. Parents can enjoy both live and archived feeds, and they can hold onto their child’s highlights forever. They can even fast-forward and bookmark a highlight clip. In fact, parents use the videos that they can download from our broadcasts to send to scouts or to college athletic directors. Sports facilities and organizations, and communities can make money every time a tournament comes to their venue by offering to broadcast their event. And the athletes and teams themselves benefit from the much-deserved attention they receive.”
To find out more about how WatchmeSports can benefit your facility or community, while providing a valuable service to consumers who want to follow their favorite young athletes, visit www.WatchmeSports.com.
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