Saturday, July 14, 2012

Livestreaming Worlds Part II

So everyone always knew that livestreaming over the internet was the way it was going to work for ultimate. Kerr and I knew it in 1999 and we couldn't have been the only ones. So why did it take so long? Bandwidth? Audience? Money?

None of the above. It was initiative, or the lack of initiative.

I think having a live software-based switching program was also key. Back in 1999 you needed a Tricaster. In 2004 I think they had a sat truck. At the 2010 College Championships in Wisconsin I saw that CBS Sports (which bought CSTV and eventually re-teamed with ultimate after a hiatus) had a suitcase switcher program that was half-hardware and half-software.

In 2010 I was one of the announcers for the World Club Championships in Prague. The Czech internet company that did the live broadcast for the finals used a sat truck with an experienced director calling out the camera feed switches and instant replays.

And they did it quite well and the broadcast was really the first professional-looking live internet broadcast I had witnessed. How was it that the tiny Czech Republic had the capabilities, know-how and resources to do this and back home in ultra-wealthy USA we had nothing?

Nationals coverage that year was disappointing as it had been for awhile. UltiVillage, god bless 'em, was livestreaming miserably with inexperienced camera operators, cheap cameras, disappointing commentators and really just a boring broadcast overall. I don't want to demean UltiVillage -- they filled a need for a number of years and did it extremely fast and inexpensive which was all the UPA and its members seemed willing to pay for.

But finally last year sometime good ol' American initiative buoyed by capitalism kicked in and the ever-fervent Pacific NorthWest produced a unique product: a tour of top college players called NexGen that was flashy, well-produced, well-organized, high-quality and came with video. And it wasn't cheap video -- it was good.

And amen the people rejoiced.

And NexGen succeeded that summer and that fall did the live broadcast for the USAU Club Championships. And again the people rejoiced.

So what finally did the trick? I think it was the initiative by NexGen founder Kevin Minderhout. But then again there was also a significant investment someone made... NexGen couldn't support itself nor could the high-quality broadcasts, web design, graphics and so forth appear for free. I don't know for sure but someone put up some real money to make NexGen work and that investment was a wise one.

NexGen is making a name for itself as a premier ultimate broadcasting netwok. Watching the broadcasts of USAU Club Championships last year was great (disclosure: I was initially invited to join the announcing/commentating team but it didn't quite work out).

Watching coverage from Japan tonight has been rather pleasant. But now we get to the next step in NexGen: doing it better.

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