Queen’s Athletics will webcast home games online for the first time this Saturday — but it won’t use the network that other schools use.
Twelve of the 19 schools in the OUA and 19 of the 52 schools in the CIS use Streaming Sports Network Canada. Those schools produce their own video and send a feed to SSN, who broadcasts it online.
SSN charges $95 a year for streaming only. Schools can pay an optional annual fee of $500 for technical support as well.
This week, Athletics signed a 20-game, $4,000 contract with Queen’s TV to film and stream home games. Athletics marketing manager Lana Unsworth said QTV was chosen because of previous videos produced for Athletics and because it’s a local service.
“They’re right on campus ... they’ve been great to work with in the past,” she said. “It’s all to build up to our [CIS] volleyball tournament.”
Queen’s will host the 2012 CIS men’s volleyball championship from March 2 to 4. Webcasting is one of the main criteria for hosting a CIS championship.
QTV will broadcast the men’s and women’s volleyball games against the McMaster Marauders this Saturday. Unsworth said QTV will cover basketball and volleyball games leading up to the championship.
“We’ve picked several games between now and March to webcast so that by the time the tournament comes, we’re well-versed and ready to go,” she said.
Unsworth, who started her position last spring, said she hasn’t spoken with SSN and couldn’t comment on previous discussions between Athletics and streaming companies.
Bengt Neathery is the president of iSi Global Webcasting, the company that owns SSN. He said it would be unnecessary and a missed opportunity for Queen’s to try to webcast home games independently.
“A school can’t market the way we can,” he said. “The audience is already used to coming to us.”
Neathery said SSN has a deal with the CIS that SSN broadcasts all CIS championships, adding that the network recorded 20,000 viewers for the men’s soccer championship from Nov. 10 to Nov. 13.
“The month of October is in around 570,000 impressions,” Neathery said. “Last March [CIS championship season], we were over a million.”
The appearance of an advertisement on a user’s screen counts as an impression.
“The only way to [succeed], from an advertising perspective, is to get critical mass,” he said.
“The only way you’re going to get critical mass is if you’re going to put out at least 20,000 to 100,000 viewers a month. We have  universities on the network and we’re at between 500,000 and over one million impressions a month.
“Now, we’re starting to get a sniff from the advertisers,” he said, adding that both the men’s and women’s soccer CIS championships last weekend were sponsored by Umbro.
Neathery has a specific vision for SSN in five years.
“I see every home and away game being played,” he said. “I see every school on.”
Neathery mentioned technical issues as reasons why Queen’s should join SSN.
“[Queen’s] can’t buy the bandwidth for what we’re offering it to the schools for,” he said. “How are they planning to sustain a thousand concurrent viewers? … Someone calls you and says ‘I can’t hear it,’ stuff like that. That’s where our value is.”
Cost would also be an issue for a school trying to webcast independently, Neathery said.
“This is just not a big enough country for each school to go it alone,” he said. “If they’re planning on doing it anyways, then send it to us. There’s no extra cost.”
QTV executive producer Eugene Michasiw said he doesn’t see how Athletics would benefit from partnering with SSN.
“Basically, [SSN collects] a fee to stream all the content,” he said. “They’re able to advertise on that.”
Michasiw said he’s excited to broadcast live games.
“We’re a small student operation. We don’t have the resources to go out and buy this technology, so it was [Athletics’] support that put us in there,” he said. “They’ve been looking at competitors who were going to charge them basically $1,000 a game.”
Michasiw said the equipment QTV needed for live game webcasts cost about $16,000, but that QTV only paid about $14,000 after educational discounts. He said QTV was able to afford that through its contract with Athletics and other revenue sources this year.
“I worked with the service last year and I knew the financial side,” he said. “I didn’t think this would be anywhere near what we would be doing.”
Michasiw said he expects 50 to 100 people to be watching Saturday’s games at any given time, and 300 to 400 total viewers over the course of the event.