Finally sports is back but many leagues are not allowing fans at all and others have very limited access leaving those who want to watch or follow their favorite teams, or kids or family members up to some kind of live video stream. The Eli Sports Network is an affiliate of the NFHS (National Federation of High Schools) and we live stream, most times with announcers games from all around the Puget Sound area and now into Central and Eastern Washington. We cover games for more than 30 schools and try to get to as many games as possible.
However, with the limited or no access schools are scrambling to stream not only varsity games but also JV and C-Team games. Some schools have in-school video classes handling the chores, others are streaming on social media platforms and others have had Pixellot automated cameras in their gyms and Stadiums. The Pixellot cameras (security camera style video stream) are also part of the NFHS network. There is a subscription fee for the NFHS network which is $10.95 for 30-days or $69.95 for a full year. The subscription gives you access to the entire network and is not a pay-per-view. There is another subscription service at least one league is using and that is either an $8 per game pay-per-view or the school must pay a healthy price to allow free viewership.
There has been a lot of confusion with the different options and what Eli Sports does compared to the pixellot camera units. The following is a question and answer format about how ESN and the NFHS operate.
Q: What is the NFHS and Eli Sports?
A: The NFHS is the National Federation of High Schools, a non-profit based in Indianapolis. The NFHS Network is just one of the platforms the NFHS has created to further the coverage of High School sports. They merged with a private company, Play-On Sports who began the streaming business more than 10-years ago. The came together as one large network and are in most if not all 50 states and focus primarily on streaming the Post Season games. The NFHS Network would be compared to a National Television Network like NBC.
Eli Sports, well we began as an audio streaming only free broadcast with a website where we post stories and more. Since then we were asked to join the NFHS as an affiliate so we are like KING TV in Seattle. KING is the NBC affiliate in Western Washington and ESN is the Washington affiliate for the NFHS.
Q: What is an Eli Sports Network Broadcast?
A: ESN does a live person broadcast, many times we send crews of at least 2 up to 4 but this year with the restrictions in place we are sending only 1 person with each broadcast with a few exceptions. The ESN broadcast looks more like a real broadcast you would see on television with live announcers, advertisements, music videos play prior to beginning the pre-game show. We at times have recorded interviews with coaches and players we include in the pre-game shows as well. People who can’t sit and watch and may be at work or driving can tune in because we do a radio style broadcast understanding that not everyone can sit there and watch the entire game. We give regular scoring and time updates along with having a score strip on screen.
We generally have stats, halftime shows and analysis and a post game wrap-up with final stats and of course our players-of-the-game, one for each side. There is also social media and some post game interviews with players and coaches on Twitter and some follow up stories we put on our website.
Our advantages are we only need access to power, a dry area and enough wifi to upload a live video stream so we can be at all the games in the stadiums and gyms but we can also cover baseball, fastpitch, swimming, heck we have even done girls bowling, golf, tennis and cross country and we are working to again include those sports. We have live announcers who bring an excitement to the game, we focus on being positive and on the kids playing in a very unbiased approach.
Disadvantages are we MUST have power and wifi and there are other issues that arise and interrupt or keep us from being able to get a game broadcast on. But those issues are becoming fewer and fewer with better internet, especially unlimited data plans where schools can allow us on their wifi because the issue of gifting is no longer an issue with unlimited data plans that every school now has to serve their own student body.
Other disadvantages are very human issues such as we don’t have enough people available every night to cover all the games we could, our people could have car trouble or have to unexpectedly work late or they get sick. But we believe the excitement we bring with the human element is unmatched and a big bonus to the live broadcasts.
Q: What is a Pixellot camera and broadcast?
A: The Pixellot is an automated, motion-censored camera unit that is installed in football stadiums and gyms. Once the stream is activated it does not stop. There are no commercials and although there can be live announcing most schools do not have people to do the announcing. Some may have a crowd mic where you could hear a P-A announcer or background noise or it will be silent. We call it security camera TV.
We support our partner schools in obtaining these units because we cannot be at all games, in fact we are at a very small percent in the long run. For example, last year we live broadcast more than 400 basketball games but there were about 15,000 high school games played last year including Varsity down through Freshmen.
The advantages are as long as the game is entered properly they are never late and can be counted on for all games from Freshmen to Varsity. AD’s don’t have to find anyone to run the camera’s it is all automated and hands free.
Q: What do I get for my $10.95 Monthly or $69.95 Annual subscription to the NFHS?
A: In a word, Access. You get access to the entire network. You can watch live any game under the NFHS umbrella in any state. So, YES! Your subscription gives you access to all ESN broadcasts and when your team is at a facility with a Pixellot camera you get access to those games too! If you have a niece or nephew in another state and it’s being shown you can watch. All games are also recorded and saved in the on-demand section of the each NFHS affiliate page. On the Eli Sports page all the games we produced are stored in the on-demand category that you can go back and watch at any time.
More than one device can sign on to use your subscription HOWEVER!!, only one can view at a time. We get several complaints about people losing their feed or it buffers unending and that most times is because there is more than one device on a single subscription.
Q: Why do I lose signal or it buffers or I get that spinning thingy in the middle of my screen or I can barely see anything?
A: There are several layers to this question so lets attack it one at a time. First, streaming video is a two sided relationship. On our side we must have enough wifi to upload and stream live video. This takes more than downloading so sometimes we lose our wifi strength and it drops off. We can see on our end when we may begin to run into trouble and wifi can be impacted by several issues from wind and rain to the number of people on the same wireless to the building itself. We know for the most part where we can stream from but sometimes we try to go to new places, especially where we think there should be a strong wifi signal and sometimes we are surprised.
The next issue is on your end. You must have enough download speed to stream video. If you have Netflix or Hulu, or had it but got rid of it because it was buffering or spinning all the time well then you are not going to be able to stream us either. Video is video. The other issue is again remember you can only have one device on a subscription at a time. If you are watching and you shared your subscription information with Grandma and Grandpa and they log on to then you are going to lose your connection. When you log back in then they will lose theirs and so on.
The cloudy picture issue is an issue with the pixellot cameras and seem to be exclusively the outdoor cameras where the they are exposed to the elements. It appears condensation builds but over time it also appears to clear up but there have been several reports early on of tough to see pictures from the automated cameras. We understand the frustration but that is not an ESN issue. Our issue is when we forget to take down a big screen scorecard and you can’t see past it or mix up rosters and call the wrong names for each team. (Not that has ever happened…ahem…). I don’t know what to advise on the cloudy picture issue other than we hope they clear up quickly if it is an issue for a game you want to watch.
Q: How does ESN make money and where does the Subscription go?
A: Eli Sports does sell advertising and that is where we make most of our money. We do get a piece of the subscription and so do our partner schools. Between the two of us we get about 40% of the subscription. The rest goes to the NFHS. The NFHS has invested about 30-million dollars into their platform and although there are issues at times it is the most effective and best platform we have worked with. It is not perfect but nothing is. They do keep working at it as well trying to make it better and over the years if you go back and look at some of the early broadcasts you can see quite a difference.
Our piece of the subscription goes to paying our guys and frankly, buying equipment. We have more than 80 people who have done or do games for us from 1 or 2 a month to 5 or 6 a week. They get paid $25 per game plus bonuses. Last year we had done more than 800 broadcasts and averaged a 2 person crew. Out of the $65,000 we collected in subscription revenue we paid out more than $50,000 and the rest went to equipment purchasing and other bills such as office rental, wifi and phones, utilities and such. We have one full time person whose salary was less than $35,000. We do this because we love it and we love sharing the story of kids each and every year. We do not get rich doing this, far from it and we are not complaining.
Schools also get a share of the games we cover when they are the home team. Last year about $20,000 was distributed back to 34 schools and 2 Districts. It is not a lot in the grand scheme but it is something and beginning to add up and helping pay for something. We expect this year’s revenue to make a significant jump for the schools.
Q: If I am not satisfied can I get my money back and cancellations?
A: The answer is yes. You can contact support and tell them there was an issue with a game you wanted to see and would like your money back. However, remember if you cancel you will not have any access to further games. If this is a one time game you are wanting to watch it makes sense to get a refund but if there are more games that are likely to be streamed with no issues then you may want to think about whether or not you want to get a refund and end your subscription.
Additionally, you can cancel your subscription at any time. You will get what you paid for but it will cancel when that time period is up. For example, if you have a monthly subscription which is 30-days and you cancel with 10-days still on your subscription you get those 10 days then it cuts off. If you get an annual and cancel after one month you will get the next 11 months and then cut off on your re-newel date. There is no long-term contract, you are in control.
Q: Does ESN work with the Pixellot Cameras?
A: No. We don’t have anything to do with the Pixellot cameras they are owned by the schools where they are installed. You can pretty much tell a Pixellot broadcast because the picture is from higher up and generally there are no announcers. Most of our broadcasts have announcers, not all, some are video only and this year with 1 person crews some of our announcing is pretty limited even more of a P-A style in some cases. It is not our favorite way to do games but this year we need to be part of the solution and limit the number of people we send to the games and make sure the picture is the top priority and then do our best announcing.
Q: If there is an issue during or after a game who do we contact?
A: If it is an issue with one of our broadcasts we encourage you to go to our Twitter, find us at Youresn, and direct message or tweet at us and say “hey I am having an issue” and tell us what it is. Sometimes everything looks good on our end and we don’t know there is an issue, this happened the other night and one viewer pointed it out to us, I got on the phone to Atlanta and it was a Network issue that we would have had no idea of if a viewer didn’t reach out. So, yes your input is very important and if it is not on our end and we can help you identify what could be wrong on your end sometimes we can help there too.
Additionally, we also love to hear from you if we are pronouncing a name incorrectly, if you can write us a note with a pronunciation included we are happy to get it right.
If it is a Pixellot broadcast, ESN folks simply cannot help you. The best course is to contact NFHS support (https://www.nfhsnetwork.com/customer-support) and you will be asked to submit a ticket but I can say they are very good at getting back with you. If you send your issue to your AD they will likely have to go through the same process.
We hope this may help you understand the system better and maybe point you in the right direction when you have issues. You can also write me directly and please be adult, anyone coming at me yelling and screaming well I will pass on helping you. No one in this entire process is trying to make you have a bad experience or trying to single you out. We are happy to help try and solve an issue and we also get frustrated when we believe we are doing everything right and many times we are but there is something out of our control.
As frustrating as it is for you on your side of this process not to be able to see what is going on, it is as equally or more frustrating for our folks who are there to relay that information with no way to do it. We want to be calling a game describing what a great play your child just made and be as excited for them as you are, that’s what we want and love to do. So if there is a breakdown somewhere we too are disappointed but we will work to figure it out and learn from it and get better from it.
We can’t wait to go back to being a safety net for folks who truly can’t be at the games but in the meantime we are working as hard as we can so you don’t miss a minute of your loved ones games. Thank you all for the tremendous support so many of you have given ESN over the years and we promise to do everything we can to bring you the best possible coverage we can at all times.
Drop me a note anytime: firstname.lastname@example.org