On Thurs, April 6, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) made a full commitment to the digital age when they partnered with Stretch Internet, which will become the conference’s exclusive digital network provider, starting with the 2017-2018 academic year.
The contract will tentatively run through the 2020-2021 school year.
“We are very excited about our partnership with Stretch and our movement into webstreaming of our events,” said PSAC Commissioner Steve Murray at a press conference on Thursday.
The streaming service will offer 1080p HD streaming for all PSAC schools. All schools will be required to stream men’s and women’s basketball starting next year, and expand to volleyball and football for the 2018-2019 academic year. The goal is that all PSAC schools will stream all sports sometime in the near future.
While the entire PSAC will be affected by the streaming platform, it was a long process for one of Slippery Rock’s own during the developmental process of the platform. Slippery Rock University’s athletic communication director Jon Holtz was an integral part of the process.
“This was about a two-year process for the PSAC,” said Holtz, who then went on to talk about the makeup of who worked on the platform. “There was a committee of a couple sports information directors, a couple ADs (athletic directors) and a couple university vice presidents; there were nine people on the committee, and I was the SRU representative on the programming committee.”
Holtz talked about his involvement in the process and how the platform came about.
“So I was intricately involved in the process over the past few years. We put together a 20-page blueprint of how the network should be laid out. It was good, it was probably overdue to get on board and to get some of the schools that aren’t streaming yet into streaming. It should pay off two or three years down the road.”
While the streaming service will be helpful for other PSAC schools, Holtz explained that SRU is already well ahead of the minimum requirements for the service.
“It won’t change anything that we do. We are already streaming all the sports that will be required for the next four years. Anything that is in a facility with a hard-line connection, we are already streaming. It won’t change that.”
A free streaming service for all PSAC fans sounds like a huge convenience, but Holtz explained some of the difficulties him and his staff will face with the new platform.
“The biggest challenge for us will be deciding whether we want to keep delivering the quality and content we have been delivering in the same way through our website or if we want to exclusively use the new PSAC website, which would be pushing fans off our website to a different provider,” said Holtz on the intricacies of the platform. “There are perks to keeping things the same, but it will cost us a little bit more money, as we will have to keep our same system but also send stuff to the PSAC service.”
The biggest impact will be felt by the fans of PSAC schools, who will soon have unlimited access to all their school’s teams.
“It will be good for some of the other schools that aren’t streaming yet,” said Holtz. “This will be the kick for them to start streaming. It will be nice to jumpstart some schools that haven’t been doing it.”
One of the most intriguing points of the digital network is the potential for advanced features during live streams, such as highlights and live stats.
“All of the features are dependent upon the people running the broadcasts,” explained Holtz on the difference fans will experience depending on the school.
“You will see a vast difference between people who want to go all-in and make a serious effort and the people that are just trying to meet the minimum requirements. It takes a couple bodies running the software on the back end.”
Holtz also explained how those features will not magically happen in conjunction with the new service. “In order to be able to produce those highlights, someone has to manually clip them and upload them on the platform. There is a place to display them, but how many schools display them will dependent upon the staff who will do those things.”
Both Holtz and commissioner Murray talked about how this could be a stepping stone to something much larger, with Murray stating that the platform “is just the beginning of designing and building a platform that truly provides PSAC institutions with an unrivaled fan experience on many levels.” In his Press conference last Thursday.
Holtz added to that sentiment, talking about the future of streaming sports. “I do think this trend is going to continue until we have an open-source streaming platform that holds everything.”
Slippery Rock already streams the majority of its sports, but all other PSAC schools will start on the streaming service next fall with men’s and women’s basketball.