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Does streaming hurt ticket sales?


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From WPBK-FM Radio Station on Facebook:

“Streaming Hurts Ticket Sales”

By Jonathan Smith

We hear this a lot from school officials who are concerned that a video stream will negatively affect the host schools’ funds. I actually dealt with this argument for radio, too, in the 1990s from a Louisville high school athletic director who required us to pay a fee to cover a football game on WRSL. Thankfully, the rest of the state understands the importance of small town radio coverage.

Now, we are dealing with an uneven acceptance of live video coverage by host schools. While the KHSAA controls postseason events, host schools control regular season games, and the access we can offer the public is controlled by them.

We know very well that ticket sales are important to cover game day expenses, like referees, and we understand that ticket sales from football and basketball games help to underwrite the other sports that have games/meets/matches that are not as well attended.

There are actually two questions (1) does video streaming reduce ticket sales, and (2) should interested people be able to see games they cannot attend? My answers are no to the first, and yes to the second. My reasoning follows.

For Exhibit A in answer to question 1, I offer last week’s PBK Bank/WPBK-FM Death Valley Bowl. The stadium was jam-packed with about 4,000 people, another 1,755 listened to the WPBK-FM radio app, an unmeasurable number listened over the air, and over 2,000 watched the WPBK-FM YouTube simulcast. Where would another 2,000 people have sat?

Exhibit B is the “shot heard round the state”, Brad Smith’s excellent radio call of Lincoln County’s regional basketball game winner last March. Did that media coverage hurt tickets sales or help it at Lincoln County and for the teams/venues hosting them? Media coverage done right helps extend the brand and broaden the base for athletic programs. It creates interest and spurs product demand.

I’m proud to say that we have ALWAYS been a positive and professional media partner to the athletic programs we cover. It’s not a one-way street, it is a win-win, with us providing a professional service to the community, which, In turn, helps promote the athletes and teams. I’ll go as far as to say that our “shot heard round the state” coverage actually helped sell tickets at both Rupp Arena for the Sweet Sixteen and at LCHS for last week’s Death Valley Bowl.

Lincoln county’s gym can safely and legally hold about 3,000 people when configured for basketball. During the post-season run last year, we “broke the internet” with people logging on for our coverage. We had to increase our third-party streaming account size and provide a secondary audio-only Youtube feed to accommodate all the interest. There was A LOT more interest than the gym at LCHS (or similar sized 12th Region site Pulaski County) could hold.

That brings me to the second question, should interested people be able to see games they cannot attend? Of course they should. Every resident of Lincoln County is a stakeholder in the public school system. Their tax dollars support the schools, their children attend the schools, and the quality of the schools affect their property values. All 25,000 residents of Lincoln County should be able to follow the districts’ athletic teams. There is no school venue, indoor or outdoor, that can seat 25,000 people. Our media coverage allows the overflow to see and hear the games.

At the end of the day, not a single person who wants to see the game in person would trade that experience for our rudimentary video coverage because of a $6 ticket. However, many people will watch our coverage and decide they would like to see a game in person and then later buy a $6 ticket. And those people who can’t attend, like the elderly, the infirm, those out of town, and those at work during the game, they deserve the opportunity to see and hear their team in action.

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Mr. Smith makes some valid points, as he typically does. If anyone is familiar with local radio and streaming in Kentucky, he's the one. I do think, too, that the huge attendance numbers at Lincoln County last week was something of a perfect storm: four local teams (Lincoln, Garrard, Danville, Somerset), two teams with new coaches, and terrific weather for opening night. That said, exposing people to different avenues for watching their old school, relatives, kids of friends, etc. makes perfect sense. Schools trying to limit (or outright deny) streaming of games might think they're winning the battle but they are losing the war.

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24 minutes ago, gchs_uk9 said:

Mr. Smith makes some valid points, as he typically does. If anyone is familiar with local radio and streaming in Kentucky, he's the one. I do think, too, that the huge attendance numbers at Lincoln County last week was something of a perfect storm: four local teams (Lincoln, Garrard, Danville, Somerset), two teams with new coaches, and terrific weather for opening night. That said, exposing people to different avenues for watching their old school, relatives, kids of friends, etc. makes perfect sense. Schools trying to limit (or outright deny) streaming of games might think they're winning the battle but they are losing the war.

Agree!

On the main question, in my opinion it almost has to hurt ticket sales so I disagree on that point with the very eloquent Mr. Smith. 

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It does hurt ticket sales but I think the difference is negligible.  I personally know 3 or 4 older guys that will now watch online instead of attending when the weather isn't looking great or the competition isn't that great.  As with anything the most important sale is incremental sales.  Sales you wouldn't get normally.  The loss of sales will be very small.  Those that want to watch will. 

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What does hurt ticket sales, in my opinion, is the online ticket platform. I think there are people who do not like downloading apps, putting in their card number, and paying a 2 dollar processing fee.

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Just now, PP1 said:

What does hurt ticket sales, in my opinion, is the online ticket platform. I think there are people who do not like downloading apps, putting in their card number, and paying a 2 dollar processing fee.

Anytime I can't use cash it hurts sales. 

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It might hurt paid attendance some, but that isn't seeing the bigger picture IMO.  Streaming companies (radio stations, websites, etc.) are wanting to use your free product (the game) to generate revenue for their privately owned companies by selling ads and then not compensating struggling high school athletic departments for said free product.  I know it's not big time college football or the NFL, but the bills must be paid none the less.  No radio/internet/tv broadcast is going anywhere near a college football and especially an NFL stadium for free and broadcasting the game while selling ads.  Shouldn't happen at the high school level either.

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1 hour ago, BillNye said:

It might hurt paid attendance some, but that isn't seeing the bigger picture IMO.  Streaming companies (radio stations, websites, etc.) are wanting to use your free product (the game) to generate revenue for their privately owned companies by selling ads and then not compensating struggling high school athletic departments for said free product.  I know it's not big time college football or the NFL, but the bills must be paid none the less.  No radio/internet/tv broadcast is going anywhere near a college football and especially an NFL stadium for free and broadcasting the game while selling ads.  Shouldn't happen at the high school level either.

I think your logic is mostly solid but the only problem is many/most outlets that stream high school games lose money. 

I beat this drum a lot, but there is almost no money in covering high school sports and with that in mind I think allowing the streams is the right thing to do.  

Additionally, the "free product" you speak of does not belong to the schools, it belongs to the people paid for by their tax dollars.  The same people that should be able to view the games at home like Mr. Smith pointed out.

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1 hour ago, BillNye said:

It might hurt paid attendance some, but that isn't seeing the bigger picture IMO.  Streaming companies (radio stations, websites, etc.) are wanting to use your free product (the game) to generate revenue for their privately owned companies by selling ads and then not compensating struggling high school athletic departments for said free product.  I know it's not big time college football or the NFL, but the bills must be paid none the less.  No radio/internet/tv broadcast is going anywhere near a college football and especially an NFL stadium for free and broadcasting the game while selling ads.  Shouldn't happen at the high school level either.

High school NIL, anyone?    😄    (O M G)

Bill, I understand your points, but this actually isn't entirely true.    I think we need to remember that HS sports is different across the board - the broadcasters don't fit into one nice little box, either.   Not all HS broadcasters are out simply to skim a buck.   While I cannot speak for other streaming entities, I do know of at least several that are much like Pegasus Sports.  

We (Pegasus Sports) know for a fact (we track the hits) that the majority of people who watch our games are not close enough to easily come to the games.   The primary viewers are far away - the locals typically watch our game broadcasts on delay at "pizza parties" and the like.    The locals who do watch live are the ones who would not be coming, anyway, for various reasons.

I'm not naive enough to be willing to say that nobody "ever" skips a live event and instead watches it on their computer monitor....but I have yet to meet a person who actually would say that they prefer watching the game on a 19" computer monitor over being there with the crowd, the band, the cheerleaders, ad infinitum.  

Numerous studies in the 1970s, when sports television was still in its relative infancy, showed that colleges with larger radio/tv coverage experienced significant increases in fan interest, and overt support, including game attendance, unlike competitor schools who did not enjoy such coverage.

Pegasus Sports is a grass-roots, volunteer organization (except the student cameramen, who earn the princely sum of $20 / game).   Once upon a time, when I was a professional broadcaster (70s/80s/90s), I made a few pesos out of this, when Pegasus subcontracted with some radio stations in KY.   Since Pegasus (which is a part time endeavor of mine, not my full-time job) went to the internet in 2006, I've lost / donated thousands of dollars of my own money to keep local HS sports on the air each year.  Our few sponsors don't cover our expenses; I partially underwrite the broadcasts out of my own pocket each year.   Yet - during the "COVID Season", - Pegasus actively sold a high-def version of our broadcast that year as a fund-raiser for the athletic departments that were struggling due to COVID.    I was hoping to be able to raise a lot more, but was still pleased to be able to write each of the three schools in Oldham County a check for four figures at the end of basketball season as our way of trying to help.

In addition, even though PSN really does not have the available funds to do so, PSN has sponsored the Ronald McDonald House Classic for some time, and even was the lead sponsor for the Oldham County Best in Hoops Tournament for a couple of years.

And, though at one time PSN had to charge for our hi-def version of our broadcast due to the requirements of the streaming company that we were contracted with, Pegasus no longer has to charge - and does not charge - for its broadcasts, which are high-definition video and available both live and as archives.

So - while your point may be very valid with some entities, please remember that HS sports IS very different, and so are the myriad/assorted/varied broadcasters who help bring it to the masses.   I would caution against painting with too broad of a brush here.  There ARE streaming "companies" that are just out to make a buck (I could name several, including, but certainly not limited to NFHS) off the backs of the high schools, but there's an awful lot of us locals who've been here now for decades, and who are trying to merely be the broadcast cheerleaders for the schools.

CM

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2 minutes ago, ColonelMike said:

High school NIL, anyone?    😄    (O M G)

This actually isn't entirely true.    I think we need to remember that HS sports is different across the board - the broadcasters don't fit into one nice little box, either.   Not all HS broadcasters are out simply to skim a buck.   While I cannot speak for other streaming entities, I do know of at least several that are much like Pegasus Sports.  

We (Pegasus Sports) know for a fact that the majority of people who watch our games are not close enough to easily come to the games.   The primary viewers are far away - the locals typically watch our game broadcasts on delay at "pizza parties" and the like.    The locals who do watch live are the ones who would not be coming, anyway, for various reasons.

I'm not naive enough to be willing to say that nobody "ever" skips a live event and instead watches it on their computer monitor....but I have yet to meet a person who actually would say that they prefer watching the game on a 19" computer monitor over being there with the crowd, the band, the cheerleaders, ad infinitum.  

Numerous studies in the 1970s, when sports television was still in its relative infancy, showed that colleges with larger radio/tv coverage experienced significant increases in fan interest, and overt support, including game attendance, unlike competitor schools who did not enjoy such coverage.

Pegasus Sports is a grass-roots, volunteer organization (except the student cameramen, who earn the princely sum of $20 / game).   Once upon a time, when I was a professional broadcaster (70s/80s/90s), I made a few pesos out of this, when Pegasus subcontracted with some radio stations in KY.   Since Pegasus (which is a part time endeavor of mine, not my full-time job) went to the internet in 2006, I've lost / donated between $2,000-$5,000 of my own money to keep local HS sports on the air each year.  Our few sponsors don't cover our expenses; I partially underwrite the broadcasts out of my own pocket each year.   Yet - during the "COVID Season", - Pegasus actively sold a high-def version of our broadcast that year as a fund-raiser for the athletic departments that were struggling due to COVID.    I was hoping to be able to raise a lot more, but was still pleased to be able to write each of the three schools in Oldham County a check for four figures at the end of basketball season as our way of trying to help.

In addition, even though PSN really does not have the available funds to do so, PSN has sponsored the Ronald McDonald House Classic for some time, and even was the lead sponsor for the Oldham County Best in Hoops Tournament for a couple of years.

And, though at one time PSN had to charge for our hi-def version of our broadcast due to the requirements of the streaming company that we were contracted with, Pegasus no longer has to charge - and does not charge - for its broadcasts, which are high-definition video and available both live and as archives.

So - while your point may be very valid with some entities, please remember that HS sports IS very different, and so are the myriad/assorted/varied broadcasters who help bring it to the masses.   I would caution against painting with too broad of a brush here.  There ARE streaming "companies" that are just out to make a buck (I could name several, including, but certainly not limited to NFHS) off the backs of the high schools, but there's an awful lot of us locals who've been here now for decades, and who are trying to merely be the broadcast cheerleaders for the schools.

CM

Gold standard response, thanks @ColonelMike!

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3 hours ago, theguru said:

Agree!

On the main question, in my opinion it almost has to hurt ticket sales so I disagree on that point with the very eloquent Mr. Smith. 

The school system couldn’t afford the marketing they get from being our media partner. By extending the athletic programs’ brand and increasing its fan base, the free video streaming has a positive net ticket sale effect for Lincoln County and the schools its football and basketball teams visit. We could insert a paywall, but that would be a disservice to the people of our community. 
 

We don’t sell additional ads on the video, it is a simulcast of our radio broadcasts. It is a community service for people who can’t go—those who spent many years sitting on hard bleachers watching their children and grandchildren, and who would like to watch still, but from their own couch. It’s not a money maker for us, and can’t be, as a stand-alone quality product. 

The media coverage and resulting marketing effect is a long-term process that keeps a fan base involved in the valley seasons and helps ramp up the attendance explosion in peak seasons.

While video streaming could negatively affect ticket sales for a single game, over the course of several seasons, it will increase attendance as it increases awareness and interest, and creates top of mind awareness. 

We have both robust live coverage of games and a fan base that comes to home games and travels well to away games. The two can, and in our case do, go hand-in-hand. 

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My short answer is no. we’ve been doing it for two seasons at Bardstown, and the school does the streaming. They considered that question. The general feeling was that most of those who come to the game come as much for the social atmosphere as the football, and they are going to come regardless. Most of those who get on the live streaming our folks that probably would not also otherwise come, including third shift workers and similar individuals. in addition, the school can sell some advertising, and make up whatever perceived difference there might be. I do the PA system for the games and have not noticed any drop off in attendance.

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2 hours ago, Statsdontlie said:

I think Lincoln County playing in the second game also helped the attendance. Many people don't get off work until 5pm. 

Most schools hosting a two game "Bowl" usually play the second game.  Lincoln, in the past, has been one of the few to play the first.  Never understood why they did. 

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