Atlanta based PlayOn! Sports (PlayOn) and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) launched a national network through the Federation’s state association members on August 15th, branded as the NFHS Network. The NFHS network is a joint venture between NFHS and PlayOn and will be governed by executives from both NFHS and PlayOn. The tagline for the network is "We Are High School".
The agreement took seven months to develop between PlayOn and numerous state association executive directors. Each state association will decide independently if they will participate in the national network.
A five-person Board of Directors will govern the NFHS Network. NFHS executive director Bob Gardner and PlayOn CEO David Rudolph will be vice presidents on the board. The other three positions will come from the state associations with one appointed as the chair of the board, the first chair is coming from Michigan.
The board will meet quarterly and be responsible for the budget, selecting events, monitoring the performance of PlayOn and distributing payments to state association members, among many tasks.
“Teaming up with the NFHS is a natural progression to build a truly national high school sports platform while honoring the local communities that support them,” said David Rudolph, PlayOn! Sports chief executive officer. “Our mission is to serve the current and future generations of student-athletes, support and encourage their participation and make their performances accessible to their friends, family and fans on every media platform they use.
The NFHS network will be a subscription-based digital service that has a long-term goal of covering all high school sporting events. “We are building a network for the next 40 years,” explains Rudolph.
This new partnership with NFHS will be for playoff games and each state association that participates will be paid a guaranteed annual license fee and will also own 52% of the profits while PlayOn will own 48% of the profits.
Playoff games will be broadcast on the various PlayOn platforms on the Internet (website, YouTube, etc.). Top tier playoff games will be licensed to PlayOn partners ESPN, Fox Sports, Timer Warner and Comcast for live and tape delayed television broadcasts.
For regular season games PlayOn will continue to work with individual high schools because schools own the rights to regular season games. In some instances PlayOn crews will produce the games and pay a license fee to the school.
But for most regular season games PlayOn has a School Broadcast Program in which schools will pay PlayOn an annual license fee of about $ 2,000 to $ 3,000 so that student crews can produce the games.
With the School Broadcast Program the schools will get a laptap, a branded portal to stream the games and software to easily produce, stream and insert broadcast graphics. Schools will also get training on the software and production. Schools have the ability to sell advertising and they keep 100 percent of the profits.
Subscription revenue for the games is split 50-50 with the schools. One subscription option is a day pass on PlayOn at $ 3.95 and all events are available for viewing. Over 600 schools have already adopted PlayOn’s School Broadcast Program to self-produce their school’s sports and activities including commencements.
28 states have joined the NFHS network as of the launch date of August 15th. Some other states are close to an agreement. Most noticeably absence is California, Texas, New York and Illinois, four of the five largest states by population; Florida, the fourth largest state has joined.
Some of the larger states likely have multiple year agreements with other broadcasters so this will be an area of future opportunities for PlayOn.
In one example North Dakota School Activities Association signed a five-year, $ 195,000 contract with the new NFHS Network.
In California Time Warner Cable is in the third year of a 15-year agreement for rights to all state playoffs for television, Internet, and mobile platforms. CIF section playoffs are licensed by each section and PlayOn already has contracts with seven of the 10 CIF sections.
The CIF-San Diego section previously licensed their football and basketball playoffs to KBCsports.com for two years from 2005-07. In January 2012 PlayOn acquired KBCsports and KBCsports founder Jeff Kurtz became vice president of operations for PlayOn. Kurtz has two employees in the San Diego office that oversees west coast productions.
Lake Forest, CA based iBNsports.com just completed a three-year deal with the CIF-San Diego section to webcast section playoffs but wasn’t very active in San Diego. In 2012-13 Time Warner Cable began a five-year deal with the CIF-San Diego section for rights to distribute through cable television, Internet and mobile platforms; a supplemental agreement to the 15-year statewide deal.
ESPN Radio 1700 and The Mighty 1090 are the section’s preferred radio partner for games, primarily for football and basketball.
Additional Funding for PlayOn Includes Herff Jones
In July PlayOn completed their Series D round of financing totaling $ 26 million led by Indianapolis-based Herff Jones, Inc., and included existing investors Buckhead Investment Partners, Hamilton Ventures, and Imlay Investments. There are no plays to take the company public.
The partnership with Herff Jones includes commercial relationships to expand PlayOn’s School Broadcast Program and to jointly market the companies’ products and services.
Herff Jones is a leading provider of graduation, recognition, sports and school spirit products and services including yearbooks, class rings, caps and gowns, diplomas and educational products. Herff Jones recently acquired BSN Sports and now is a leading direct supplier of sports uniforms, apparel and equipment.
“Herff Jones is excited to partner with PlayOn! Sports as they continue to solidify their position as the leader in the high school sports media,” said Jeff Webb, CEO at Herff Jones, Inc. “Our shared goals of providing services to schools and value to students by preserving high school memories make PlayOn and Herff Jones natural partners.”
About PlayOn! Sports
PlayOn! Sports is the largest rights holder, producer, and aggregator of high school sports events distributed across television, the Internet, and IP-video enabled mobile devices. By combining State Athletic Associations’ postseason content with the regular season events of member schools, PlayOn streams more than 30,000 high school sporting events a year, providing marketers with a unique multi-media platform solution to reach teens, young adults and families. PlayOn is headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., with offices in the Southeast, Midwest and California.
About the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS)
The NFHS, based in Indianapolis, Indiana, is the national leadership organization for high school sports and performing arts activities. Since 1920, the NFHS has led the development of education-based interscholastic sports and performing arts activities that help students succeed in their lives.
PlayOn!Sports.com at a Glance
2006: Founded by Turner Broadcast
2007: David Rudolph left Turner Broadcast and organized a holding company, 2080 Media
2008: David Rudolph & investors purchased PlayOn! Sports from Turner Broadcast
CEO: David Rudolph
Headquarters: Atlanta, GA
Company Status: privately held with investors
Employees: 63 (4 offices and field reps)
Freelance contractors: 3,000
Streaming: 30,000 high school games in 2012-13
Production Trucks: 30
2012-13 revenue: $ 10 million
Yearly Revenue Growth: 75%+
NFHS at a Glance
Headquarters: Indianapolis, IN
Sports: 17 (boys & girls)
High Schools: 19,000
Athletes: 11 million
Varsity Events: 2 million (7.6 million including JV & Freshman)
42% of Americans are high school sport fans
55% of high school students play sports
States That are Part of the NFHS Network