Dear Event Doctor: We are often approached by vendors offering live streaming capabilities for our events, but we’re not sure where to begin. What has your experience been working with this technology and what trends should we be looking out for?—Stream of Consciousness
Dear Stream: Live streaming can offer organizers and fans a range of viewing opportunities, from simple single-camera productions to multi-camera operations that approach the traditional televised sports experience. Set your metrics for success before you determine your approach. Are you seeking the largest number of viewers to sample at least a few minutes of the event, or is viewer retention (that is, how long fans watch) more important? Will the feed be recorded and available on-demand, either on your website or on a platform like YouTube? Will the event be compelling enough to its intended audience, and at a time they can consume it, to merit a live stream as opposed to a recorded program?
The costs and risks of a live stream are significantly higher than for one that is recorded. The venue hosting a live stream must offer adequate infrastructure to carry the signal out of the facility for the highest-quality picture. Live streams offered in high-definition are data-intense, bandwidth-hungry and costly. As more viewers watch streams on HD televisions, standard-definition offerings intended primarily for computers and phones are becoming less attractive.
Many event organizers cover the costs of live streaming with sponsor and advertising revenue, or by privatizing the program and charging a viewing fee. Choose the latter only if you are convinced your fan base will pay for the content. If the service provider offers to distribute your event free or at a discount, they will likely sell advertising and other branding opportunities— much as television networks generate revenue to pay for their rights fees. Be aware that the companies that buy advertising could be competitive with your own sponsors. Unlike free channels of distribution, paid channels give you more control over the content, the look and the branding surrounding your program.
However you distribute your event, make sure you secure all the rights you need for music, video footage and, of course, the participants, just as you would for a traditional broadcast.
Dear Event Doctor: Our city is embarking on a plan to build a new multisport complex. We believe the business for events is out there for us, but we’re in the early stages. What is your advice as we continue to evaluate whether such a complex is worth the effort? Are there any specific pitfalls we should be trying to avoid?—Taking the Plunge
Dear Taking: The increasing popularity of grass-roots amateur sports has fueled growth in the construction of sports complexes across North America. These facilities often benefit the residents of communities that invest in their development, and also serve as magnets for tournaments and events that can infuse the local economy with spending from out-of-town participants.
Your city is clearly considering the project as a way to generate business opportunity. Building a new facility, however, does not guarantee success. It is not a question of “if you build it, they will come.” There are a number of questions to be asked. Where will the business come from? How much direct revenue will you generate from rentals and other opportunities? How much will out-of-towners spend while they are in the market? Most of the tournaments and events that you hope to attract are already being hosted somewhere else. What will make your city and complex more attractive than the competition? Have you gathered data to support your theory that this project will benefit the community and generate enough revenues to support the enterprise?
I find that one of the greatest pitfalls encountered by development projects is an underappreciation of the costs of promoting and marketing the facility to potential users—everything from staffing to developing and distributing collateral material to advertising and pursuing bids and RFPs. Don’t skimp on marketing and expect the world to come to you because the competition for sports events can be fierce.
Another pitfall is underestimating the day-to-day costs of operating the complex. These costs must be realistically estimated and vetted to fully inform your business plan.
There is also frequently a healthy tension (and sometimes an unhealthy one) between the recreational needs of the community and the need to generate revenue. Be sure you have accounted for the operational costs of providing the facility to residents if that is part of your charter, as well as the costs of running the facility when there is nothing happening there. Be sure to build a maintenance fund into your operating budget so that money is set aside for repairs and refurbishment that will be needed as soon as three to five years into the life of the building. (You’ll be surprised at how soon the parking lot will need repair.) Good luck, and be sure to invite me to the grand opening!
The Event Doctor is sports-event veteran Frank Supovitz, president and chief experience officer of Fast Traffic Events & Entertainment, an event management and consulting firm. From 1992 to 2014, Supovitz served as the senior event executive for the National Football League and National Hockey League. He is also the author of “The Sports Event Management and Marketing Playbook.” Questions for The Event Doctor can be emailed to Frank Supovitz at firstname.lastname@example.org.