Megan Studer read about a Facebook initiative this past fall
Studer is the communication and enrollment coordinator at the Newman Catholic School in Mason City, Iowa, about 115 miles north of Des Moines. His responsibilities therefore include promoting the school and informing students, teachers and graduates of what is happening, including the athletics department, which has faced challenges due to the coronavirus outbreak.
As a private school, Newman Catholic, with about 150 high school students, does not receive funding from the state or town, so he has to pay the bill on his own. The school has a reliable and generous support program and often generates revenue through ticket sales and concessional stand sales at sporting events. However, local and state authorities limited the number of people who can participate in games to comply with social distance protocols, resulting in a significant drop in game-related income. This caused Newman Catholic’s athletics department to cut the typical $ 97,000 annual operating budget by about $ 25,000.
And so, it caught Studer’s interest when he discovered the Paid Online Activities feature Facebook launched in August. Paid Online Events enables schools, businesses, creative genres and media companies to earn money by posting online events on Facebook. These organizations charge users a one-time fee for accessing events and are paid via Facebook, which waives their own fees until at least August 2021.
“It seemed like a good platform for us,” said Studer. “We had a lot of fans following us on Facebook.”
Since the fall, Newman Catholic has published 15 home volleyball and basketball matches and wrestling matches that cost $ 5.99 per event. The school watched up to 100 people at a time, helping them to make up some of the money they would have earned if there were no face-to-face restrictions.
“Like any job out there, it’s been extremely difficult with the outbreak,” said Alex Bohls, Newman Catholic’s director of athletics. “We are always trying to find new and creative ways to raise money and increase our income. We found this very useful.”
Facebook did not disclose the number of sporting events it hosts using its Paid Online Activities feature, but one source stated that there were hundreds.
Still, high schools do not have to charge for events, and people can use Facebook Live, which became a popular free option during the pandemic as they cannot attend the games. They also use YouTube, Zoom and other platforms as alternative streaming options and partner with media outlets to help expand their audiences.
The NFHS Network, the largest high school streaming platform launched in August 2013, saw a 44.6% increase in the number of events it published in the 2020-21 school year and a 134.2% increase in total views for these events. . In addition, the number of subscribers who pay $ 69.99 a year or $ 10.99 per month has more than doubled.
The network is the National Federation of State High School Associations and PlayOn!, The governing body for high school sports and events in the United States. Sports is an Atlanta-based high school sports broadcast company. Play! He left Turner Sports in 2008 and raised $ 25 million in December 2019 through a Series B financing tour led by BIP Capital, a venture capital firm.
The network expects to publish more than 225,000 events from 27 sports during the 2020-21 school year and work with more than 10,000 from 19,500 high schools in the USA. It is partnering with the established auto camcorder manufacturer Pixellot. in press boxes and gyms so high schools don’t have to buy their own equipment and produce and run each game.
Since July, as a way to help financially damaged schools, the Network has provided schools with two free Pixellot cameras for five years to use. It has also increased the share of revenue schools get for subscriptions. Schools also earn money through any advertising shown on regular season broadcasts.
“We cannot wait for the opportunity to refill the stands of the schools,” said Mark Koski, marketing director of the NFHS. “When the student community gets together and they have a great time, this is all high school. But we’re absolutely happy we did this on the spot, so fans who can’t come to the matches are part of the action. “
While the NFHS Network is the dominant force in high school flow, there are dozens of small companies working with high schools across the country.
Crossover Radio, an Oklahoma-based online radio station, has been using Facebook Live for talk shows, broadcasts of coaching shows, and high school football matches for the past three years. Jeremy Coleman, founder of Crossover Radio, said the company relied primarily on advertising revenue from local small businesses that have been damaging since the pandemic and cannot spend much money on advertising.
Coleman decided to use Facebook’s Paid Online Activities as a way to earn money for both him and his schools. Last fall, Crossover Radio released football games for Bethany High School in Bethany, Okla and Putnam City High in Oklahoma City, $ 4.99 per person and shared revenue 50-50 with schools. The games usually attracted 50 to 100 viewers. Crossover Radio currently uses Paid Online Events for basketball games and can also stream baseball and softball games.
“It made a lot of sense to us as we already use Facebook a lot,” Coleman said. “With the power of apps and smartphones, we say we’re like home radio in the 21st century, but we still want to give people this localized experience. Facebook is really good at building communities and letting people connect.”
Coleman recalled that one of the highlights of the football season was receiving a message from a grandmother set on a broadcast in Connecticut.
“He said I should never watch my granddaughter’s play,” Coleman said.
A Valdosta, Ga. Media company ITG Next is also using Paid Online Activities to make up some of the revenue it has lost since the pandemic. Founded in 2007 as a print high school sports magazine covering the Southeast region, the company has become a digital platform a few years later primarily with online newsletters, podcasts and videos.
ITG started publishing games using Facebook two years ago. He didn’t charge any fees, but he made money through sponsorships. Prior to the outbreak attack, ITG had planned to show three games each week, one in Georgia and two in Florida. Instead, the company only released games for Lee County High School in Leesburg, Ga., And used the Paid Online Activities feature instead of free streaming.
Mark Dykes, founder and CEO of ITG, said that there are no local restrictions on who can participate in the games in Georgia, but many elderly or unhealthy people decide to stay at home. Some of these people chose to watch the games online, such as Lee County’s alumni and rivals out of the area. Dykes estimates that about 200 to 1,000 people post the games online, and one of the games earns close to $ 5,000 in revenue.
“I think we can do even better than this (in 2021) if we encourage and prevent it in the right way,” Dykes said.
Dykes is already waiting for the fall. It hopes to release four games each week, two in Georgia and one in Alabama and Florida. ITG will likely re-use Paid Online Events, but this has yet to be finalized.
“It’s a good way to see our brand,” Dykes said to broadcast live games. “There are other benefits that only have a monetary part. If we can get people to look at our brand, we feel they will be returning visitors. “