EWU leads Big Sky innovation

By Elohino Theodore, Sports Writer


For years now, Big Sky TV has been providing fans with an alternative way of experiencing sports.

But what goes on behind the scenes?

The idea of webcasting Eastern’s athletic games started in 2006 by former Multimedia Coordinator Davin Perry. Perry was really interested in video production; he ended up sharing his idea with the Big Sky Conference. The Big Sky then decided to make it mandatory for all schools in the conference to webcast their games.

After the Big Sky Conference adapted Perry’s idea, every Big Sky school ended up creating webcasts for their own respective athletic games. This then became known as Big Sky TV. The idea of webcasting games originated at Eastern. “In our conference, we were innovators,” Associate Athletic Director for External Affairs Ken Halpin said.

“We’re the best in the conference. The challenge is when our [teams are] on the road, we don’t get to see quite as quality of product. When our teams are here, everyone else sees the quality of product,” Halpin said. According to Halpin, Eastern’s webcasting is one of the most efficient broadcasting in the conference.

Big Sky TV is currently in their fourth year, in a partnership with America One, the company that distributes the webcasts. They provided computers to each institution in the Big Sky conference.

Each of the Big Sky schools then hooks their feed into the America One computer system. Once this is done, America One then distributes the feeds onto the internet.

Last summer, Big Sky TV signed a three-year contract extension with America One. The conference is currently on their second three-year contract with the distribution company. “They do sports video streaming. It’s a major part of their company,” Assistant Commissioner of Media Relations Jon Kasper said.

As a conference, the Big Sky also likes to keep track of who their audiences are. “We monitor the analytics of it, and we know that we have fans watching in Afghanistan, soldiers [that] want to watch football games, that they’re logging on in Afghanistan, Iraq, or if they’re stationed overseas in Germany that they have an opportunity to watch their alma mater. Or maybe they have a brother playing or a sister competing in volleyball or basketball, so from that standpoint, it’s great,” Kasper said.

At Eastern, there are students that make the live broadcasts work for the EWU fans. “We have 10 students that make the broadcasts happen,” Multimedia Specialist and Director of Big Sky TV Paul Fisher said.

Fisher believes a successful day of working on the Big Sky online streaming is to have a television quality broadcast done by a student crew. While working on a live broadcast, there are different things that go on for the Eastern staff. “The camera operators for the video board are also operators for the broadcasts. So basically we’re directing the camera operators during the game for the video board and also for the web stream,” Fisher said.

For each sport, the EWU Big Sky TV staff does a few different tasks when broadcasting live games. “Different sports have different speeds of action, there [are different kinds of] camera styles and cutting styles,” Fisher said.

Judging from how Fisher describes the work environment for Eastern’s Big Sky TV staff, it seems that the environment is in a comfortable place. “What I like about my job is I work with a great group of people that have positive attitudes. So [there are] a lot of technical issues that come up, but they do a really good job of working through it, so its pretty fun.”