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NBC Launches Streaming Service For Youth, Amateur Sports - FlagSpin

NBC Launches Streaming Service For Youth, Amateur Sports

In June 2016, NBC Sports Group acquired Sports Ngin, a software company that creates software and apps for youth sports organizations and leagues. It was NBC’s first foray into youth sports, but over the next few years the company bought more than a dozen complementary technology firms, which are all now housed under the SportsEngine brand.

This week, NBC is launching SportsEngine Play, a streaming service for live games and on-demand video for youth and amateur sports. The service is built off the technology created by Rapid Replay, a streaming startup NBC purchased last September.

“We’ve always been thinking about how we really connect SportsEngine better to that great history and lineage of storytelling of NBC Sports,” said Will McIntosh, president of the NBC Sports Next and Fandango who oversees SportsEngine. “A number of years ago, we started thinking about this idea of what if we became the home for live streaming and on demand video content for youth and recreation sports at a national level in the U.S.? That is easy to say. It is incredibly difficult to achieve.”

NBC has a storied history and deep background striking deals with major sports leagues and events such as the NFL, major Division I athletic conferences, PGA Tour, Notre Dame football and the Olympics. Those deals are much different than what SportsEngine will be pursuing, according to McIntosh.

In those major events, NBC makes a huge, financial commitment, investing billions of dollars, but the transactions are with established leagues and organizations with which the company’s executives have deep, long-term relationships. But while the money NBC will spend on youth sports is much less than on major professional and college rights deals, the youth and amateur sports landscape is much more fragmented, making it more difficult to understand all the players in the space and less efficient to do business.

“It’s why nobody’s been able to pull this off yet,” McIntosh said. “It’s incredibly complicated. You’re talking about tens of thousands of small deals (in youth sports) as opposed to a Sunday night (NFL) football game where we might have 20 million people tune in to NBC or Peacock (NBC’s streaming service) to watch. This is like 100 or 200 people at a time tuning in. It is much different and much more complicated from that perspective.”

The SportsEngine Play service has been in beta mode since July, and McIntosh said the team working on it has been getting input from users and incorporating any changes. Through the service, people will be able to watch live youth sports events across the U.S. as well as highlights and other videos on-demand.

The live streams can originate from numerous devices, including an iPhone or an autonomous camera installed at a field. NBC claims more than 30,000 youth sports organizations use its technology platforms and applications for tasks such as registering kids for sports and communicating among the team’s parents and coaches, so it is hoping that built-in audience will migrate and use the SportsEngine Play service.

NBC is offering the service free for anyone who wants to view the live-streamed games, but it is charging for add-on features such as on-demand viewing of games, access to editing tools and hundreds of hours of instructional and development videos from world-class retired athletes such as swimmer Michael Phelps, football player Larry Fitzgerald, volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings and soccer player Megan Rapinoe.

NBC gained access to those videos from Phelps and other athletes via a deal with The Skills, a startup that launched in 2020 and aimed to charge people for access to videos from famous people instructing them on sports and life in general.

“Our hope is that those relationships (with Phelps and others) will be long lasting,” McIntosh said. “We’re also looking at other similar opportunities to that. There are a lot of this content that’s out there that just hasn’t found the right place to live. We think we’ve created that platform. I think you’ll continue to see us invest in either producing that kind of content on our own or opportunistically finding these situations like we did with The Skills and these athletes that we brought in.”

For now, the SportsEngine Play subscription plans are $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year. McIntosh expects most people will access the service for free for the live streams, so NBC will be generating revenue through advertisements for those games.

“I would say we’re probably as excited, if not more excited, about that (advertising) aspect of the business model as we are about the subscription base,” he said. “Quite honestly, in a world where there are a lot of different companies trying to get you to subscribe to stuff, we love the idea of keeping this as low cost or as free as we can, and to do that in a way where you’re also not inundated with ads that might not be relevant to you. I think you’ll find us continuing to invest in keeping this low cost and ad supported, so that we can make it easily available to as many parents and young athletes as possible.”

McIntosh hopes that NBC can integrate SportsEngine Play with its broadcast and cable channels and Peacock service, as well. He said that the NFL is seeking a media partner for flag football, a sport the league has made a major investment in at the grassroots level. Although no deal has been consummated, McIntosh could see a scenario where SportsEngine Play streams local and regional youth flag football competitions, while the national championship airs on NBC and/or streams on Peacock.

“That’s a great example of a deal we would love to do,” McIntosh said. “There are going to be other opportunities like that where we can pull the full breadth and depth of our company together to make something happen. That’s where I think this really hits home for us across all aspects of what we do with sports.”

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Travis Burnett

Travis Burnett

A pioneer in the flag football community, Travis helped co-found the Flag Football World Championship Tour, FlagSpin and USA Flag. Featuring 15+ years of content creation for the sport of flag football, creating and managing the largest flag football tournaments on the planet, coaching experience at the youth and adult level as well as an active player with National and World Championship level experience.

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