Walker County Schools are joining the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Network to live stream athletic events as part of a nationwide streaming service.
Dora, Oakman, Carbon Hill and Cordova all had the Pixellot system installed at their respective athletic venues this week. Curry will have one installed on Monday.
The AHSAA announced on July 8
that it had partnered with the NFHS Network to bring the system to its member schools as part of the Network's High School Support Program. $200 million has been allocated to the nationwide program which is open to eligible schools that are part of their state's Athletic Association.
“The NFHS Network is offering a remarkable opportunity for our schools that are currently without automated production capabilities,” said Steve Savarese, the Executive Director of the AHSAA in the press release. “As our schools grapple with reduced resources and the potential loss of event-related revenue, the NFHS Network’s High School Support Program can help to reduce COVID-19’s impact. I encourage our eligible schools to sign up for their free Pixellot units immediately.”
Dora Bulldogs Coach Bart Lockhart said he heard about the program about a month ago, but was concernced about the potential cost of the system.
“Thankfully our board came in, with conjunction with the and provided it for us,” he said. “So we're really thankful to the Board of Education for doing that for us.”
While no decision has been made regarding what high school football will look like in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Lockhart is optimistic the sport will be played in front of fans. But he said that the ability to stream the games live as part of the NFHS Network could be an ideal solution for some fans that might be most at risk from COVID-19 complications.
“I do know there's going to be some folks with (pre-existing) health conditions or some elderly folks, who would normally come to the games, that can still participate, watch the game and support our team even though, for health reasons, they can't be there,” he said. “I fully expect we're going to have a regular football season. Until I'm told differently, that's what I firmly believe and that fans will be able to come. But for those fans that, for health reasons, they're still going to have an outlet to watch the game.”
The NFHS Network is a paid subscription service offering live and on-demand viewing of 27 different regular season and postseason high school athletic events. A subscription costs $10.99 per month, or $69.99 for a full year.
While the participating schools only get a percentage of the subscription revenue, the Pixellot system's ability to insert graphics into the live stream create the possibility for schools to generate ad revenue, 100 percent of which would stay with the school.
For Dora, whose games have been replayed on TV16 in Walker County for nearly 40 years, Lockhart hopes to use the Pixellot system to create an even better experience for viewers.
"I've been told that they're going to run a microphone to the pressbox announcer," he said. "So what we're going to try to do is run that microphone to Tony (Hedrick) and Buddy (Sparkman) - who call the games for the TV16 broadcast - and let them call the game through it. So the live version won't have replays or be as edited as the Sunday afternoon or Tuesday night versions, but it will at least have Tony and Buddy calling the game like they usually would."
The Pixellot system is automated, allowing athletic events to be broadcast with no human involvement after initially set up. Lockhart said that the staff at Dora will be trained on setting up the system in the coming weeks.