Through their new partnership, PlayOn!, one of the nation’s leading high school sports media firms, and Pixellot, a top provider of automated sports-focused production solutions, hope to provide high schools an affordable and hands-off video broadcast solution. Since their two-month pilot phase ended in January, the two firms have sold the small, mounted automated camera technology to over 300 schools in more than 30 states.
Pixellot, founded in 2013, is an international company that designs and creates unmanned video technology equipment that uses algorithms to automatically produce and broadcast HD sports and video highlights. PlayOn! works with high schools throughout the U.S. to help broadcast sports on their own National Federation of High Schools network.
The seemingly symbiotic pairing started over two years ago. Although PlayOn! saw Pixellot’s technology as transformational to its business, the finances didn’t work for either side at the time. Then, around nine months ago, the two sides came together again and realized that the price points had converged.
PlayOn! CEO David Rudolph, who has worked in the high school sports media world for roughly eight years, was attracted to Pixellot for four major reasons.
The basic idea is to sell the product to small, localized audiences of parents, grandparents, students, and anyone who has a connection to the high school or a specific athlete. The technology allows them to watch almost any game live or on-demand — streamed live via NFHS Network portal.
Pixellot’s automatic broadcast algorithm began with soccer and then added basketball. Most recently, the company added American football with a U.S. audience in mind, as well as hockey, rugby and handball.
“The technology has matured, the user application has gotten better and better,” Pixellot USA CEO Doug Billman said.
“The whole backend operation has gotten better. The platform has gotten better, and it will continue to do so because first and foremost, this is a technology company.”
The small Pixellot camera system is installed at midfield or at midcourt and high enough to create the proper angle and distance. Aside from that, the only other requirements to have a Pixellot installed are an internet connection and a power source. And at this point, 90 percent of the high school customers set up the system themselves within one to two hours.
“One of the things that makes this technology really interesting is that once you establish a location, you are actually calibrating the camera to its physical surrounding,” Billman said. “So the camera actually knows where it is.”
Pixellot automatically connects to the scoreboard through a third-party provider. Schools can also add their own color commentary and play-by-play. The standard one-camera Pixellot has two outputs: an HD automatic coverage feed; and a panoramic feed, which shows up in its user app and allows users to zoom in on the game at multiple angles. These angled highlights can be saved and recorded to share on social media.
“The two venues that most high schools are looking at right out of the gate, are their indoor basketball facility — because they can get coverage of boys and girls basketball, volleyball, and wrestling,” Rudolph said.
“Next is their outdoor facility, which will typically get them football, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls lacrosse, and field hockey if they have it.”
The partnership has become successful at the high school level because schools are attracted by the quality of the content and by how many new live games they can offer parents and students. High schools are also enticed by the cost and Pixellot’s standalone nature.
“What the schools love about it is, that once it gets installed, they don’t have to think about it again,” Rudolph said.
“There is nothing that the school has to do at that point. Pixellot is all controlled and automated remotely. For a single installation, one camera, it is sub $5,000, and we are pretty optimistic that the units will have a lifetime of five-plus years. And then it can crank out hundreds of events a year, for a one-time, up-front fee.
“This low pricing allows us to monetize, cover cost and have an upside in which all parties may participate.”
Since the partnership began, they have sold more than 300 units, and hope to sell at least 500 by the end of this year. They estimate that they have already streamed 25,000 live events, and they have their eyes set on six figures very soon. “The visibility is going to explode,” Rudolph. “This is a big-time game changer.”
Pixellot has worked to constantly improve its monitoring tools and algorithms and add sports to its portfolio. Left to right, back and forth games that fit in one frame, such as volleyball or tennis are easier to add. However, down the line, the company hopes to add algorithms for baseball, softball, and track and field.
Starting this fall, Pixellot’s technology will auto create a condensed, six- to eight-minute highlight package for football and basketball. They see this technology eventually leading to Pixellot becoming a coaching and player performance applications as well.
“The only question right now is how fast can we scale,” Billman said. “And we have every confidence with a partner like PlayOn!, who is in a position because they have the rights, they have the relationships, and the ability to monetize, that together, with our technology, we can make a big success of this.”
Written By Ben Rains for Sporttechie.
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