NFHS, MHSAA offering free Pixellot units to member schools

NILES — The Michigan High School Athletic Association and the National Federation of High Schools Network are offering a way for schools to broadcast live sports at their primary venues.

The MHSAA announced Monday that a new program would make it possible for schools that currently do not have production capabilities to receive up to two free Pixellot automated production units. The NHFS Network is offering the program.

The NFHS Network, the leader in live streaming and on-demand high school sports, is hoping to assist schools facing revenue losses due to restricted attendance at games in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The network has allocated more than $200 million for the nationwide project. Schools that are members of the National Federation of State High School Associations are eligible to participate in the program.

The program will help high schools stream live athletic events for fans, even if they cannot attend in person. The NFHS Network will also assist schools by increasing its subscription revenue beginning Aug. 1.

“We recognize that the next several years will be challenging for our high schools and state associations,” said Mark Koski, CEO of the NFHS Network. “Many are facing budget cuts and reduced resources, and attendance at athletic and other school events may be restricted. From the NFHS Network’s inception seven years ago, we have been driven by the goal to create a platform that showcases every high school event across every sport and every level of competition. Consistent with this goal, we want the High School Support Program to demonstrate our continued commitment to help our partner schools manage through the inevitable complications created by COVID-19.”

More than 150 MHSAA member schools currently have, or have registered for, Pixellot units. Currently, Niles is the lone school that uses the Pixellott of those covered by Leader Publications. The Vikings have one in their gymnasium and at the football field.

“Last year we made the decision to invest in Pixellot camera system from NFHS Network and MHSAA.TV,” said Niles Athletic Director Jeff Upton. “The cameras follow gameplay in the gym, and this year on the football field. This allows relatives or parents on vacation to watch the Niles games from their laptop or any device that can connect to the NFHS network, which includes MHSAA.TV. The network charges a fee per month or per game — whichever you prefer. All MHSAA championships are also on the same network.”

Upton said that installation of the camera to the football field was not completed in time for games to be shown last season.

“Last year, it took a while for our cameras to get set up, as we needed to run wire out to the football field, and get the strong connection the camera required,” he said. “Our gym camera was operational this winter.”

Additionally, the High School Support Program offers fans the ability to donate money to schools of their choosing through the NFHS Network platform beginning Aug. 1.

The MHSAA is on-board with the program.

“We’re excited for our schools to take part in the NFHS Network’s High School Support Program,” said John Johnson, MHSAA director of broadcast services. “Schools can benefit from the easy to use, fully automated production units to livestream sports events to their fans, allowing them to watch from anywhere. At the same time, revenue sharing from viewer subscriptions can help to offset losses in ticket sales, concessions and more due to COVID-19. We’re appreciative of the valuable revenue stream being enabled through the program.”

Niles plans to broadcast volleyball, basketball and wrestling in the gym, while outside it will broadcast football, track and band concerts such as the annual festival.

Upton said he knows it may take some time for people to get used to the new way of watching sports.

“We knew it would take a while for our fans to know where to find the games and how to subscribe to the network, but with this pandemic, and the possibility of no fans for volleyball games or football games, the cameras will be extremely beneficial for our Viking followers,” he said. “The network has many benefits, as fans once subscribed, can watch other teams from Michigan high schools during their leisure. The games are always available, you don’t need to watch them at a certain time.”

Athletic directors Kevin Dean, of Edwardsburg, and Brent Nate, of Dowagiac, said their districts will be looking into the program.

 

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