1 of 2
Mario Vega, Deseret Digital Media
KSL.com and Deseret News' livestreaming product, WACHit, continues to grow and give Utah schools and communities greater reach.

Parents, grandparents, siblings and friends used to have a single option to watch a loved one involved in high school soccer, lacrosse, baseball or even concerts or plays: Jump in the car and drive to the event.

High school events often conflict with work schedules or other family activities. As a result, parents or others could be forced to choose between one child’s tennis match or another child’s dance performance.

Today, those issues can be resolved through livestreaming technology.

A new way to view events

Deseret Digital Media began livestreaming select high school sports events in 2011. From a modest beginning with four participating schools, today more than 40 Utah high schools are streaming events on DeseretNews.com or KSL.com.

More than 500 high school-related events were streamed during the 2016-17 school year. And coverage continues to grow this year.

“We had experience in the audio and video streaming realm already,” explains Devin Bunker, general manager for KSL. “We eventually came to the realization we could use this infrastructure and experience to allow other people in the community to stream, using that to facilitate them being able to reach the community and local audience in a way they hadn’t been able to before.”

Now those 40 schools are streaming a wide range of boys and girls sports including football, volleyball, soccer, basketball, baseball and more. Viewers can watch the games live or they can view recorded events on demand.

The number of livestreaming viewers has increased each year between 30 percent and 70 percent, reports Thompson Coles, project manager: livestreaming at Deseret Digital Media. Viewership of high school playoff events increased as much as 130 percent year over year.

Live streamed football games are also highlighted on the Deseret News Rewind Live, a NFL RedZone-like show that jumps in and out games throughout the night.

"This way you get to see how it all unfolds — in real time," said Deseret News web producer Aaron Morton. "We don’t know of any other market doing something this cool — let alone in Utah."

It’s free for everyone

Deseret Digital doesn’t charge the schools for streaming events and there is no cost for those who view the events. The schools are required to provide the content for the livestreams and Deseret Digital media facilitates the platform and the distribution through either KSL or the Deseret News.

"Our users really love the service — especially because it is free of charge," Morton said. "Our competitors charge a subscription fee. Lots of family members who live out of state really enjoy the chance to connect with their niece, nephew or grandchild despite being time zones away. "

When schools sign up for the system, they retain ownership of the videos. They can sell advertising and sponsorships within their individual streams, Coles said. Of course, students who produce videos for streaming also gain real-world experience.

KSL runs short advertisements prior to the video streams. Bunker says while KSL would like to produce some revenue from livestreams, for now, the intent is primarily to provide a platform for community events and information.

Expanding beyond high schools

While most of Deseret Digital’s livestreaming so far is focused mainly on high school sports, there have been some other events like music performances, a robotics competition, a few press conferences and even a city council meeting.

Bunker and Coles both say they would like to see livestreams expand to include colleges, middle schools, communities and public organizations. In addition to sports, streams could include plays, concerts, other fine arts performances, public meetings and more.

While participation is free, organizations must agree to guidelines provided by KSL and the Deseret News, which primarily require that material streamed must meet certain decency levels and community standards, Bunker explains.

How to participate

Livestreamed events can be viewed on any laptop, tablet or even smartphones with an internet connection.

Schools or organizations that want to participate in the livestreaming service must be able to produce their own content. Bunker notes that having capable equipment used to cost tens of thousands of dollars.

“Today, if you have a camera and a way to connect a laptop to that camera, we can probably make it work,” he says.

As groups sign up for livestreaming, Bunker says people at Deseret Digital Media will have suggestions about equipment and processes needed to produce video of sufficient technical quality. In many cases, groups already have the necessary equipment.

The best way to contact Deseret Digital about producing livestream content is to send an email with contact information to watchit@deseretdigital.com, Coles says.

Flint Stephens has a master's degree in communication. He writes regularly on business, financial and medical topics.