November 4, 2022
By: Gary Moskalyk, SIJHL
The SIJHL is blazing a trail with its new on-line streaming service SIJHL-TV. The league was unable to strike a deal with its former broadcast partner, HockeyTV this summer, and instead will forge ahead with its own version, which debuted last weekend.
Initially optimistic for a roll-out at the start of the season, the construction of the new streaming service took on some unexpected delays, and ultimately saw its first broadcast on Friday October 28.
Until then, league followers and fans enjoyed a teaser of sorts with free access to games on YouTube. With most of the bugs ironed out, it was time to for lift-off.
The seasonal subscription of $174.99 CAD will get users access to all remaining games in the 22-23 season including playoffs. Monthly access subscriptions are also available for $34.99 CAD.
With public health restrictions limiting the number of spectators in the arena – and in some cases the limit was zero – the COVID years forced a full review of the league’s streaming strategy as an avenue to get the league video to people who couldn’t be in the building to watch live.
“It became clear on the deeper dive that one of the parties to our streaming contract was doing quite well, while the league was struggling to just try and cover the costs of producing the game video. In our negotiations, there just didn’t seem to be any common ground we could find to rebalance things, so we ultimately agreed to part ways” said SIJHL commissioner Darrin Nicholas of the league’s former arrangement.
“We brought in Trevor Gauthier of Blank Productions in Dryden, ON to head up the project for us, and Trevor quickly identified a variety of alternatives available to us in this regard. However, at the last minute, Pixellot Inc., most known for its artificial intelligence play-following cameras, approached the league with a proposal that caught our attention and that was who we decided to partner with on the project,” he continued.
And while deployment took a little longer than expected, now that it’s activated, the league hopes subscribers will find the new platform easier to navigate, with some neat features that weren’t available previously.
One such feature is the ability for subscribers to create, download and share to social media their own highlight reels.
“We know that many of our subscribers will have ties to players that are competing in the league. So to be able to offer the ability for anyone to clip out highlight segments, save them on their computer and even share direct to their social media accounts all through SIJHL-TV is a bit of a game-changer,” Nicholas added.
A companion mobile app is going down the pike.
SIJHL-TV will be able to provide reliable viewing numbers, data Nicholas defines as crucial.
“How many people are watching? Where are they from? How long did they watch? Which teams do they tend to follow most? That kind of stuff,” said Nicholas. “We thought all that information was really, really critical, and we’ve never had access to it before.”
“SIJHL-TV is the first of its kind in North America for hockey, said Nicholas. “I’m sure some of my colleagues around the country will be following this closely.”
Last weekend’s launch was encouraging.
“Our launch went off as good as can be expected. We’re now working on just some of the minor issues that have popped up and also want to get the app launched as soon as we can. But we’ll call it as a successful first weekend,” said Nicholas.
The SIJHL-TV experience keeps money within the confines of the league. “For a league like ours that draws quite a few players from outside the region this is how people follow the games,” said Nicholas. “And there’s always been a charge associated with that with an established ‘market price,’ so to speak. But frankly, we didn’t think we had anything to lose. Even if our subscriber base turned out to be smaller than expected and we had costs that exceeded revenue, that’s not a whole lot different than where we were. So if nothing else, we now get unencumbered use of our own video. But if revenue exceeds cost, it will get retained to fund other important league initiatives.”
“It’s all part of the bigger strategy. Of the leagues charging a fee for player participation, we’re already one of the most cost-effective in the country. We want to grow that margin as much as we can. And part of that means that if there is revenue being generated on our product, we believe we should be entitled to a fair share. Our Board of Governors saw an imbalance, and we corrected it. It really is as simple as that as that,” said the commissioner.