But do viewers really want to watch a steady stream of high school sports involving faraway schools they might not have heard of?
PlayOn, a three-year-old Atlanta firm that now annually streams live online coverage of about 5,000 high school games from 21 states, will formally announce Monday that it next fall hopes to launch what it bills as the first TV channel devoted to preps.
High school sports get plenty of local TV airtime, and a smattering of big-time high school events get national exposure on outlets including ESPN. But PlayOn CEO David Rudolph suggests prep sports will follow the pattern of college football, which has developed national interest in once-obscure teams by giving them national TV time: “Ten years ago if you told me I’d sit down to watch a Boise State game, I’d have said I wasn’t sure that was an actual college. Now I know they have a blue field. High school games will go the same way.”
Levy says wrestling is PlayOn’s biggest prep draw online, sometimes drawing over 200,000 users for multi-day events – “it has a rabid fan base that’s underserved” – while football games typically draw about 45,000 users.
Building up distribution and viewer interest, Rudolph admits, will take time. And then there’s the problem of what to show when school’s out. Says Rudolph: “Maybe we could show Tim Tebow‘s high school games.”