From the grandstands to the couch: More high school games available online

Since Tyler Cerimeli is frequently on the go and travels for his job, he relies on streaming services to keep up with Arizona high school sports. (Photo by Joseph Caulo/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – College and professional sporting events aren’t the only games fans can enjoy from the comfort of their own home. Websites now livestream multiple high school games a week. All you need is a Wi-Fi connection.

This gives Arizonans the option of watching on a laptop or tablet instead of from the grandstands.

Live online content became easily accessible about six years ago when the National Federation of High Schools Network offered subscriptions to livestreams of high school sporting events across the nation.

A subscription to NFHS costs $9.95 per month, and this allows you to watch any game any time, live or replay.

Due to the local demand in Arizona, websites such as AZPreps365 and PrepSpotlight.TV have also worked to bring fans even more livestreams of Arizona high school sports.

The demand for these online streams is “definitely increasing each and every year,” said Mark Koski, CEO of NFHS. “The NFHS Network has 1.1 million monthly subscribers. That subscriber base started very low, but we’ve had an average growth rate of 52.5 percent each and every year on average.”

A subscription to NFHS gives people access to every stream across the nation. This number has especially increased within the past couple of years as demand for streams continues to grow.

Koski said the NFHS Network had about 40,000 events last year but expects to have 100,000 events this year. “It’s really increasing the overall number of events because the demand is so great,” he said.

From high school football to water polo and everything in between, the NFHS Network is expanding to more livestreams, giving local high schools a platform to broadcast any of NFHS’ 27 recognized events.

This rise in demand for more livestreams will likely continue as the quality and availability of streams improve. Better technology and equipment being used to film the games mean a better viewing experience for fans.

“The quality (of the streams) has definitely gotten better over the last few years,” said Tyler Cerimeli,a Phoenix resident who enjoys livestreams of high school football games on the AZPreps365 website. “I remember when I first started watching the streams (in 2015), they were grainy. You couldn’t really tell what was going on, but now they’re pretty sharp.”

Cerimeli travels often for his job with U-Haul and therefore the online streams are a practical way for him to stay connected with Arizona high school football.

“I’m usually out of town on the weekends,” Cerimeli said. “I sit in my hotel room and can watch Arizona football if I’m in New York, or LA. It’s pretty cool.”

Seth Polansky, sports information coordinator with the Arizona Interscholastic Association, manages the content for the AZPreps365 website and has noticed an uptick in people viewing their high school football “Game of the Week.”

“Our highest viewed Game of the Week broadcast was the Centennial at Casteel (football) game,” said Polansky about the weekly subscription-free broadcast. When combining the number of live-views and replays of the game, the contest has been viewed over 2,100 times on the website.

The game featured two defending state champions in football opening the 2018 season against one another, which led to high interest and viewership among Arizonans. Nearly 1,700 people tuned in live to watch the action, the highest number of live viewers for any game streamed by AZPreps365.

That is an exceptionally high number of live views considering that the 2018 5A state semifinal game between Notre Dame Prep and Williams Field had the second-highest rating with 590 live views. The other 12 high school football games that were streamed live on AZPreps365 as the “Game of the Week” averaged about 210 live-views per game.

Sports such as high school men’s and women’s basketball are also broadcast live on AZPreps365, and Polansky believes the website’s live sports coverage and subsequent audience as a whole will grow “as the Valley continues to expand and grow.”

Amy Faucher, executive producer for PrepSpotlight.TV and Operations Manager at School Space Media, also believes the interest in live streams isn’t receding anytime soon.

“Many people have kids and have easy access, and as technology continues to provide more and more opportunities, people will become more interested,” Faucher said. “School Space Media as a company produces over 400 games a year, and that’s continuing to grow.”

Faucher believes live streams will continue to rise in popularity in Arizona and other states.

“As sports fans become more savvy, they realize these kids are going to be professionals,” she said. “As scouting and everything continues to grow, this is just one more way for exposure for the high school kids.”

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