By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Dec. 3 — With high school basketball less than three weeks away from the 2020-21 tip-off, Page County Public Schools is carrying out plans to allow parents, fans and other spectators an opportunity to actually watch the games.
On Nov. 15, Governor Ralph Northam placed a limit of 25 people on gatherings — both indoors and outdoors — in order to help control the rapid spread of COVID-19. Those public health restrictions apply to high school athletics as well.
In order to allow the Bulldog and Panther faithful an opportunity to be a part the shortened seasons and support their teams, Page County High School Athletic Director Keith Cubbage has led efforts for the school division to sign a five-year deal with the National Federation of State High School Associations to provide livestreams of all home athletic events. The service provides special tools for coaches, playback (on demand) options and can be used for special events beyond athletics, such as graduation.
NFHS began approaching high schools across the country back in July about the potential for signing up for their livestream program, which provides two Pixellot cameras — typically one installed in the gymnasium, and the other at the press box at the football field. While the cameras are provided by NFHS, each school must pay about $2,500 for installation.
In order to view the livestreams of Panthers and Bulldogs in action, fans will have to subscribe to the NFHS service — $10.99 monthly, or $69.99 a year. Subscribers have access to thousands of high school athletic events from schools across the country that have signed up with NFHS in the past five months. A portion of subscriber fees goes back to participating high schools.
All home games at the gymnasium and football field at each high school can be livestreamed by simply scheduling the games in the NFHS system. Cameras are activated remotely, according to the schedule the school enters in the system, and can even move to follow the action without manual on-site operation.
Currently, there are no immediate plans to expand the livestream program beyond the two-camera system, but NFHS has mentioned the potential for future expansion in correspondence with some high schools.
While NFHS will provide a video livestream of athletic events, there is no audio portion to the feed beyond the noise in the gymnasium, and NFHS allows (and even encourages) schools to provide audio commentary through their own means.
Currently, Page County Public Schools is considering a Broadcast Agreement with PVN Sports (a division of Page Valley News) to provide commentary and analysis for a 14-game basketball schedule and a five-game football schedule. PVN plans to sell advertising for those broadcasts and share the revenues with both high schools. The agreement is expected to be finalized next week.
If approved by all parties, the 14-game basketball schedule proposed by PVN Sports would begin with a season opener on Monday, Dec. 21 and run through the regular season finale (County Rivalry – Part II) on Tuesday, Feb. 2 — two games per week, for seven weeks.
However, as of Wednesday, Cubbage was still waiting on a return call from NFHS about setting a date for installation of cameras in the high school gyms — just 19 days before the first game. Cubbage stated this week that he hopes the equipment is installed in time for the first game on Dec. 21, but it may be 2021 before live-streaming begins.
The tentative livestream football schedule would highlight five games. The season extends for seven weeks — from Feb. 22 through April 1 — with games played on a Thursday, mostly Fridays, one Saturday, and even one on a Monday night. However, two weeks feature only road games for both Luray and Page, thus the five-game broadcast schedule.
The schedule for livestreams featuring PVN Sports commentary will be released as soon as all parties agree to terms and games, which is expected within a week.
The schedules of all athletic teams at both Luray and Page County high schools may be found on the Bull Run District website.
High schools in Shenandoah County have also signed an agreement with NFHS for live-streaming services, while Warren County High School signed a contract with DC-based Sports Scope to provide similar services.
If your business or organization would be interested in sponsoring these broadcasts, or a particular team or season, contact PVN Sports via email at [email protected]