Bleacher Report to broadcast live sports using Facebook Live

Are you ready for some football? How about some high school football on Facebook Live? Bleacher Report sure hopes so, as the Turner-owned sports media publication plans to broadcast three full high school football games on Facebook this fall.

On Friday, Oct. 14, Bleacher Report’s Facebook page will host a match-up between Sylvan Hills from Atlanta and Pulaski Academy from Little Rock, Arkansas. A week later, Bleacher Report will broadcast a game that features the nation’s top football recruit, running back Najee Harris from Antioch, California. And finally, on Nov. 18, Bleacher Report will stream a game between two of the top high school football teams in the country: IMG Academy and Bishop Sullivan, which, combined, will field more than 30 future Division I athletes during the game.

Friday’s game will be the first time Bleacher Report broadcasts any game in its entirety online. As such, the games will be big productions for the company, which will have a crew of 20 to 25 people involved in the production depending on the game. This is not an iPhone video of fruit torture.

Bleacher Report’s decision to experiment with a live sports broadcast has a lot to do with the emergence of Facebook Live, said Marc Kohn, senior director of video and live events for Bleacher Report. “As the Facebook Live project was taking off, we wanted to get into the live games and events space,” Kohn said. “We decided the time was right to try and create the millennial broadcast for sports.”

Bleacher Report’s not the first to stream live sports on Facebook. U.K.-based bro publisher Unilad plans to stream live mixed martial arts fights starting in November. Previously, sports network BeIN Sports streamed multiple soccer and Conference USA college football games. Twitter is further along in this department with an NFL deal to live stream 10 Thursday night games this year.

However, all of those live streams were carbon copies of what viewers have come to expect with live sports broadcasts from TV networks. Bleacher Report’s Facebook broadcasts won’t be, the publisher insists. Yes, the live stream will be hosted by two commentators (Stephen Nelson and Michael Fielder) and will include live football staples like the broadcast booth-level camera angle and the first-down line. But that’s where the similarities end.

Each game will have anywhere between eight to 12 camera angles, including some that feature aerial footage captured by drones as well as multiple GoPro cameras nestled throughout the stadium. For the second game, Bleacher Report will also have multiple cameras focused on documenting every move made by Najee Harris, the top football recruit in the country. The third game will feature live footage from inside the huddles.

Some “audio enhancements” are planned as well, according to Kohn. For instance, during the first game, Bleacher Report will have a microphone on Kevin Kelley, the coach who never punts, who has agreed to give live commentary each time his team goes for it on fourth down.

“We are trying to use all of the stuff we have learned about connecting with a younger audience on social platforms to create little moments inside the game, to make people want to tune in for two-and-a-half hours knowing that it’s going to be packed with wall-to-wall action,” Kohn said.

For instance, to promote the first game, Bleacher Report filmed a social video called “1,000 Balloons, 1 Golden Ticket,” which shows one Pulaski Academy player winning the chance to call a play during the game. The video will kick off the Friday night live broadcast.

Overall, Bleacher Report has made five social videos — including a locker-room prank for Instagram that has 552,000 views — to promote its first Facebook Live broadcast. It will look to make a similar amount for future games. This content will be produced by the publisher’s 10-person Young Athletes team, which focuses exclusively on high-school and amateur sports.

Bleacher Report’s first Facebook Live game doesn’t have a sponsor. It’s something the publisher is looking into, especially as it ventures into creating more TV-quality programming.

“We’re at the stage where we are going to find out everything that works and everything that doesn’t work in live and then make our bets after we review the data,” said Kohn.

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