Getting started in sports production

July 31, 2008: 12:42 PM ET

Broadcast business is booming, thanks to dwindling production costs.

Victor Musco, St. Petersburg, Fla.
My sports production company deals with high schools. Do I need a written agreement?

By Kathleen Ryan O'Connor, Fortune Small Business contributor
Dear Victor: The short answer is yes - any commercial production work that you are doing with high-school sports teams and students would most likely involve some contractual agreement with the subjects spelling out access, legal rights and payment terms.

It might be helpful to ask what's been done in the past or to reach out to companies doing similar work outside of your immediate competitive area. Sports production is enjoying a time of major transformation and expansion, thanks to the dramatic drop in the cost of video production and the beauty that is broadband.

Gone are the days when you'd have to front $1.5 million for a video production suite and spends hundreds an hour to work with a video editor, just to get your business off the ground.

"Today you can get broadcast quality for just $84,000 - literally, I'm not kidding you," says Geoff Allen, chairman and founder of Anystream, a top software company based in Dulles, Va., that specializes in streaming-media encoding technology for clients such as ESPN, Fox News, and NFL Films. "The cost of production has fallen through the floor. It's insignificant to your business model now."

So if you want to produce local sports highlights or develop a business creating video packages for local athletes to send out to recruiters, the Internet and broadband technology have created an pathway to build an audience inexpensively.

Two major trends to consider, Allen says, are interactivity and the integration of metadata.

Imagine seeing footage of a game on your screen along with statistical updates in real-time, or content that incorporates your own fantasy-football league.

"That's impossible to do with television," Allen says.

That said, you still have to be able to produce a quality product. Allen mentioned the well-worn axiom: "Garbage in, garbage out."

One avenue to consider is individual accounts with talented local players, says Tom Bruno, co-owner of the Long Island-based T & D Sports Video Productions with Dave Stempel.

They produce video for teams and individual players to use as coaching aides, keepsakes or for players to create scouting packages.

With budgets down and the cost of travel up, college coaches and scouts no longer have the luxury to scour the country for players. Blue-chip stars? Sure. But average talent now has to take on some of the marketing duties themselves. And that often means high-production value video.

Bruno says they started small and kept the focus on the clients.

"Don't try to diversify too fast," he says. "Make sure you are servicing your client in the right way."

Give us your advice: Check out recent "Ask & Answer" questions.

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