UCSD, ViaSat partner to live stream games

UCSD, ViaSat partner to live stream games
The University of California, San Diego and ViaSat have partnered to live stream athletic events in high definition. Courtesy photo

CARLSBAD — For sports fans of the University of California, San Diego, their live streaming experience is getting a big boost.

The school and tech giant ViaSat partnered to bring UCSD’s athletic programs to the small screen via ViaSat’s high-speed satellite (ViaSat-1).

Streaming will be provided in high definition on the school’s website (ucsdtritons.tv).

“We are happy to bring high quality sports broadcasting to Triton’s fans,” said ViaSat’s Director of Public Relations Chris Fallon.

On Friday, the partnership kicked off with a twin bill on the basketball court as UCSD men’s and women’s programs took on Cal State Monterey Bay. The next broadcast will be the men’s Dec. 20 matchup against local rival Cal State University San Marcos.

High Internet speeds, meanwhile, are a must when broadcasting live events, especially sports due to constant movement. The deal offers viewers 140 gigabits per second to “enable the viewers the ability to access key sporting events in unparalleled broadcast quality from any location.”

Grant Markhart, director of ViaSat’s live events division, said the newfound marriage is on par with the company’s ever expanding live streaming services. Currently, ViaSat provides streaming for Jimmy Buffet concerts, high school sports and U.S. Lacrosse and other music artists.

“We are always looking for new ways to take advantage of our technology up in space,” Markhart said. “This is our first long-term subscription contract that we are working with a university that we are providing all their athletic events.”

Ken Grosse, senior associate athletics director, said the department is ecstatic over the early results of test broadcasts.

The streaming received high praise recently after a water polo match where viewers could choose between the feed from the University of Southern California, where the game was played, and UCSD’s broadcast.

As UCSD moves forward, Grosse said the school will be able to add features such as broadcasters and slow-motion replays, to name a few.

“They were looking for some other uses of their technology,” Grosse said. “I thought it was a great opportunity for us. The quality is so much better than before.”

Yet another bonus, Grosse said, is the satellite feed will not jam up UCSD’s bandwidth on campus. And because of the speed and quality, buffering issues are expected to be minimal as well.

Markhart, meanwhile, stressed the importance of the satellite’s fast uplink capability to bring HD to UCSD sports.

Yet another key component to the deal, he said, how easy it was to work with ViaSat’s staff.

It doesn’t hurt with more than 100 alumni working for the Carlsbad-based company, but the influx of technical and on-the-ground training was critical as UCSD assumes operational control of ViaSat’s equipment on campus.

“They have been doing some live streaming before … but this is a new level of quality for them,” Markhart added. “They’re not only investing on some high end camera equipment, but training more people so they can bring three or four cameras. From a quality perspective, you want to make sure you have the highest link possible with the highest connection rate, if you will, so you can produce that quality.”

In addition, ViaSat also provided a portable satellite to UCSD, which will allow the school to broadcast at different venues on campus and eventually road contests.

For now, though, the focus is on home games with an emphasis on men’s and women’s basketball, water polo, men’s volleyball, softball and baseball.

However, Gross said each of the 23 sports offered by the school could receive airtime depending on scheduling, although those plans are still developing.

With a shiny new toy, though, brings the opportunity to monetize. Grosse said all sporting events broadcast this year will be free, but the school plans to charge $5.99 per game or $29.99 for full access beginning in January.

Of course, the subscription-based model will also be a test phase for the spring semester and tweaks may come once the spring season concludes.

“We’ve been really, really happy with the quality,” Grosse said. “Now, we are going to move into the bells and whistles. Maybe it can be a revenue generator, too.”

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