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Webcasting aims to boost Stingers? profile

by admin January 18, 2011

Chances are you have, at some point or another, been a pseudo-sports broadcaster.

Whether it is providing play-by-play while watching a sibling’s football game, or doing the colour commentary with friends while watching hockey at home, almost everyone who likes sports has been an armchair announcer.

Michael Toushan got his start doing commentary for the video games he used to play growing up.

He is now the colour man alongside Bryan Charleau, who does the play-by-play for the Stingers’ webcasts on the Streaming Sports Network.

Charleau played football for the Stingers for four years (he was out this year with an injury) and helps out around the athletics complex. When looking for someone to lead the SSN team, he came highly recommended to Catherine Grace, sports information coordinator for the Stingers and supervisor of the webcasts.

The team is rounded out by Michael Shrider who takes care of the sound, and Andrew Marchand-Boddy, the cameraman.

Already friends before they were hired, Charleau and Toushan try to bring some of their chemistry into the broadcasts.

“[We make] jokes about each other, about the game, anything to make it enjoyable for the people at home, that’s our goal,” said Charleau.

New to Concordia this school year, SSN sells the athletics department the equipment and bandwidth they need to broadcast Stingers football, men’s hockey and playoff or championship games during the season.

The Instructional and Information Technology Services at Concordia used to webcast six to eight Stingers games a year. But Grace explained their needs grew beyond what IITS could provide, so they turned to SSN.

Football and men’s hockey games drew the highest number of web viewers, so they are the only two teams being broadcast for now.

Concordia is one of six universities that were added to the network this year, bringing their running total to 20 schools. The Canadian Interuniversity Sport association counts 51 member schools, which means SSN now provides the tools for just over 40 per cent of the country’s universities to broadcast their games.

“The name of the game is accessibility and trying to promote Canadian athletics,” said Bengt Neathery, the company’s president.

The network is an offshoot of ISI Global Webcasting, but is working to become independent.

Neathery sees the venture not only as a way for people to keep up with teams across the country, but also as a marketing tool for their athletics departments, and Grace has bought into that vision.

“I hope it raises our profile and that parents and potential Stingers can come in and see the quality product and the quality young people that go out and wear our name. [We] hope to get a little more of that reputation out there.”

The network had over 350,000 viewers last year, and is on pace to break 450,000 to 500,000 views this year. They broadcasted 13,000 live games last year.

“I was watching Hockey Night in Canada and they had a double header. The CBC was all, “Oh we have a double header today,’ pretty excited about that, and we had 34 live games that day. In one day,” Neathery pointed out.

SSN is looking to create a foundation where five per cent of advertising revenue would be given back to schools and athletes.

Neathery also sees the network as an avenue for students to hone their broadcast skills.

“We want to foster this environment where students and people who [have no experience] can get involved in this sort of thing. A grassroots effort, you know?”

On game days, Charleau and his team work for about three hours at the arena, not including the research they do in preparation for the broadcast. Before the games, Charleau and Toushan meet and discuss the salient statistics they will bring up on air. They also set up the equipment and do sound checks. They make a point to ask players, if they see them around at the complex or the gym, for updates on the team.

Needless to say, they put in much more than the 15 hours per week required of them.

Toushan is currently completing his fourth year in political science, and Charleau is studying human relations. Though what they are studying has nothing to do with broadcasting, their interest has been piqued. Now, they are not ruling anything out.

“Not a single minute of it really feels like work,” Toushan said. “We’re just kind of doing what we’d be doing anyway . . . We’re just goofing around, that’s basically all we do. We get to watch hockey, and get paid for it.”

“After a couple of webcasts, the nerves leave and all of a sudden it’s like, “this is a lot of fun,'” Charleau added. “Looking at the future, if you can get a job like that, why not take the opportunity if it comes?”

By the numbers:

14 schools used the Streaming Sports Network last year.

350,000 views over last year.

13,000 CIS games broadcasted last year.

The Stingers website, www.stingers.ca, posts information and a link to access the hockey games broadcasted on SSN. The SSN website has archives of all the past broadcasts from across the country. Check them out at www.ssncanada.ca.

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