The newly installed camera will be live-streaming football games at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Messalonskee High School installed one camera at Veterans Field on its campus with the hopes of providing a livestream of athletic events in the future. Athletic director Chad Foye has a second camera ready to install in the school’s gymnasium.

The cameras, designed to be automated production units for live streaming games, were made available to high schools nationwide by the National Federation of High Schools.

The equipment was free, but schools would have to pay for installation, which the NFHS estimated at $2,500 for two cameras and $1,500 for one. Furthermore, schools that accept the streaming equipment must agree to broadcast the events on the NFHS streaming network. Fans would also have to pay to watch athletic events — the NFHS charges $69.99 for an annual subscription. Fans can also purchase monthly subscriptions for $10.99.

“If you only want to watch one sport for two months, that may be the way to go,” Foye said.

High school sports will have a different look this fall, with only soccer, field hockey, cross country and golf competing. The MPA announced Sept. 10 that it had come to an agreement with state officials on all COVID-19 safety guidelines. However, football and indoor volleyball — which were designated high-risk activities under state and national guidelines — were postponed to late winter/early spring.

Athletic events that are played will likely be held with few or no spectators. Cony High School, for example, will allow 100 people at fall sporting events — including players, coaches and officials. The Mountain Valley Conference recently announced it would prohibit spectators at its events.

At least 22 Maine high schools signed up to receive at least one camera, according to an NFHS spokesperson, which would make it possible for schools to provide livestreams of athletic events. Some athletic directors say this is appealing as the coronavirus pandemic could make it difficult for large crowds to attend sporting events this fall, as well as the winter.

“We want to provide a service for our community who won’t be able to attend games,” said Foye, who added the benefits of installing the equipment out-weigh the cost.

Newly installed camera will be live-streaming games for at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinal

Approximately 6,000 high schools nationwide signed up for the equipment, added Mark Koski, an NFHS spokesperson. Koski estimated the value of each camera at $5,000.

Once a camera is installed and connected to the school’s wifi network, it can be programmed with a schedule of events to ensure it will broadcast everything. The camera’s software is designed to follow movement, Koski said, and will zoom in or out depending on the sport in progress.

George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill installed a camera in its gym last year, and used it to stream volleyball and basketball games.

“Once we got it up and running, it was great,” GSA athletic director Larry Gray said. “It does a nice job.”

Winthrop and Maranacook each received two cameras. Winthrop purchased the cameras on a two-for-one deal for $2,500 near the end of last year. The school has installed them on Maxwell Field for football games and in the gym for boys and girls basketball.

Winthrop athletic director Joel Stoneton said the cameras’ value only increased with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a win-win, in our opinion. It’s a good tool for our coaches, it allows our kids to be viewed and watched by folks,” he said. “It’s just a natural fit for us already. … It’s simply luck, but you feel like a genius in an indirect way when people start talking about ‘How do I get this stuff out there?’ And I’m like ‘We’re already ready to go.’

“It’s exciting. Hopefully, it won’t be all for none, we’ll get back to some normalcy and we’ll be able to use these things the way we want to.”

Maranacook athletic director Brant Remington said the school will put the cameras at the football field and basketball courts as well, with the hope of providing live streams in the winter.

“We’ve got a temporary fix if we’re told we can’t have any fans or if we’re told we’re limited to a certain amount,” he said. “We’ll be able to at least share that with our community.”

Members of the Skowhegan girls soccer team work out during a conditioning session recently in Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Remington said the opportunity to broadcast games is a plus for fans, but the cameras’ ability to post video for highlight purposes will assist coaches, as well as players hoping to be recruited.

“I think it’s really good,” he said. “If they want to put something together for, say, Cash McClure for basketball, they could go in there and check off a bunch of boxes, and it would piece together highlights for every basket that he made or every shot that he took. That’s going to be really good for our coaches.”

The cameras can be synced with scoreboards, as well. This will enable the score and clock to be visible in the upper right corner of the broadcast. Schools can sell banner ads for profit to run during the livestream. Schools also have the option to provide their own play-by-play and color commentary. Gray, the George Stevens Academy athletic director, said his school streamed games without play-by-play last season.

Penquis Valley High School (Milo) athletic director Jason Mills — whose school signed up for the equipment — and Foye said they have no plans for play-by-play to accompany streamed games.

“We’d like to look at play-by-play, but that’s up in the air. In an ideal world, we’d have students do it,” Mills said.

Staff Writer Drew Bonifant contributed to this story.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242
Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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