The students of Mountlake Terrace High School are broadcasting real deal, live web stream broadcasts. The broadcaster is an adult volunteer, but the technical director is student Skylar Schank.
“I’m a sports fan, I’m a news fan, I love it all,” Skylar said. “We do this for families at home who can’t make it to the games.”
However, high school productions like Mountlake Terrace’s and others around the state now must clear a financial hurdle placed in their way by the WIAA, the group that regulates high school sports.
Angelo Comeaux teaches broadcasting at Mountlake Terrace High. He has invoices and documents showing the WIAA is charging schools up to $500 per game to live stream the year’s biggest contests. The fee for the state basketball championship game is $750. The football championship will cost $1,000. It is money his school just doesn’t have.
“The school is not going to budget for that. We just won’t cover the games,” Angelo said.
The WIAA signed a ten year10-year agreement with the NFHS network giving broadcast and streaming rights for some of its regional games and all state championships. If schools do not join the network, they must pay the rights fees to the WIAA.
“I think it’s about putting profits above students,” Angelo told me. He says the school puts its games on YouTube so anyone can link to it. YouTube is free, the NFHS network is not. It charges viewers ten10 bucks for a 24-hour pass to view games.
And that disappoints Skylar, “We’re not getting paid for this. So why should we pay them for our work? It’s frustrating.”
Representatives from the WIAA declined an on-camera interview but sent a statement saying the NFHS network “…does provide a benefit to thousands of students, families and fans statewide who can participate through viewership of State Tournaments. It expands the number of sports and activities that are broadcasted, and provides educational opportunities in broadcasting and journalism.”
The WIAA also says schools can make money by selling viewing subscriptions. I took a look at Mountlake Terrace’s YouTube channel. The most views it has ever had for a game was around 900. Most of the time it’s fewer than 75.
“They are already locked into this long term-term agreement,” Angelo said. “They can’t change and they won’t change or they won’t renegotiate.”
So Mountlake Terrace will continue streaming games, with local business helping pay the fees so parents and fans don’t have to.
And all Skylar wants is a solution, “I hope that they can somehow find a way out of it because we love what we are doing and they love what they are doing and parents deserve to see that.”