Photo by Doug Brown
The 2015 East Tech boys basketball team
When CMSD's Senate Athletic League city basketball championships were played at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in February, thousands more than were sitting in the seats for the games were watching at home and able to do so for the first time thanks to Senate Live
, a streaming partnership between CMSD and DistrictWON that launched in January.
It's early in the three-year contract, for which CMSD is paying nothing, but kids, parents and administrators are already enthusiastic about the streaming site, which has ramped up coverage of the full gamut of athletics, including not just basketball but swimming, track meets and cheer competitions.
"It's been a work in progress for a long time," DistrictWON CEO Pete Fitzpatrick told Scene. "My company, which is local, had been working with schools for a number of years when Covid hit, and a lot of these schools canceled athetlic events, or people couldn't go because of Covid. A lot of schools were able to get streaming services to do it live for the community, but unfortunately a lot of schools were left behind, including our urban districts. We're based in Cleveland and I wanted to bridge that gap."
Things move slowly in the world of a district as large as CMSD, but after two years, the partnership was approved and Senate Live hit the air, much to the joy of CSMD Director of Athletics Desiree Powell, who had been pushing to get the deal done.
"I wanted our district and our students to have the same exposure as other schools," she told Scene. "There were other schools that had streaming and we didn't want our kids to lose out. We've been reaping the benefits. It's been positive, and I knew it would be, but it's even more positive than I would have guessed."
Thirty or so events have already aired, and are archived on the site, and Senate Live hopes to expand the offerings soon, including band concerts and other non-athletic events. But even with just a few dozen broadcasts under their belt, the response from kids has already been rewarding.
"It's like ESPN showed up," Fitzpatrick said. "It's good for people in Northeast Ohio to watch and see that CMSD is being featured. They don't get the same coverage. It's an important benefit to the community. Some of these kids have never been on camera and featuring them live gets this great reaction."
Adam Winterich, the executive producer for Senate Live, knows firsthand what the reaction is like.
"When we go there, the kids are excited, the fans are excited, the parents are excited." he said "It's focusing on all sports, boys, girls, we did a military drill competition, we're doing it all. It's good that everyone's getting recognized, because some of these kids aren't used to that."
Powell has also heard the accolades from plenty of CMSD coaches.
"They've told me their kids are learning how to present themselves in front of a microphone, how they're feeling comfortable, it's an interesting journey to watch them grow," she said. "That's awesome for me, because it should be the norm, and not something they feel like they don't deserve."
Beyond giving access to fans who can't physically attend games, and beyond giving Senate League athletes a star-turn on camera, the partnership is also giving CMSD students the chance to learn how to broadcast events, both behind and in front of the camera.
"We just had a flier out," Powell said. "We have a handful of kids that we're going to interview. We want to invest in them to bring quality to the broadcasts and allow them to learn how to be broadcasters."
That aspect was one of the motivating factors for DistrictWON specifically reaching out to CMSD as well.
"It enables students from these schools to start broadcasting clubs and get experience," Fitzpatrick said. "I've been in the sports business a long time, and one of the things you see is minorities and women are woefully underrepresented. So here are these kids that can get involved and do broadcasting, whether a cameraman or woman or be on air, and hopefully that spikes some interest that can lead to further participation down the road."
Powell still gets surprised three months in at the number of people who are tuning in.
"I asked them one day how many people were watching. It was more than 300, for wrestling, at 10 in the morning."