if you are a fan of local school sports chances are you’ve been relying on the Zimbabwean news platform Schools Sports Network (SSN) to catch up on all the latest news on the local school sports scene.
Thankfully SSN hasn’t been limiting its focus to just news before and after the game. In addition to its existing live commentary feature it has started livestreaming sports events via YouTube.
This follows the crowdfunding campaign that SSN held some time last year to gather resources that were used to acquire some of the equipment and software that is now being used to for the live delivery of sports in good quality.
This past weekend SSN shared a livestreaming link for a Schoolboy Rugby League match that saw Peterhouse take on Falcon in a First 15 encounter.
This wasn’t the first match to be livestreamed by SSN, though. In addition to the other rugby matches that it has shared this season, SSN has also livestreamed matches for other sports like hockey and water polo.other rugby matches that it has shared this season, SSN has also livestreamed matches for other sports like hockey and water polo.
The livestream links are always shared on the SSN website which can also be accessed by anyone using the SSN iOS and Android app. As far as revenue considerations go SSN has managed to secure some sponsorship for the livestream from corporates like Trek Petroleum and DHL Zimbabwe.
Internet access is still the main factor
It’s fairly obvious that the live delivery of sports is a big deal and the introduction of school sports to a wider audience through the internet is a huge step for Zimbabwean schools. However, it’s growth is still influenced by internet access for the school as well as the viewers.
According to Chenje Katanda, the team lead at SSN, the streaming service has been offered on a school by school basis. Any institution hosting a sports match can have its main game streamed, as long as it has the necessary infrastructure such as a stable internet connection.
So far the schools that have taken part rely on fibre connections for their internet. Though this type of internet isn’t necessarily the prerequisite to set up a live streaming link it shows how the need for strong internet connection has limited this to mostly urban schools as well as some remotely located but well-heeled institutions like Peterhouse.
There is room for growth as the service expands to deliver a greater number of sports for a host of schools but even after providers like SSN invest their own resources in covering each and every one of these encounters, each school still needs to have good internet to start off with.
The internet access issue also affects the number of people who watch the games. Though it is still being delivered sporadically the service has attracted a fair number of users with rugby, which has a significant following generating over 1,000 views.
Our first impression was that this audience would consist of Diaspora based Zimbabweans but according to Katanda, so far, a decent number of the views have also been from within the country.
Katanda believes that there is a huge appetite for live sports in Zimbabwe and even though mobile internet, which is the predominant type of internet used, is still expensive by any sort of measure, alternatives like day bundles offered by all three mobile network operators have also given the ordinary fan access to the right amount of data for streaming.
Changes taking place in the live broadcast space are also going to have an impact on how SSN’s service gains traction. While SSN has been relying on YouTube for streaming the inclusion of live video services from platforms like Twitter and Facebook will have a huge impression on the way this service gains popularity locally.
According to the local telecoms regulator Facebook is the second largest driver of bandwidth use locally and in cases where YouTube is sidelined for being expensive an existing appetite for Facebook along with workarounds for the high internet cost like Facebook bundles will open up live school sports to an even wider audience.