BY JOHN OURAND at Sports Business Journal
The Iditarod will have a national video platform through a streaming service called VUit when it starts next month.
VUit, backed by Gray Television among other media companies, launched in September as an ad-supported service that provides “hyperlocal” live programming for a national audience from more than 200 local TV channels.
“We know the appeal of the Iditarod,” said Jack Perry, founder and CEO of VUit’s parent company, Syncbak, which counts ViacomCBS, the National Association of Broadcasters and the Consumer Technology Association as investors. “We know that the [Alaskan station] KTUU website historically has had viewers from over 100 DMAs watching. And we knew we could bubble that up into its own channel.”
The Iditarod is probably the highest profile event carried on VUit, which is focused on providing the platform for high school or semi-pro sports to go to over-the-top streaming. VUit is available via both a mobile app and desktop, plus IOS and Android devices, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and AppleTV.
VUit’s business plan has it providing a livestreaming platform for TV station owners like Gray Television, which owns stations in 94 markets. VUit does not pay rights fees for the programming; rather, it enters into revenue-sharing agreements.
“We focus on what’s really hard to get to today — that’s niche sports,” Perry said. “We’ve realized that broadcasters have the ability to create a whole lot more content than just what they’re putting out in their traditional over-the-air signal.”
Over the next 12 months, Perry estimates that VUit will carry up to 8,000 hyperlocal events exclusively from its local broadcast partners. This week, it plans to launch local wrestling and plans to carry high school hockey games from Michigan. In the coming months, it will launch channels devoted to auto racing, Perry said.
“Three issues are slowing sports going over the top: cost, complexity and monetization,” Perry said. “Our platform solves all three of those. We provide for anybody who wants to put their broadcast out over the top. They don’t have to think about encoders or cloud services. We take care of all that. Give us your stream and we’ll do the rest. … If viewers watch it, we just split the revenue.”
For the Iditarod, VUit will set up a dedicated channel that will stream the feed from Gray Television’s Anchorage-based station KTUU, which will produce the weeklong race starting March 15. VUit’s Iditarod Channel will carry a pre-race show and library content with highlights from previous Iditarod races.
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