By Tina Meketa, University Communications and Marketing
USF is on its way to becoming No. 1 for streaming athletics events on ESPN+, the digital division of ESPN, for the American Athletic Conference. Student interns work tirelessly behind the scenes, helping bring more than 180 sporting events to streaming devices – enhancing USF’s exposure across the world. That effort also allows families and friends located out-of-state or in other countries to watch their student-athletes, such as women’s basketball player Carla Brito, who hails from Las Palmas, Spain.
“My family there, they watch all of the games,” Brito said. “They don’t care what time it is, if it’s 4 a.m. or 5 a.m., they don’t care, they watch it.”
ESPN+ is streamed throughout North America. USF also geo-fences many of those streams to an international audience through the USF Athletics website. Ninety-three USF student-athletes – nearly 20 percent – are international students, representing 44 countries, such as Spain, Italy, Canada, Colombia, Finland, Japan and Ghana.
“One of our goals in USF Athletics is ‘American Dominance,’ and that means winning in competition with our fellow conference members across the spectrum – competition, the classroom and what we do as a department to support our student-athletes and engage our fan base,” said Michael Kelly, vice president for USF Athletics. “The live streaming off all of our home athletic competitions and building the facilities and support staff to do it at an extremely high level are a big part of that.”
Managed with Athletics streaming partner Gemstone Media, 25 interns, primarily students in the Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications, play a critical role in helping professionals broadcast the games. They’re streamed from the Bulls Broadcast & Video Productions Center, located inside the Muma Basketball Center, which is adjacent to the Yuengling Center. The $2 million facility opened in 2020 with cutting-edge technology that’s provided students valuable real-world experience from camera operation to editing to providing commentary during live reports.
“The Bulls Broadcasting program has meant a lot to me,” said intern Leah Griffin, who’s a senior majoring in mass communications. “I’ve met so many wonderful and talented people who have helped me learn so much about live broadcasting. It has been such a great opportunity to learn so much.”
Julio Martinez interned for USF Athletics during the 2021-2022 academic year working the camera, editing instant replay and directing from the production booth. He’s since graduated and went on to work for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Rays, Lightning and Orlando Magic.
“The program allowed me to discover a true passion in my life that I never knew I had until I started,” Martinez said. “My favorite thing about the program is the camaraderie between everyone involved. Everyone is always happy to help each other out and push each other to be better every day.”
ESPN and the American Athletic Conference have slowly been turning to campus studios and athletics departments to produce broadcasts for all of ESPN’s cable channels, which include ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPNNews. USF produced 10 of these games last year – the second most in the conference – and expects to produce more of these high-profile broadcasts this year and in future seasons.
“South Florida has been a tremendous partner to work with on the digital front. They put a lot of resources and time into their productions, which enhances the storytelling aspect woven into every digital telecast,” said Kauri Black, associate commissioner of Broadcasting and Digital Programming for the American Athletic Conference. “The expertise of the production staff has created a blueprint for success, and in many ways, a flywheel that allows South Florida to utilize students who aspire to work in live events production.”
Such talent has proven to be a strong investment for USF, as ESPN pays a commission on those broadcasts that generated nearly $30,000 in revenue last year, a number that is expected to soon double and continue to grow.
In addition to women’s basketball, other events that are live-streamed include men’s basketball, softball, baseball, volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer, track and field, tennis and news conferences, such as the introductions of men’s basketball head coach Amir Abdur-Rahim and football head coach Alex Golesh. While ESPN currently produces the broadcasts for home USF football games, USF Athletics expects its campus studio to eventually be used for these major productions as well, especially once construction is completed on a new on-campus stadium that will be built just down the block.
Tickets for USF Athletics events can be purchased here.