MSG Varsity App Offers Live High School Sports in the Palm of Your Hand
By: Jason Dachman, Managing Editor
Friday, November 4, 2011 - 1:10 pm

As the profile of televised high school sports continues to rise around the country, regional sports networks (RSNs) are offering more ways than ever for fans, parents, and friends to follow and watch live video of their school’s teams.

In that vein, MSG Varsity has introduced a customizable app for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch (an Android app will be available soon) that allows users to access photos, scores, stories, and game highlights for teams throughout the New York metropolitan area. In addition, Cablevision Optimum Online subscribers can watch a live stream of the MSG Varsity linear network as well as MSGVarsity.com’s video library of archived games, highlights, and shows.

“The killer aspect of the app is that it allows fans to sit in the stands at a high school football game — or any sport for that matter — and see everything that’s going on: all the camera angles, replays, and the full game experience,” says Jonathan McCarthy, VP of digital platforms for MSG Varsity. “I liken it to when people used to sit in the stands with a transistor radio as they watched the game, except this obviously a much more comprehensive experience.”

All High School, All the Time
While other networks, including several Fox Sports RSNs, have offered similar mobile and broadband products, none have had the allure of a 24/7 network devoted entirely to high school sports. Now two years old, MSG Varsity (available only to Cablevision Optimum Cable subscribers) produces hundreds of live games each year in Connecticut, the Hudson Valley, Long Island, New Jersey, New York City, and Westchester County. In addition to live games, the network and MSGVarsity.com offer ENG-style highlights of hundreds more games around the tri-state area.

“Essentially, all of our video is available in the application,” says McCarthy. “In addition to the [MSG Varsity live stream], you also have access to any video that we produce for MSGVarsity.com. You can watch every [archived] game dating back to a few weeks before the app launched, and we will have every game going forward.”

Customize, Customize, Customize
The MSG Varsity app is fully customizable, allowing users to create different pages for specific teams, schools, sports, or activities. Once customized, the app delivers constant updates and text alerts for each specified team.

“For us, the customization is the part we are most proud of. A high school student can customize the pages of the app to give you exactly what you are most interested in. If you are on the girls’ soccer team and your boyfriend or brother is on the football team, you can build pages for all those things. We have hundreds of schools across our footprint, each of them with 10-15 sports, so you can imagine all the different combinations you can create.”

The app also allows users to share links to articles, photos, and videos via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and text.

Optimum App Offers Helping Hand
Both the video player and the authentication system in the MSG Varsity App are based on the Cablevision’s Optimum app for Apple iOS devices.

The HTML5-based video player uses Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming platform to stream H.264 video and leverages adaptive-bitrate technology to stream video at up to 877 kbps and a resolution of 624×352.

“We took advantage of all the work that Cablevision did for the Optimum app, so we did not have to create anything from scratch, and we were already processing our streams anyway for the Optimum app. We are able to process all the videos that we are doing for the Website for use in an HTML5 player like in the iOS devices.”

As for the authentication process, Optimum Online subscribers need only to input their Optimum ID and password to access the app.

“We just wanted to make sure we were in lockstep with the other applications that Cablevision has out there,” says McCarthy. “For example, the Optimum iPad has the same exact registration system. We are all pretty much using the same authentication process, so, if you are a Cablevision customer, you will already be used to this experience.”

In addition to this iPad/iPhone/iTouch app, MSG Varsity plans to roll out an app for Android-based devices later this year.

“We are working on the Android app as we speak,” says McCarthy. “So I’m hopeful that it will be out in time for basketball season.”

For more information on the new MSG Varsity App, visit www.msgvarsity.com/app.

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