Next generation TV provider Evoca bets on local, regional sports

Broadcast video startup Evoca is further expanding its sports investment by producing the first two games of the Colorado State University football team’s games this season, the company announced.

The Boise-based company uses ATSC 3.0, the digital over-the-air standard adopted by broadcasters across the country, which enables a range of new business models and offerings.

Evoca combines these broadcast streams with an interactive online connection to provide subscribers with a bundle of local channels, news, sports and more for $25 a month. The company is also testing capabilities powered by ATSC 3.0, such as MIMO-enabled data transmission and adding HDR10+ enhancements to video. Since launching in 2019, the company has expanded to seven markets in five mostly Western countries.

The deal with CSU marks another step in the company’s growing interest in local and regional sports programs. Evoca will produce CSU’s games against Middle Tennessee State and Sacramento State, which will be broadcast on its services and on local channels in Fort Collins and Denver, Colorado. It’s part of a broader programming partnership that also includes upcoming CSU contests in men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, soccer and softball, the company said.

Sports lineup varies from market to market, but offerings include Altitude Sports, NFL Redzone, ROOT Sports, AT&T SportsNet, SWX, Portland Thorns, Portland Timbers and three smaller Colorado universities along with Colorado State.

“I think the most interesting opportunity for us is regional sports networks,” Evoca CEO Todd Achilles told me in a recent interview, though he acknowledged that established companies like Diamond Sports have had a tough time navigating the rapidly changing is sports television sector. “These teams are incredibly valuable. But in Portland, 60% can’t watch the Blazers; in Denver, 90% can’t see Nuggets” due to cost-cutting MVPD transportation issues.

Evoca’s hybrid over-the-air and streaming approach has some advantages for high-end programming such as live sports, Achille said. The image quality and scalability of ATSC 3.0 broadcast signals mean that, for example, sports can be reliably and affordably transmitted in 4K resolution video, regardless of the number of recipients.

This contrasts with online streaming, where only top-tier services such as Netflix are available
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the most expensive tiers provide 4K video for multiple recipients (and Netflix doesn’t have live sports).

The hybrid approach also allows regional sports networks to overcome local cable gatekeepers, who have been both their biggest distribution platforms and biggest impediment to growth, at least since cable companies stopped expanding their offerings to to save money amid growing cord-cutting concerns and prices.

Using ATSC 3.0 through Evoca allows regional networks to avoid the geographic limitations of given cable television service areas, which rarely cover an entire urban area, while still providing high-quality video at scale.

“The opportunity in broadcast is for the same kind of transformation” seen online, Achille said. “Is streaming (the future)? Is it being aired as MVPDs are slowly declining? It’s the same cost to me to reach 100 homes versus 100,000 homes. We are not bound to a local network to deliver a 4K stream.”

Evoca isn’t the only broadcaster/sort of broadcaster betting big on sports. Check out the multibillion-dollar deal NBC, CBS and Fox just announced with the Big 10, a deal that’s about twice what the conference previously paid and whose value jumps in 2024 when UCLA and the University of Southern California joins the conference.

This tectonic shift in college sports, announced about six weeks ago, turned the Midwest-focused Big 10 into a continent-spanning behemoth with teams in or near major markets from New York to Los Angeles.

ESPN, which has televised Big 10 games for years, now puts its chips behind the Southeastern Conference, which made its own a year ago by adding traditional powers the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma from the Big 12 Conference. under the new Big 10 media rights deal, ESPN will stop broadcasting games there, but continues to have the SEC, ACC and Big 12 conferences among other expensive rights deals.

Additional additions from either of the two major conferences are still possible, though the list of likely candidates is getting shorter.

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