CBS’s MaxPreps is getting people to watch high school football videos

This article is part of a series on “Video’s Cross-Platform Imperative,” a look at how the Web video and TV industries are converging as eyeballs spread across platforms.

MaxPreps, a high school sports site owned by CBS, is aiming to provide more video during this football season. But unlike CBS’s efforts in streaming more NFL and college football games this year, MaxPreps is taking a community approach to its video content. And unlike other publishers with a lot of user-generated content, it’s not looking to social for distribution.

“The scale of high school sports is pretty astounding,” said Andy Beal, founder and president of MaxPreps. In football alone, the site tracks some 7,500 games being played across the country every weekend. “There’s a lot of interest, and it’s highly passionate, because for the most part, the fans are people who know the players and actually love the players.”

While some of its content is produced by MaxPreps — for instance, the site recently sent a team to Riverside, California, to do a piece on the biggest football player in America — a lot is also supplied by its community. MaxPreps has a coach network that sends in a lot of the game highlights and player profiles, while users also have the ability to upload their own clips.

In terms of distribution, MaxPreps has a YouTube channel with nearly 37,000 subscribers and a Facebook page with nearly 119,000 fans. It uploads natively to both but primarily treats social as a promotional vehicle, not as its primary distribution platforms. The site, which had 5.8 million unique visitors in August, according to comScore, remains the central hub for video.

It’s here where MaxPreps differs from other publishers — from Moviepilot to The Lad Bible and Unilad — that are emphasizing user-generated content and social-first distribution.

The approach, so far, has CBS Interactive and MaxPreps satisfied. Three weekends ago, the site did 900,000 streams, which a CBS Interactive spokeswoman said represented a “quadruple-digit percentage growth” from the same time the previous year. The following weekend, streaming neared 1 million, an increase of 1,000 percent versus the same weekend the year before. Last week was the site’s best ever with 4 million streams.

 

Videos on MaxPreps can largely be categorized into two “buckets,” according to Beal. There’s the “organic” bucket, which includes video highlights from almost every high school football game in the country, as well as ancillary content like player profiles. This content is geared toward players, fans, families and coaches who want to keep track of their teams or rivals. The other bucket is also all about local clips, but focuses on great or even weird plays that have a national appeal and the potential to go viral.

“Digital does really well at covering smaller, almost niche demand,” said Jeffrey Gerttula, svp and gm of CBS Sports Digital. “A TV station is only going to be able to get so local. Digital allows us to create specific niche experiences that are comprehensive that you can’t create on another medium.”

Looking ahead, MaxPreps will be placing a greater emphasis on its new mobile app, which launched two weeks ago on iOS devices and remains the No, 1 paid sports app in the App Store. Right now, the app uses MaxPreps’ Web video player but will soon have a native player that’s optimized for the platform.

“Video consumption on our app is a huge part of our growth strategy,” said Gerttula. “It’s going to move there.”

Image via Pell Studio / Shutterstock

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