On any given weeknight, high school students gather in stadiums and gymnasiums, on playing fields and in hockey rinks, on tracks and in swimming pools, and Jamie Murff 01C and his colleagues at PlayOn! Sports record the action for broadcast in markets nationwide. “This fall, PlayOn! will launch a nationwide network across cable, satellite, telco, and online platforms,” Murff said of his company’s goals.
The PlayOn! Sports model is unique, and the company is “the largest rights holder, producer, and aggregator of high school sports events distributed across television, the Internet, and mobile devices,” according to its website. Murff, an Emory film studies major, is now director of operations for PlayOn! Sports. He launched his television production career after a post-graduation tour of Europe. “I took an unpaid internship with Turner South to offer production level assistance for film, to research stories, and to suggest video topics for original programming,” he explains.
This experience launched Murff to a production role on Turner’s Home Plate cooking show with Chef Marvin Woods, after which he produced Braves in a Hurry. “We condensed the full Braves game into a half-hour show and included every pitch where action happened. We produced the highlights show, added a voiceover track, and finished up fifteen minutes post-game. Turner South would air the show that same night.”
After Turner South was sold, Murff took a brief professional hiatus to Australia post-baseball season. When he came back to America he joined PlayOn! Sports, “a Turner entity focusing on low-cost, high quality broadcasts for collegiate athletics streamed online.” PlayOn! was eventually sold to 2080 Media. "I was lucky enough to be offered a position with the new PlayOn!” Shortly thereafter, the company changed its focus from collegiate sports to high school athletics. “It was a perfect fit for me. We find a lot of people who are very specialized in TV – just editors, or producers – experts at that one particular item. This new product required people who could wear many hats. It combined my two loves – film and sports.”
At PlayOn! “We build relationships with high school athletics associations and through those we secure the exclusive rights to broadcast championship events,” Murff explains. Once the rights are obtained to playoff events, “we use those rights to broadcast on television or through an individual state-by-state web portal that individual schools can choose to stream events through their own websites.” The business model works. “PlayOn! production has doubled this year.”
Though he wears several hats in his role, Murff manages live sports productions across the country. “I’m on the road quite a bit. To set up local productions, we hire an entire army of people to operate the cameras, trucks, and equipment.” When not in active film production, Murff acts as a liaison with Comcast cable in eight cities to produce On Demand content consisting of six to eight minute highlights videos. Footage is recorded on Panasonic P2 cards that are shipped to headquarters in Atlanta. Footage is digitally stored, edited for length, and enhanced with voiceover and graphics before being packaged for broadcast in local markets.
But the best part of his job is “going to the championship events of the lesser sports in extremely small towns and seeing how that small town shuts down early to support all of its athletes,” Murff says. “I see the emotion and purity in high school sports. These kids play because they want to, and that’s really cool to see.”