Thanks to a new agreement between the athletic department and Northeast Sports Network (NSN), Polar Bear parents, students, and alumni will have access to professional-quality live webcasts of home sporting events throughout the entire academic year.

This summer, Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan ‘98 and Assistant Athletic Director for Communications Jim Caton negotiated a three-year deal with NSN to provide live feeds of sporting events for at least 16 of Bowdoin’s 31 varsity teams. Over 100 total contests will be broadcast over the course of the year.

“For the last two or three years we could kind of see the writing on the wall for webcasting,” said Caton. “There was a demand out there that was growing exponentially that I could anticipate not being able to fill at a point in time.”

“We wanted to make sure that we were providing great service for our parents, alumni and fans,” added Ryan. “We were fortunate enough to move forward this summer.”

“It was natural for us to reach out to more New England Small Athletic Conference members,” said Eric Berry, the founder and current Head of Sales and Business at NSN. “We already were working with Middlebury and were close to a deal with Williams, so we reached out to everyone else in the NESCAC. Bowdoin was interested and certainly liked what they saw with us at Middlebury. That’s where pieces fell into place.”

Berry founded NSN in his basement in Lyndonville, Vermont in 2006. The network is now headquartered in Essex, Vermont.

“Someone told me that we couldn’t do live videocasts in northeastern Vermont. Texas high school football was where it really started,” said Berry. “To my knowledge there wasn’t a lot in that realm being done in New England at the time. I took that as a challenge. We broadcasted several high school games locally, and the first college to come on board was Castleton.”

Following Castleton, six other Vermont colleges have partnered with NSN over the last few years. Norwich, Lyndon State, Plattsburgh State, Green Mountain College, Middlebury, and the University of Vermont all have contracts with the network. This summer, NSN reached agreements with both Bowdoin and Williams College to spread their reach further throughout New England.

NSN’s productions mark a transition from webcasts that were previously organized by Caton and run entirely by students.

“When we did the webcasts for soccer last year, it was me, a color commentator, and another student holding the camera. That was it,” said Wiley Spears ’14, who has been heavily involved in producing Bowdoin’s athletic webcasts in his time at the College. “Now it’s a much more professional thing.”

“It’s easier to find kids who want to be on the air,” said Caton. “It’s really hard to find kids who want to get dirty in the tech aspect of camera operation, web stream and all of those other aspects.”

Despite the five-hour drive from Essex to Brunswick, Berry does not anticipate any issues with quality assurance.

“To ensure that things started smoothly we’ve sent our higher-level technicians, our director of video technology, and our chief technology officer, Ryan McDonald,” said Berry.

To provide professional announcers for the Polar Bears’ contests, Berry and others at NSN have scouted the Brunswick area for broadcasters to lend their vocal skills.

“We certainly search for local talent,” he said. “That’s a constant search, because most of these jobs are not full-time jobs. Scheduling is sometimes difficult.”

Although they will no longer be running the show, Bowdoin students will still have opportunities to be involved in production of the webcasts.

“The lead play-by-play announcer will be someone from NSN, but we’ve agreed to hire students to provide color commentary because we recognize that that’s a position that students have enjoyed working in the past,” said Ryan.

For Bowdoin’s four home football games this year, Spears will announce alongside long-time Maine sportscaster Don Shields. Shields is a member of the Maine Association of Broadcasters (MAB) Hall of Fame and was the 2007 MAB Broadcaster of the Year.

“For me and any other Bowdoin students who have the opportunity to work with these veteran guys, it’s an invaluable experience,” said Spears. “I’ve never had a chance to do anything in broadcasting with someone who’s been doing it for so long. I’m going to learn so much from meeting Don and doing these broadcasts.”

According to the student webcasters, NSN’s partnership with Bowdoin brings a very high production ceiling compared to last year.

“We have different levels of broadcasts that we offer,” said Berry. “We can go all the way to a six-camera enterprise with replay from multiple angles, two announcers, the whole smorgasbord, if you will. An ESPN-type broadcast. We try to employ a lot of different graphics and features even in what you would call our most basic broadcast.”

While most of Bowdoin’s broadcasts will be more basic than an ESPN production, select events throughout the year will receive more complex broadcasts. All four home football games and the annual Bowdoin-Colby men’s hockey rivalry game will feature a more deluxe production package.

Already pleased with the service provided by Northeast Sports Network, Caton said he is confident that the company will continue to expand.

“I anticipate that the number of schools interested in NSN will grow,” said Caton. “They’re filling a need that a lot of people in my position around the conference either don’t have an ability to address or don’t want to address.”