Why NexGen Is The Best Thing To Happen To Ultimate In A Long Time

Many of us can remember back to just a few years ago when Ultimate to anyone outside the sport was still an obscure subculture, a sport for hippies, and a game you play in bare feet in the backyard. Video footage was confined to Ultivillage DVDs and, finally, the National finals on a CBS sports channel nobody has included in their cable package. It is incredible how quickly the sport has developed — both in terms of public perception and the available video to change that perception — in the last two years.

Much of that change is due to NexGen, the “online television network” that broadcasts live streams from top tournaments around the country. The organization came onto the scene last summer with the NexGen Tour, sending 14 of Ultimate’s top college players on a road trip to face off against the country’s best club teams. The tour describes itself as “born from a vision where fun, exciting Ultimate games played by exceptional athletes happened in our own backyard.” It has lived up to expectations.

This year’s tour — underway now — has been great fun to watch. The games are streamed live and the free highlight reels are professional.

Johnny Bravo, an open club team out of Denver, was the first team to play the NexGen team this summer. They had great things to say about the team on Twitter:

It’s that exciting Ultimate that can really drive interest in the sport. Perhaps the biggest exposure comes from those few plays that reach ESPN’s SportsCenter Top 10. And that exposure happens because of huge hucks and big layouts. And now that the NexGen Network is broadcasting games at a frequency we’ve never seen before, the opportunity to capture those moments and drive interest in the sport has never been higher.

The network, thanks to a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $25,000 (which shows just how much demand there is for high quality video coverage of Ultimate), has taken off, covering tournaments from Worlds to Nationals. It’s not free — games cost $5 each and tournaments range from $15-25 — but they have found a market for it.  While there have been some technical bugs (dropped streams, glitchy logins), the quality is quite good for an upstart sports broadcaster.

The premium model does have downsides — it limits the audience significantly. Only a small fraction of the population of interested Ultimate players and spectators will pay to watch games. But as sponsorships in the sport grow (and they will), broadcasting costs will come down.

But if nothing else, the Network (along with the American Ultimate Disc League) has shown there is an opportunity to monetize spectator Ultimate. NGN will likely scale up in the future, covering more tournaments and maybe getting some on TV. That can only mean more exposure and more interest — and that is nothing but good for the sport.

  1. Charlie Eisenhood
    Charlie Eisenhood

    Charlie Eisenhood is the editor-in-chief of Ultiworld. You can reach him by email (charlie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@ceisenhood).

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