Small Business Administration Tucked away on the back side of a building on Depot St. in Lyndonville, VT, the founder of a small business sits in his office trying to figure out how his company is going to cover more than 3,000 sporting events this coming school year. On average that equals out to be eight games a day. On September 29, Northeast Sports Network is slated to cover and stream 29 different games. It is quite the leap for an online sports network that started out in a basement in 2006.
“Scheduling all the different games at different locations and who is going to cover what may be the most difficult part of this job,” said Eric Berry, founder of Northeast Sports Network.
Today Northeast Sports Network bills itself as the premier sports website in New England featuring state of the art live video streaming, on-demand video, game articles, featured columns, photos, message boards, blogs, and more.
Filming and streaming games is the network’s primary focus. NSN covers games for Castleton University, Lyndon State College, Norwich University and the University of Vermont, as well as all of Vermont’s high school games. The network also has a large footprint covering high school and college games throughout the northeast and has also been contracted to cover events across the country. And every sport is covered. Swimming, field hockey, basketball, football, lacrosse, skiing, baseball, softball, volleyball and countless others.
Visitors can stream games on www.nsnsports.net free of charge. The site offers a calendar of upcoming games and features a search tool to view past games.
In the beginning when he first launched his site, Berry admits it was primitive. He also knew he had a good idea and good product. Berry was handling the sales and hiring the talent while Jordan Royer was in charge of media production, but NSN needed a web developer. It was in 2008 when he partnered with Ryan McDonald that everything started to come together.
“Ryan came on board as a co-owner 10 years ago and became the CTO. He has taken the website and our online production to the extraordinary level it is right now. He has made so many great innovations to our product,” said Berry.
Today McDonald is Chief Technology Officer, Royer is Director of Video Production and Berry is CEO.
NSN’s revenue is generated through web advertisements and broadcast and filming agreements with the colleges and universities.
“I thought it would be a great way to get my Real Estate Company's name more exposure, and to tell my clients about NSN and show their property advertised on the web. It also helps promote area schools and their sports programs. Eric and his team have done a great job,” said David Lussier,” David A. Lussier Real Estate Agency.
It appears to be the perfect fit for Berry. His obsession with sports is obvious upon meeting him. Of course the owner of a sports network has sports memorabilia and photos throughout his office, but it’s the moment he focuses on a Red Sox loss during a stretch where they won 9 out of 10 games where one realizes he is more than a “casual” fan.
He is also a serial entrepreneur, and no two ventures have been alike. When he was younger he owned a landscaping company, then his own carpentry business. By the time he was in his 30’s he purchased a couple of Subway sandwich shops. Then he turned his eyes toward an online sports network.
As is the case with any new business, it takes capital to get it off the ground. Although Berry had personal capital and had initial investors to launch his site, he knew he needed additional funds in order turn a media startup into a professional network. A few months after he started, he went to Passumpsic Savings Bank in the fall of 2006 and obtained a 7(a) loan backed by the Small Business Administration.
The 7(a) Loan Program is SBA’s primary program for helping start-up businesses. The SBA does not make direct loans, but rather guarantees loans made by participating lenders.
Since 2006 Berry has secured two more SBA loans through NorthCountry Federal Credit Union to grow his business. NSN has seven full-time employees between its two offices, one in Essex Junction, Vt. and its headquarters in Lyndonville, Vt.
“The SBA has been a big help. So much of this industry is technology dependent. Because of these loans I have been able to purchase more than 100 video cameras and they are all vital to this network,” said Berry.
Those 100 cameras are shipped all over the northeast during the fall, the peak of high school and college sports, to his 150 part-time employees. His staff out in the field does everything from filming and directing to play-by-play announcing and color commentating.
NSN’s viewership has grown as well. From 2012 to 2017 NSN has increased its viewership by 25 percent annually, adding an average of 80,000 new users each year.
Berry says his plan for future expansion is to continue developing and fostering the expansion of athletics to new audiences both online and through other networks.