South Carolina Athletics announced a new streaming service called Gamecocks+ through a partnership with Sport and Story, a group that specializes in building streaming platforms featuring storytelling content. However, the preparation began well before the university’s press release on Sept. 1.
Deputy Athletics Director for External Operations Eric Nichols explained what pushed the Gamecocks Athletics Department to search for ways to improve its fan-centered content.
“We have been deficient in storytelling for a little while,” Nichols said. “So, we were trying to solve the storytelling problem and Sport and Story has a good reputation, they’ve done good work at other places, so we were investigating their work and initiating some dialogue.”
During the early planning process Sport and Story presented Dakota Watson, a 2017 University of South Carolina graduate, as a candidate to lead the new joint venture. Watson is now the General Manager of Gamecocks+ following a strong first impression, Nichols said.
“It’s important in that position that there’s a good culture fit with the department and obviously you have to have talent to do the job, and he checked both of those boxes, we all got along very well. It means a lot having an alum leading that program,” Nichols said.
Both Nichols and Watson emphasized the range of content available on Gamecocks+, highlighted by “behind-the-scenes access, off-the-field storytelling featuring your favorite athletes, exclusive interviews, archival footage showcasing iconic moments, news and information,” according to the press release.
Sharing in-depth stories for the full array of the Gamecock fanbase is Watson’s goal through his work. He said he and his team will be covering a variety of the teams on South Carolina’s campus and have already produced men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball and football content.
“We want to bring the fans of the University of South Carolina’s athletics programs closer to the teams than they even are now. We’ve already got a great content team with Justin King and his team and what they do is incredible, and we want to be able to reach even further and give fans even more access and give fans even more stories,” Watson said.
The streaming platform serves a dual purpose by providing further access to those who help support the Athletics Department religiously while engaging new audiences and growing the fanbase. Gamecocks+ is accessible with a Gamecock Club membership, an intentional decision, according to Nichols.
“Instead of having a competing subscription, competing membership model, with the Gamecock Club we just folded it in," Nichols said. "So, we see this as a tool to drive new members to join the Gamecock Club whether you’re in Charlotte, Charleston or Los Angeles, this gives you a reason to join the Gamecock Club and support student-athletes.”
The streaming service is currently only available online, but according to Watson, a mobile application and access through over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as AppleTV and Roku are coming soon.
All current Gamecock Club members can access Gamecocks+ using their current login for no additional cost. However, student and junior Gamecock Club memberships do not come with access to the platform.
Gamecocks+ serves as an all-access pass for fans who would not otherwise feel as connected to South Carolina’s athletics programs and has “something for everybody,” according to Watson, who believes the seven-day free trial will convince most to invest in the service.
Watson has jumped head-first into his new role, uncovering old footage from the university archives, following Jadaveon Clowney during his jersey retirement ceremony and assembling a content team — two of whom joined the football team on its week two road trip to Arkansas.
“We’ve launched with over 200 pieces of content on the website, which is a pretty big number. And just this week, I’ve already added over a dozen new things,” Watson said.