Cronkite students Peyton Gallaher and Jaden Taylor at control board.

Cronkite Contentpreneurs: Cronkite students launch streaming service to broadcast Phoenix Rising games

Wednesday, June 28, 2023


Three students at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University have launched a streaming service that provides play-by-play for Phoenix Rising FC soccer games.

Cronkite students Peyton Gallaher, Ryan Sykora and Jaden Taylor founded the Valley Sports Streaming Group after meeting each other in fall 2022. The group worked together at Blaze Radio, Arizona State University’s student-run radio station, and the Walter Cronkite Sports Network, a student-run organization at the Cronkite School that provides ASU sports coverage.

Gallaher does play-by-play, graphics and motion design, and production and advertising for the streaming service. Sykora is the lead analyst and secondary play-by-play broadcaster. Taylor is the producer and board operator.

The service live streams the students’ play-by-play announcing through social media platforms from the stadium or from their studio using Open Broadcast Software.

The three students began broadcasting games while at Blaze Radio but wanted the opportunity to work directly with the team, which was founded in 2014 and has grown into one of the most popular sports attractions in the Valley. The Rising play in the United Soccer League (USL) Championship division, which is a step below Major League Soccer (MLS).

They were also inspired by their experience at the Cronkite School, which they say helped them develop an entrepreneurial mindset that pushed them to pursue this venture. 

“Cronkite encourages a sense of self fulfillment in these things and encourages you to go out and try to make things happen for yourself,” Gallaher said.

The students reached out to the Rising to get approval to broadcast the team’s games and signed a contract for this season. They also created an LLC and opened a business banking account to support the advertising portion of their business.

They impressed team officials with their previous broadcasts at Blaze Radio, including one game last season where SiriusXM used their feed to broadcast Rising’s match against the Oakland Roots.

“Last season, Peyton was introduced to Phoenix Rising FC through Blaze Radio, and he really knocked it out of the park for us.  He did his homework, set up the feed, called play-by-play for our matches, and even traveled on his own to Rising’s away matches,” said Tim Riester, founding co-owner, vice chairman and alternate governor of Phoenix Rising and member of the Cronkite Endowment Board of Trustees. “All of us at Phoenix Rising could not be happier with the broadcast work of Peyton, Ryan and Jaden.”

The students knew working directly with the team would provide a bigger platform than what they had last year. They also realized they needed to commit resources toward achieving a higher level of production for their broadcasts than what was available at Blaze.

“To get a chance to now work for the team and create something that has enabled me personally, to be able to connect with the fans but also connect with the players, coaches, GM and the media every day is really cool,” Sykora said.

They produced their first broadcast of the year on March 11 for the team’s season opener and have generated more than 40,000 total views across all platforms. They have broadcasted 13 games so far.

“They offered Rising a way to broaden its reach initially and then they took advantage of the opportunity. Their plan this season was to add new ways to reach new partners via the broadcast,” said Jason Minnick, director of communications and community relations for Rising.

Although Minnick partnered with the students while they were at Blaze Radio, they took the opportunity to the “next level” once they launched their own company, he said.

“(Peyton) is very professional, and I really trust him to produce a top-level broadcast, so we drew up a plan that he has executed very well. People in the front office have told me they turn off the audio from the away TV broadcasts and just listen to Peyton and Ryan. I honestly couldn’t be happier with the product they’re creating for Rising,” Minnick said.

Gallaher credited late professor Mark Reda’s live sports production class, commonly known at the Cronkite School as the “Stream Team,” for helping him develop the skills to launch this venture.

“Mark is the one who showed me some, if not all of the ways to think about making a broadcast. That class, more than anything, has had a massive impact on making this possible,” he said.

Sykora was inspired by a variety of experiences gained from different classes at Cronkite. 

“Every class for me has been valuable,” he said. “It’s just been basically gaining something from each class that you can apply to your experience or taking something from each class, no matter how minor.”

The students want to run the streaming service as long as they can and use it to launch their future careers. Gallaher expects to graduate in the fall, while Sykora is a junior and Taylor is a sophomore.

“You watch people walking around downtown, wearing a Rising shirt or you see a bumper sticker, right? And, you have this snap realization that we’re the voice of that team now. And that’s really cool,” Gallaher  said. “It means everything to me to broadcast games for Phoenix Rising and for these fans.” 

By Sierra Alvarez