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Maryland athletics launches streaming platform. It’s like ‘Netflix for Terps.’

Maryland is starting a streaming video platform to reach an audience online and through social media that is much larger than the number of fans who could fit in a stadium. (Julio Cortez/AP)
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This summer, Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren spoke during a virtual event with Maryland donors, and one tidbit from that conversation fortified the athletic department’s plans for a project in the works. Warren mentioned that, when he worked as an executive with the Minnesota Vikings, the organization’s research found that less than a quarter of Vikings fans had ever attended a game.

“That was just so eye-opening to me that historically Maryland athletics has done lots of marketing and communications,” said Brian Ullmann, the athletic department’s chief strategy officer who moderated that event with the commissioner, “but they’ve always been built around our games, and wins and losses.”

Ullmann first mentioned the idea of creating a Maryland athletics streaming platform about a year ago. The comment from Warren offered reassurance. And Monday the school unveiled Terrapin Club Plus, a hub for video content that the athletic department staff sometimes calls “Netflix for Terps.” An in-house video team, led by Mike Farrell, hopes to produce stories on par with the quality of ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentaries. Ullmann said Maryland’s staff doesn’t know of another school with a similar platform.

Maryland has created five shows and plans to release one of each every month. Through December, the videos are available to everyone online and through the Maryland athletics app. Beginning in January, they will only be accessible to Terrapin Club members.

Maryland released two videos Monday, including the first installment of “The Johnny Holliday Show,” which features Darryl Hill, the first Black athlete to play sports at Maryland and the first Black football player to compete in the ACC. Holliday, the longtime Maryland broadcaster, interviewed Hill for this 22-minute video that delves into what he experienced as a groundbreaking college athlete. Hill tells the story of how, when he played at Clemson — becoming the first Black player to do so — his mother was denied entrance until Clemson’s president brought her to his suite.

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“This is something that I have always wanted to do,” said Holliday, who gave Maryland a list of 82 people he would like to interview for his show. “I always wanted to do a one-on-one interview show, just me and one guest, and be able to talk about anything and everything about that person, and try to bring out something that the audience doesn’t know about.”

Holliday cried when he watched the show featuring Hill with his wife last week. He said he told Farrell, “I don’t think I’ve ever done anything that hit home with me like what I just saw.”

In the other show that debuted Monday, called “Behind the Play,” former Maryland basketball player Kristi Toliver and Coach Brenda Frese dissect and relive Toliver’s game-tying three-pointer that forced overtime in the 2006 national title game. As a freshman, Toliver helped the Terps to a come-from-behind win over Duke and the program’s first (and so far only) national championship.

When discussing this project, Maryland’s athletic department felt it “had to go beyond getting people into our seats,” Ullmann said. The Terrapin Club has about 5,500 members and has declined after reaching a high of nearly 10,000 more than a decade ago. But the audience reached online and through social media is much larger than the number of fans who can fit in a stadium.

“If you’re thinking about this in a different way,” Ullmann said, “it’s not about encouraging people to give because you need seating benefits. We need to give them different reasons to support.”

Ullmann, a fan of UFC, said the idea for Terrapin Club Plus was partially inspired by “Embedded,” a show that follows competitors behind the scenes before fights. Ullmann said those videos make fans “care so much more about the fights because you have a vested emotional bond in the participant,” which Maryland hopes to replicate.

The athletic department also believes showcasing these stories can benefit athletes as the NCAA moves toward allowing college athletes to benefit from their names, images and likenesses.

Next month, Maryland will release the first edition of two more shows — “Game Changers,” a documentary series, with the debut episode highlighting linebacker Ayinde Eley’s recovery from a brain condition, as well as “Home,” which will visit athletes’ hometowns in the D.C. area. The first episode features volleyball player Rainelle Jones of Oxon Hill. A fifth show, “Anyone Can,” begins in January and chronicles Maryland athletes attempting to play other sports.

“There’s something to each one of these people,” Holliday said, “that I think we can delve into and make them seem more real and more maybe accessible than people think they are.”

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