A new, free internet service for high schools can give your sports teams newfound exposure and give out-of-town fans unprecedented access to your school’s events. The program, called SportsCapsule.com, also provides you with free video equipment and can make money for your school.

A national demonstration of SportsCapsule.com was held Sept. 17, when a football game at a small Midwestern high school kicked off the fledgling service—one that soon might span every state and spread to other hometown sports and events.

Schools sign up for the program at no cost and, in return, get free video equipment and a part of the income from the sale of the games, said Michael Paolucci, president of SportsCapsule.com.

For those who want to tune in, games will be available on a pay-per-view basis, complete with individual player capsules, highlights, statistics, and audio voice-overs by nationally known broadcasters. Single game tapes, available on VHS or online, cost $19.95. But fans can buy a season pass and pay as little as $9.95 per game.

How much of that money goes to the school depends on how many teams the school has in the program and how many tapes they sell, Paolucci said.

Paolucci, a 29-year-old New York entrepreneur who has made his fortune on the internet, said SportsCapsule.com offers a video-on-demand service on the internet for the first time for high school sports.

His first venture into the internet was in 1995 as cofounder of 24/7 Media Inc., an internet advertising firm that went public in 1998.

“Internet advertising was an important step, but at the end of the day there is nothing noble in selling advertising,” Paolucci said. “The product we are creating here is good for everybody.”

The program is good for the coach, good for recruiting athletes, and good for the school, he said.

Sterling High School in Kansas is the first to sign on for the service and hosted the demonstration game. The school plans to form a class where students can learn to utilize the technology not just for football games, but for other sports and concerts, said Principal Mike Berlinger.

“It is positive publicity. It gets some of our students’ pictures and stories out,” Berlinger said. “It also is getting us some equipment that will be used, really, by the whole school once this preliminary kickoff is done with.”

Students learn to tape the game, edit the highlights, and upload it all to the firm’s server.

“It brings groups of people together who wouldn’t necessarily associate with each other in a high school: the jocks and the techies,” Paolucci said.

Quarterback Daniel Smith produced the first player capsule from his home, where SportsCapsule.com already has installed a satellite dish to speed communications.

The first half of the game was on the internet before the end of the half-time show, with the rest of the game posted shortly after the finish. Smith was to edit a game highlight for his capsule later that night.

“It’s a great opportunity to try to show what you can do,” Smith said.

His uncle in Yakima, Wash., planned to watch him play on the internet.

Cameron Zaid, 17, hopes his grandparents in Israel will finally get to watch him play football as well.

“I’ve only seen them twice, and I don’t speak Arabic and they don’t speak English,” Zaid said.

Meanwhile, the company does not have to pay a professional camera crew. Paolucci said he expects to turn a profit by 2001.

With more than 20,000 high schools across the country, the company already has received more interest than it can handle. And then there are the middle schools, Little League teams, school concerts, and graduation ceremonies.

“Once we prove this concept can work, and the quality is good enough over the internet, we will expand into these other things,” Paolucci said.

The school in Sterling was chosen to kick off the demonstration because it is a “quintessential small town” located in the heartland, far from the big cities out on the coast, Paolucci said. And, of course, it just happened to be the hometown of one of the publicists for the venture.

The central Kansas town, home to 2,500 people, is typical of other small towns, in that the community revolves around the school’s activities, Berlinger said.

Coach Monte Ball hopes the internet will help his players get more exposure to college recruiters.

“It’s neat for the kids to have the opportunity to see themselves on the internet and for people worldwide to see them,” Ball said.

Paolucci grew up the youngest of six boys who played lots of sports. His father was dedicated to his sons, he said, but could not attend all their games.

He said he wishes he could have a video today of that home run he hit when he was 12 years old against his archnemesis.

“That’s what got me motivated about this,” Paolucci said. “Video is right on the cusp. It is about to explode . . . I am not sure this concept would have been feasible without the internet.”