SBJ/August 22-28, 2011/In Depth

Kansas State launching broadband channel

Kansas State plans to launch a high-definition broadband channel this month that will enable the school to produce and distribute its own content, including the live broadcast of the Wildcats’ football season opener against Eastern Kentucky.

Content for the channel will be heavy with live athletic events, but it also will carry shoulder programming, weekly magazine shows, and academic programming from lectures to dance and musical events.

K-State HDTV will carry live events, shoulder programming and weekly magazine shows.
The digital network will be called K-State HDTV and can be accessed directly at K-StateHD.tv or by using a link off the school’s athletic website, K-StateSports.com.

K-State Athletic Director John Currie said the athletic department is spending about $500,000 for cameras and other equipment to produce the content in high-def. The school already owns an HD broadcast truck.

“We’re creating our own network, but it’s a digital network,” Currie said. “We’ve got alumni and constituents all over the world, and our goal is to be able to reach all of them with a global platform that will help us stay connected.”

In Texas, the formation of the Longhorn Network will give K-State’s Big 12 rival, the University of Texas, unprecedented exposure through its own TV channel, but that kind of initiative doesn’t work for every school, said Currie, who applauded the Longhorns for partnering with ESPN on the TV network. Few schools have the fan following and the TV households in-state to support a linear channel like that.

Still, Texas’ new channel is applying pressure to other schools to provide more content to their fans. Oklahoma is doing its own research into forming a TV channel dedicated to the Sooners, and the other eight Big 12 schools, including K-State, continue to have talks with Learfield Sports about forming their own TV channel, although Texas A&M’s flirtations with the SEC have likely put that on hold.

But the Wildcats, who remain interested in a conference TV channel, saw other benefits in creating a broadband channel.

“Revenue is important,” Currie said, “but the focus is much more on exposure and being at the forefront of communicating with our constituents.”

As a member of the Big 12, K-State is able to retain the rights to any games that are not picked up by the conference’s media partners, ESPN and Fox. That will include at least one football game per season, a handful of men’s basketball games and most of the Olympic sports. All 13 of the Wildcats’ home volleyball matches will be broadcast live on the online channel. There also will be pregame and postgame football shows, live coverage of coaches’ press conferences, and a daily wrap-up show for all sports. On-demand programming will include replays of classic K-State games.

“We’ve got more flexibility in the Big 12 than any other conference in the country,” Currie said. “Our broadcast contracts enable us to retain a lot of our own content and distribute it.”

In the past, Kansas State football games that were not picked up by ESPN or Fox would not have been telecast.

Even if K-State made its game against Eastern Kentucky available in-state via pay-per-view, which might have generated revenue in the low six figures, it wouldn’t give the Wildcats the national and global exposure that’s available on the Web.

Keeping that game on the new digital network will help drive subscribers to the site, which is selling the premium content for $79.95 a year or $9.95 a month. Some content will be offered for free, Currie said. Learfield, K-State’s multimedia rights partner, will have the ability to sell sponsorships and advertising into the broadcasts.

Currie said much of the production work will be handled by students who are being trained to run the equipment and who will receive class credit for their work.

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