Magazine article Variety

NCAA Enrolls in Television 101

Magazine article Variety

NCAA Enrolls in Television 101

Article excerpt

With sports rights fees going through the roof, few are benefiting more than those with college football and basketball to sell. But for the so-called minor collegiate sports - including everything from baseball to soccer, women's softball to lacrosse - the playing field is tilting toward a stripped-down, do-ityourself production model.

Historically, athletic departments have taken rights fees and relied on outside professionals - whether they be regional sports networks, local television stations or national broadcasters - to do eveiything from camerawork to beaming transmissiors from satellite trucks. And while universities aren't about to give up the most lucrative paydays for their big-ticket sports, they are increasingly taking matters into their own hands everywhere else.

Oklahoma U. is at the top of the class in the DIY trend. Its television production capabilities for live athletic events would be the envy of many RSNs; the school recently completed a $5 million upgrade that includes two control rooms and state-of-the-art equipment. This gives its 60-person-plus inhouse staff (most of them students) the ability to create high-definition telecasts from any venue on campus. As a result, OU directly produces approximately 60 sporting events, including track and field as well as baseball and softball, for broadcast on Cox Cable's CST network in Oklahoma City and Tulsa as well as other regional affiliates around the state.

"If we weren't producing, we would have 20 games on (TV) that are contracted by our rights holders and that's it," says Brandon Meier, Oklahoma U. assistant athletic director for broadcast operations.

But by lowering the production overhead, OC hasn't had difficulty convincing outlets to run another 40 or so events.

"We hire students and they help keep the cost of production down," Meier says. "And we don't have to tear down completely after a telecast if we are going to do, say, five straight games."

Even for institutions without sophisticated video infrastructure, it is possible to take control of production and cut costs significantly. Earlier this year, sports media consultant Tom Buffolano convinced Rice U. and Conference USA he could deliver a high-def broadcast of a three-game baseball series between Rice and the U. …

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