Horizon League, CSTV launch online network

By Ken Kerschbaumer

The Horizon League is the latest college conference to strike a deal with CSTV, using the college sports TV and broadband powerhouse to deliver more than 200 sporting events via broadband over the Horizon League Network.

“Streaming is an emerging technology that works for us because it allows us to do two things: control the product and distribution,” says Jon LeCrone, Horizon League commissioner. “Plus there is ad inventory to sell.”

The site (www.horizonleague.org) launched last week and will have free, live video of League games and other video-on-demand features. The goal is to build on a relationship that began last year when more than 150 events were produced for the Web. All games will be accessed directly from the HLN video player on the home page with CSTV delivering the content over its AllAccess Platform.

The Horizon League will produce more than 200 events with a focus on basketball regular-season and tournament games, selected additional championship events and other specialty programming. In addition to the many live games, selected events will be archived for on-demand viewing for a specified time, allowing fans to catch a game they missed, watch it again or check out highlights.

More Control

For conferences looking to generate exposure online networks provide a limitless distribution network that obviates the need for creating a regional TV sports network. “In that situation you end up spending way too much money on the production and also have games aired at odd times,” he explains.

Will Roleson, Horizon League associate commissioner for Communications and Multimedia, says each of the nine schools in the league will be responsible for their own game productions. Sometimes a local outside company will be brought in to do a full-fledged production while other times events will be covered by students from the campus telecom department or even the scoreboard video crew.

“Each production will have a minimum of three cameras and audio play-by-play from the home institution,” he says. “We didn’t feel a one camera version similar to the coaching video would attract people.”

Volleyball Spiking

Broadband continues to grow as an outlet for smaller sports and leagues that can’t land big-time TV contracts. Horizon League Volleyball championships, for example, are expected to be popular online later this fall.

“Volleyball is the next big sport for our league,” says Roleson. “We’re going to try and broadcast all of the championship finals and then use on demand to offer condensed versions of events like track and field that might not lend themselves to a live Web cast.”

Games will pass through CSTV servers and the out over the AllAccess Platform with CSTV also providing marketing and promotion of the network. “CSTV doesn’t just house a server but also takes pride in the project to make it a reality,” says Roleson.

While the league considered a pay model, Roleson says a free ad-supported approach will do a better job of attracting viewers. “We would love this to be a revenue producing venture but for now we’ll be using it to get people interested in our teams, campuses and universities,” says Roleson. “It’s an outreach project.”

Making the service has another benefit: it allows students and fans to visit the site for updates rather than feel they have to sit in front of a computer for two hours at a time. Of course, not everyone is watching the games on PC screens.

“There’s a bar-and-grill near the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay that has punched the service into the back of a TV so that people in the bar can watch events like it’s regionally syndicated on television,” adds Roleson.

And the magic of streaming is letting fans thousands of miles away check out the action. “Last year there was a soldier in the Middle East who would want the Butler University women’s basketball games,” says Roleson. “Our reach is the whole country and the whole world.”

LeCrone adds that the magic of streaming is the Horizon League can afford to put an event online even if it doesn’t have broad appeal. “And for students in gives a great way to get hands-on experience in TV production and announcing,” he adds.