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It’s a happy day for NCAA water polo fans.
Or for that matter, anyone interested in watching college sports not generally given equal exposure in the media.
Effective in January, the Official College Sports Network (OCSN) will be operated by College Sports Television (CSTV), the fastest growing independent cable network and first 24-hour college sports network. As a result, a wider range of collegiate athletics will receive television exposure.
CSTV plans to combine the on-air and online realms of college sports and to bring additional revenue opportunities to schools and conferences.
“The acquisition of OCSN will accelerate our efforts to build the new home of college sports across multiple platforms,” said Brian Bedol, president and CEO of CSTV. “The OCSN network of sites gives CSTV a daily dialogue with the most passionate, valuable demographic in college sports, thus enabling us to provide enhanced value to our partner universities, conferences, distributors and sponsors.”
The change is the result of a merge between Student Advantage, Inc.—which previously maintained the OCSN websites—and Athena Venture Parents, Inc. Though the owner of Athena Ventures, Raymond V. Sozzi, Jr., is also the President and CEO of Student Advantage, Inc., the two companies were not officially together.
Harvard’s own athletic website—gocrimson.com—is part of the OCSN network, the largest and most widely used network of college sports information.
OCSN also operates CollegeSports.com, the most-trafficked web site devoted exclusively to college sports news and information. More than 1,000 collegiate administrators around the nation continuously feed news, information and statistics to OCSN’s sites.
CSTV is currently available to approximately 15 million homes nationally on cable and satellite.
CSTV has jumped into action quickly. In early November, CSTV reached an agreement with Columbia Broadcasting Service (CBS) Sports for the rights to produce and televise nine NCAA Championship events.
For the first time, viewers will get the chance to see lesser known sports like women’s hockey, water polo, lacrosse and field hockey.
“We are thrilled that CSTV will be airing our first rematch with Minnesota Duluth in December,” said Harvard women’s hockey coach Katey Stone. “Any exposure that women’s college hockey can get nationally is helpful to the growth of our sport. It’s great for Harvard and all the great fans of our program around the country.”
Last spring, CSTV televised NCAA regular and post-season action for Division-I baseball, women’s gymnastics and lacrosse, outdoor track and field and Division-III women’s lacrosse. The network also provided a full schedule of regular season baseball and men’s and women’s lacrosse games.
The extra exposure for the less popular sports is something Harvard coaches are excited about.
“Water polo athletes, and coaches, understand that their sport will not be seen on television frequently, if ever,” men’s water polo Scott Russell said. “I think every college athlete would enjoy the opportunity to have one or more of their contests broadcast on television, and an increase in the opportunity for this to happen would very likely be welcomed.”
Russell has seen the effect of television collegiate sports before.
“The University of Hawaii has a relationship with the local NBC affiliate in Honolulu and frequently broadcasts collegiate games in water polo, volleyball, swimming, etc. When my teams have visited Hawaii in the past, my athletes have very much enjoyed watching their game versus Hawaii on television later that evening,” Russel said.
It is no secret that women’s sports generally receive less coverage in media, and Russell feels CSTV can help change this trend.
“Frankly, almost anything we can do to increase exposure for women’s collegiate athletics is okay in my book,” Russell said. Young female athletes, starting as young as five, six, or seven years old, need role-models just like their peers who are boys. If a young boy wants to grow up to be the next Michael Jordan or Babe Ruth, who does a young girl want to grow up and be the ‘next?’”
Nike will also benefit from the development of a market for collegiate athletics. The company announced that it was forming a new programming, marketing and advertising relationship with CSTV on Oct. 27.
Nike will be sponsoring a new program on CSTV, called Nike Training Camp, which features various college coaches. The program will get such coaching celebrities as Maryland’s Gary Williams, Indiana’s Mike Davis and North Carolina’s Anson Dorrance.
Furthermore, CSTV will also play an integral marketing role next month in the introduction of the new Nike Training initiative, and will have its programming incorporated into Nike’s Football Rivalry Series this fall.
CSTV affirms that it is committed to providing national exposure for student-athletes participating in more than 25 sports at over 1,300 colleges while maintaining the integrity of intercollegiate athletics.
Still, the intimacy of the internet and the monopoly of CSTV over collegiate exposure will enable marketers to increase their advertising. But Harvard director of sports communication Chuck Sullivan does not think it will infiltrate the Crimson athletic website extensively.
“I don’t anticipate much more advertising,” Sullivan said. “We’re not one to go overboard in the way of advertising.”
Currently, gocrimson.ocsn.com has a link where users can purchase merchandise from the Harvard Varsity Shop. The revenue from these sales support Harvard Atheltics. There are links to ocsn.com and collegesports.com (which is owned by OCSN), but there are otherwise no advertisements for outside retailers. Whether CSTV will change this remains to be seen.
CSTV’s own website (www.cstv.com) is largely self-promoting, but does not include many outside advertisements either. But, there is a link to NCAAsports.com where patrons can purchase tickets to college events, and the Coca-Cola logo can be seen in a flashy promotion for a CSTV Sweepstakes.
Currently, CSTV is a little more than halfway to their goal of 100,000 names on the petition with 55,515 people.
“The more exposure college sports receive the better,” Harvard fencing coach Peter Brand said. “I have no problem with CSTV’s reliance on advertising. This is a win-win proposition to all concerned.”
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