CPTV To Launch State Sports Network


CPTV To Launch State Sports Network

By JEFF JACOBS,

The Hartford Courant

October 5, 2011

It will be called CPTV Sports and it is scheduled to debut sometime in November.

It will be the death of the Connecticut Sports Network (CTSN), yet at the same time it gives birth to a more legitimate claim as the Connecticut sports network.

Bob Yalen, a former ESPN and ABC Sports executive, will be the director.

And get this: Former UConn athletic director Lew Perkins will be the chief fundraiser.

"We think this re-launch is a pretty big deal," CPTV President and CEO Jerry Franklin said Wednesday. "Channel 3 [WFSB] remains involved. We've got about 40-50 content partners. We think this eventually can be as big for this organization as UConn women's basketball."

Billed as the state's first 24-hour sports network, CTSN, a partnership between CPTV and WFSB, debuted in December 2008 with Comcast cable as a sponsor. Unlike CTSN, which will be phased out, CPTV Sports is a not-for-profit venture, and that opens up coverage throughout Connecticut.

"We never could get statewide cable carriage with CTSN," Franklin said. "Some of the cable guys saw us as competitors. We just had a tough, tough time getting it off the ground. The high schools loved it. The colleges loved it. But it was not a statewide service and we really need that."

The parties regrouped and are returning with a formula that has worked with UConn women's basketball. There will be direct sponsorships, but, yes, there will be fundraising and membership appeals, too. One of CPTV's digital channels will be used and it will be in HD.

"We solved the ceiling we hit," said Dean Orton, CPTV senior vice president of development and media services..

There is FCC "must carry" language, Franklin said, with an agreement between the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and public broadcasting to carry all public broadcasting digital channels.

"It's fairly clear how carriage works with non-commercial licenses," Orton said. "We're still in the process of working through it with each of the cable providers. We're comfortable with how it will play out, but we're looking at it as collaboration."

Perkins, who abruptly retired as Kansas AD a year ago and has formed a consulting firm, has signed a one-year contract to be lead fundraiser..

"With Lew's connections and his Connecticut Rolodex we think this guy can raise some money for us," Franklin said. "And Bob Yalen has terrific sports experience."

CTSN already has been televising many events live and tape-delayed, but CPTV Sports will be more expansive because it will be assured of distribution of statewide coverage. Franklin and Orton listed UHart, Central, Fairfield, Quinnipiac, the state university system schools, UConn soccer and baseball, auto racing, high school games and state championships, Special Olympics and cheerleading competitions. Franklin said WFSB staff would continue to do shows for the station and there would be programming exchanges.

CPTV Sports also will do a few UConn women's exhibition games this season.

"If we are successful, eventually we could bring UConn women's basketball into the channel as the main tent pole," Franklin said. "But we've got to build up to it."

There will be pieces on sports medicine and promotion of academic advancements of schools, as well as an educational component, in which students will get hands-on experience in producing broadcasts.

"We think there's a rich programming vein that's in sync with our mission," Franklin said. "How to bring eyeballs to it, being on Channel 275, 775 or wherever on various cable outlets, will be a marketing challenge.

"We can afford to do this is because we can ride the nonprofit status and go into schools. Some have equipment as good as we've got and communication departments capable of producing high-quality content. We'll use the schools' announcers and also use free-lance folks."


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