While others in the Big 12 Conference are trying get out, Kansas State is doing its best to make the most of the situation.
In a week when conference realignment and a possible exit by Texas A&M dominated the headlines, K-State was busy putting the finishing touches on its new online network, which was unveiled Monday — K-StateHD.TV.
The network, which debuts Aug. 30, will broadcast athletic events, press conferences, original programming, as well as on-campus lectures and performances. The live athletic events will be available for a $9.95 monthly fee or yearly fee of $79.95 and will replace its current All-Access platform available through kstatesports.com.
“We really wanted to look at how we produce and deliver our student-athlete performances to the whole K-State nation,” KSU athletic director John Currie said Monday. “As we talk about a lot of times, half of our alumni and friends live in the state of Kansas and almost half lives outside the state of Kansas and around the world.
“K-State really is a world-wide institution and will continue to be in the future. And when we try to stay connected with our audiences academically and athletically, centralizing what we have on the Web is something that appeared to be a good idea.”
K-State will launch the network with the Wildcats’ volleyball home opener against Creighton on Aug. 30 and then will broadcast K-State’s football season opener against Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 3.
The online network, which is allowed through the same agreement that permitted Texas to sign a $300 million deal with ESPN to create the controversial Longhorn Network, will broadcast live volleyball matches, women’s basketball games and baseball games.
Men’s basketball games won’t be part of the new network right now, as those games are already carried on television.
“We really wanted to take advantage of the opportunity we have in the Big 12 Conference where we retain more of our rights and have more control over our rights than most of the other leagues,” Currie said. “That is not the case in other leagues where essentially all the rights have been signed over to the big networks.”
Currie said much of the decision to create the network was based on creating more exposure for other sports that don’t normally receive as much of the spotlight as football and men’s basketball.
“We’re really working here, inside the athletic department, to provide world class student-athlete experience, and we don’t mean that for just one team or another team,” he said. “We mean that for all 465 of our student-athletes and our 16 men’s and women’s varsity sports. We’re going to continue to look at ways to do that and this happens to be one.”
Making this new venture possible is that K-State already owns and operates an HD truck and equipment that is being used on campus for video producing, inside and outside of the classroom.
“We really have some pretty far advanced elements on our campus, so we have collaborated, worked together over the last number of months to upgrade the capacity of those assets to be able to use high definition video — we did a test run of a couple baseball games,” Currie said.
One advantage to offering live broadcasts for volleyball, baseball and women’s basketball is in recruiting, as friends and family of prospective student-athletes can now watch all home contests.
“It’s a recruiting advantage because the other schools in other leagues do not have that same institutional flexibility,” Currie said. “When our new Fox contract starts, we can broadcast all of our women’s basketball games, regardless if there’s a network conference game going on. A volleyball match, we can produce it and put it up live on K-StateHD.TV, even if there’s a conference broadcast.
“When Suzie Fritz is recruiting a volleyball player from California or Texas or Chicago, that young lady, her parents and family will know that they get to watch the student-athlete for all of her home matches at K-State.”
Currie said there are no projections as to how profitable this new platform will be, saying that the first goal was to offer more exposure for the university and that the money side of it will develop in time.
“I think a lot of times, if you think about doing a good thing, and think about providing exposure, if you get real hung up on how much money we’re going to make, then it will really never do anything,” he said.
“There are only four stages of what we’re talking about,” Currie said. “We have content. Then you need production and then distribution. And the fourth thing is monetizing that distribution, so whatever money you earn, you can put back into the program.”
One way to turn K-State’s new network into a more profitable platform — although nothing like Texas’ mega-deal — is that by producing the content in-house, then it becomes more attractive to other television networks for possible distribution.
“When you produce that content and have quality high definition ready-to-be-distributed content, we can distribute it on our K-StateHD.TV. Or down the road, if we’ve created an asset, media companies might be interested in that, because now, all of a sudden, a K-State volleyball game is available, already produced, ready to go onto somebody’s station or channel,” Currie said. “And that’s pretty compelling content.”