Buckeye Scores With High-School Sports

It’s one thing for Toledo, Ohio-based Buckeye CableSystem to say it’s offering a local programming service that provides value to consumers. It’s quite another when the state legislature furnishes a similar endorsement.

The Ohio House of Representatives in July presented an award to Buckeye chairman Allan Block in recognition of BCSN (Buckeye CableSystem Sports Network), underlining the positive influence the channel has had on the 130,000-subscriber MSO and the community at large, following its launch last January.

With a strict focus on local sports, the 24-hour BCSN — along with its complementary video-on-demand service — has brought to television hundreds of local high-school and college sports events that previously could only be seen live from the stands.

It’s also served as Buckeye’s best subscriber-retention tool, and as an outlet for companies to reach viewers through local advertising.

Buckeye’s commitment to serving its subscribers via BCSN has earned the MSO Multichannel News’ 2004 Innovator Award for programming.

It cost Buckeye about $2 million to create and operate BCSN, but the resultant consumer good will has more than returned that investment, system executives said.

Along with high-school football, volleyball, basketball, baseball, swimming and gymnastics, the service also features college contests from the University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University. The network also treads in the professional sports arena as well with coverage of 50 baseball games from the Toledo Mud Hens, the Detroit Tigers’ triple-A farm team.

“It was created for the unique opportunity to highlight our local athletes,” said BCSN general manager Nancy Duwve. “Some of them never get quality time on television, especially in sports other than football or basketball.”

The games are mostly taped for same-day telecast, although the network does offer some live telecasts.

In addition, BCSN features such ancillary sports fare as a scholar/athlete of the week show and a “where are they now” series that profiles a former local star.

“We have also started our local talk show that brings on high school players, coaches and mentors,” Duwve said.

BCSN has also impressed local community retailers, who’ve aggressively pursued the MSO for advertising and sponsorship opportunities on the network, according to Buckeye director of government and community affairs for Tom Dawson.

“We’ve had everyone advertise from the YMCA to private schools to car dealers — pretty much someone from every category,” Dawson said.

To provide even greater value to subscribers, Buckeye last April launched a free VOD component to encourage viewers to use the technology.

The service currently boasts 30 different events a month and has generated 2,500 hits in November, a total that trailed only HBO On Demand and Buckeye’s on-demand movie service.

“It’s been very successful, because people take that opportunity to record their youngsters and their athletic endeavors,” Duwve said.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.