The Net Gain

For College Sports Television, one linear TV channel isn't enough. With more than 75 million college sports fans nationwide, the network is using the Internet to provide clips and information about the athletic endeavors of viewers' alma maters. Brian Bedol, CSTV president, recently discussed the network's online effort, which includes a mix of free and subscription content.

What's motivating the online effort?

When we began looking at the category of college sports, we came to a conclusion: If we were going to be a media company that served it, we needed more than a single linear television channel. One of the exciting things about college sports as a category is that there are over 100,000 games and events every year across a thousand schools, with 400,000 athletes and 75 million fans. The numbers are enormous, and we feel that delivering content across multiple platforms is the best way to go.

Streaming video is still percolating, but it doesn't have the buzz it had back in the late '90s. What are the business opportunities?

It depends on your connection. One of the nice things about our business is that the majority of our users are college graduates and tend to be alumni who follow their schools. They skew young, have above-average incomes and are more technologically advanced. More than 70% of our users are already broadband-enabled. The limitations of streaming media in the past was really limited by the connection the users had to the Internet.

What has been the reaction from advertisers?

It's been terrific. We've discovered there are many advertisers that realize traditional television is no longer the best way to reach certain passionate interest groups. We've had a great response because we not only featured rich media advertising but we can segment the audience based on demographic and geographic data. Since we operate more than 170 different school and athletic sites, [we have range.] If you want to reach users in the Southwest or just Ivy League sites, we can do that.

One of the early promises of Internet advertising was that you would only have to pay per click. Do advertisers still think that way?

They've gotten much more sophisticated. We recognize that some advertisers are looking purely at transactions, others at branding, some at both. So it depends on what their goals are.

Is the comprehensive approach you have to the Internet something other networks will need to do?

The content has to accommodate it. If you think about the life cycle of new technologies, movies and sports are the primary drivers. The next-generation nonlinear technologies that allow interactivity and consumer choice benefit sports. You want to see highlights, scores, stats. It's rare that anyone just wants to sit on a couch and watch a game from beginning to end. Because there are so many colleges and events, these technologies benefit our content.