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Rainbow Plans Sports-Instruction VOD Service

Rainbow Media Holdings Inc.'s sports division is cooking up a video-on-demand service featuring athletic-instruction videos.

Sportskool, earmarked for a fourth-quarter launch, will draw from 1,500 in-depth expert instruction and coaching segments covering 90 different sports and fitness activities, Rainbow Sports Networks senior vice president of marketing and communications Dan Ronayne said.

Along with major sports like baseball, basketball, football, hockey and soccer, the service will also feature instruction and guidance in such activities as bowling, running, volleyball, snowboarding, skateboarding and tennis.

Rainbow hopes this variation of its Mag Rack specialty-video service will draw from the 36.2 million 6-to-17-year-olds who play team sports, and the 51 million Americans who regularly participate in fitness activities.

The service will target parent coaches who need guidance within their respective sports, Rainbow Sports president Andrea Greenberg said.

Mag Rack is offered mostly as a free service to get cable subscribers to use VOD platforms. Sportskool may or may not be offered in that manner.

"The rate card is based on a per VOD-enabled home rate, but we understand that we have to be flexible in meeting operator needs," Rainbow Sports vice president of media distribution Brent Chapman said.

Most segments were acquired from the now defunct, but Rainbow will eventually produce original Sportskool programming.

Sportskool will offer around 20 hours of content across eight to 10 sports a month, depending on what's in season, Chapman said. Each segment within a particular sport will run anywhere from five minutes to 30 minutes.

The interface will be similar to Mag Rack's, allowing viewers to choose from among different menu items.

After the segment ends, users will be encouraged to visit Sportskool's Web site. The Flash-animated site will provide content specifically for coaches, including rules of games and sportsmanship guides.

Greenberg said Sportskool could be tailored regionally to reflect locally popular sports.

Rainbow-owned regional sports networks in New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, Florida and San Francisco will air a weekly 30-minute Saturday morning show. Sportskool Saturdays
will offer features on the various sports offered through the service and pitch the VOD concept.

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.