St. Cloud State to launch 24-hour sports channel
ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) — St. Cloud State University plans to debut high-definition, televised sports and news coverage in October, and with it comes a statewide, 24-hour all-Huskies sports channel on Charter cable.
The $4.8 million in technology upgrades St. Cloud State is completing will make it equal to or better than most universities that train broadcast journalists in the country. The dedicated high-definition sports channel is unprecedented in Minnesota and rare for universities in the country, the St. Cloud Times reported.
It means enhanced coverage for St. Cloud State hockey, the school's only Division I program, and regular television appearances for men's and women's basketball, football and other lower-profile sports.
"This is a platform that not even the University of Minnesota has. This is a television channel that anybody that gets Charter will have access to content from St. Cloud State University," said Joel Larsen, interim assistant athletic director for marketing and promotion. "We have a great opportunity to showcase St. Cloud State University from many angles, and that is not just athletics."
Workers have been remodeling broadcast studios and installing equipment since July.
St. Cloud State's television technology matches most professional broadcast studios. High-tech cameras that cost $100,000 are the same that are used by sports giant ESPN.
That means mass communications students, who provide labor and talent for game broadcasts and news, get to work with equipment similar to that at the highest level of the broadcasting profession.
"We were aiming for a professional experience for the students on equipment that is modern and current. To the best of our ability, we will try to keep pace with that," said Mark Springer, dean of the college of liberal arts.
For the university, the sports channel provides potential for a wider audience because it reaches anyone who subscribes to the high-definition programs on Charter cable.
Charter, a St. Louis-based company, provides service to 151 communities in Minnesota and has hundreds of thousands of customers in the state. St. Cloud State hockey games have been available on Charter cable on an analog channel in St. Cloud for several years.
The new channel would broadcast live home games from St. Cloud State sporting events. Replays, classic games and news shows will be shown when live events are unavailable.
Newly installed technology allows St. Cloud State to broadcast remotely from outdoor venues such as baseball and softball fields.
What makes the 24-hour St. Cloud State sports channel possible is the university's decision to spend almost $5 million upgrading its broadcast equipment to high definition.
Two floors of Stewart Hall have been wired with the latest in high-definition equipment. Equipment has been installed in Husky Stadium, Halenbeck Hall and the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center, which will have suites with high-definition screens showing Huskies games. TVs in dorms and university offices can plug in high-definition TVs and have access to the programing without a converter box.
The university's analog equipment has been replaced with several rooms of boards full of slide dials, buttons and screens that allow student workers to control what camera shots and sounds get on the air.
"This is what you see in production trucks," said Derrick Silvestri, a former St. Cloud State student who is the university's TV studio manager and was demonstrating the new equipment.
The plan is to cover a women's hockey game Oct. 4 as a test run. The first home men's series is Oct. 11-12 against Bemidji State University. Students who work on the university's news program UTVS will start working with the new equipment Oct. 14, and the first broadcast will be Oct. 21.
The university hired Alpha Video Sports and Entertainment Group of Edina to provide and install the equipment. That company has installed broadcast technology in a number of major league stadiums and arenas including Target Field and Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota and the stadiums of the Boston Red Sox, Tennessee Titans and Green Bay Packers.
"They really wanted to build the facility to almost mirror what they would see in the real world in those type of facilities," said Darren Whitten, an account executive for Alpha Video.
None of the state universities in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system have a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week sports channel. Minnesota State University-Mankato has its own high-definition channel but it only broadcasts home hockey games. The University of Texas in Austin joined with ESPN to create the Longhorn Network. The University of Minnesota, the state's only university at which all its sports play at the Division I level, does not have a channel dedicated solely to its games.
The St. Cloud State sports channel will be an edge for the university and its sports teams because it provides an opportunity to be seen in parts of the state that other schools don't reach, said Paul Allan, assistant athletic director for communications at Minnesota State-Mankato.
"If you have that and your peers don't, I would say that is a good a thing. It is where everything is headed," Allan said. "That is a win-win situation for the school. The students benefit, and the stakeholders benefit from it."
Minnesota State, which is one of five Division I hockey programs in the state, has shown its games on Mankato cable for 15 years. For the past two years, it has had a high-definition channel that reaches the parts of Minnesota that Charter covers. The channel is mostly dark except for men's home hockey games, Allan said.
Unlike St. Cloud State, Minnesota State does not have a broadcast journalism program, Allan said. The university relies on students from nearby Bethany College to produce the games along with two local professional broadcasters.
"It's all about trying to expose Maverick athletics to as many people," Allan said. "Expanding your footprint outside the greater Mankato area."
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.