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Published: Thursday, 8/26/2004

City, NLL put limit on BCSN

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Fearing a loss of revenue, the Northern Lakes League has decided to join the City League in barring the Buckeye CableSystem Sports Network from televising live high school sports events for which an admission is charged.

NLL commissioner Larry Morrison said the league, made up of Northview, Southview, Maumee, Anthony Wayne, Bowling Green, Rossford, Springfield and Perrysburg, isn t opposed to BCSN coverage of its teams and players. But the decision to keep the local cable network from its live, revenue-producing events stems primarily from concerns about losing money from gate receipts.

I don t think there is anything negative about the [live] broadcasts themselves, it s just the [gate receipt] revenue that is the major hangup, Morrison said.

When BCSN debuted in January, the Toledo City League barred it from showing live boys basketball games, citing the same concern of lost gate revenue. It has since joined the NLL in keeping BCSN away from all of its revenue sports for live broadcasts.

The sports for which schools typically charge an entry fee are football, girls and boys basketball, wrestling, volleyball and boys and girls soccer. Games from these sports still could be shown on tape-delay.

The other sports for which most schools have teams golf, field hockey, tennis, baseball, softball, track and field, cross country and swimming would not be affected by this decision.

Morrison said the feeling among league officials is that live broadcasts may cause some fans to stay at home and watch the games on TV instead of attending them in person.

I clearly think they ought to be able to be shown live, said Tom Florian, whose daughter Sarah was an All-American volleyball player at St. Ursula Academy and has two other daughters currently playing there. It s a great opportunity for exposure for the kids, and it might actually increase the interest and increase the revenue.

There are aunts and uncles and other relatives who may only have a casual interest who would love to be able to tune in and watch a match or a game live. A lot of people would have an interest who might not go out of their way to go to an event.

The NLL s decision caught BCSN officials by surprise, according to Dave Huey, the president of Block Communications Inc., the parent company of BCSN, and The Blade.

The feedback [from the community] has been very positive toward the network, Huey said yesterday. That s why it s a surprise to me with what happened. In the overall scheme of things we think the broadcasts show the pride the students have and create greater interest in sports.

Having games on TV is good, and the kids like to see themselves on TV, as well as the parents.

Ohio High School Athletic Association regulations already prevent football, the biggest revenue-producer for high schools, from being shown live on Friday nights, again to preserve gate receipts.

Football games can be shown live on other nights, and BCSN is scheduled to air the North Baltimore-Cardinal Stritch game Saturday night at 7:30. Stritch is a member of the Toledo Area Athletic Conference.

We hope they reconsider their decision, Huey said of the NLL. We re trying to create something unique for the community with BCSN. It s not been done by any other cable company on this scale.

Huey and Morrison agree that there are no facts to support the contention that attendance at NLL games will suffer from live TV broadcasts.

Neither the athletic directors or ourselves have any real evidence of us having a negative impact on the gates, Huey said. It s relatively a new thing and is not common around the state, Morrison said. We really don t have anything to base it on, other than the athletic directors and principals believing it could result in a loss at the gate.

Paul Holan, the athletic director at Anthony Wayne, said, Having games on TV is good and the kids like to see themselves on TV, as well as the parents. But if it s going to hurt our revenue, we re going to fight for every penny we can get. It might not seem like a lot to some, but some need all the revenue they can get.

Holan said AW s projected athletic budget for the 2003-04 school year was $120,000. The school actually took in $140,000 from revenue-producing sports, Holan said, adding that the extra $20,000 will be used to help with the 2004-05 school year.

NLL and City League officials say they intend to work together to forge a working relationship with BCSN. City League athletic commissioner Ed Scrutchins said they met with officials from other leagues and school districts this summer to discuss concerns about live TV coverage and how it may affect gate receipts.

But Mike Gocsik, Cardinal Stritch vice president of institutional advancement, whose Saturday night football game will be shown live on BCSN, thinks differently.

To be honest, we see the positives outweighing the negatives by participating with the BCSN, he said. We think it s a wonderful thing with the Stritch family to have our games shown across the Toledo viewing area.

Gocsik said Stritch, which has an enrollment of approximately 350 students, probably would not lose any attendance for home games because of a live broadcast. The Cardinals average about 300 fans for home football games.

Morrison said the NLL would like BCSN to continue with its tape-delay coverage of NLL athletic events and would hope to resume discussions with the cable station about live broadcasts. Among the topics of discussion would include the idea of BCSN providing the schools with a rights fee for the live broadcasts.

We can t make it unreasonable because BCSN is working on a budget as well, Morrison said.

This is not a profit center; this is a cost center, Huey said of the possibility of paying rights fees. We see this as a real service to the community. They have to realize they are a public entity, not a private entity.

Looking for sports rights fees would not make this station viable.

Contact Donald Emmons at:demmons@theblade.comor 419-724-6302.



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