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Published: Thursday, 11/13/2003

Buckeye creates sports station

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

A 24-hour cable television station devoted to area sports is scheduled to take the air Jan.5

The brainchild of Allan Block, managing director of Block Communications, Inc., the launching of Buckeye CableSystem Sports Network was unveiled at a news conference yesterday. It will be available to more than 135,000 cable customers in the greater Toledo area, including southern Monroe County in Michigan.

Carried exclusively by Buckeye CableSystem, BCSN will broadcast 24 hours of local sports programming each day, including 20 different local sports events each week. It will be on channel 8 for subscribers with a converter and channel 13 for those without a converter.

Coverage will be centered around a wide variety of boys and girls high school sports, with a portion of programming planned to be directed at sporting events involving the University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, and Owens Community College. There also will be a selection of locally produced sports talk programs, minor league professional games, plus some live Big Ten and Mid-American Conference events that have previously been televised on Buckeye CableSystem s WTO5-TV5.

At the beginning, most of the local events will be aired on a tape-delayed basis but, eventually, an increased number of live events will be scheduled for broadcast.

Most events that are shown will be replayed more than once in the days following the original airing. BCSN is actively recruiting on-air talent for play-by-play and color commentary on games as well as off-camera production support to execute the broadcasts.

BCSN has been packaged as a joint multimedia effort involving Buckeye CableSystem, The Blade, local Cumulus Broadcasting all-sports radio station WLQR (1470 AM), and a supporting Internet web site, BCSN.tv, provided through Access Toledo.

Block Communications is the parent company of The Blade, Buckeye CableSystem, and Access Toledo.

“This is the culmination of the $130 million system upgrade we began in 1997,” Block said. “Our vision was to use fiber optics to bring to this area digital quality video and high-speed communications second to none. Now we are using this system to bring families the thrill of seeing their friends, children, or grandchildren competing in sports under the TV lights.”

“Local sports is as grass-roots as it gets, said Kurt Franck, managing editor of The Blade. “Parents want it, teams want it, coaches want it and the players want it. We want it, too.

Franck announced that, in conjunction with the launch of BCSN, The Blade s sports section will be expanded for high school coverage by two pages on Thursdays during the school year.

“We are absolutely delighted to be the exclusive radio partner with the new BCSN, said Kathy Stinehour, market manager for WLQR, AM-1470. “This is a terrific addition to the community. Television, radio, the Internet, and The Blade is a formidable front line that you really can t dispute.

WLQR will do some radio simulcasts for games shown on BCSN, and will assist with announcing talent for broadcasts.

This type of locally aimed, locally produced all-sports television broadcasting is the first of its kind in Ohio, and is believed to also be a unique format nationally.

“You can turn this channel on any time of day and see a local sporting event of some kind, or a coaches show, or something related to sports, Block said. “Why can t we do, at a local level, what ESPN has been doing at the national level? This is a dream that other people are going to have to embrace and join.

“No, it won t be the World Series or the Super Bowl. But it ll be something that ll be important in Toledo, Ohio, and to the students who play. I ask other people to join this dream and extend support and cooperation, and we re going to have something very good for this community.”

The first events scheduled to be aired will be two City League boys basketball games - Clay versus Bowsher and St. John s Jesuit versus Libbey - taped on Dec. 16.

Block said it is his intention to include a mix of all male and female sports, not just the so-called top revenue sports such as football and basketball.

He also said it was not beneath the scope of BCSN to air an occasional “sub-high school event, such as an important junior high game, although the primary focus will be high school athletics.

“One of the strengths of BCSN is that it will cover many of the nontraditional or generally lesser-covered sports, including women s sports, said W.H. “Chip Carstensen, Buckeye president and general manager. “We will concentrate on giving coverage to as many student-athletes as possible, whether they play volleyball, baseball, golf, run track, swim, or play the more traditionally covered football and basketball.

Coverage will not be limited to just the games or the athletes.

“Regular features will be done about cheerleaders, the dance team, other student groups, and the schools in general, said Nancy Duwve, BCSN operations manager.

Making BCSN a reality required a $1.5 million capital investment in production, editing and master control equipment.

“Greater Toledo is unique and BCSN is unique, Carstensen said. “Few cities Toledo s size have this capability. We have listened to our subscribers, who have demanded more coverage of local sports. Buckeye CableSystem is indeed proud to offer this exclusively to our customers.

“BCSN will be a true multimedia network involving newspaper, radio and Internet, as well as television.

“We would be blessed if this would turn out to be a break-even operation. We re not doing this to make money. We re doing this for the community. We re doing this as a result of a strategic need to differentiate ourselves [from] satellite. Satellite can t do this. They won t do it. Our people work here, live here, produce here and contribute here.”

Video production students from the University of Toledo and area high schools will have the opportunity to learn the field while working with professionals, extending the benefit of BCSN in the area educational community.

“Families can watch, friends can contribute stories, video or photos, and they all can enjoy BCSN together,” Block said.



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