July 22, 2008
HOUSTON - A new venture in college sports television begins in 2008 as the Southland Conference Television Network debuts with over 35 broadcasts on television stations and cable systems in the league's three-state geographic region.
The broadcast package, which was announced Tuesday during the Southland's Football Media Day Luncheon, will debut with nine football game broadcasts beginning in September. The football broadcast package will be followed by a planned 16-game basketball broadcast schedule, including five games from the 2009 Southland Basketball Tournament in Katy, Texas.
In addition to football and basketball, the Southland Network will also feature the championship games of the 2008 Volleyball Tournament and the 2009 Baseball Tournament. It is also anticipated that all live game broadcasts will be simulcast by video streaming on the Southland's official web site, www.southland.org.
Also planned are nine episodes of a new 30-minute magazine show, "Inside the Southland Conference," which will feature stories and interviews with league coaches, administrators and student-athletes. "Inside the Southland Conference" debuts on network affiliate stations in September and will continue with new episodes through May, 2009.
"We're thrilled to announce plans for the new Southland Conference Television Network," league commissioner Tom Burnett said. "Our campus administrators have discussed enhancements in our television options in recent years, and the league's television committee developed a great plan in the last year to promote the Southland and its successful athletic programs.
"The enthusiasm and unanimous support from the member institutions for this new package has been met with a great deal of interest from broadcast stations in the Southland's three-state region," Burnett added, noting that broadcast license negotiations are ongoing with numerous stations and regional cable networks. "We expect an announcement of network affiliates prior to the start of football season."
The nine-game football broadcast schedule begins with the Sept. 13 Grambling State at Northwestern State contest, followed by the Texas Southern at Texas State game on Oct. 4, and the Sam Houston State at Central Arkansas conference opener on Oct. 11.
The Oct. 18 McNeese State at Sam Houston State game will be televised, followed by the Texas State at Stephen F. Austin contest on Oct. 25, the Stephen F. Austin at Sam Houston State game on Nov. 1, the Texas State at Southeastern Louisiana tilt on Nov. 8, and the McNeese State at Northwestern State game on Nov. 15.
The Southland Network will also broadcast a wildcard game on the last regular-season weekend, and will determine the exact matchup as the conference race develops. "The wildcard gives us flexibility we've never had in previous broadcast agreements, and this option gives us the ability to ensure a televised matchup that likely determines the league championship," Burnett said. "We'll likely do the same with the basketball broadcast schedule.
"Additionally, the monthly magazine shows will give Southland fans and followers the ability to learn more about the campuses and communities around the league," he said. "Plus, we can feature those sports and student-athletes that don't usually gain television exposure."
The Southland Conference television committee consists of chairman Greg Burke, athletic director at Northwestern State, UTSA athletic director Lynn Hickey, Southeastern Louisiana athletic director Joel Erdmann, Stephen F. Austin athletic director Robert Hill, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi AD Brian Teter, and Central Arkansas associate AD Darrell Walsh.
"The television committee was very focused on developing a comprehensive package, consistency in broadcast windows, and control of the promotional elements and commercial inventory," Burnett said. "Also, the committee was concerned about the increasing costs of television production, and wanted to ensure that the Conference found a more feasible financial model moving forward."
Jeff Watts Productions (JWP) of Fort Worth, Texas, has been selected by the Southland as the lead production company for the new network. JWP began operations in 1986, and during the last two decades has created over 1,000 original programs, including sports, travel, outdoors and corporate marketing programs. In 1992, JWP created the very popular High School Xtra Live television program in Texas, now the longest running high school sports program in the country. Additionally, JWP has developed live sports programming for SMU and the University Interscholastic League in Texas.
"We are extremely confident in the abilities of Jeff Watts Productions to provide the Southland with a first-class broadcast product that everyone will be very pleased with," Burnett added. "The Southland Conference has an extensive background in innovative television production for over two decades, including one of the first Thursday night college football packages in the 1980s and 90s. We expect the new network to continue the Southland's role as a broadcast trendsetter for many years to come."