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College Sports in the Realm of Bonesville

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

By Danny Whitford
Publisher & Editor

“Total Access” is totally right


East Carolina’s recent announcement of its subscription-based multimedia partnership with College Sports Television spawned a boatload of feedback, much of it uninformed or missing the point.

After three years of paying the freight and providing the technology to distribute the Internet live stream of East Carolina’s sporting events and coaches’ shows, we feel particularly qualified to issue an opinion about the new arrangement.

Our verdict is an enthusiastic thumbs up.

The “Total Access” package that will be available to Pirate fans is worth the announced price of $44.95 per year ($4.95 per month). It’s a cutting-edge, all-encompassing, first-class service that has been embraced by dozens of college athletic programs around the country.

More importantly, the partnership with CSTV offers ECU the opportunity to generate new revenues without having to shoulder the entire burden of the costs and logistical headaches it would face if it provided the service on its own.

The input I have received from some readers (and for that matter, some media members) seems to be driven by the mistaken impression that the Webcasts should continue to be free, as they have been during the span during which has provided the service.

Let me be the first to inform you that the “no-charge” live stream you have enjoyed during the last three years was an anomaly dictated by circumstances that no longer exist.

Now, to offer some perspective and clear up some misperceptions:

1. Out of what might best be described as a sense of patriotic Pirate duty, stepped forward in 2002 to underwrite the live stream of ECU’s play-by-play broadcasts when it became apparent that there would otherwise be no live stream. We took that step and assumed the financial commitment that went with it when the athletic department’s administration at the time signaled its intention to discontinue the streaming service it had offered previously in an arrangement that involved Capital Broadcasting and

2. To fill the gap, we established an arrangement with WCZI-FM 98.3, then the Pirates’ flagship station, to provide the required equipment and pay the network fees to have the station’s local programming and game broadcasts sent out over the World Wide Web. In subsequent years, we put together similar working relationships with WCZI’s successors, WGHB-AM 1250 and WNCT-AM 1070.

3. Contrary to the assumptions of many, has paid 100% of the costs involved in streaming ECU’s broadcasts since 2002. The stations we have partnered with have merely used equipment and network distribution facilities provided by to simulcast their standard audio feeds over the Web.

4. It has been an expensive undertaking but one that we believe was important for someone to carry out, especially for the benefit of the many fans that live outside the listening range of the Pirates’ conventional radio network. Now that ECU’s new administration has put itself in a position to provide the service and boost the athletic department’s bottom line at the same time, we can relinquish the role with satisfaction.

5. We fully endorse the “Total Access” package and we urge potential subscribers to try it before criticizing it. From direct experience with the infrastructure and logistics involved in distributing multimedia, and based on our own personal use of such services in the past to listen to college sports broadcasts, we can affirm that the proposed subscription fee is a bargain.

6. We plan to remain entrenched in the Webcast business in a consequential manner, offering in cooperation with one or more partner stations exclusive live streams and on-demand playbacks of independently-produced sports programming that won't be available in ECU's “Total Access” package, including game day coverage, a number of popular weekday/weeknight radio shows — and some exciting new programs.

Bottom line: The multimedia agreement with CSTV is a sign that East Carolina is taking a step forward in an age when the Web and more traditional mediums are steadily converging to expand the reach of both broadcast and print content. ECU's new streaming arrangement should be viewed by the target audience — Pirate fans — as a welcome indication that ECU's athletics administration has seized the opportunity to leverage the Internet for the purpose of affordably and profitably delivering entertainment to fans.

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02/23/2007 01:38:03 AM

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