UI to launch cable channel for sports, campus programming


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Fans and alumni will have increased access to University of Iowa content following the expected launch of the Hawkeye Network as early as a month from now.

The network, a partnership between the UI and cable company Mediacom, will bring athletics and campus programming to Mediacom customers in Iowa that have basic cable packages.

“We’re going from a public-access channel with limited viewership in eastern Iowa to a commercial channel with a wider range and a larger viewership,” said Scott Ketelsen, the director of university marketing and media production for UI Strategic Communications.

The current public-access channel, UITV, will shut down when the channel launches, transferring its content to the new network.

The Hawkeye Network will show approximately 50 percent athletics programming, 35 percent campus programming, and 15 percent academic programming. Daily Iowan TV will be included in the programming.

“On the public-access channel, there are limitations on what you can show,” Ketelsen said. “On the commercial channel, we can show what we want.”

Officials say the launch of the network will increase communication of the university’s goals across the state — one thing UI President Sally Mason listed as a revised goal in the current year. Last year, Mason compiled a list of revised goals to be completed by June 30, the first of which concerned communication, which was assigned a priority of “30 percent,” The Daily Iowan has previously reported.

The network will launch initially only in Iowa, though Mediacom’s cable packages may “bleed over” into bordering states, such as Wisconsin and Nebraska.

Ketelsen says there are no additional costs from switching to the network.

“All the personnel were previously employed [through UITV] and are producing video for the network,” he said. “With any video operation, we’ll have to replace equipment down the road, but that remains the same.”

The launch of the network will have two phases, with a soft launch on Mediacom Channel 22 scheduled to begin within a month. MC-22 will broadcast programming that has been developed with regularly scheduled content.

The hard launch of the Hawkeye Network, which will be broadcast on its own dedicated channel, will come this year, though no date has been set.

Ketelsen said the university is working out the details with Mediacom.

“We’re making sure our Ts are crossed, our Is dotted,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re ready to throw the switch.”

Mediacom spokeswoman Phyllis Peters said the company looks forward to working with the UI.
“We’ve got great partners and people at the University of Iowa,” she said.

The UI isn’t the only university in Iowa to launch a cable network. Iowa State University will launch its Cyclones.tv channel, also a partnership with Mediacom, early this year.

John Walters, the director of broadcasting at Cyclones.tv, said the people there are excited that they’ve been able to get the partnership working so quickly.

“This is the first year we’ve done this; I’m delighted that we’ve been moving ahead at a high speed with this thing,” he said. “Our goal has been to create a product with high enough quality that a network would be interested, so it’s been a breakthrough for ISU.”

While Cyclones.tv will cover only athletics programming when it launches, Walters didn’t rule out other content in the future.

“As of today, it’s simply athletics programming, but who knows what’ll happen down the road,” he said. “Eventually, we would want coaches’ shows, press conferences, a variety of different things. It’s a work in progress.”

Steve Smith, the news director at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said the university does not have a cable channel similar to the Hawkeye Network.

“We have NET [Nebraska Educational Television], which broadcasts Husker sports on occasion and some student produced content,” he said.

The university operates NET Television, which consists of nine stations.  It does not air only university-based content, however.

Though Nebraska doesn’t currently plan to create a similar channel, Smith said, the concept is intriguing.

“[The Hawkeye Network] sounds pretty interesting,” he said. “We’ll be watching to see what happens in Iowa City.”

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