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Oklahoma high school football fans left in the dark during playoff time

by Mel Bracht Published: November 20, 2009
High school football fans were spoiled during the regular season as Cox Communications and KSBI-52, Thunder TV, combined to show 36 games. With the arrival of the playoffs — and even greater importance for the games — the coverage has evaporated.

For the second year in a row, neither company plans to show any playoff games.

Although Fox Sports Oklahoma owns the rights to the playoffs — and plans to show three state championship games from Stillwater — they have made the other games available to television stations and cable systems for a nominal fee. For example, a Class 6A game is available to a broadcast station such as KSBI for $500 and to a large cable system such as Cox for $400. The fee varies according to class size, OSSAA assistant director Amy Cassell said.

When contacted by The Oklahoman, officials with Cox and KSBI admitted some surprise that the games were available. The same arrangement existed last year, although it was handled by a third party, Youth Sports Marketing LLC.

"When we planned the year with the understanding that we wouldn’t have rights to the games, we allocated our resources to other projects,” Cox spokesman Christine Martin said.

Cassell said the OSSAA does not publicize that the games are available for telecast.

"People can call and ask, and when they do, we honor their requests,” she said. "We don’t get the money. The rights fees money goes to Fox.”

KSBI president Brady Brus said some advertising restrictions, including prohibiting use of a "presenting sponsor,” make the telecasts economically unfeasible.

"It’s a bad business decision in many ways, as we would not be able to cover necessary costs for all the games we would have planned to do if we are limited in advertising,” Brus said.

Sour grapes also might be a factor as KSBI and Cox lost out to FSOK when the OSSAA awarded the network a three-year television deal in 2008.

by Mel Bracht
Copy Editor, Sports Media
Mel Bracht is a copy editor on the presentation desk and also covers sports media. A 1978 graduate of Indiana University, Bracht has been a print journalist for 34 years. He started his career as sports editor of the Rensselaer (Ind.) Republican...
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