In 2004, Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione was listening to a presentation on smartphone technology when he started envisioning a video network for the university. He said was learning how video would be sent to the devices.
“It just started the thought process that we had to be in that space,” Castiglione said.
That idea eventually turned into Sooner Sports TV, which as it closes in on its one-year anniversary has produced more than 2,600 hours of programming on television and online.
“When you look back on what has been accomplished, it's remarkable,” Castiglione said. “We went from televising one hundred hours annually to over twenty-six hundred hours. This unique network approach gave us instant distribution to over 10 million in the one region.”
Lee Berke, a New York-based consultant hired by OU to assist in the network's development, said, “It's probably the most successful school network in the country in terms of the amount of programming and the distribution.”
Unlike the Longhorn Network, which as a 24/7 dedicated channel is still struggling for access on cable and satellite systems — despite having three football games on its schedule — distribution has never been a problem for the OU venture.
“It's always been fully distributed,” Berke said. “It's never an issue of where we're going to get on. It's a question of how good can we make this content, how much can we put on, how much we can market it.”
The programming has shown up on Fox Sports Oklahoma, Fox Sports Southwest or OU's website, SoonerSports.com, and nationally on other Fox regional channels or Fox College Sports.
Jon Heidtke, general manager of Fox Sports Southwest and Fox Sports Oklahoma, said the venture has almost doubled the projected programming for the first year.
“With the amount of programming the group produced, the cooperation we had with the university in terms of moving start times and maximizing clearance for all the different events, to their production strength, it couldn't have gone better,” Heidtke said.
The national coverage has been a plus, both for fans in distant locations and in providing the university with additional exposure.
“We've had letters from people watching Oklahoma wrestling in New York or Sooner softball in California,” Castiglione said. “They just haven't been able to see that before.”