NORMAN — Rather than establish its own 24/7 television presence — a la the controversial Longhorn Network — the University of Oklahoma will show its athletic programming through already existing outlets.
OU and FOX Sports announced Wednesday the creation of “Sooner Sports TV,” blocks of OU sports programming totalling at least 1,000 hours annually across various FOX Sports outlets, including Fox Sports Oklahoma/Fox Sports Southwest, Fox College Sports and Fox Sports Plus.
The 10-year deal means the programming — coaches' shows, game replays, press conferences and more — is immediately available to 9 million homes in the Oklahoma-Texas-Arkansas-Louisiana region. Select programming from Sooner Sports TV will be made available nationally, on Fox College Sports through cable providers or via satellite on outer market regional sports packages.
The initiative launched Sept. 1, before OU's first football game of the 2012 season at UTEP. The partnership will also include an online, “all-access” component featuring more, untelevised content, such as live streaming and archived games.
“We examined the amount of programming that we would have available to us, so getting at least 1,000 hours of programming in a multi-platform network was really exciting for us,” said OU athletic director Joe Castiglione.
“This is at least 10 times the amount of programming OU has been able to offer previously to our fans.”
Financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed.
“We know it's enough to make Sooner Sports TV sustainable for the forseeable future,” Castiglione said. “It allows us to invest in the type of equipment and production necessary to produce over 1,000 hours of specific OU programming.”
The 13-month old Longhorn Network, which is owned and operated by ESPN, has had major distribution problems; it recently announced a deal with cable provider AT&T U-Verse, but still isn't shown on other, larger cable and satellite entities.
“We did have a chance to examine several different options, including stand alone, 24/7 type of channel,” Castiglione said. “But this really gives us the best of all possible worlds. We have substantial OU branding and programming, along with immediate and full distribution throughout Oklahoma, Texas and our region.
“We thought this approach would serve our fans the best way possible.”
Most of the content will be produced by SoonerVision, which has expanded to a staff of 95 and grown substantially over the past five years.
“We made a substantial investment initially, and then incrementally since to acquire state-of-the-art, high-definition equipment when it was developing in the market place, but at the same time we were changing out the video boards at our various competition venues,” Castiglione said. “We had the thought that this equipment could be used in many more ways than game day.
“Those production facilities have developed over the past four or five years with an eye on this particular day coming.
Jon Heidtke, FOX Sports Southwest's senior vice president and general manager, said the infrastructure OU already had in place made the deal especially attractive.
“When we first took some of our production people up there, they were jealous of the facility versus some of the things that we're doing at FOX Sports Southwest,” Heidtke said, adding that his group was also excited the historical archives at OU's disposal.
“They have a tremendous amount of archival footage going back into the ‘30s and ‘40s and Bud Wilkinson days. The OU fans are really going to enjoy when we bring that to life, but college football fans in general will like taking a walk down memory lane and reliving those great moments of college football past.”
During a teleconference with reporters announcing the new initiative, Castiglione frequently spoke of continued growth.
“We really are talking about doing the best we can getting to people right now, but also with an eye on our vision for the future,” Castiglione said.
“We have the opportunity to grow the number of hours of programming, as we develop the attractive type of programming people will want and our network partner will want.”