Mizzou Network to launch in December to showcase MU athletics

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 | 7:21 p.m. CDT; updated 11:27 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 28, 2011

COLUMBIA — The MU Athletics Department is planning to launch an online network in December that would provide video content including interviews, highlights and behind-the-scenes features as well as live streaming of sporting events.

Dubbed the Mizzou Network, it will not be a traditional 24-hour channel. Instead, it will provide mostly on-demand content, according to Andrew Grinch, associate athletics director for strategic communications. Grinch compared the on-demand style to Netflix and other video providers on the Internet.

Access to the network will be mostly free, but there will be a charge for premium content, which Grinch said could include live streaming of sporting events.

“Defining premium content, right now, it’s a little premature to do that,” Grinch said. “I would say that something like live events would probably fall in that bucket.”

He said that had the network been launched already, the department would have “looked long and hard” at putting the Missouri football team’s upcoming game against Western Illinois on the network, rather than on pay-per-view. He also said there is a possibility to stream a basketball game live in the future.

Grinch stressed that the network’s programming isn’t fully determined and that the plan is for the network to evolve. Grinch listed possibilities for programming, including coach and player interviews, game highlights, footage from practices and features on coaches, players and teams.

“We realize that we have access to a lot of great content,” Grinch said, “and we know from the culture that we’re in, the 24-hour news cycle and everything and social media and everything, that people have an appetite for this stuff, and how best can we feed that appetite.

"So I think it’s really a platform that can help drive interest, it can help drive recruiting, quite frankly, whether your talking about student athletes or regular students on campus. I think it’s really a place to channel, to showcase what we have going on here at Mizzou.”

The planning process for the network began more than a year ago, when the department evaluated its online video offerings. The goal is to create one place to direct people to “see what’s going on at Mizzou.”

In that spirit, the department is partnering with KOMU/NBC and the Missouri School of Journalism, among others. There are plans to do a weekly sports show that will be produced out of KOMU.

“Like a five- to seven-minute sports show,” Grinch said. “We’re not really sure on the format yet. It could be a traditional highlight. It could be an interview show or a combination of both. So we’d be working with them on that.”

Marty Siddall, general manager at KOMU, said that KOMU will aid the Athletics Department by using its production capabilities.

“We have a studio here, and we have a production department here that works with them in other capacities,” Siddall said. “So, whether it’s original content or some replay information or things like that, we’re a logical and efficient source to work with them on some of their production for the network.”

Siddall said that there will be a monetary exchange for KOMU’s production of content, but he couldn’t elaborate on details that have not been “fully defined at this time.”

Grinch said that, eventually, the hope is to create content that goes beyond just athletics and shows what’s going on on campus, as well. That is one opportunity to involve journalism students.

“I think the leadership over there (at the Missouri School of Journalism) sees this as an opportunity, as an outlet for students to help us produce creative content,” Grinch said, “whether it’s athletic content or stuff on campus. As far as how that’s going to work, we haven’t figured out all those details yet, but that’s something that will continue to evolve.”

MU broadcast journalism professor Kent Collins noted that the kind of content that will be produced by the Missouri School of Journalism has not yet been specified.

Still, according to Grinch, most content will be produced by the Athletics Department.

With any discussion of a school starting its own network — regardless of the platform — comes the question of the influence of the University of Texas and its Longhorn Network, a 24-hour cable channel that launched earlier this year.

Grinch said the decision to create the Mizzou Network was not a direct response to the Longhorn Network but that it caused everyone to evaluate what they were doing.

“This is a different animal than what they’re (Texas) doing,” Grinch said. “Obviously, what they’re doing, they felt like they had enough content or what have you that could justify a 24-hour network. Obviously, we’re not there yet. So we view this in no way as competing with them, so to speak.”

The network is planned to launch on Dec. 1, but Grinch said that in reality it is more of a rolling launch, meaning the network will look different a week later and a month later and a year later than it does on the first day as content continues to evolve.

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