Time Warner Cable Nebraska is the recipient of this year's ESPN Good Sports Award for its “High School Football on Demand” initiative. The award is given annually to a project that generates outstanding community involvement through education and athletics. As its sponsor, ESPN hopes this award encourages cable operators to promote teamwork, sportsmanship and education in their community affairs programs.
Last fall, small town rivalries and Nebraska's love affair with high school football helped Time Warner Cable's Nebraska Division bring life to its local-on-demand channel through High School Football on Demand. At the same time, the initiative generated unparalleled excitement and publicity for small-town athletes, marching bands and student videographers alike.
In rural Nebraska, where high school football games are often the pinnacle of the week, Time Warner selected key match-ups, and rolled into town each Friday night to cover the games for its newly launched Nebraska on Demand channel.
In addition to attracting local high school football enthusiasts and parents, Time Warner Cable also wanted to bring more attention to the company's focus on arts education and the student performing artists whose hard work often went unrecognized. Instead of cutting away to commentary about the game at half-time, Time Warner shot the marching band half-time performances and included a feature story on the band, with director and student interviews.
Time Warner also spoke publicly about the company's long-standing commitment to arts education and presented $250 donations to each school's marching band booster clubs at halftime.
One of the challenges of covering the games and managing all of the activities was the small size of the public-affairs and production staff. So this innovative team created a program that involved high school broadcasting students in the TV coverage. Each week, a Time Warner Cable production specialist met with preselected student volunteers prior to the game, and instructed them on camera operations and shooting techniques. The students then donned “Crew” T-shirts and press credentials and with cameras on their shoulders, they became the most popular kids at the game, shooting video of fans, cheerleaders and getting in on all the sideline action. This experience sparked great interest in careers in broadcasting for many of the students and several have already volunteered to help shoot other sporting events and school activities.
Because of Time Warner's commitment to education and its positive relationships with the schools in its coverage area, the company was also allowed to set up booths at the games to promote its products and services and public-service announcements about Time Warner and the game coverage were shared over the loud speakers at most games.
The schools also allowed banners in the stadiums that read, “Watch this event on Nebraska on Demand” and volunteers were able to hand out Nebraska on Demand brochures to passersby. At half-time, Time Warner employee volunteers threw T-shirts to kids in the student section. The T-shirts read “As Seen on TV” on the front and included the Nebraska on Demand logo and channel number on the back.
Time Warner Cable Nebraska's High School Football on Demand initiative allowed small town football teams to be shown on TV, some for the first time, and views of the Nebraska on Demand channel increased more than 75% by the end of the season. In addition, Time Warner Cable Nebraska received unprecedented accolades from the schools, the parents, and even the local press for its efforts to promote high school athletics and the performing arts like never before.