EXCLUSIVE: Cablevision Looks To Staff Up 'MSG Varsity'

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Cablevision Systems has put out the help-wanted call as it gears up for the launch of MSG Varsity, a high-school sports network serving the New York metro area.

Multichannel News last month reported the MSO's plans for MSG Varsity, which is presumed to be service available exclusively to Cablevision subscribers in the same vein as its News 12 local-news channels. The network will cover events at high schools in Cablevision's service areas on Long Island and in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Westchester County, N.Y., Connecticut and New Jersey.

It's not clear when the network is scheduled to launch. Cablevision and MSG representatives declined to provide additional information on MSG Varsity.

For now, Cablevision is focused on getting the network staffed, according to ads on several job sites in the last few weeks.

The high-school category is definitely on cable operators' radar. On Aug. 6, Comcast announced the creation of HomeTown Sports Indiana, described as "a new channel devoted exclusively to airing high school, college and professional sports, featuring Indiana teams." It's a free channel only for Comcast digital cable subscribers in Central Indiana. Independent programmers, too, are looking at the space, with unannounced plans percolating for at least one new digital cable channel and a content extension of an existing national collegiate sports channel, Multichannel News has learned.

MSG is seeking regional managers to represent MSG Varsity "at a significant number of high-school events and activities on an ongoing basis," according to a July 14 job listing on the NCAA's jobs board.

"The regional manager will be the face of the network in the local community, and will encourage each school's participation in the generation, transmission, and utilization of local HS video content by MSG Varsity," according to the job listing.

Each regional manager will "promote the educational content, tools, and product support available through MSGV's outreach programs, including ‘Train the Trainer' and online education initiatives," as well as "develop and execute local guerilla marketing and public-relations strategies to further the awareness of the company and the network."

Cablevision also is looking for a vice president of public relations for MSG Varsity, according to July 27 job listings on LinkedIn and other sites. This executive will be responsible for, among other things, "Serving as MSG Varsity spokesperson with a diverse array of sports, television, trade, consumer and general interest media" and "Responding to controversial and/or crisis-related issues with regard to MSG Varsity."

Operations for the channel, also referred to as "MSGV," are based in Woodbury, N.Y., near Cablevision's Bethpage headquarters on Long Island, according to the job postings.

The cable operator registered for the msgvarsity.com domain name on May 26, according to Network Solutions' registration database, although the Web site itself is not live yet.

Meanwhile, Madison Square Garden L.P. filed for trademark protection on "MSG Varsity" on May 29, 2009, with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

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