Rainbow Media Services is stepping into the world of instructional sports, while also bolstering content offerings for Mag Rack.
Looking to attract more viewers to its on-demand arena, Rainbow this week bowed instruction-based Sportskool on parent Cablevision Systems Corp. systems as a free on-demand service. The programming features some of today's top athletes providing some of their know-how.
Mag Rack also is teaming with Warner Bros. Publications on a guitar-instruction service that will offer playing rudiments, as well as information on how to pick classic and contemporary songs.
Sportskool begins with nine categories: fitness, skiing, yoga, snowboarding, basketball, football, skateboarding, lacrosse and freestyle motorcross, according to Brent Chapman, senior vice president of developing sports businesses for Rainbow. Each segment within a particular sport runs anywhere from five to 30 minutes.
The service will switch categories depending on what's in season — for example, Sportskool will add baseball and golf over the next couple of months, in time for spring, Chapman said.
The instructional segments feature such current athletes as soccer's Mia Hamm, Major League Baseball's Nomar Garciaparra, the Women's National Basketball Association's Sue Bird, National Football League quarterback Jeff Blake and tennis player Anna Kournikova.
While many of the segments were acquired from the now-defunct SportsID.com, Chapman said Sportskool is committed to producing the majority of its programming. "Of the 20 hours we're launching with, about 15 to 16 of those hours are originally produced" by Sportskool, Chapman said.
Sportskool is finalizing several marketing initiatives it plans to wield over the next several months to get the word out. Sportskool will also work with the National High School Coaches Association to alert more than 200,000 youth-level coaches, school administrators and athletes about the service, according to Chapman.
Chapman thinks fitness and yoga categories will get the most hits. "It appeals to everyone in the family from the kids to the wife to the husband."
Rainbow's Mag Rack on-demand service in March will teach viewers how to strum and slash guitar strings as part of a new instructional "magazine" developed in association with Warner Bros. Publications.
"Guitar Xpress" will feature hours of basic lessons, specific tips, and step-by-step instructions for playing popular songs, furnished by guitar experts who specialize in various musical genres, Mag Rack executive vice president and general manager Matt Strauss said.
"We think providing guitar instruction for VOD is a perfect application," Strauss said. "It allows people who really want to learn how to play the guitar or learn how to just play a song to take advantage of VOD's VCR functionally of pause and rewind to learn how to play at their own speed."
Also offered: a note-by-note breakdown on how to play songs, including rock standards American Pie, Sweet Home Alabama
and Born to be Wild.
It's meant for both beginning and seasoned guitarists and will feature tips from such legendary players as B.B. King.
Mag Rack will supplement the video magazine via its Web site, magrack.com. The site will be home to interactive, printable tablatures and chord diagrams.
Mag Rack also signed a distribution deal with hotel VOD provider On Command Corp. to place Mag Rack programming in front of 300,000 hotel rooms across the country. The VOD service already had a deal with hotel PPV vendor LodgeNet Entertainment.