Armed with fresh production facilities and a new name and logo, the upstart digital service National Sports Collegiate Network has set a launch date of Feb. 23, according to network founder Brian Bedol.
The network will be renamed CSTV: College Sports Television to better reflect the network's brand and mission to offer quality men's and women's college sports programming.
The network will be housed in a new 20,000-square-foot, facility at the Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment complex in Manhattan. Bedol said CSTV, in a cable first, would feature a street-level broadcast center, accessible to the public.
The facility will house a variety of interactive events and activities for fans, from college coaches' and players' clinics to "meet and greets" with all-star players, top coaches and college sports commentators, Bedol added. He would not reveal the network's expenditure for its elaborate digs.
With the launch date now in place, Bedol said he's negotiating with MSOs for distribution deals. While the network has yet to formally sign any carriage agreements, Bedol said he hopes to be in 10 million homes by 2004.
Unlike many new sports networks, Bedol is embracing operator's attempts to create digital sports tiers to place upstart niche sports networks — and eventually high-priced, established services.
Bedol — who founded Classic Sports Network (now ESPN Classic) — is positioning CSTV as "the sports anchor of digital."
MSOs such as Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications Inc. and Charter Communications Inc. currently have such tiers as part of their digital offerings.
"We're not trying to be distribution snobs," he said. "We're confident of our product, and if it's of high quality and rewarding to our distribution partners, we'll be seen by a majority of subscribers."
Bedol would not spell out rate-card terms, but said they're based on a sliding scale that rewards operators for distributing the service to most subscribers.
"We're confident that we have a business model that works," Bedol said.
As for programming, CSTV has struck agreements with more than 22 college conferences, including: America East, Atlantic 10, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial Athletic Association, Gateway Football League, Horizon League, Metro Atlantic Athletic, Mid-Continent, Mountain West, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Southern, Southland, Sun Belt, West Coast, Western Athletic and the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
The deals cover more than 250 U.S. colleges and universities.