WCSN Secures Granite Distribution

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Broadband channel World Championship Sports Network is vaulting to the linear-TV world through a deal with Granite Broadcast.

Slated to launch March  1 in San Francisco via a multicasting accord the station group owner struck with Comcast, WCSN will offer a 24-hour service dedicated to Olympics sports.

The service over the next nine months will become available to 1.5 million digital-cable subscribers through rollouts in 10 other markets served by Granite stations: Detroit; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Peoria, Ill; Duluth, Minn.-Superior, Wis.; and Binghamton, Buffalo, Elmira, Syracuse and Utica, N.Y.

Marcy Timpone, vice president of operational finance at Granite, said WCSN deals were now in place for all Granite markets except Fresno, Calif., where the station had a prior multicasting-programming deal. Timpone would not discuss terms of the cable pacts nor the timing of the rollouts, but Granite’s primary providers are Comcast, Time Warner Cable, WideOpenWest, Charter Communications and Mediacom.

All told, Granite owns 23 channels, including affiliates of NBC, CBS, ABC, The CW and MyNetworkTV.

Broadcasters such as Granite are able to launch channels with cable systems by transmitting digital signals. “Multicasting” -- squeezing up to four networks into space previously occupied by a single analog channel -- has enabled cable distribution of ABC News Now, NBC Weather Plus and The Tube Music Network, among others.

“Leveraging this digital spectrum will enable us to reach a far greater audience base and provide our advertisers an efficient delivery to this important demographic, complementing our already-strong online offerings,” WCSN CEO and cofounder Claude Ruibal said.

WCSN, which launched online in early 2006, showcases sports featured in the Olympics, such as track and field, gymnastics, skiing, snowboarding, swimming, volleyball, wrestling and rowing. Last week, the company closed licensing deals with the International Water Ski Federation and International Swimming Federation.

Aside from select footage from the network’s roughly 100,000-hour content bank, the new WCSN channel will include news show Championship Center, as well as potential weeknight theme fare.

WCSN president and chief operating officer Carlos Silva estimated that roughly 80% of the content on the Web site is free, with additional fare available on a $4.95-per-month subscription basis. The site currently boasts about 10,000 subscribers and averages “a couple of million page views per month,” he added.

The network also has an hour-long syndicated show, World Championships Sports, which reaches more than 45 million households through various partners. After two seasons in syndication, the show has been reupped by regional and news networks owned by Comcast, as well as Altitude Sports and Entertainment.

As for future initiatives, WCSN is working toward a wireless product and iTunes downloads. Initially, the channel will remain ad-supported, Ruibal said.

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