Southland Conference Television Network Expands Coverage for 2009-10 Season

By John Rice
The Southland Conference Television Network concludes its
inaugural season this weekend with coverage of the conference’s baseball
championships. Plans are already underway for expanded coverage, featuring more
than 30 live events, including 11 football telecasts in 2009-10.
The network was born of concern that the small- to mid-sized
schools in Louisiana, Texas,
and Arkansas
“really weren’t getting a lot of airtime,” explains Jeff Watts. His company,
Jeff Watts Productions, provides production services for all Southland
Conference TV Network broadcasts and Watts
serves as executive producer.
“Other conferences got their choices [of broadcasts on local
channels and regional cable outlets],” Watts
says. “We were getting picked last.”
Southland Conference Commissioner Tom Burnett is credited
with putting the TV Network together.
“Under his direct leadership, the conference has made quite
a commitment to what we are doing,” says Watts.

For the first season, a network of local stations in markets
where the colleges are located was assembled to carry the games, which included
football, men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, and baseball. The network
also produces a monthly magazine show, Inside
the Southland Conference. Watts says that
during the season, picked up a number of the conference’s
basketball games, and many football and basketball games were carried on the Fox
College Sports Central channel.
Games are covered with Watts’
self-built truck and a crew of 20 that travels to each event. The truck carries
6 Sony DXC-D50WSH cameras, a Grass
Valley 2200 32-input
switcher, Chyron Duet for graphics and dual-channel Chyron Max for scoreboard
graphics. For replay, Watts’ truck carries
three Bux Sports units which he calls “a poor man’s EVS.”
“The broadcasts may not have all the whistles and bells with
sound effects and replay interstitials,” Watts
says. However, he is planning a number of improvements — including the addition
of a Fast Forward DDR for interstitials — for the coming football season. Those
upgrades will give the broadcasts a look and feel that “will probably not be
different that what you might see on a Fox broadcast,” he adds.
All games are broadcast in standard definition, but next
season’s offering will be in 16:9 widescreen or letterbox.
The announce team of Doug Anderson, LaDarrian McClane, and
Dave Knobler cover all the games.
Watts explains that many of the college stadiums are smaller
venues, seating around 10,000 people — “smaller than most Texas high school stadiums.”
Watts’ crew brings in
scissor lifts and scaffolding.
The graphics package for the network is designed by
Texas-based Creative Spin, which also creates graphics for Dallas Mavericks and
Texas Rangers broadcasts.
Watts sees a benefit to the
conference, and to its sponsors, in having a distinct network.
“Because we are our own conference, we benefit from not
having to run a network graphics package,” he explains. “Therefore, everything
is marked ‘Southland Conference.’ At home, they are not seeing a Fox bug, or an
ESPN or ABC bug, they are seeing Southland conference all over it.
“This is really the way these conferences can win in the
future,” Watts explains.

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