SE: K-StateHD.TV Continues to Grow, Increase Exposure

Early on, Brian Smoller can recall fielding phone calls from representatives of other athletic departments.


“How are you doing this?” They would ask. “How much money did you spend?”


During that same period, Smoller also remembers receiving emails from soldiers stationed in the Philippines and fans living in Japan.


Those are just a few examples, but they show how K-StateHD.TV delivered a groundbreaking product to Wildcat fans across the globe and led the charge for self-produced content within athletic departments.


“We were the first ones to actually make it happen,” said Smoller, the director of video services for K-StateHD.TV, “and a lot of that was due to the fact that we already had some of the pieces in place.”


K-StateHD.TV launched in 2011, and it did so with a shared investment of about $400,000 with Kansas State University. With the help of Dole Hall and the Division of Communications and Marketing, K-StateHD.TV immediately gained a broadcast truck, an on-campus video facility and a group of professionals more than willing to team up with the athletic department.


This partnership, Smoller said, was instrumental in getting K-StateHD.TV up and running.


“To have that mesh and everybody pulling in the same direction was big,” he said. “We got out there about a year ahead of everybody. When that happened, I think we got a lot of publicity in our field nationally of, ‘Look what K-State’s doing.’”


It didn’t take long before K-StateHD.TV was producing content for Fox College Sports, becoming the first Big 12 school network to get distributed nationally.


The quality level was high enough in the first year that Smoller said FCS asked, “Can you give us more next year?” The result? More K-State volleyball, baseball and women’s basketball games on TV. Soon after, Fox Sports Kansas City and Cox Communications approached K-StateHD.TV, committing to broadcast games based on the in-house production’s reputation.


“This was about exposure and the betterment of our student-athletes,” said Andy Liebsch, K-StateHD.TV’s assistant director of video services. “Every year we do a little more. It just keeps growing and growing.”


The exposure specifically benefitted volleyball, baseball and women’s basketball in the recruiting game, especially in the first few years. Before, watching these teams play usually required a ticket to the game. Now, every home game can be viewed either online or on TV.


“All three used it, especially early on, in recruiting because they had an advantage over everyone else in the league,” Smoller said, adding that the advantage isn’t as large now as other schools have started streaming services. “But there’s still the pitch of, ‘It looks better on ours compared to theirs,’ or, ‘Not everybody is in HD across the league for those sports.’ It’s been, no question, a recruiting tool for those teams.”


Each year, K-StateHD.TV has been able to produce more content for both its online platform and for TV distribution. Last year, Smoller said K-StateHD.TV worked 57 games for TV distribution. The Wildcats’ digital network, entering its sixth year of existence, also added ESPN3 and Fox Sports 1 to its growing list of distributors in 2015-16. The expectation, Liebsch said, is for this number to continue to rise.


In order to grow, K-StateHD.TV needed an infusion of professional workspace. Enter the construction of the West Stadium Center. Phase II of the Bill Snyder Family Stadium Master Plan moved K-StateHD.TV out of a crammed space on the ground level of Bramlage Coliseum and onto the Dev Nelson Press Level of the West Stadium Center.


Liebsch said the crew could feel the impact of the move immediately from “a space and a workflow standpoint.”


The new space, made available in the fall of 2013, allowed for K-StateHD.TV students to work in the office more often. It also included a control room, which was nonexistent before, and a separate studio room, which previously served as a tape room, equipment room and student workspace as well.


“It was not a proper editing room,” Dakota German, a student worker for K-StateHD.TV since its first year, said of the old setup, letting out a laugh in retrospect. “It was just a mess of equipment everywhere. I do remember the first day we came up here, I thought, ‘This feels right now. This feels like a real place to come and edit.’ It felt like we stepped up our game.”


Additionally, all of the offices for K-StateHD.TV’s full-time staff are now located in the same area. On top of improving day-to-day communication, this made the full-time staff all readily available for students.


“We’ve really been able to increase a lot of the amount we’re able to do by bringing in more students that can help us during the week,” said Liebsch, with K-StateHD.TV’s student staff now between 40 to 50 people. “Our full-time staff is pretty small, so they really supplement that by being able to go out and shoot.”


K-StateHD.TV’s development has strengthened Kansas State University’s 2025 goal of being a top 50 public research university by greatly increasing undergraduate experiences and opportunities as well as K-State’s national brand relevance. These opportunities also fall in line with K-State Athletics’ second goal, providing Value to the University, Community and State.


For the growing number of students getting involved with K-StateHD.TV, the opportunities are top notch.


“One of the original tenets of K-StateHD.TV was to create an opportunity for our students to gain professional level experience in the world of sports media,” said Jeff Morris, Vice President for Communications and Marketing. “The chance to work within one of the nation’s top-run athletic programs and get national broadcast level-experience is a tremendous advantage for our students.”


With a sizable student staff, K-StateHD.TV’s full-time staff is freed up to work on projects like its most recent feature series, “Untitled,” which has profiled men’s basketball players D.J. Johnson, Kamau Stokes and Barry Brown.


For “Untitled,” K-StateHD.TV sent video producer Jay Moline to Stokes and Brown’s hometowns in Baltimore and St. Petersburg, Florida, respectively, to reveal a look at their journeys to K-State. It is just another way for Wildcat fans to connect with K-State student-athletes.


“That’s what really differentiates, I think, college sports from professional sports is the stories that the students have and the connections that the alumni and the fans of those teams try to have with the student-athletes,” Liebsch said. “They come and go, but there’s those connections that they want to have with them.”


K-StateHD.TV, which costs $99.95 for a year or $9.95 per month, also allows fans to watch one football game each season, with this year’s being the Sept. 24 matchup against Missouri State. It offers a large amount of free content as well, including facility tours like the recent look at the progress on Phase 3B of Bill Snyder Family Stadium Master Plan and the “Untitled” series.


“We put that there because we want to get that exposure out there for our student-athletes, for our programs, and we think it helps. We think our fans like it, we think our teams like it,” Liebsch said. “If we put more stuff behind a paywall our subscriptions would be even bigger. You’re making more money, but you’re hurting some of your exposure.


“At the end of the day, we’re here to support the programs and the student-athletes.”

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