New sports channel will focus on Central Ohio

Business First – March 13, 2007

A new television channel plans to sate the 24-hour appetites of Central Ohio sports fans when it begins airing this month.

Broadcaster WCSN’s Columbus Sports Network plans to go live March 24 featuring professional, college and high school athletic teams and events in Franklin County and the surrounding six-county metropolitan region. In addition to local sporting events, CSN plans to air a daily news-and-highlights program as well as several magazine shows paired with game telecasts.

All will be produced at WCSN’s studios on Hilton Corporate Drive in east Columbus.

“CSN’s mission is to provide all-day, every-day coverage of the events closest to home,” John Ertmann, president and general manager, said in a statement. “We’ll cover amateur events, high school events, college events and our local professional teams, showcasing a mix of full games and countless highlights.”

WCSN will broadcast on Channel 32 and will be available on all the local cable television systems. Insight will broadcast the network on Channels 78 and 524, Wow will broadcast it on Channel 97 and Time Warner will carry it on Channel 78.

CSN spokesman Brian Hicks said investors have been building the network and studying the Columbus market over the last three years. Toledo-based United Media Acquisitions is one of several investors, Hicks said, but he declined to name others.

Based on market research by Columbus-based Saperstein Associates Inc., the network believes the region has an unmet, pent-up demand for local sports programming, Hicks said. The Saperstein research found that 70 percent of men surveyed said they were likely to watch the channel, while 62 percent of women answered the same, CSN said.

“Market demand is very high for any sports programming in Central Ohio,” Hicks said. “There is no question that Central Ohio has unbelievably rabid sports fans.”

Like most broadcasters, CSN plans to generate revenue from advertising. It’s rate structure, at least initially, will be significantly cheaper than competing networks, Hicks said, so CSN executives believe its entry into the local media market will give small businesses an opportunity for television advertising that they haven’t had.

Prior to joining CSN, Ertmann was vice president and general counsel for the New York Yankees, vice president of negotiations for NBC Sports and NBC News, executive vice president of business affairs and chief legal officer of Major League Soccer, and president and CEO of Lexington, Ky.-based Equibase Company LLC, a database company serving the thoroughbred racing industry.

Ertmann has been busy hiring sales and production employees, as well as on-air talent. Hiring announcements will be made in the coming weeks.