Why you couldn’t watch NorthWood Saturday

By Roger Grossman
News Now Warsaw

WARSAW — A lot of people treat me like I am smart or something.

I am not, but I do try to learn a little bit about a lot of things so that when subjects come up that I don’t know much about, I can at least ask an intelligent question to start a conversation that will educate me about that subject.

Knowledge is power.

I got asked a lot this weekend “what television channel is NorthWood’s game at the state finals being broadcast on?”

My response was simple: “There isn’t one?”

The looks were those of confusion.

I want to explain this to all of you in the hope you’ll understand, and I am going to do my very best to relate the facts of this without injecting a lot of my opinions about it.

The IHSAA announced in October that the state football finals would be exclusively broadcast online at IHSAA.TV.

They also announced that they were charging us to watch it — $15 for each game and $20 for an all-games pass.

Heath Shanahan, IHSAA’s Director of Broadcasting/Executive Producer explained the thinking.

“Livestreaming has become a fact of life in the television world over the past few years,” he says. “More often, programming is being moved from linear (or conventional) television to streaming platforms.”

The news release distributed Oct. 31 went on to say that Indiana state finals events have been shown on that web site for some time and making it the exclusive video home of those finals is just the natural next step in how these types of events are being made available to the public at this time in history.

But in that same release, however, they admitted there was more to it than that.

As time has gone along, the IHSAA has had more and more trouble finding television partners in Indianapolis and other places around the state to broadcast on. When I was growing up, WTTV-4 in Indianapolis was the flagship station of a TV network that included Fort Wayne, South Bend, Evansville, Terre Haute and other cities from Lake Michigan to the Ohio River. Anyone in Indiana who wanted to see the state finals could see them on the free, over-the-air network.

Times change, and so has the local television industry. Like a slow fade to black on a TV show scene, Indianapolis broadcast stations unplugged from the IHSAA. Most recently, the Bally Sports cable network produced those broadcasts, but that channel isn’t even available on our cable systems.

Then came the news that Bally Sports was beginning bankruptcy proceedings.

In June Bally Sports Indiana informed the IHSAA that their partnership would end.

“They called and said they weren’t allowed to renew the contract with us,” IHSAA Assistant Commissioner Chris Kaufman said. “It was an amicable parting and, all in all, Bally was a great partner. We enjoyed working with them and we will stay in touch.”

The quickest and easiest answer was to make their own website the only place for Hoosiers and anyone around the world where the internet reached to watch.

From the IHSAA’s perspective, they now have the potential for a lot more revenue generation because not only will they make money from the state finals ticket sales, but they are charging (basically) the same amount to view it online as they do for us to buy a ticket.

Again, trying to be objective about this, here is the reality of what happened with the Panthers on Saturday.

I would love to have watched NorthWood play Saturday. I’ll bet a lot of you would have, too.

I’ll bet a thousand football fans combined from the seven other Northern Lakes Conference schools would like to have watched. Jimtown fans. Bremen fans … lots of fans. But the question is: Would you pay $15 to watch their game online?

It’s not that we don’t care … a lot of us were cheering for the Panthers Saturday. But we were getting updates from social media or in some other way, not watching live on the internet.

Again, I am stepping lightly here as I say this, but fewer and fewer people outside of the immediate areas of teams playing in those state finals contests will pay attention at all to the state finals.

Here’s the biggest problem in all of this: there is no easy solution! Lowering the cost of the live video to, say, $5 per game would be a good starting point. But, as the IHSAA says, this is the way of the future, and that cost is more likely to go up as ticket prices go up.

That’s a fact.

Also a fact: Not all things presented as “progress” make things better.

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Roger Grossman has been covering local sports in Kosciusko County for more than 30 years and is employed with News Now Warsaw. You can reach him at  rgrossman@kensington.media.