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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Band from Television

College and other sports networks are popping up almost as quickly as teams change conferences. The Big Ten Network turns five this summer. Longhorn Network has been around (somewhere) for a year. The Pac-12 and Big XII have apparently given networks some thought. The SEC is deep in the laboratory cooking up Project X.

My belief--one part prediction and two parts hope: It's only a matter of time until someone starts producing marching band-related content.

The narrower your focus, the more you need to be creative with content. ESPN, for example, has the entire sports spectrum at their finger tips, while ESPNU is confined to college. Conference-specific networks narrow the lens even further, and anyone looking to go the Longhorn Network route and limit their scope to a single institution absolutely needs to fill space (especially when you can't show high school football). If sports is your focus, why wouldn't you look to an athletics-adjacent like marching band, especially if your focus area features a band or bands of significant excellence?

I asked this of the Big Ten Network (or their social media coordinator) on Twitter. The Big Ten is, after all, at the top of the mountain as far as marching/athletic music. Ten of its twelve bands have won the Sudler Trophy, and even typically band-resistant media outlets are quick to show the Script Ohio.

The answer that they gave was that it has been talked about for a long time, but commercial rights to the band's music remain an obstacle. First of all, i appreciate them "taking my call," as it were and actually explaining the situation, including an obstacle I'll admit I didn't even consider while wondering why this wasn't already happening.

Still, the more I've thought about it, the more I realized that that shouldn't have to be the obstacle they make it out to be. A band-focused show could be done justice using little to no proprietary music. This could work in two ways: You could tell the story of the band without even delving too heavy into performance itself--I've played with enough organizations to vouch for the fact that there's plenty of content there. ESPNU has done this with "The Battle" which has focused on HBCU marching bands; season one highlighted the FAMU/Bethune-Cookman rivalry, while season two focused on Grambling. Even a "making of" sort of show that follows them through band camp would achieve this goal. Secondly, you could focus on the part that is probably of most interest to the sports fans otherwise tuning into the network: The pregame show. While halftime shows may veer from a strictly football/institution-centric script, pregame is all about school spirit. The added bonus is that typically most, if not all, fanfares, cadences, and songs used here are property of the respective schools, making commercial rights far less an issue.

Someone's going to hop on this, and whether it's the Big Ten, SEC, Longhorn, or some other network, it wouldn't surprise me if the others follow suit to keep up with the Joneses.

No argument here.
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