Janesville68.7°

Web company wants to air prep games

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
November 9, 2007
— Janesville high school sports fans could watch their favorite basketball teams compete this winter from the comfort of their easy chairs.

A company called Preps on the Net.com is offering to show live video of the games on the Internet, for a fee.


Company co-founder Steve Kearns said the effort is the first of its kind in the country. He has more than 100 Wisconsin high schools signed up and is negotiating with more.


The company and the Janesville School District are negotiating terms of a deal that would allow the home games of both the boys and girls varsity teams to be shown on the Internet.


If Preps on the Net makes a similar deal with an opponent of the Craig Cougars or Parker Vikings, those games also would be available, Kearns said.


Janesville School District Athletic Director Kevin Porter said two or three other Big Eight teams are likely to join Preps on the Net, while others are waiting to see how it works out.


Viewers would pay $9.95 a month for the service, which would allow them to view any game that Preps on the Net covers, Kearns said.


The district would get $2 per subscription, Porter said, so if 500 people subscribed, the district would get $1,000 a month.


Kearns plans to sell DVDs of a team’s games after the season is over. The school district would get 30 percent of the DVD sales, he said.


Any proceeds would be used strictly by the district athletics department, according to a proposal recently discussed by the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee.


The company’s effort is endorsed by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletics Association, according to a school district memo.


Porter said he didn’t think the service would cut into ticket receipts.


“Most parents want to go to the games,” Porter said. “The way I see it is, (it’s for) the grandparents who can’t make every game, or the brother-in-law or sister-in-law who lives in Arizona, and (says) ‘I want to see my cousin play or my niece and nephew play.’”


Not only that, but coaches could scout other teams through the service, Kearns said. And high school athletes who don’t play for the big, successful schools, might get consideration from scouts who could log in and watch them play.


The video feed would include advertising, Porter said, but the ads would conform to a code that would keep inappropriate ads from appearing, such as ads for alcoholic beverages.


Schools would be asked to find students who would be willing to work the cameras at their teams’ home games in exchange for learning about video production.


Kearns said he hasn’t sold a single subscription yet, anywhere. That push is expected either at the start of the high school basketball season or soon thereafter, he said.


Porter said the plan is to record Parker and Craig football games next fall, but those won’t be live because the proper lines are not available to Monterey Stadium.


The broadcast booth at Monterey would have to be wired for the Internet, and that would cost about $1,000, school officials estimate. Booster club donations and/or school funds might cover that cost, a district memo suggests.


Kearns said he seriously is considering adding volleyball as well because there’s been so much interest.


Founder wants to ‘help out the schools’

Steve Kearns said he owns car dealerships, convenience stores and has real estate dealings, but he never worked so hard or had so much fun until he established Preps on the Net.com.


The company hopes to start providing video of Wisconsin high school basketball games soon, for a monthly fee.


Kearns said his co-founders and investors are two nationally known sports figures with Wisconsin ties, Denver Nuggets Coach George Karl and Ahman Green, the former Green Bay Packers running back who now plays for the Houston Texans.


Kearns said Green and Karl will be appearing to promote the company during their off seasons.


Kearns, of Slinger, said he’s been working on the idea for more than two years. He describes his efforts as a labor of love. He knows school budgets are increasingly strained, especially the sports programs, so he hopes to create a revenue stream for them.


Kearns estimates that in four years, Preps on the Net will be producing about $4.5 million a year for high school sports programs.


“This is not anybody’s major business,” Kearns said, referring to his and his partners’ other sources of income. “Our main thing is to help out the schools.”


VIDEO SAMPLE
Preps on the Net.com produced a short video feature of the Craig-Parker football game this fall to show what its productions might look like. The video can be seen at www.prepsonthenet.com.

To access the video, look for the large photo in the top-center of the home page, find the smaller photos on the right side of the big photo, and click on the small photo showing the blue jerseys of the Craig Cougars. When the Cougars photo becomes the big photo, click on it.


The video shows portions of the game as well as fans, tailgaters, the band, cheerleaders and Craig Coach Bill O’Leary giving his pre-game and halftime talks to players.


Everything on the Web site is free at the moment, but some of the pages, such as “terms of service,” “feedback” and “media relations” simply say “Coming soon!!” Company founder Steve Kearns said those parts of the site will be constructed in time for the launching of the subscriber service.



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