Pee Wee Wow!

Little League baseball. Pee Wee Football. It seems like every kid in the country plays some form of organized youth sports. With the rise in popularity of events such as the Little League World Series in recent years, it’s only natural that a network devoted solely to organized youth sports would spring up. Enter the Kids Sports News Network.

The origin of the LA-based Kids Sports News Network (KSNN) actually stretches back many years. Having a child that was involved in sports, Jacob and Micah Giles came up with the idea of making DVDs featuring coverage of games, using broadcasters performing interviews and creating mock news conferences about youth sporting events. The DVDs then sold to the teams or organizations, which would in turn distribute them to the families of the involved kids. The idea proved popular. It was designed to put the kids in a position similar to that of pro athletes: on TV and in the spotlight.

The DVD business had been going for about five years when, taking note of the evolution of cable as a means of broadcasting, they decided to take it to another level by actually showing their content on TV.

An immediate concern of the fledgling network was funding and cost-effectiveness. Stuart Rosen, COO of KSNN, states that although advertising is still the basis for funding programming, the sports leagues themselves want to be involved.

“It will give them a chance to show themselves off and attract more kids to their organizations,” said Rosen. When the redesigned KSNN website launches, the exposure will be even greater.

Through their association with the organizations, and in turn their sponsors, they intend to build a network to help bring their vision to an even larger audience.

A group that KSNN has recently covered a couple of games for locally is CHUSA, the Chino Hills USA Youth Baseball League. The league played some games at the Big League Dreams Sports Park in Chino, which is a group of parks that are replicas of famous big-league stadiums like Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium. The coverage of CHUSA that they gathered is now in the process of being assembled for a show, which will be broadcast on August 7th.

“They were very professional in their production. During our event they had all their staff and camera people and reporters, all the things you’d expect from a broadcast production crew. It was quite exciting for both the players and the parents in the program to know that they’re going to be on TV,” said Malosi Taeleifi, president of CHUSA. “I think that locally we’ll attract more players and families to participate in the program, and also, we have a message to send and I believe we’ve done a pretty good job expressing it.”

KSNN will also be covering the Connie Mack World Series, which is for players in the junior division (ages 16-18). The series, sponsored by the American Amateur Baseball Conference (AABC), will be held in August of this year and can draw up to 80,000 spectators over the course of its eight days. As of now, KSNN hasn’t done any live coverage of games, but they hope to be able to do full live play-by-play of the entire final championship game.

They also plan to eventually get kids involved in other aspects of the production. Some kids will get a chance to act as sportswriters, with a writer from each organization creating pieces for that group and getting a byline. “The kids that aren’t the greatest athletes will also have a chance to be in the spotlight in another way,” said Rosen.

According to Jake Downey, a producer with KSNN, they are currently in the process of assembling a permanent professional production team and putting together their studio, which will have to be able to handle 20 to 25 half-hour shows per week—no small task.

“So much goes into creating the look and feel of a show, which is important for a startup network,” said Downey. They are assembling elements to build a green screen set for the studio (using Serious Magic) which will be shot from three angles using Sony DSR-200 DV cameras. “The whole paradigm is to make this feel like big-time television,” added Rosen.

Adding Downey to the team appealed to the network in part due to his background as a local sports anchor for small markets in places as diverse as Nebraska, Wyoming and Texas. He eventually returned to his hometown of LA to work on a local high school sports show, serving as reporter, narrator, producer and sometime host. After that show ended, he landed at KSNN, where he will host some shows and more importantly, where the production company he runs will handle production and post-production.

In assembling a team for the network, KSNN is specifically looking to acquire “preditors,” or producer/editors, which will be a big advantage with their goal of 20 to 25 weekly shows. People who can both produce and edit are highly desirable in a smaller operation since they fulfill needs in a budgetary sense as well as in terms of accountability.

“Some people I’m talking to now are strong on the machines, and will have to learn more of the writing aspect, while some are stronger journalistically and will need to pick up editing,” said Downey. “It’s a challenging undertaking, but I think it’s doable.”

Another test for the network is the fact that they plan to make all their shows available in multiple formats. Along with regular broadcasts, they’re heavily into the concept of on-demand programming and also service via the Web.

Again, the main idea for KSNN is serving the kids. Downey himself has two young children that will soon be engaged in organized youth sports. “The opportunity to be involved in this while raising my own two children was appealing to me,” said Downey.

Whether the kids who are seen on KSNN go on to more than 15 minutes of fame isn’t something that can be foretold, but their moment in the sun is what’s most important for the network to achieve. “It’s all about the kids,” said Rosen.