Midco to close local sports channel, largely ending Lawrence’s foray into local television
photo by: Courtesy: MidcoSN Kansas
There’s tough news on both the local television front and the local sports scene today. Lawrence’s cable company has confirmed that it is closing down its local sports channel that broadcasts everything from high school games to a host of KU sporting events.
After word of the pending closure started spreading this morning, a Midco representative confirmed that MidcoSN Kansas’ last day on the air will be April 30. If you are not familiar with MidcoSN, it is on channel 32 on the Midco cable line up, or channel 622, if you watch it in high definition.
The cable channel does live broadcasts of several high school sporting events in Lawrence, Eudora, Tonganoxie and elsewhere, and then also replays them several days a week. That’s become a big service in the pandemic era, as high schools have placed restrictions on the number of spectators who can attend the games. The network also produces several sports talk programs, and is a broadcaster for KU coaches shows, Jayhawk Gameday Live and other such events.
South Dakota-based Midco is closing the sports channel after three years of operating it in Lawrence. The company will continue to provide cable, telephone and broadband internet service to the Lawrence market and surrounding area. Wednesday’s decision only impacts the sports channel. The company also will continue to operate a Midco sports network that covers events in the Dakotas and Minnesota region. It is just deciding to not continue with the Kansas venture.
“The decision comes after after assessing the local sports streaming climate as well as identifying some barriers to produce broadcasts,” Paige Pearson Meyer, director of corporate communications for Midco, said via email.
I asked for a few more details about the barriers that the company was experiencing in producing local sports broadcasts, but haven’t yet heard any more details. Clearly, though, there are also business headwinds with the industry. The station’s revenue model involved selling cable television subscriptions and selling advertising for its programming. The advertising market has suffered a downturn as a result of the pandemic, and the cable industry was suffering from cord-cutting prior to the pandemic. The company had started selling a web app that allowed people to watch broadcasts without a cable subscription.
Regardless, the pending closure also is noteworthy because it largely closes the book on Lawrence’s local television history. MidcoSN is kind of a remnant of the former Lawrence 6News cable channel. 6News was a mainstay in the local media scene for a long time. The former owners of the Journal-World, The World Company, started 6News in the early 1970s. It produced traditional 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. news broadcasts for Lawrence and the surrounding area. Midco discontinued 6News when it purchased the cable system in 2017. It started the MidcoSN Kansas channel at that time. Once it closes, Lawrence won’t really have any form of a professional television operation, although KU students will still operate a station, KUJH on cable channel 31.
The Midco announcement indicated there were six people who worked at the network and presumably will be losing their jobs. In its press release, the network thanked its two on-air hosts — Taryn Tempel and Kevin Romary — along with four behind-the-scenes producers and camera operators.
Romary, at this point, is one of the longer serving media members in Lawrence, and certainly ranks high on the all-time list of longest serving television personalities in Lawrence. He began with The World Company and 6News in 1997.
UPDATE (9:55 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 4)
I did hear back from Midco spokeswoman Pearson Meyer. She said one of the barriers that Midco was experiencing was competition from local school districts. There are districts in the area that have begun streaming the sports content themselves, or contracting with a private party to do so.
“This was a difficult decision for us,” Pearson Meyer said via email. “It really came down to the increasing cost to produce sports broadcasts, area high schools streaming their athletic content directly, which we foresee happening more of in the future, and there not being enough content and advertisers to support the effort. This has nothing to do with Midco’s business commitment to Lawrence.”
Pearson Meyer said Midco has been “happy with our growth” in the Lawrence area. I don’t have current numbers on subscriber totals the company is serving these days, but Pearson Meyer said the company is “committed to expanding our reach and services in Lawrence.”