A reduction in the amount of channels available through the current traditional cable television system is being considered by the Internet Technology Services department.
According to Steve Hall, Chief Information Officer, the college spends upwards of $80,000 a year on cable television, while more and more students are turning to other sources of content. This development has resulted in a desire to look into whether some of the television budget could be re-allocated.
“It’s really a proposal that I made to [Student Senate Technology Chair sophomore Nana Opoku] because we spend over $80,000 a year on cable TV. Anecdotally, talking to different students who work in this area … almost to a person they said ‘I don’t really watch much TV or I stream everything. I watch Hulu, I have Netflix,” Hall said.
Funds taken out of the television budget would be put to other uses within ITS.
“Step one that I’ve proposed to Nana that we explore is whether or not there is any desire to perhaps take some of that money that we’re spending on cable TV and reallocate it to some other area of the IT budget that might have a different impact on students,” Hall said.
One of the areas that could benefit from additional funds is the amount of bandwidth available for students.
“What I’ve proposed was pulling some of that budget and spending it on bandwidth and have more bandwidth and maybe improve some of the streaming experience here on campus,” Hall said.
The first step in determining whether any action will be taken is gathering students’ thoughts and opinions on whether they use the cable service.
“We really don’t have a way within our infrastructure here to know how many TVs are hooked up and if channels are being watched or not,” Hall said.
“We are at the very beginning of the stage; it consists of getting student opinions. Steve [Hall] and I are currently still working on a good survey to make sure that we are not excluding student opinions because we want to know what they want. It’s ultimately for the students, so if they’re going to lose from it, then it isn’t something we should do,” Opoku said.
After gauging whether students are interested in reducing the amount of channels available in lieu of faster Internet speeds, the question remains of what channels to cut.
“The next step would be, well, if we’re going to whittle down the cable TV package to save money, which packages should we whittle down,” Hall said.
Hall does not foresee that the service will ever be completely removed, but noted the difficulty in picking and choosing which channels to keep ,as they are frequently sold in packages.
“I don’t think we’d ever want to eliminate it altogether, but the way the cable TV costs are laid out, you get certain channels, and the channels cost however much money. And one of the things that makes it hard to slice and dice the channels is you either get all of the ESPN channels or you don’t get any, for example, and there are a few different packages in there like that,” Hall said.
However, Hall is doing preliminary investigations into online streaming services the school could offer.
“I’ve talked to a couple of other companies in the area and they’re in the early stages of seeing if there would be some type of video on demand service Knox students could subscribe to and get movies that are two weeks out of the movie theaters or something, and maybe spend some of our money in that direction to pull video resources in,” Hall said.
All investigations into alternative video services are preliminary at this point, Hall said, as student feedback must be sought and reviewed before any actions are taken.
“It’s really very early and we’re about a year out from renegotiating our cable TV contract,” Hall said.
The goal of the shift from traditional cable to alternative services is at the root aimed at utilizing resources to best serve the student body. Hall welcomed input on how the television budget could be reallocated and what alternative services students are interested in exploring.
“Really what it is to me is when I look at it, if we’re paying $80,000 for something we’re not using $80,000 dollars worth of we might as well take $20,000 of it and expend it someplace that is going to have some impact on the student experience here,” Hall said.
Opoku noted that a survey pertaining to student use of the cable system would be in circulation shortly.