Cablevision Launches MSG Varsity

Cablevision on Thursday announced it will launch a new regional sports network devoted to high school athletics and other scholastic activities.

On Thursday, Sept. 24, the cable operator will take the wraps off MSG Varsity, a 24-hour RSN that will cover all the trappings of local high school sports, from competition to cheerleading to halftime performances by area marching bands.

MSG Varsity programming will be divided into four distinct feeds, targeting Cablevision subscribers in Long Island, Brooklyn/Bronx, New Jersey and Westchester/Hudson Valley/Connecticut.

At the center of the channel lineup is High School Sports Showcase, which will offer coverage of more than 400 live-to-tape games and events within the Cablevision footprint. Also on the menu are sports highlight shows, a live call-in program and The Cheering Life, a weekly series chronicling the ins and outs of various local cheerleading corps and pep squads.

While more popular spectator sports like football and basketball are likely to get a lot of air time, MSG Varsity also plans to spotlight some less-celebrated pursuits (drama, chess club, forensics, etc.) with the magazine show The High School Journal.  

Cablevision did not specify which area schools have agreed to participate in the new venture, although the operator is offering a significant incentive. As part of MSG Varsity’s efforts to cast a wide net, Cablevision is providing two scholarships to each partner school, which will be awarded by the schools “to students who go above and beyond in their participation and creation of content” for the channel. (In order to ensure quality content and provide a more enriching experience, the company will offer instruction and training to all students and faculty who wish to develop material for MSG Varsity.)

Along with the linear net, Cablevision will launch a Web site, MSGVarsity.com, and an interactive TV service.

“MSG Varsity is truly about celebrating the students both in front of and behind the camera. Whether they are athletes or actors, debaters or trumpet players, students are passionate about what they do and MSG Varsity gives them an incredible opportunity to share that passion with their fellow students and parents,” said MSG Varsity general manager Theresa Chillianis. “We are looking forward to working hand-in-hand with our partner schools to develop content that resonates with their own communities.”  

A 10-year Cablevision veteran, Chillianis took the helm of MSG Varsity earlier this summer. She most recently served as senior vp of strategy and business operations at Fuse, the sibling net of the flagship RSN MSG.