LITTLE ROCK — On Monday, the Arkansas Activities Association and AETN announced a partnership to broadcast high school football and basketball state championships statewide.
In previous years, AAA has partnered with Fidelity Communications to broadcast games, but problems occurred.
“The past few years, there were a few comments we were getting from our membership,” AAA assistant executive director Derek Walters said. “One, ‘what channel is my game on?’ Two, ‘will my game be broadcasted?’ ‘I can’t find my channel’ and finally, ‘I don’t get that channel.’ In previous years, a game could be on one channel and the very next game be on another. That was problematic.”
Walters said AAA is trying to showcase the state’s student-athletes to everyone in Arkansas, but these problems caused the organization to seek out another venture.
“The past few months, we set out to find something new, something that would allow us to showcase our athletes on a bigger stage and showcase them on the biggest game a lot of them will play,” he said. “We set out to take our championship broadcast to the next level.”
After meeting with AETN, the two mutually understood that partnering would be something both wanted.
“We agreed that working with AETN, that this could be an advantage for AETN and AAA members schools and Arkansas citizens,” he said. “We believe AETN is a perfect fit because AETN is statewide TV, AETN recognizes the vital role of athletics and activities in our member schools and AETN can help connect our student-athletes with the state of Arkansas.”
Starting this year, only football and basketball will be broadcast on AETN with a few features during the games.
“During the broadcast, AETN will highlight interesting students and stories through documentary shorts,” he said. “This will highlight things students are doing in the classroom and around their schools.”
AETN executive director Courtney Pledger said it is launching AETN Sports on Monday.
“At AETN, we recognize and wish to celebrate the vital role sports and activities play in the development in responsible and accomplished young adults,” she said. “Student-athletes across the state will be under a spotlight as they play in the crowning games of their season.”
Because the games will be broadcast nationwide, Pledger said it gives several an opportunity to give a viewing chance to many around the state.
“AETN will be giving an opportunity to view the games to those who cannot attend,” she said. “Following the broadcast, the games will be archived on AETN Sports, allowing for coaches, players, family members and college recruiters to watch on multiple devices. Sportsmanship and partnership will be reinforced in this new endeavor.”
Both Walters and Pledger said they are working toward adding more sports in the future.
“We really wanted to get these first two under out belt and see how well it goes,” Walters said. “We’re confident that everything will go well. With the first games coming in December, that gives us time to iron out some more things. We are definitely looking to add other sports and we will make an announcement as those things happen.”
Walters said the games will still be streamed online through the NFHS Network.
Games will be archived at aetn.org/sports.
Football games will start at 7 p.m. Nov. 30.