Iowa high school sports fans have grumbled about not being able to watch state boys’ championships on TV — and, it turns out, they’ve been heard.
The Iowa High School Athletic Association announced Tuesday that it is trying to find “a better solution” to its current coverage situation, which has many markets in central and western Iowa staring at blank screens.
CSN Chicago, which has broadcast rights for state football, wrestling and basketball, began airing the Iowa events starting with last fall’s football semifinals. DISH and DirecTV customers, whose providers offer the network, were able to view the games.
The Chicago network has added two new Iowa cable providers in recent months — one in Carroll and another in Readlyn. But the lion’s share of the network’s Iowa footprint is constrained to the eastern third of the state. Cable-provider presences in much of central and western Iowa, which includes larger markets of Des Moines, Ames, Council Bluffs and Sioux City, among others, is sparse or nonexistent.
Consequently, significant numbers of fans, including those of state champions West Des Moines Dowling Catholic, Pella, Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley and Western Christian of Hull, were largely unable to view the state football contests.
The Iowa High School Sports Network, which purchased exclusive rights to state competitions from the IHSAA in 2014 for $730,000 over 10 years, has a contract with CSN Chicago for a three-year run of broadcasts that began with the 2016-17 academic year.
The IHSAA and IHSSN issued a joint press release Tuesday that read: “The Comcast contract is for two more years, and we want everyone to know we are working diligently, and are fiercely committed to finding a better solution in the future for Iowans to have viewing access to the Iowa Boys State Championship Events.”
The press release continues, adding that the organizations “are doing everything possible to change the situation, starting with the 2019-2020 school year.”
The statement did not refer to how that change will be accomplished.
Broadcasts of the state wrestling tournaments, an event that draws huge crowds to Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, will air Feb. 17 and 18.
CSN Chicago also offers streaming on DIRECTV NOW and Sony Playstation Vue.
The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union has a three-year contract with Iowa Public Television for coverage of state volleyball, basketball, soccer and softball. The network is statewide and does not pay a rights fee to the Union, according to Susan Ramsey, director of communications at IPTV.