The Cleveland High School broadcasting class already has the most watched streamcasts in the nation. Now, the team is also the first to enter the arena of streamcasting from the air, thanks to the purchase of a state-of-the-art, helium video blimp.
The 13-foot-long blimp is made possible through a donation from Cleveland-based Buy Here Pay Here USA Inc. which also uses a blimp as its company mascot.
The new blimp features the same technology currently used at many of the nation’s college football programs, including Louisiana State University.
The class can now fly overhead at football, baseball, soccer and other sporting events and provide a view previously thought impossible for high school broadcasts. One student will “pilot” the blimp while another directs the blimp’s camera by remote control.
"This is a tremendous piece of technology and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Cleveland High School broadcasting program,” said Jon Souders, media instructor and director of the broadcasting program. “The blimp enables our students to continue using the best equipment available and provide a high-quality, network style production for our worldwide audience. This is unheard of at the high school level.”
Souders said the new remote-controlled blimp can fly as fast as 25 mph and can run between 15 and 90 minutes at a time.
In recent years, Souders’ classes had received national media attention due to their wrestling broadcasts on CHS Live.com, made possible through funding from the Allan Jones Foundation. The Cleveland Daily Banner reported in March that the broadcasts were the most watched high school broadcasts in the United States.
The class also received the 2012-13 Outstanding Career and Technical Program Recognition from the Tennessee Council for Career and Technical Education, Souders noted.
Souders said the students aim to rival cable networks such as ESPN with their broadcasts.
“They are not going to settle for anything less than the best,” Souders said. “The donations from Buy Here Pay Here USA Inc. and the Allan Jones Foundation have allowed us to continue to take things to the next level.”
Chris Pendergrass, president of Buy Here Pay Here USA, said the funding for the blimp was given in order to celebrate the success of Souders’ class.
“There were 1,500 people watching online at CHS Live.com when the class did one of the streamcasts for a Bradley vs. Cleveland wrestling match,” Pendergrass said. “That was incredible. It showed me the importance of having Cleveland High School lead the way in technology.”
Allan Jones, chairman of Buy Here Pay Here USA, said the technology program at Cleveland High “took off” after the arrival of Cleveland City Schools Director Dr. Martin Ringstaff.
“It has always been my desire to help Cleveland High School lead the nation in streamcasting,” Jones said. “Unfortunately, the last administration did not share my vision. [Martin] Ringstaff embraced the technology just as I did, and it paid off for the students and community. Look at the great things that are happening. I believe this blimp is the next step in technology and the students are going to be very successful.”
The school’s streamcasting began at the Jones Wrestling Center on the Cleveland High campus, then Souders expanded it to other sports like basketball and football, Jones explained.
“The Cleveland wrestling program has been well-known for years across the state for its streamcasting,” Jones pointed out.
Jones said that when a local high school leads the way in technology or is No. 1 in anything, it makes the community feel good and benefits the students.
“This blimp is also important because on Fridays when the away teams come in to play Cleveland, they are going to see the blimp and it will make an impression on them,” he said. “They are going to know we mean business!”
Cleveland’s first game of the season — against McCallie High School — can be viewed live tonight by logging onto www.CHSLive.com at 6:30 p.m.