The latest addition to the Roku channel listings is the Rutgers Channel, which showcases Rutgers University’s original TV programming. The Rutgers Channel is just part of the operations of the RU-tv Network, which we feature here as our Station-of-the-Month.
With 40,434 students, the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers University is as big as a moderately-sized American town. Like many towns, it has its own television station. But unlike a town, RU-tv is more than a station: Rutgers University Television Network distributes seven local origination channels and a selection of nearly one hundred additional channels to the more than 16,000 students who live on campus. That’s a lot of work.
We’re highlighting RU-tv as our station-of-the-month, not only because of the impressive scope of their work, but also because of their innovation. Today’s global launch of “The Rutgers Channel” on Roku, developed by TelVue and powered by TelVue CloudCast, is just the latest example of that. With a dedicated Roku channel, RU-tv now has the potential of reaching millions of additional viewers.
“Finally we can reach the students who live off-campus,” says Brent Smith, RU-tv’s Assistant Director for Broadcast Operations, “Plus anyone with a Rutgers connection who has moved away, like our alumni. And we’ll be up there with the pro channels. It’s a chance for our student colleagues to raise their game.” With hundreds of hours of original programming produced every academic year, that is an ambitious goal.
But with the help of some of TelVue’s broadcast automation solutions, plus many hands on deck, it is a reachable goal. On the technology side, RU-tv uses the TelVue broadcast server’s “one-click” publishing feature to automatically send programming to the CloudCast account that is used to power both the Roku Channel, and the online player.
On the human resources side, the 50-100 “student colleagues” on the RU-tv team are the reason this modest operation can go 24/7. Student colleagues not only produce programming, they run Master Control, take care of Sales and Marketing, Programming, and Engineering. “Students work in key positions and we give them real-world responsibilities.” Smith explains. “We train them, but then they get a lot of leeway to do what they want.”
The broadcast operation is tightly integrated with the learning program at Rutgers. For example, participation in “Living-Learning Communities” – a very popular part of the Rutgers curriculum – gives undergrads a chance to combine classroom learning with hands-on experience. RU-tv sponsors two of these communities, one in Broadcast Communications, and for “Weather Watchers”, who end up providing RU-tv with regular three-times-a-day weather forecasts for the local campus channels.
Not only does the Weather Watcher cohort maintain an extremely well-updated Facebook and YouTube presence, but they were right on top of the biggest weather story of the year, the day Hurricane Sandy devastated the Jersey Shore. The collaboration between RU-tv, the meteorology program, and the School of Communication & Information provides a model for cross-disciplinary teaching as well as real-world exposure.
RU-tv offers students extensive production training, from shooting, to field and studio production, through the editing process, engineering problem-solving, and master control. “The only way we can do this for that many students is by training the trainers,” Smith says. “We call them ‘mentor team leaders’, and through this program we are teaching them more than just TV, we are preparing them for leadership in information services.”