For many people, it doesn’t take much to turn on the TV to watch a mega hit like “Downton Abbey”—it’s as easy as pushing a button on a remote. For Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA), which airs the show, the behind-the-scenes work isn’t quite as simple.
OneNet and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education have worked behind the scenes with OETA for almost 30 years, and Mark Norman, OETA deputy director for technology and planning, has worked with OneNet since its beginnings. Norman worked with OneNet and OETA while in the position of director of broadcasting at Cameron University to provide televised college courses. In 2007 Norman joined OETA where he continued working with OneNet to build out the OETA network of 14 translators across the state.
“OneNet has been a major help in keeping OETA on the air across the state and has made our job easier,” Norman said. “In return, OETA has provided all Oklahoma citizens with quality broadcast services and educational content throughout the years.”
It’s the quality broadcast services that has landed OETA in the number one spot for public television stations in the nation. With an estimated 1.8 million viewers each week, OETA has found itself in the number one or two spot numerous times for public television viewers in the nation.
The educational content started with the State Regent’s assistance in 1985 when talkback television was a significant method of delivering college course work to Oklahoma students. Through talkback instruction, a classroom professor delivered the lecture, and it played on televisions to students across the state. Students could then talk back to the professor to ask questions. When OneNet expanded to provide Internet to campuses across the state in the 1990s, the talkback service was converted to fiber delivery in order to keep up with the changing technology.
“This service moved to the fiber once that technology evolved,” Norman said. “OneNet and OETA were a team from the beginning in providing televised instruction.”
Providing televised instruction was the first step. Making sure it reached the television sets of Oklahomans was just as important. OneNet has partnered with OETA for many years to make that happen.
“OneNet has allowed OETA to use our towers in a variety of locations in the state,” said Randy Crosby, OneNet’s director of network infrastructure. “OETA has translators on the top of the towers, which send the programming into Oklahoma citizens’ homes.”
Norman said the use of OneNet towers has leveled the playing field for citizens in rural Oklahoma.
“We believe rural Oklahoma citizens deserve to have access to the same programming citizens living in urban areas do,” he said.
Ensuring OETA programming is available to citizens in rural Oklahoma is a priority for OneNet, because part of OETA’s mission and OneNet’s mission is to support educational initiatives in the state.
“Our current infrastructure enables us to support statewide educational initiatives such as OETA,” Crosby said. “However, we are always striving to look for new technologies to provide the connections OETA needs to reach every corner of the state.”
OETA programming isn’t limited to only educational content. It also includes live streaming events from the Oklahoma Capitol building —a service for Oklahoma citizens that OneNet helps facilitate. Two of the largest streaming events are the Governor’s state-of-the-state address and inaugural speech. Thanks to state fiber connecting OETA to the Capitol and OneNet’s live-streaming capabilities, viewers can watch the event online from the OETA website and on television sets across Oklahoma. Without OneNet’s help, OETA wouldn’t be able to handle the capacity of viewers for these events.
In addition to connecting citizens to OETA, OneNet has been instrumental in connecting OETA’s studio in Oklahoma City to its studio in Tulsa.
OneNet provides fiber connectivity between the two studios. Before the fiber connectivity in Tulsa, OETA was using OneNet’s microwave service, which limited what it could do. Now with the fiber as the backbone, OETA’s two studios have HD video connectivity services and can transfer large files between Oklahoma City and Tulsa with ease.
For example, OETA staff edits video day in and day out. Because of OneNet services, OETA staff in Tulsa can edit video, and it is connected straight to Oklahoma City and vice versa.
“We had never been able to do that before, and OneNet made this possible for us,” Norman said.
Norman said there is no overestimating the importance of connecting the two OETA campuses, but it’s not just the connectivity he is thankful for.
“OneNet staff is always willing to go above and beyond to meet our needs,” Norman said. “Working with a reliable organization like OneNet is worth a million bucks when you’re a television station. We can’t afford to be down.”
OneNet has staff working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to ensure the customers’ needs are met, no matter the time of day. This exceptional customer service has helped keep OETA on the air.
OneNet’s willingness to keep OETA up and running has also kept Norman going through the years.
“It has been such a blessing for OETA to have OneNet’s support,” he said. “I don’t know what we would do without them. I don’t even want to think about it.”