Star-Bulletin Sports

Monday, April 16, 2001

The Hawaii Sports Network crew, clockwise from
front left: president Chris Dey, Sheldon Nagata,
Dan Barretto, Paul Honda, Kalani Takase, Doris
Sullivan and Thien Dowling.

A Web site
without Rivals

Hawaii Sports Network's staff
is determined to press on despite
the demise of its national partner

By Dave Reardon

This is not your geek brother's Web site. Yes, the Hawaii Sports Network has the technology, but also what they call integration -- fingers in local college and high school sports, radio, television, even scouting and recruiting. Partly because of that, HSN has enough wherewithal to withstand the demise of what many perceived to be its national "parent" Web site,, which announced Tuesday it is ceasing operation.

When Rivals said it was going down, HSN (which also includes the Rainbow Sports Network for University of Hawaii sports) quickly announced it didn't need a lifeboat, but that it planned to sail into a dynamic future.

HSN president Chris Dey, 34, said his company anticipated the fall of and was planning to break off eventually. The six-employee company, which has strong local financial backing and sponsorship, seems to be living up to the name of one of its television shows: "Higher, Faster, Stronger."

"We are ready to roll out (with a different site) whenever it makes sense. That will be based on our discussion with Rivals over the next two weeks," Dey said. "The timing is actually good for us, since we began working on our own site at the beginning of the new year.

"While we enjoyed our relationship with Rivals, HSN has been hard at work over the past few months creating an in-house solution for our on-line properties -- one that is much better suited for the local market than the Rivals product, which was a national site first, a local solution second. Over the next few weeks you'll see the re-launch of HSN -- a site first, foremost and only for Hawaii sports."

Dey said and receive 40,000 unique users and about 1 million page views each month.

"Those are pretty good numbers for a recent start-up," said Dey, who launched the network in October, 1999 with site editor Paul Honda.

HSN is not showing a profit. But Dey said the company is progressing according to its business plan and anticipates being in the black within a year. He also said charter sponsors such as Meadow Gold, AT&T and Pizza Hut and part-owner Duane Kurisu, a local entrepreneur, are all happy so far.

So are other partners. In the past year, HSN has aligned itself with the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, contracting to televise 21 state championship events, and "Higher, Faster, Stronger," an inter-school competition emphasizing physical fitness and teamwork.

"We're pleased with the exposure and the obvious sincerity to showcase our high school athletes to a statewide audience and beyond," HHSAA executive director Keith Amemiya said. "Their ratings are excellent. They helped prove that there is significant interest in high school athletics in Hawaii."

February's state boys basketball championship, which HSN televised with assistance from KHNL, garnered an 8.3 rating, Dey said.

Future plans with preps include hiring students from every sports-playing high school to assist in comprehensive coverage, including statistics.

HSN's relationship with University of Hawaii sports includes sponsorship of the "After the Game" radio show and the RSN message board.

UH sports information director Lois Manin welcomes the additional exposure -- even criticism from shoot-from-the-hip anonymous posters common on Internet sites.

"I think it's like the editorial section of the newspaper. It gives us valuable feedback, helping us learn what our customers think," Manin said. "It's a good thing all the way around, providing us with exposure and helping us in our efforts to improve."

Another arm of HSN is scouting and recruiting, headed by Dan Barretto, 38, who connects local high school athletes with colleges. Barretto has helped more than 500 local athletes obtain athletic scholarships from mainland schools -- about 150 in conjunction with HSN.

There have been a few minor bumps on the superhighway for HSN, including volleyball and football all-state teams determined (by coaches and media voting) before completion of state championship competitions. Because of the early voting, many observers felt the selections were not accurate reflections. Dey said this was not a major problem, and adjustments have been made.

"I think we will do the voting differently in the future. Other growing pains have been more significant, typical things when you're trying to get a new product as comprehensive as ours out there," the former Hula Bowl associate executive director said. "But people understand our intent is good, to provide exposure for Hawaii athletes.

"People often overlook that this is an opportunity to capture memories forever," said Dey, who was a three-sport captain in high school in New Jersey.

Site editor Honda, 35, a tireless worker like the rest of the HSN staff, said the company's employees feed off each other's energy at their downtown offices.

"I don't know if what goes on here is so original. There are plenty of good writers around, plenty of people who help kids get into colleges, plenty of sharp sports marketing people," the former West Hawaii Today sports editor said. "But just the fact that it's all in one place is pretty interesting. You feel like you're part of a strong engine, and I get to hear and see the other parts working."

And despite the fall of, it appears that engine will keep running for awhile.

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