Five Qs: Louis Bitonti of the State Champs! Sports Network

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tIt’s going to be a busy year for the State Champs! Sports Network, which has produced TV and radio shows covering high school sports in Michigan since 2002. Louis Bitonti, president of Yellow Flag Sports Production, the network’s parent company, spoke with DBusiness Daily News about the company’s move to Southfield and expanding the reach of its programming.

t1. DDN: What’s new for the State Champs! High School Sports Show?

tLB: State Champs has been running on the CW50 (in Detroit). It covers all sports — soccer, lacrosse, volleyball, cross-country — and it covers the entire state. We’ve got reporters and cameramen throughout the state of Michigan. And this year, we’re going to air on FOX Sports Detroit. So no matter where you are in the state — you could be in Mount Pleasant or you could be in Detroit — you can watch this show from 9 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Sunday. That’s huge for us.

t2. DDN: What kind of demand is there for this coverage?

tLB: There’s a lot of interest in high school athletics. People follow it — alumni, parents and grandparents, friends and family, and of course the kids who are following their teams. And we have no competition. There’s nobody doing what we’re doing, not the way we’re doing it. Of course, we’re not as big as ABC (Channel 7) or (WDIV-TV) Channel 4, but for our given market, the coaches know who we are and the kids know who we are. We give them the opportunity to be seen. 

t3. DDN: What new programming are you launching this year?

tLB: We just finished a contract with WXYZ Channel 7, and we’re going to be doing a 10-week football show for southeast Michigan. On the west side of the state, the affiliates have always run their own high school football shows, but they don’t have all of the sports that we have on this side of the state. (Our show) will just cover the eight counties, but in those eight counties, there are about 450 high schools playing football every Friday and Saturday. That’s about 450,000 fans coming out and following those games. So we’re going to be the only football show for southeast Michigan on Sundays at noon — right before the Lions Report and right after the (7 Sports) Cave.

t4. DDN: Tell us about your new facility in Southfield.

tLB: We just moved into Lawrence Tech University about a week ago. We were in Bloomfield Hills before. We were pretty cramped, but we made the best out of it. Here, we’ve got approximately 6,000 square feet and the latest and greatest in gadgets. We’ve built a great studio — it’s fun. I’m not going to have an office that looks like an accounting firm. We’ve got tables made out of (the wood from) basketball courts. We’ve got approximately 15 full-time employees, and then when the football season starts next Thursday, we’ll grow to 40 to 50 people.

t5. DDN: What’s next on your radar?

tLB: My goal is to be in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania over the next three years. We’re growing strategically, but we’re taking everything step by step and making sure we do a quality show. So far we’ve had 15 Emmy nominations, won four, and we plan to win a few more.

tIt probably comes from my automotive days, but we live on the 10-day report. That question is “What did you do yesterday, and what are you doing today?” You can’t stand still. I’ve got a little picture in my office of a Tyrannosaurus Rex that says, “Adapt or Die.” So we’re always moving — we trying to look at different things and look at them from a positive angle.

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