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Dinges: Sports networks join Grande lineup

Gary Dinges
gdinges@statesman.com
Former mixed martial arts star Fabiano Iha helped launch My Combat Channel.

San Marcos-based Grande Communications has added three new channels focused on huntin’, fishin’ and fightin’ to its lineup.

Can’t get more Texan than that, right?

The Sportsman Channel, World Fishing Network and My Combat Channel can all, as of this month, be found on the cable provider’s premium Ultra Sports Tier. And because there’s no such thing as too much sports – or so I’m told – the YES network, home to the New York Yankees, will make its Grande debut on Dec. 1. (New York? Git a rope!)

Brazilian-born fighter Fabiano Iha is the dude behind the Beverly Hills, Calif.-based My Combat Channel. Iha, a one-time mixed martial arts world champ, popped into town recently to talk about the fast-growing niche cable network.

“I thought it’d be cool to have a 24/7 place that covered the fights, plus what happens before and after the fights – interviews, training, everything,” he said. “If golf can have its own channel … I mean, c’mon!”

Getting on the air wasn’t quite as easy as he’d hoped, though. The pitch process, he says, dragged on for a couple years.

“I’m not used to having to prove myself,” he said. “After every single meeting, I’d get so frustrated.”

But things started moving after he partnered up with billionaire Alki David, Iha told me, and My Combat Channel made its debut on Jan. 1, 2011.

“He, thankfully, likes to do business a different way,” Iha said. “Stuff like this isn’t easy. It takes a lot of people to make it happen.”

In addition to Grande, the network is also available to some CenturyLink and Comcast subscribers here in the U.S. — and deals with two more cable providers are reportedly about to be inked. Its biggest market, though, is India, Iha said.

About 10 percent of the network’s programming is made in-house, including newscasts and talk shows. Over time, Iha would like to see that number go as high as 60 percent.

“This is an extremely good thing for the fighters,” he said. “You can’t fight forever. They want to get into hosting and acting, and this is an opportunity for them to do that.”

Emmy wins for local broadcasters

The hard-working guys and gals at Austin’s TV stations grabbed armfuls of Emmys at a ceremony this month at Dallas Cowboys Stadium.

PBS affiliate KLRU took home three statuettes: Arts/Entertainment – Program/Special (“Arts in Context: Trouble Puppet”), Arts/Entertainment – Program Feature/Segment (“KLRU Collective: Asian Occasion”) and Community Service (“Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project 2012”).

“The Daytripper with Chet Garner,” which airs on PBS stations statewide, including KLRU, won an Emmy, as well, in the Magazine Program – Series category. It’s the show’s third win in four years.

“Of course, we don’t do this job for awards, but the recognition feels pretty great,” Garner said. “It’s a testament to the hard work of the crew and the long hours we put in traveling Texas and seeking out authentic stories.”

Another show airing on PBS, “Texas Parks and Wildlife,” was also presented with a Magazine Program – Series Emmy. Producers were Abe Moore, Bruce Biermann, Alan Fisher, Ron Kabele and Don Cash. It’s the first Emmy win for Moore and Fisher … and the 20th for Kabele.

In the Documentary – Topical category, KVUE’s “Channels of Hope” broadcast, hosted by anchor Tyler Sieswerda, took top honors.

But it was the Longhorn Network, which celebrated its first birthday in August, that was the night’s big winner, taking home eight awards: Sports – Program Feature/Segment; Sports – Regularly Scheduled Daily or Weekly Program; Texas Heritage – Program/Special; Interview/Discussion – Feature/Segment; Interview/Discussion – Program/Special/Series; Promotion – Program – Campaign; Promotion – Program – Sports; and Graphic Arts – Graphics/Animation.

“I am extremely proud of our entire team at Longhorn Network and all that has been accomplished during our first year of operation,” LHN vice president Steph Druley said.

See the complete list of honorees at lonestaremmy.org.

Channel surfing …

It’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas. Round-the-clock holiday tunes have started on Majic 95.5. Tune in to get your fill of Santa songs or, if you’re too cool for yule, head to majic.com to hear the station’s usual soft rock playlist. … Read my blog at austin360.com/tvblog or follow @gdinges on Twitter to get the latest updates on local radio and TV stations.

New channels World Fishing Network, Channel 236 The Sportsman Channel, Channel 237 My Combat Channel, Channel 240 YES Network, Channel 238 (starting Dec. 1)