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Time and TATV

“Action,” says student Chris Jordan as he pushes the record button on the camera.

This is TATV.

Thornton Academy Television, (TATV) started at midnight on January 1st, 2000 on Channel 3, a local access television channel. In its first 10 years, TATV consisted of live interviews with politicians and live news shows.

“When I first arrived [at TATV], it was very focused on local access,” said Tyler Cadorette, alum of 2012, who is currently working as a reporter for WMTM Channel 8.

Cadorette said, “We had a lot of small shows and reported on a weekly basis.”

Times are changing for TATV.  Many individuals are canceling their cable subscriptions and according to Fortune, in the 4th Quarter of 2017, over 500,000 customers cancelled their cable subscription and this trend will most likely increase.

With “cord cutters” on the rise, TATV seeks new technologies to transmit its broadcasts.

Jordan, a senior at Thornton Academy and 4-year member of TATV, is one of many students who have been a member of TATV within its 20-year existence.

“I joined TATV because I have always had a passion for filmmaking, directing, screenwriting, and projects like that,” he said.

Jordan, like many students in TATV, wants to have a career where he can create and he hopes to go to school for journalism and film production.

Jeff Christenbury, class of 2003, was working in the television industry as a producer for a high school sports show when the school called in the fall of 2010. He was asked to become a long-term substitute teacher to replace former advisor, Ray Lund.

“I had no teaching experience at the time, so it was kind of scary,” he said. Since his hiring in 2010, Christenbury has not only been a teacher, but also has been made the advisor of TATV.

“It’s changed a heck of a lot since I took over,” he said, “when I took over in 2010 we had a huge physical studio, a lot of equipment that was older, everything was standard definition, there were only 3 or 4 computers available for us, and it was a traditional [cable] operation.”

Christenbury said that before the creation of smartphones, people would have to come to TATV to get access to quality cameras and to be able to post videos to a wide audience.

Now, items that can fit in a person’s pocket can record high-resolution videos, and with a click of a button, and the creator can easily upload the video to YouTube, where an even wider audience can watch.

“We’ve had to change the way the club works,” he said.

This evolution is constant.

Live streaming is how TATV now pushes out content, and according to Forbes, in 2021, the live streaming industry could reach $70.05 billion dollars.

TATV is pioneering sports live streaming. No other school in the state of Maine is live streaming high school sports games at the same magnitude as TATV.

Last week at Thornton Academy, the Trojans battled the Sanford Spartans at the Homecoming football game, and TATV was there to not only to provide sport commentators, but to live stream the entire event.

“Now we do most of our live streams on Facebook and we get thousands of views per stream,” Christenbury said.

Another factor in the push for live streaming is that cable equipment is very expensive. According to Christenbury, a kit to start live streaming, not including a computer, is about $2,000. On the other hand, a cable studio is worth 25 times the amount at $50,000.

This new technology has greatly aided TATV, however, portable devices, such as iPhones, have also been a hindrance.

“If you are interested in doing very high end stuff, TATV is the place to be, because we have access to equipment that you just don’t have,” he said, “in the past, it would be like ‘you come and help us do this shoot, and you can take the cameras out and shoot with your friends.’ Now they have iPhones that can shoot in almost 4k, and they don’t need to come.”

The club’s growth has stagnated.

Christenbury says that the problem is trying to get students to connect the dots between the content produced and TATV.

Student meetings, where the student body is educated on what is going on at the campus, were a great asset to promote TATV, but school meetings were moved from the weekly schedule at Thornton Academy last year.

Christenbury hopes the club will grow as students, like Chris Jordan, put out great content with the new equipment that causes “people [to] see that and ask ‘holy crap a student did that, how do I learn how to do that?’”

TATV needs more promotion to utilize all of the equipment and to make the club great, Jordan said. He hopes that when he leaves TATV, the club will become more renowned.

However, the lack of promotion causes Jordan to feel as if TATV is now a “silent corner of TA.”

“We have a lot of potential here, and a lot of good equipment,” he said, “but we need more interactive students.”

With the students who do attend every meeting and who are heavily invested in the club, Christenbury hopes to “teach them the skills, see what their goals are, and get them there.”

Christenbury said, “I want to be a resource, I have been in the TV world, but I want to be here as a resource for students.”

With Christenbury as a resource, students like Jordan have learned “how to use teamwork and how to cooperate with others because sometimes people can have different ideas, and we need to compromise. I have also learned how to use different programs and technology here.”

“I learned a lot from Mr. Christenbury,” Cadorette said,” I can’t stress enough how good the program was for me.”

He believes that TATV was a jumpstart in his broadcasting education before he graduated. TATV gave him “a good fitting about how daily operations work.”

TATV has evolved and changed a lot since its initial launch on the first of the new millenia and to survive the club will continue to change. Cadorette believes that no matter what happens to TATV, the club will continue to be “so important to those students that want the experience.”

TATV, under the leadership of Christenbury, will last for many years to come, but like all good things, it will eventually end, and Christenbury hopes to leave a legacy.

“If I was to quit tomorrow, I want people to say that TATV was a warm and inviting club that was always thinking about the school first… I hope that people would appreciate that we had a unique set of skills that we used to our ability.”

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