BRAD STAGER G. Scott Maiden of Tampa Bay Arts and Education Network operates a camera during a production at the Tampa Bay History Center.

 

BY BRAD STAGER
Special Correspondent 
Published: 

TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Arts and Education Network is going over the top as it heads down the road.

TBAEN is moving from its current South Tampa location on the corner of Cass and Willow streets to 505 E. Jackson St. in the heart of downtown Tampa. The move is a result of their landlord repurposing their current facility and is expected to be completed by the end of March. It’s a change that TBAEN’s leadership embraces.

“We’re super excited because we’ll have more room to grow,” said Jessica Sturges , marketing and development coordinator.

As for over the top, or OTT in digital-speak, that involves using technology to deliver programming directly to viewers via the Internet in a variety of ways from streaming set-top devices like Apple TV and Roku, to gaming consoles like Xbox, as well Web-enabled TV sets. TBAEN makes much of its programming available online to complement its main delivery via channels on Bright House Networks and Verizon Fios.

Both moves are examples of how the nonprofit TBAEN is responding to funding and technology challenges resulting from changes to local cable franchise agreements and pending corporate changes for cable providers Bright House Communications and Verizon Communications.

According to G. Scott Maiden, director of broadcast operations and engineering, it comes down to accomplishing more with fewer and less expensive resources without sacrificing quality.

“We’ve become experts at learning how to leverage technology and take advantage of technology as it expanded into the consumer field,” he said.

In the past, recording, editing and playing video content required expensive and oftentimes proprietary technology. Now those functions can be accomplished with high-quality results by using cameras costing a few thousand dollars, a laptop and software. Maiden says it’s a trend that’s catching on.

“We’ve learned to do it as lean as possible and we have a reputation for doing that and people around the country contact us about how we do it,” he said. “We’ve been streaming video for 10 years and getting into it early allowed us to identify trends and how to cut costs.”

But whatever technology is used, it still comes down to delivering content reflecting the cultural and knowledge interests of the local community, says Sturges.

“What we try to be is an amplifier for local artists,” she said. “If you have an idea, a program or produce something, talk to us, we have a space for it.”

One producer who has found a spot on TBAEN’s program schedule is Ordette Rocque. Her “Rhythm-N-Hues Show” features local artists, poets, musicians and designers and also includes segments on subjects such as professional and legal advice for artists. Rocque originally produced it for her YouTube channel and it now airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on TBAEN. She says the program helps fulfill her mission to promote awareness of the creativity existing in the Tampa Bay area.

“The whole premise of the show is a love of art; that’s the passion of my life,” Rocque said. “I want to show how the arts are necessary and how you can make a living as an artist.”

Besides independent producers like Rocque, TBAEN creates programming with organizations like the Hillsborough County School Board by airing its board meetings and WMNF Community Radio with presentations of “88.5 WMNF’s Live Music Showcase.”

Other popular shows are lecture and history series such as “Evening Tide Talks,” which is recorded at the Florida Aquarium and “Florida in the Space Age,” a cooperative endeavor with the Tampa Bay History Center and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

Sturges encourages anyone who has program ideas, is interested in volunteering or wants to support the network financially, to send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..