There is a new source for local high school sports coverage for parts of Fulton County that came to fruition over the summer. That source is called ORN Radio or Online Radio Network.
It is an internet radio service that does broadcasts of high school sporting events, primarily for Liberty Center, Delta, and Evergreen. They also conduct radio shows which stream on their website, ornradio.net, at time slots in which they are not broadcasting games.
The roots for this project stem from viewers of games done by Spike Whitman and Mark Bly, otherwise known as “Spike and The Captain,” on INTV Channel 5 out of Liberty Center. Together they have done over 500 Liberty Center football games and 400 basketball games.
Many had requested recordings or DVDs of games done by the duo that they could not attend, which made Bly want to think of an even better way to reach out to their audience.
Bly, who helps run a technology company called Affinity IT Group out of Holland, Ohio, decided they should broadcast their games online as well.
“I always call it a morph,” said Bly, Co-Owner of ORN Networks LLC. “We are going from the older listeners, to the newer generation that gets their content online. We are capable of doing the recordings, doing the DVDs (of games), but then still getting the content online.”
He also wanted to expand the project to cover some of the schools surrounding Liberty Center that lacked coverage. So he brought the idea to close friend and longtime local media man, Randy Roberts.
Roberts had previously served as Sports Editor at the Fulton County Expositor, Assistant Sports Editor at the Northwest Signal, and worked part time for 96.1 WMTR out of Archbold.
After a few years of convincing from Bly, he officially joined the ORN family in August.
“He came to me over the summer and said hey I’m gonna do this. I’m gonna build this. The website is gonna be done at no cost (to you) because it’s what I do for a living anyways,” said Roberts on his conversations with Bly.
“A lot of that was really appealing because if I wanted to do this on my own, it would be $5,000 to start. I didn’t have the money.”
Bly was confident in the impact Roberts could make on this new endeavor, and so far he has been pleased with how things have gone.
“I’ve got the funding and the technology, but I needed a familiar face that people knew in the area and trusted,” he said. “When Randy came on, it really gave us that familiarity where we could go to businesses and say hey, Randy Roberts is involved with this now.”
The third partner at ORN Networks is Ken Barnes, who also helps with the technical side of things. He is someone Bly refers to as a “Technical MacGyver.”
With the expertise of Bly and Barnes, in addition to Roberts’ experience as a radio host, there have been very few mishaps.
There was only one instance during football season where they couldn’t do a game as a result of their streaming service getting hacked. It was something out of their control. Now, however, they can archive their broadcasts with the ability to replay them at a later time.
ORN was also able to gradually build its brand during the fall season.
“Football season, we were able to establish ourselves. Where people go, ok, they are real and I can expect them every Friday,” said Bly. “We learned a lot through football (season).”
On Fridays in the fall, listeners could log onto ornradio.net to listen to their favorite team. ORN1 would have Liberty Center’s football game that week, while ORN2 would have either a Delta or Evergreen broadcast.
Roberts would do play by play for ORN2, where he would be joined by Joe Blystone.
“I’ve been in radio now for 14, 15 years, and this was by far the most fun in a fall I’ve ever had,” said Roberts. “I think we are pretty good at what we do and I think that shows.”
That same duo collaborated for three radio shows in the fall. One of those was Joe’s Junk Drawer, which continues year-round and airs Wednesday nights at 7 p.m, and then again Saturday at 10 a.m.
“We are able to come in and talk about things that we want to talk about on a sports talk show. Which is something we’ve been talking about for quite awhile,” said Blystone of Joe’s Junk Drawer. “You get to come in here and not only have discussion, but you get to stir the pot a little bit too. And I think people like to hear those things whether they are a fan of one team or another. Or they are not a fan of one team or another.”
Additionally, followers of ORN can find archived shows and previous broadcasts of games by searching for ORN Radio on soundcloud.com.
Bly and Barnes are looking to have a new website up before the end of the year as well.
“The possibilities are endless with the way we can put things together,” said Roberts. “And with what Mark is capable to do on his end. Really the whole thing starts with Mark. I just brought a lot of radio expertise.”
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010