VTV trains next generation: station rebrands and reimages

Tara Powers

The familiarity current students have with channel 17, WVTV, is thanks to a massive publicity campaign undertaken by the station’s executive board.

The group’s visibility is a drastic change from its near-collapse several years ago.WVTV started off as the Villanova TV Production Club in 1998. Equipment was far from cutting-edge, and the group only had a small office in Vasey, as opposed to the basement studio in Tolentine that they have inhabited since the ’04-’05 school year.

It was in 2002 that the station, known as WVTV since 2000, expanded into a larger studio space in Old Falvey and introduced “The Villa-No Spin Zone,” a political debate program. In 2006, though, the station’s antiquated broadcast equipment broke down and a drop in student participation followed over the next two years.

“Our main goal since then has been publicity,” General Manager Andrew Simone said. “We have put so many of our efforts into re-branding the station so that we could regain our presence on campus.”

“Things were completely different three years ago,” Marketing Manager Mark Ballweg said. “Freshman year when I arrived, VTV was down, as in channel 17 was a black screen 24/7.”

Ballweg teamed up with Simone to create ‘Babel,'” the station’s most well-known program. Simone and Ballweg have both been influential in the station’s rebirth, although neither had any such aspirations.

“I attended VTV on a whim my freshman year after seeing it at the activities forum,” Ballweg said. “I actually didn’t talk to Andrew Simone until a few weeks later when he presented the idea for “Babel.” Together we worked on creating three episodes of the show that year, and since then we’ve pushed it into a fourth season.”

“I actually joined VTV by accident,” Simone said. “My friend Charlie dragged me to this first general meeting for VTV and then he left me there. I ended up going to a few meetings and doing a few shoots here and there, but it wasn’t until my neighbor from freshmen year, Mark Ballweg, forced me into pitching an idea that I had for a show that I really fell in love with the place.”

The executive board has created even more programs to offer on the station. “Sportstime” – colloquially known as “A Miggy-Flavored Sports Show” – was created by senior Miguel Gutierrez during his sophomore year and features sports commentaries from different student spokesmen. “Hunting,” formerly known as “Ginger Hunting,” is a reality/comedy show designed to expose unsuspecting stereotypes on campus.

One of VTV’s newest shows, “My Life is a Musical,” is slated to begin its run this fall. Freshman Ellen Knapp will star as a new student breaking into musical theater. Plans are also underway for a late night talk show and several short films.

“There’s been a stigma that all VTV has is ‘Babel’,” Simone said. “This simply isn’t true, and our re-branding aims to prove it.”

The consistency of programming has exponentially increased interest in the group.

“This year was our biggest turnout at the activities forum, and after just one meeting we’ve got sports shows, dramas, comedies and shorts planned for the rest of the year,” Ballweg said. “Quite a difference from my freshman year.”

VTV has also been much more of a presence on campus over the past few years. The station partners with New Student Orientation and Special Olympics to film both events. They also handled video photography for the Day of Service and have been getting more requests from various groups on campus to handle media coverage.

“Looking at things now, we’ve got a number of new and returning shows, name and actor recognition across campus and a great new marketing campaign this year,” Ballweg said. “Things have really changed, for the better.”

One of the board’s main concerns has been to strengthen participation, since many of the members who have worked to bring about these changes will be graduating in May.

“I’ve been general manager for three years now and it’s hard letting go, but I know that it’s time and that the station is ready for the next generation,” Simone said. “I think that we’ve gotten the station to where it needs to be and the future is in the hands of the underclassmen now.”

“They’ve all been a part of this re-branding process; it hasn’t been all about the seniors,” Ballweg said. “We’ve got a great board and general members, all of whom are just as invested in the station as we are.”

VTV aims to create an environment in which its members want to work, one that will keep them coming back year after year.

“The core belief of VTV is that whatever you’re doing, we want you to have fun with it,” Ballweg said. “We want to make sure people have a great time working with one another and the station as a whole.”