In a Clovis office slightly bigger than a horse stall, Sally Lasater operates her new over-the-air national television network, Pegasus TV.
"I can run it wherever I am with my laptop," Lasater says. "While not completely analogous to starting a computer company in one's garage, it might be said that this may be vaguely similar. More like around a kitchen table."
The new network devoted to horses recently launched in Fresno on KFRE (Channel 59.3) and in Los Angeles and Houston. It will be in Santa Barbara, Bakersfield and Dallas by the end of August. Lasater has secured options for digital channels in 14 more cities, including Austin, New York, Philadelphia and Phoenix.
It wasn't that long ago that starting a TV network required a huge building to house transmitters and other equipment -- plus a lot of money to cover the expenses of buying programming and hiring staff. It also depended on the Federal Communications Commission to designate a channel in the market where spots on the dial were very limited.
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But TV isn't what it use to be.
Lasater started the Pegasus Television Network with a staff of seven, a tiny office, a library of programs on VHS tape and disc, about $60,000 from local investors and a love of horses.
New networks like this one are are popping up around the country as a byproduct of the switch networks made in 2009 from analog signals to digital. The primary purpose of the new digital TV age was to give viewers better signals, but it also made it possible for TV stations to split their signals into multiple channels. (Fresno's Cocola Broadcasting's a prime example. It has already turned its 12 TV channels into 30.)
Pegasus TV can only be viewed with an antenna or online, where a simulcast is available at www.PegasusTV.com.
"We couldn't have done it without the change from analog to digital," Lasater says. "It opened up a whole new opportunity to do it.
"I didn't have to have millions of dollars. I just had to have sufficient enough funds to be able to get the organization started."
The FCC doesn't keep track of these new digital channels because they are part of the license for the original stations. But the number is growing and station owners are finding they need programming to fill all of the new channels.
Jack Peck, general manager of KFRE (Channel 59.1) and KMPH (Channel 26.1), says Lasater approached him with research showing that Fresno has a high ratio of horse ownership. But it was the fact that Lasater wanted to lease the channel that made the agreement intriguing to Peck.
Traditionally, a deal is struck between a station owner and the content provider where they share advertising revenues. Lasater's paying a flat fee, which means no cost to the station owner but she gets to keep all advertising revenue.
Lasater banked on one other commodity to help her get started: experience.
She competes in both English and Western riding disciplines, and she produced the syndicated 1973 television series "The American Horse and Horseman." In 1994 she created HorseNet, one of the first Internet portal websites for the equestrian industry. She launched HorseTV in 2000, a television distribution system for ongoing equestrian programming to be available in more than 25 million homes throughout the United States.
She also founded the Monterey-based company The Video Schoolhouse, which became the largest domestic distributor of educational and informational home videos. That's been a source of videotaped programming to fill the new 24/7 TV network schedule.
All programming -- especially the VHS tapes -- is converted to a television format and uploaded to stations from the tiny Clovis office.
"There is so much material available on video about horses that we have license to use," Lasater says. "There is also a lot of programming being produced around the world."
Programming is the same in every market. The only difference is that the noon-6 p.m. block on Saturdays is open for use free by local horse clubs and agricultural organizations. If any of that local programming has a wide appeal, it will be added to the regular network lineup.
There are also movies and TV shows in the public domain that can be used at no cost, which Lasater will schedule.
Lasater's goal is keep costs low.
The chief cost is distribution, which requires a dedicated, high-speed Internet connection to a special computer. Computer expense is one reason the network hasn't been able to expand more quickly.
Even a station operating on a small budget has to sell advertising and she employs a salesperson in each city. While Lasater would welcome general advertising, she believes the primary advertisers will be those related to horses, from saddle makers to real estate agents selling farms.
"If you do anything in the horse industry, you now have a specific rifle shot to reach the audience," Lasater says.
Like any new venture, the new network must continue to add advertisers to be able to make a profit and continue to grow. Lasater's plan for the network is to focus on the six states that have 50% of the horses in the country: Texas, California, Florida, Ohio, Kentucky and Oklahoma. This will make the network accessible to the largest populations of horse enthusiasts.
And it all happens in one tiny Clovis office.