SALISBURY — With smart phones, streaming apps and social media all vying for the attention of today's audience, the program development director of Salisbury Community TV & Media Center says he knows his public access channel needs to be more competitive.
With the help of a lovable dog and a portable camera, SCTV hopes to grab the attention of a whole new audience.
"Look, you've got to think out of the box," said Mark Hatem. "So we put a GoPro camera on a dog."
Hatem has been on SCTV's board of directors for several years and was recently named the cable access channel's program development and underwriting director.
The public access channel is funded by 5% of Comcast’s Salisbury cable profits. But, with more TV programming coming in the form of internet streaming, the traditional cable TV portion of what people watch is steadily declining, according to Hatem.
“Five years from now, 10 years from now, we will be losing our cable subscribers," he said. "We need to start putting better quality shows out there, as well as our community shows. Anyone can come in and put a show on SCTV if they want. That is the whole idea of public access. But that doesn't prevent us from also going out there and putting out quality shows that we would like to see that also have merit to the community."
Hatem said he brings more than 30 years of experience in the TV, radio and print business with him and knows local public access stations as well as other media outlets need to start coming up with more original programming if the are going to move forward.
"When we get our remotes in our hands, we switch through until we find something we like. Do we know what channel it is? No. But we are watching that particular show," Hatem said. "I want that to be the same with us. I want people to find us and stay with us because it was a really good thing they were watching."
Enter a one-and-a-half-year-old black Labrador-Pyrenees mix named Poppy, who made her first appearance as a four-legged cameraman during the Salisbury Beach Partnership's annual pet parade on July 3.
"We want the dog to be a big part of the fabric of the community," Hatem said. "Poppy is offering a four-legged perspective. Her camera shows you everything the dog is seeing. People love this animal too."
Dan Kinsella is Poppy's human companion and said they are up for anything.
"I guess we're going wherever this takes us," Kinsella said. "Let's see where it goes."
Kinsella rescued Poppy from a shelter last summer and the two are working through an advanced training and command class together.
"She is really mellow," Kinsella said. "Kids can pet her and she is really kid-friendly. She just loves humans and loves to be petted."
Hatem said Poppy's pet parade coverage was a big enough hit that SCTV will be taking her to the Fire Department, the Council on Aging and the Boys & Girls Club of the Lower Merrimack Valley in the near future.
"You will find this dog everywhere," Hatem said.
He also promised to bring Poppy to many of the events on Salisbury Beach during the rest of the summer.
"We will be going to the movie nights, we will be going to Joe's Playland, we will be going to the carousel," Hatem said. "We also want to take her around to meet everybody at Town Hall. ... It's just a lot of fun."
Poppy's appearances won't just be showing up on SCTV's channels 12 and 18 either. According to Hatem the dog's segments will also appear on SCTV's website at www.sctvmc.org/home.
"That means anybody outside of a community can see her," he said. "They could see her in Australia."
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.