This is the third in a series of blogs detailing a discussion with KBYUtv managing director Derek Marquis on the nuts and bolts of sports coverage this season on the network.
This segment centers on programming challenges, issues and BYUtv’s gameplan.
Q: So it really is looking like every BYU football game will be on national television this year. Has that ever happened before and do you have a sense for how that compares to the rest of college football for the coming season?
A: I don’t know, but it seems unlikely that it has happened before for BYU. That is one of the benefits of having ESPN as a partner and owning your own national television network—BYUtv. As for the rest of the college landscape, I really don’t know what deals the other schools and conferences have struck. When Dave Brown was here from ESPN, he said he thought it was safe to say that BYU will have at least equal coverage and probably more coverage than any other team in college football this year. Think about that statement. That is incredible; likely as much or more national coverage than any other team in college football. The other team he said that might be up there with BYU as far as national coverage goes is Notre Dame, interestingly another independent.
Q: What do you see for basketball?
A: Well, those schedules are still being worked out and, as you know, BYU is not independent in basketball but rather has aligned with the West Coast Conference. But right now, it appears as though BYUtv will air in the neighborhood of 20-25 live basketball games this season. We are so excited about our partnership with the WCC and they have welcomed us with open arms. They’ve also proven to be a great television partner. We’re excited about being in the WCC. Like BYU, they want these games to be seen by the nationwide fan base of the WCC schools. That’s a great fit for us.
Q: So will your basketball games on BYUtv all be home games?
A: No, we’ll air some away games but you have to remember, BYU does not own the rights to away games. They are owned by the conferences/schools we will be playing so we have to negotiate those rights and some of those rights are already tied up with other television deals. Some we’ll get. Some we won’t. But I do think it would be a safe bet to assume that like our football program, BYU Basketball will likely have as much if not more national television exposure than any other team in college basketball this year.
Q: You’ve been quoted as saying that BYUtv will air over 200 live sports related games and programs. Elaborate on that.
A: Sure. There will be a lot of BYU sports on BYUtv! We’ll have well over 100 live games if you count football, basketball, women’s basketball, and our Olympic sports. Add to that our weekly True Blue sports magazine with Dave McCann, a new series called “Legends” where we will focus each episode on one or two BYU sports legends, the weekly press conferences, the post-game press conferences, special editions of True Blue like the Media Day events, pre-game shows, and more. It adds up. And keep in mind this is our “live” programming I’m talking about. Of course some of these studio shows like “Legends” are not live, but taped and pre-produced. But the games are all live. And in addition to these programs we’ll have rebroadcasts of ESPN’s games and as I mentioned earlier BYUtv will air rebroadcasts of our own programming as well. For example, we rebroadcast each football game not only on game night but also the week following the game on Saturday mornings as an encore broadcast.
Oh, I should mention that for our weekly True Blue show, Dave will be joined each week by Blaine Fowler. We’ve done three shows so far this season and it is really shaping up to be a great show offering coverage of the Cougars that simply isn’t available anywhere else.
Q: Win or lose you’ll rebroadcast the game?
A: Yes, win or lose. BYUtv is a national network and those watching will not only be BYU fans but the fans of the teams we are playing.
Q: Can you further quantify the sports programming we can expect on BYUtv? For example, can you translate all of this to hours of programming?
A: In rough numbers, sure. True Blue is a 30-minute program. If each episode airs four times during the week, that is two hours of programming. A basketball game is two hours long. A football game is three to four hours long. A baseball game is four hours on average. If you do the math of live airings, pregame shows, etc., plus all of the rebroadcasts, it is probably in the neighborhood of 2,800-3,000 hours per year of sports programming that will be on BYUtv. Keep in mind that this isn’t all in primetime. Live sporting events are often in the afternoon, particularly for our Olympic sports.
Q: Why all the rebroadcasts. I’ve heard comments from some questioning why BYUtv bothers airing some of its rebroadcasts at 3 a.m., for example.
A: You have to remember that BYUtv is not only a nationwide but a worldwide network. That was one of the reasons we went independent—fan access. And that is one of the reasons we reschedule rebroadcasts at times that fans in the Mountain Time zone might consider odd. We hear from fans regularly from the far-flung corners of the earth who thank us for airing rebroadcasts at hours of the day when they are actually able to watch in their time zones.
Q: Nearly 3,000 hours of sports. That’s a lot of sports. How do you respond to some of the comments on the sports message boards that have speculated that BYUtv can’t air that much sports because it is classified as a “religious channel” and cable companies would be forced to drop the channel if it wavers from its religious charter?
A: Well, yes, that is a lot of sports. Just ask BYUtv’s sports production team. As to your second point about BYUtv being classified as a religious channel, that simply isn’t accurate. It is funny how many people on the message boards claim to be, “in the know.” We love ‘em. Here’s the answer. BYUtv is classified on a non-commercial, educational tier on the Dish Network and DirecTV;not a religious tier and not as a religious broadcaster. And as for the 600 or so cable systems that carry the channel, there is no classification whatsoever. We are a cable channel to them. All of our cable operators know BYUtv is non-commercial and licensed by an educational institution but there is no cable classification as people have speculated, educational, religious or otherwise. Of course, I suspect all of our carriers are hoping members of the church that sponsors BYU will subscribe and watch. They do. And now we are confident even more will follow suit as we introduce this sports agenda as well as several of the other new series currently in production, but that’s a topic for another day.
But back to our charter, at least one part of our charter, and a very important part, is to provide content that will “reveal the university”. I think it is safe to say that BYU’s athletic competitions and other sports related programs absolutely reveal the university to our worldwide audiences. Secondly, I also think it is safe to say that, at the end of the day, that cable and satellite operators want viewers and they want programming that their subscribers want. And one of the greatest offerings we have that will drive viewers are these sports-related programs and athletic competitions.
Q: So that raises another question. You say that BYUtv is non-commercial, at least on Dish and DirecTV, yet you’ve been quoted as saying that BYUtv is allowing corporate sponsors. Explain how that works.
A: As I’ve explained in other interviews, BYUtv will have corporate sponsors on not only its sports-related programs but its other programs as well. This is similar to what you would see on PBS. They are called program underwriters. And BYUtv has partnered with IMG sports, the same group that sells the signage in Lavell Edwards Stadium and the Marriott Center to bring in these corporate sponsors. Together with BYUtv’s corporate support team and IMG’s team, we are creating packages that corporate partners can be a part of that will help us offset the costs of these broadcasts.
I should also point out that it isn’t just what we do on the air on television but also what we do on the air on BYU Radio and online with our websites and mobile apps that companies will be able to sponsor. It will be the complete buffet for a company wanting to support BYU sports, BYUtv and reach a BYU fan base.