BYUtv Q&A, HD and gadgets, households Part IV

This is Part IV in a series of blogs detailing a discussion of BYUtv with its managing director Derek Marquis.

In this final series, Marquis focuses on some of the other aspects of “new coverage” of sports in addition to BYUtv. This includes digital media like the Internet, a special website, and phone apps for Ipad and the Iphone. It also addresses the HD issue with BYUtv and how everyone in the U.S. with an Internet connection can get BYUtv in HD.

I pickup here, the last part of Part III in which Marquis sets up these topics with the following remark:

“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.”

Q: Which leads us to both the BYU Radio and the BYUtv websites/mobile apps conversation. But before we go there, are you concerned at all that some viewers might not be happy about seeing these sponsor messages on BYUtv?

A: No, for a couple of reasons. First, whether they are happy about seeing sponsors or not really isn’t an issue that we can do anything about. We have to cover the costs to produce these games and if we accept money from a corporation, under federal law, we must disclose that to viewers in the form of an underwriting credit. It isn’t optional and isn’t negotiable. In fact, we can’t accept corporate sponsors who wish to remain anonymous. All sponsors of these broadcasts must be disclosed to the viewing audience in the form of these underwriting credits.

The other point I’d make here is that it is actually a little amusing and a quite befuddling to hear people say they want all of this content, they want it produced in full HD and, oh yea, give it to us without sponsorship messages. We’ve made the decision that we are not going to run pledge drives on BYUtv like you’d see on a PBS channel so we really are down to individual donors–and many have been very supportive and we hope they’ll continue–and corporate sponsorships. I’m guessing the few who might complain about corporate sponsorships are going to find something to complain about no matter what we do. We hope they’ll pause for a moment and consider that BYUtv is offering them something they’ve not been able to get anywhere else and more than they’d get if they were a fan of just about any other team in the country.

Q: And you don’t have to follow those same FCC guidelines online with your website?

A: No. The FCC regulations apply only to our over-the-air broadcasts and our broadcasts on Dish and DirecTV so long as we are on the educational tier with them. If they (Dish and DirecTV) wanted to move us to a commercial tier, the regulations would only apply to our over-the-air broadcasts in Utah.

Q: Let’s move on then to BYU Radio and online, then. BYU Radio launched on July 1st on Sirius XM channel 143. Was the date of the launch falling on BYU’s independence day a coincidence and what can we expect by way of sports programming on the new BYU Radio platform?

A: Well, yes and no, to the coincidence question. It was actually announced a few months before the launch that BYU Radio had been accepted as a channel on Sirius XM but initially no date was announced. As we were working with Sirius XM to determine exactly when to launch, we decided that we wanted to launch at least a couple of months before the start of football season in order to give people that might want to subscribe enough lead time to do so. So that naturally put the date sometime in July. BYU’s independence day just seemed right. It really could have been any day that BYU Broadcasting and Sirius XM agreed upon. It just so happened that we agreed to do it on July 1st. We also wanted to be launched prior to BYU Football’s Media Day which fell on the July 12th. So coincidence or not, July 1st was a great day for Cougar fans.

As far as what you can expect to hear by way of sports — lots of it. While I don’t know that we’ll have as many rebroadcasts on BYU Radio, I think you’ll hear most of the live broadcasts that will be on BYUtv on BYU Radio as well. Those details are still being worked out.

Q: Will it be the television audio from BYUtv?

A: In some cases yes, but not for football and basketball. For those broadcasts BYU Radio has partnered with KSL Radio and Greg Wrubell so we’ll actually be airing Greg’s live broadcasts nationwide on BYU Radio, Sirius XM. For some of our Olympic sports we’ll have dedicated radio announcers and for some of our programs we’ll carry the television audio from BYUtv. If you listen to Sirius XM, you’ll find several channels that are airing the audio from their television networks. Of course, calling a game for a radio audience is a bit different than calling it for television because the listener doesn’t have the benefit of the pictures. We are sensitive to that and I think everyone will be really pleased with what the new BYU Radio has to offer.

Q: Can you hear BYU Radio anywhere besides Sirius XM?

A: Yes, besides the roughly 20M subscribers to Sirius XM, it is one of the music audio channels on the Dish Network. It also airs over-the-air in Utah on KBYU-FM HD channel for those who have HD radios and it also streams 24/7 online at byuradio.org.

Q: You’ve launched a new BYUtv iPhone app and iPad app as well as a new BYUtv Roku Channel and you’ve also announced an entirely new website dedicated to BYUtv Sports. What can you tell us?

A: Yes, the iPhone and iPad apps and the Roku Channel are up and running. The apps are free at the Apple App Store. With them you can watch BYUtv live on these mobile devices, watch over a thousand of hours of VOD content of other programs, including several hundreds of hours of sports programs, and probably the best part for many will be that you can stream this content, including the live feed, in full HD via Apple TV’s airplay to your TV in your house.

As for the Roku Channel, it is very similar. You can watch BYUtv live in full HD or choose from the VOD content. Like the Apple TV, the Roku box is so small it can sit in the palm of your hand and the box costs less than $100 ($59 for one model) either online or through retailers like Best Buy. You do need a high speed Internet connection in your home but there is no other monthly fee.

The new website will be found at byutvsports.com. It will launch in early September. We’re chasing the date hoping for launch prior to the first game. It will be different from the apps and different from BYUtv’s new website in that this site will be entirely dedicated to BYU Sports. I don’t want to give anything away, but will be absolutely incredible. If you like our apps, you’ll love the new website!

Q: So that brings us to the last question for this round. HD carriage. When will BYUtv be in full HD?

A: It already is. Everything we are producing now and going forward out of our new studios is in full HD. Comcast is carrying us in HD in Utah as are other carriers in other markets in the US. If you live in Utah and get your television over-the-air for free, we’re in full HD. Beyond that, we just signed an HD carriage agreement with AT&T Uverse nationwide in all of their markets.

Another important point is that with the iPhone and iPad apps, for less than $100 for the Apple TV device and an Internet connection, anyone can stream BYUtv live to their television sets in full HD and the same is true with the Roku device. So in reality, there isn’t a household anywhere in the US with an Internet connection that can’t get BYUtv in full HD on their actual television sets if they want it–assuming they have an HD set.

We are also having active conversations with our other cable and satellite carriers. It won’t happen overnight. Bandwidth is at a premium for these operators. We are thrilled so many are carrying us–over 60M households now on satellite and cable. We’ve grown, on average, by about 5M households each year for the last three or four years. We are confident we will continue to see more cable operators add the channel and that many of those offering it in SD will add it in HD as bandwidth becomes available and as consumer demand dictates.

Q: We know BYUtv is on Dishnetwork, DirecTV and many cable services including giant Comcast in the United States and is available to about 60 million million households. There are a lot of figures throw around about how many households has BYUtv available to in South America. Could you break it down as far as you can determine?

A: BYUtv International is currently streamed on 66 million cell phones in Latin America and carried on cable in over 6 million households throughout South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean in both Spanish and Portuguese. The channel just launched in 2007 and is growing rapidly. In fact, in 2009 the channel was nominated as one of the fasted growing cable channels in Latin America.

Keep in mind that Latin America only has 40 million total pay television households so BYUtv is currently available in 15% of all households that have cable in Latin America.

BYUtv International will also be broadcasting LIVE all the home men’s football games in Spanish and Portuguese.

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