He was surprised when he picked up his morning newspaper while visiting Aruba in November of 2011 to see a full-page, color picture of former BYU quarterback Jake Heaps and the word “Cougars” printed on the front page.
BYU Vice President Kevin Worthen did not know it at the time, but Aruba, a small Caribbean island with a small contingent of LDS members, had adopted BYU as its country’s de-facto football team. Senior coordinating producer of BYUtv Sports, Mikel Minor, explained why Aruba media bothered to report on BYU sports.
“President Worthen was curious and asked around why the national newspaper would report on BYU,” Minor said. “He found out that because of BYUtv presence in Aruba, which rebroadcasts all of BYU football games, the nation had adopted BYU as their national sports team.”
BYUtv, which is programmed and broadcast from the state-of-the-art Broadcasting Building on BYU campus throughout the entire globe, allows the Church to increase its exposure through original and wholesome content.
BYUtv managing director Derek Marquis explained how BYUtv is being used as a tool by the Church to increase its familiarity around the world.
“In keeping with our channel slogan of ‘See the Good in the World,’ BYUtv is creating new, original content that we hope will resonate with good people of all faiths,” Marquis said.
BYUtv was launched in 2000 after DishTV Network invited BYU to create its own university station. Originally the station mainly broadcasted content directed to LDS members such as General Conference addresses and scripture study roundtables.
As BYU and the Church realized the powerful potential of this medium to increase positive exposure for the Church, BYUtv’s goals and objectives changed.
“This is why BYUtv migrated from the slogan of ‘Keeping You Connected’ to ‘See the Good in the World,'” Marquis said. “This transition moved us from an inward-facing channel intended for alumni of the university and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to an outwardly facing channel with content that is attracting the attention of good people of all faiths… who may not share our doctrine but certainly share our values.”
BYUtv currently broadcasts five different TV stations throughout the world. The stations include BYUtv, BYUtv Global, a local PBS channel and two international channels, broadcast in Spanish and Portuguese, that reach more than 7 million homes in South America.
BYUtv’s Broadcasting Building, which was completed in 2011, features some of the highest quality filming and broadcasting facilities available today, which allows BYUtv to reach its global audience.
According to Minor, a contingent of BYUtv employees toured broadcast facilities at major networks such as ESPN and The Discovery Channel to acquire design ideas for the Broadcasting Building.
“I have friends from ESPN that come out here and are so jealous of our facilities,” Minor said. “We are changing the way universities do things. No other university has its own network as robust as BYUtv. Our content and facilities are unmatched.”
A major draw to BYUtv is BYU sports and the variety of sport programs broadcast throughout the year. BYUtv televises more than 150 live sport events each year and 85 sports shows. Viewers can also stream BYU sport games on the Internet through the official BYUtv application for tablets or smartphones. This adds to the increase in global exposure.
BYU sports is one of the most effective mediums the Church uses to increase exposure in homes throughout the world.
“BYUtv Sports is a neutral gateway that is a safe way for fans and the general public to become familiar with BYU,” Minor said. “We are exposing ourselves strategically. Our exposure is supposed to be subtle and not overly-Mormon. Sports are the digital water-cooler, that one thing that people will rally around. That is why we put so many resources into BYUtv Sports.”
Tia Welling, a member of BYU Women’s volleyball team, notices the benefits of being broadcast on BYUtv as she travels across the nation with her team.
“It’s a really unique and awesome opportunity that we get at BYU to have our games broadcast around the world,” Welling said. “Wherever we go there are BYU fans that come out to support us, and they don’t hesitate to tell us that they’ve followed us all season. It’s really neat to see how BYUtv has broadened our ability to spread the gospel.”
Minor used an analogy of a funnel to describe the way BYUtv Sports captures its viewers. First, viewers begin by watching a BYU sporting event, which leads to interest in other programs offered by BYUtv.
“BYU sports is the top of the funnel,” Minor said. “Viewers see a nice BYU Football game in HD, and as we go for a break they see a commercial for American Ride or Studio C. Now we are drawing them into the funnel, and then the next thing you know they are watching more LDS-focused content. Just like the missionary process, it starts out slow.”
BYU donors, who generously helped fund the Broadcasting Building, believed in what the Church could accomplish through BYUtv. At the groundbreaking ceremony in May of 2009, Elder M. Russell Ballard addressed a parking lot full of donors about the future plans of the building.
According to Ryan Clark, guest relations manager for BYUtv, Elder Ballard said this at the ceremony:
“Brothers and sisters, I don’t think any of us fully realize what we’re starting today. I literally envision when this building is complete that the content that will go forth from the rooftops of this building will literally be the voice of the Lord in these the latter-days in the battle of souls between the forces of good and evil.”
As seen with the people of Aruba, BYUtv is creating global exposure for the Church and planting positive feelings in the hearts of people around the world.