ESPN veteran helped build BYU Sports Nation

Maddi Dayton
Spencer Linton and Jarom Jordan host BYU Sports Nation. (Maddi Dayton)

This is the second of a three-part series detailing BYU Sports Nation, a daily sports show on BYUtv and BYU Radio. 

BYU Sports Nation started with a simple suggestion.

It might seem odd, but the suggestion leading to the hit TV show came from satellite radio company Sirius XM. The company had partnered with BYU Radio and was giving feedback about the station’s performance when the idea was born.

According to senior coordinating producer Mikel Minor, the feedback was “you know, we really like your radio station, but we’d like some more eclectic programming on there, and we’d specifically like some sports-oriented programming on there. Is that something you guys could do?”

Without Minor, an ESPN-veteran and former SportsCenter producer, the answer might have been no. But with his background and experience, BYU Sports Nation (BYUSN) was born.

The charge I was really given was ‘do what you did at ESPN here for BYU.’ And I’ve taken that very literally,” Minor said. 

That he did. Most major sports fans could tell you about the similarities between BYUSN and ESPN programming. Minor isn’t afraid to acknowledge the connection either.

“With everything that we do, you can see connections to what I learned at ESPN,” Minor said.

Despite its ESPN influences and a seasoned hand guiding its creation, BYUSN got its start under chaotic circumstances. Host Spencer Linton didn’t have a co-host as the show approached. Coordinating producer (and occasional guest on the show) Ben Bagley’s first day was the day the show started – Labor Day of 2013.

“We met at 7:30 a.m. and it was the first time all of us had been in a room together,” Bagley said.

Within a few hours, the show was on-air.

Despite a rocky start, BYUSN became a quick hit with its fans. Within six months on Sirius XM the show began simulcasting on both BYU Radio and BYUtv, similar to “Mike and Mike” on ESPN.

According to Minor, that was the plan all along.

The show has only continued to grow. Statistics provided by BYUtv show that viewership increased by 13 percent between 2014 and 2015 on TV. The real story, however, is what was happening online.

In the same time frame, the show’s online viewers grew by over 120 percent. A large portion of that growth came through social media.

Social media is becoming such a fundamental element of sports broadcasting,” Minor said. “That’s why sports broadcasting is growing where other areas of broadcasting are cut back right now, because there’s this symbiotic relationship between social media and sports.”

The reliance on social media is apparent in the show, with multiple references to trending topics, Twitter questions and user tweets. The reliance on technology pushes the show to improve.

For example, the show’s producers saw major sports entities sharing instant highlights on social media during games using a brand-new software. After research, they worked together with a team of engineers to build their own version of the software, called InstaClips.

That software is now used by other BYUtv shows and has proven a valuable tool. As the show looks to the future, they examine new tools like Facebook Live to determine how the show can get bigger and better.

These types of changes are constantly being examined by BYUSN producers, according to Bagley.

“The show is ever-evolving, and we’re always looking for something new that’s going to grab the attention of BYU fans,” Bagley said.

Regardless of what happens, BYU Sports Nation will continue to push to meet its goals of providing quality news and entertainment to BYU sports fans everywhere.

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