From BYUtv to ESPN+: How BYU’s move to the Big 12 will affect on-campus broadcasting

For the last decade, BYUtv has been the home of nearly all of BYU’s sports coverage outside of football and men’s basketball. However, as the Cougars move into the Big 12 this summer, all of that is going to change.

BYUtv and its employees will still be heavily involved the broadcast production of secondary sports games at BYU, and their studio shows such as BYU SportsNation will continue on BYUtv as normal, but fans will have to fork over some cash to watch their favorite teams compete.

Live sports

As part of the six year, $2.28B media rights agreement reported on by Michael Smith and John Ourand of Sports Business Journal, all third-tier Big 12 sporting events will be streaming on ESPN+, a $9.99 monthly ESPN add-on available through the ESPN app on all streaming devices.

This means fans will have to purchase an ESPN+ subscription to watch BYU women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, soccer, gymnastics, softball and baseball games. Though BYUtv won’t be carrying these sports anymore, they will still be responsible for the broadcasts.

“We will make the stream available,” BYUtv On-Air Sports Personality and Host Spencer Linton said. “They pay us a lump sum, and we figure it out, then they take the production of that game and put it on ESPN+.”

Studio shows

As for BYUtv’s studio sports shows, there won’t be quite as much change.

“The cool thing about what we do here with BYU SportsNation, BYUSN Gameday, Coordinator’s Corner, BYU Football with Kalani Sitake, BYU Basketball with Mark Pope and After Further Review, is all of that is considered shoulder programming which is independent of a conference or network obligations, so we are allowed to do those things regardless,” Linton said. “Those shows will not go away.”

However, that doesn’t mean the Big 12 conference won’t affect the shows in other ways.

“It gives us a new audience, it gives us an opportunity to reach more people,” BYUSN Coordinating Producer Ben Bagley said. “Frankly, it gives us the opportunity to be more relevant on the national stage.”

Being on such a national stage will bring more eyes than ever before onto the Cougars as well as those individuals at BYUtv that cover them. Bagley went on to explain how fans of Texas or West Virginia may not end up being “regular” BYU SportsNation fans, but will have the opportunity to tune in and see what the Cougars are up to as well as what the BYU media is saying about their team.

Of course, the Big 12 move also brings unique challenges to shows like BYU SportsNation. “The biggest challenge right now is building relationships. We’ve got relationships with some great WCC guys” Bagley said. “But what we don’t have yet, and what we’ll be doing over the summer and through the fall, is build relationships with Big 12 media types.”

As those relationships begin to bloom and the audience continues to grow, there is a whole lot to look forward to as both a BYU fan and as a BYUtv employee.

“This was part of the existing deal in joining [the Big 12]. This is what every school does,” said, David Phillips Jr, BYUtv Supervising Sports Producer. “Each school has to provide these broadcasts and has to do it to a certain specification.”

For most BYUtv sports staff, that won’t mean much, but live sports producers such as Harrison Collier will have a lot of work to do.

“Each TV company has its own style of how they produce games.. so for me it’s about changing mindset,” Collier said. By the fall, the new style will have to be implemented across the company in order to provide the required broadcasts.

Students and staff

BYUtv Sports possesses an army of student employees that do everything from run cameras to produce shows. Many of these students use the experience and knowledge they’ve gained from working there to jump start their careers in the sports broadcasting world, and that might get even easier as BYUtv and ESPN start to collaborate even more in the Big 12.

“I think it’s going to be a big boost in their resumes now they can add, that they are doing games for ESPN,” Collier said. Not only will that look good on resumes, but ESPN itself could help the students find jobs as well.

Phillips explained how students will get to work on ESPN broadcasts, get to know the ESPN crews and build relationships with them, and that it can lead to even more of a jumpstart in their broadcasting careers. “ESPN (will) come and get to know and work with students, help with job placement, help to really get students into the world and working.”

Karina Meyer and Jocelyn Moody, both student production assistants at BYUtv Sports, are also excited for the BYUtv/ESPN partnership and what it can do for them and their careers. “It will be exciting and will get me more into the ESPN route, which I might want to pursue,” Moody said.

However, as promising as it all sounds, students still have questions about how the cards will eventually fall. “Our bosses keep saying that we’ll get a lot more opportunities, but I don’t know what those will be yet,” Moody said.

“We had a meeting about it, but I’m still not entirely sure how it’s going to work,” Meyer added.

The reality is, everyone has those questions right now. “I think everything feels like it’s just out there, floating in the ethos,” Linton said.

Once BYU joins the conference on July 1, things will surely pick up and those questions will start to be answered.

Regardless, the fact remains that BYUtv will continue to be a large part of BYU sports broadcasts. For students and staff, it will be exciting to figure out how to fit into this new mold, while for fans it will be all about spending the $9.99 each month for an ESPN+ subscription.

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