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Scott D. Pierce: Utah, BYU fans will reach TV heaven

Published May 18, 2011 4:43 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Some Utah fans seem personally offended that the Ute football team isn't scheduled to appear on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC this fall — except for the game in Provo, which falls under BYU's contract with ESPN.

Calm down. Take a breath. They're certainly not worried about it at the U.

"No, and it doesn't surprise me right now," said Utah athletic director Chris Hill, who pointed out that 2011 is the last year of the current Pac-10 TV contract. "It's about — where are you going to be a year from now? Two years from now? Five years from now? That's all good."

That's not good, it's great. The Pac-12's contract with ESPN and Fox, which takes effect in 2012, is unbelievable. Utah will have great exposure and big bucks.

And it's still possible that the Utes could end up on national TV later this season; there are a few open dates on the TV schedule.

"You've got to win your way on," Hill said. "That's the way it's always been at Utah if it's a national game."

In terms of revenue, it doesn't matter what channel the Utes will be on going forward. When Utah starts getting its full Pac-12 share in 2014, it will be on equal footing with USC, UCLA, Oregon and Stanford no matter if Ute games are on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, FX, Fox or the Pac-12 channel.

And if ESPN had no interest in the Utes, the BYU-Utah game wouldn't be on ESPN2. Yes, it falls under the Cougars' TV contract, but BYU fans shouldn't hold their breath waiting to see home games against San Jose State, Idaho State, Idaho or New Mexico State on ESPN or ESPN2.

(Reportedly, the SJS game will be on ESPNU, which is in about 70 million households, about the same as Versus.)

It pains Ute fans to hear, but Utah doesn't have the national brand that BYU does when it comes to ESPN. But Cougar fans shouldn't feel smug, because TV doesn't always reward quality. If it did, how would you explain NBC beginning a new five-year deal with Notre Dame this season despite the fact the Irish are a mediocre 69-59 (.539) over the past 10 seasons?

Or the fact that Jerry Springer is still on the air?

But like its neighbor to the north, BYU also has plenty to be happy about. The Cougars were looking for exposure, and, boy, will they be getting it.

A few months ago, a Mountain West Conference staffer was sort of pooh-poohing BYU's TV deal. Wondering if the Cougs would be on ESPN more than once this season.

BYU is currently scheduled to play on ESPN three times and ESPN2 once. Games at Mississippi, Texas and Hawaii may end up on one of those channels (because of SEC, Big 12 and WAC contracts).

ESPN and ESPN2 are each in about 100 million homes. In just the four confirmed TV games, BYU will be available in close to half as many homes as all the games that fell under the MWC TV deal for the past five years combined.

When the Cougars' full TV schedule is announced, it's a virtual certainty they will be available in more homes in the 2011 regular season than they were in MWC contracted games from 2006-2010.

Contrast that setup to Boise State, which was on ESPN2 four times and ESPN, ABC and ESPNU once each in 2010. In 2011, BSU will be on ESPN twice — and that's because of road games that fall under TV contracts with the SEC (Georgia) and, ironically, the WAC (Fresno State).

Other than that, Boise will be on The Mtn., Versus and the CBS Sports Network (formerly known as CBS C).

Yeah, good luck with that.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Tribune. Contact him at spierce@sltrib.com; Twitter: @ScottDPierce; check out the "TV or not TV" blog at sltrib.com/blogs/tv.