Scott D. Pierce: Local Ute fans should be grateful to KJZZ
It's back to the future for KJZZ and the Utah football team. Steve Brown and Mike Norseth will be in the booth at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Thursday at 6 p.m. to call the Utah-Montana State game for Ch. 14.
It will be the first time since 2005 that Brown and Norseth handle those chores, and the first time there's been a local telecast of a Ute football game since before the Mountain West Conference entered into its ill-fated television deal that resulted in the beginning of The Mtn. and the end of all local TV rights for member schools.
"We were a good match before, we're a good match now," said Jazz vice president of broadcasting and operations Jeremy Castro.
It's a local solution, not a national one. And local Utes fans ought to be grateful, because KJZZ is pretty much doing this as a public service.
Make no mistake about it, there was a definite possibility that no local station or cable channel would telecast Utah football games this season. Financially, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
For one thing, this is a one-year-only situation. The Pac-12's new TV contract begins next season and again there will be no local TV rights.
(That incredibly lucrative deal will put games on ABC/ESPN networks, Fox, FX and regional Pac-12 cable networks.)
While KJZZ can make money by selling advertising that airs during a telecast, most of the money local stations make from a deal like this comes from sponsorships local companies that sign on as part of an overall marketing deal. And, because of the fact that this is a one-season deal and because of the restrictions of the current Pac-12 contract, KJZZ and Utah cannot sell sponsorships for Ch. 14 games this season.
The folks at KJZZ and the Larry H. Miller Group including CEO Greg Miller, President Randy Rigby, senior vice president of broadcasting Chris Baum and Castro deserve a pat on the back from local fans.
KJZZ is committed to picking up as many Ute games as it can this season. How many that will be is an unanswerable question right now because of the Pac-12's current television deal, which has 12- and six-day windows for the national rights holders.
ABC/ESPN, Fox Sports Net and Versus have the right to pick up a game 12 days before it's scheduled to be played. If they don't, KJZZ can move ahead with plans to telecast it if it can be played at a time when it doesn't conflict with windows set aside for Pac-12 games on ABC/ESPN, FSN or Versus.
And those three have the right to change their minds and claim a game six days before it's scheduled to be played.
Generally, if the national TV outlets don't pick up a game 12 days out, they don't turn around and pick it up six days out. "But it has happened," Castro said.
So it's possible that KJZZ could be well along with preparations to telecast a game when it's pulled out from under the station.
As of now, only four Utah games have firm TV dates Montana State (KJZZ); at Southern California (Versus); at BYU (ESPN2) and Colorado (FSN/ROOT). KJZZ is looking to add as many of the other eight as possible.
"There are some road games we should be able to get," Castro said. "Any game we can take, we will take."
And when they do, fans should be grateful for each and every game that ends up on Ch. 14.
SCOTT D. PIERCE covers television for The Tribune. His sports on TV column runs every Wednesday. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.
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