This is the second in a two-part series on BYU's position as an independent in the unstable world of conference realignment.
Friday: Thanks to its partner ESPN, and its own TV network, BYU is receiving unprecedented exposure.
Today: How BYU was able to capitalize on its vast resources and experience, and work with the Pac-12, Fox Sports, and Oregon State in a short period of time to produce the BYU-OSU game in mid-October.
PROVO — After having its first five games of the 2011 season televised nationally on either ESPN or ESPN2, the BYU football program extolled, and enjoyed, widespread exposure in its first year of independence. But by October, one of the Cougars' games was in jeopardy of not being televised at all — something that hasn't happened since 1994.
How's that for irony?
But thanks to feverish, behind-the-scenes negotiations in a short period of time, BYUtv, with a state-of-the-art HD broadcast truck at its disposal, was able to work with the Pac-12, Fox Sports, and Oregon State to produce and televise the Oct. 15 game between BYU and OSU in Corvallis, Ore.
It was no small feat, and it exemplified BYUtv's impressive broadcasting capabilities.
"The unusual part was it was a game at Oregon State where in essence BYU, the road team, produced the game," Pac-12 associate commissioner Duane Lindberg said. "That doesn't happen very often."
From a conference perspective, the process of deciding which games are televised goes like this — the television partners select certain games, regarded as tier one and two tier picks, on national platforms. In this case, the Pac-12's TV partner, Fox, made its selections, which did not include the BYU-OSU contest. When a game is not selected for national television, the third tier broadcast rights fall back to the individual schools. At that point, the school can work with its local broadcast partner, the third tier rights holder, to show the game in the local market.
To complicate matters, OSU planned to start the game at 1 p.m. local time to accommodate its many fans who travel from the Portland area. But OSU's local rights holder was broadcasting the Washington-Colorado game at 12:30, meaning it could not televise the BYU-OSU contest in that same broadcasting window.
It appeared that the only way fans would be able to watch the game was on the Internet — for a fee.
"On Wednesday (10 days before kickoff), I would have said that we were probably headed to a pay-per-view model on the Internet," said BYU associate athletic director Duff Tittle. "By Thursday and Friday, there were some amazing conversations going on with the Pac-12 and Oregon State. Then Fox got involved. There were conversations about BYUtv, how it works and what it does. They asked, 'Do you really do have an HD truck? You can roll it across the country? You're willing to do this?'"
Getting the game on Fox College Sports Pacific and KBYU, followed by a rebroadcast that night on BYUtv, "was extremely complicated," Lindberg said. It required a flurry of phone conversations and emails between the various parties.
Ultimately, Fox granted a waiver for the game to be broadcast even though it was shown at the same time as another Pac-12 contest.
There was still one other obstacle to overcome — BYU wanted to air the game on BYUtv, which reaches 60 million households.
"In our contract with Fox, it does not permit an institutional telecast to go nationally," Lindberg said. "Those were issues we were dealing with that had to be worked out."
That's why the game was shown on KBYU instead of BYUtv, although the game was allowed to be replayed on BYUtv later that night.
"The live broadcast on KBYU was the No. 1 in the Salt Lake market," Tittle said. "And the rebroadcast of the game was No. 2 in the market among college football games that Saturday. The numbers for the rebroadcast were almost identical to the live broadcast of the Utah game against Pittsburgh."
It was the second-highest rated football broadcast of the entire weekend in the market, trailing only the Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots NFL game on Sunday.
BYUtv Sports coordinating producer Mikel Minor oversaw the production of the BYU-OSU broadcast.
"It was a collaborative effort that came together really on short notice," said Minor, who previously worked for six years at ESPN, where he produced SportsCenter. "There were a lot of 11th hour negotiations. We had the ability to go in with our facilities and resources, including our own HD truck, and our talent pool to put together a pretty good-looking show from my perspective."
Another challenge was making the game look like a Fox production, not a BYU production, which was part of the agreement.
"I felt like I was trying to paint the Mona Lisa blindfolded," Minor recalled. "I didn't see a lot of elements until we got to Corvallis. It was a paint-by-numbers show from that standpoint, but we were happy with the result."
Oregon State officials were pleased as well. OSU associate athletic director Steve Fenk called it a "win-win situation for the both of us."
As for the BYUtv crew, which included the play-by-play talents of Dave McCann, Fenk said he has "nothing but great things to say about them. One of the more organized TV production crews we've had in here for a few years."
While pulling off the broadcast of the game required a lot of work, Minor said the process, from his perspective, went smoothly.
"There was a compromise element that made this fairly easy to put together. It all fell into place very easily and naturally. I give a lot of credit to the people at Fox and to our folks," he said. "I don't think we would have been able to do the Oregon State game without the HD Truck. We had to take our truck there, and supplement it with our staff and crew."
The feedback from that broadcast has been positive.
"The first thing I noticed," Minor said, "was the gratitude factor from viewers, that they were able to see the game live."
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company