PROVO — Over the past few decades, the BYU football program has established a reputation for amazing upsets, heart-stopping victories, and miraculous comebacks.
There was the Cougars' win over No. 3 Pittsburgh in 1984, their shocking triumph over No. 1 Miami in 1990, and more recently, the dramatic, last-second field goal block that propelled BYU over UCLA in the 2007 Las Vegas Bowl.
Thanks to technology, and a new mobile application launched by BYUtv, now it's possible for Cougar fans to watch, and re-live, those moments anywhere, anytime.
On July 6, just days after the program officially took on independent status, BYUtv released an app for the iPhone and iPad that provides viewers access to a vast video-on-demand library of past games and classic moments. Fans can also watch BYUtv on the popular streaming player Roku.
Cougar fan Sam Stroman has already watched last year's New Mexico Bowl as well as the BYU win over Tulane in 2009 from his AppleTV and iPhone.
"I love the freedom and initiative independence has given BYU," Stroman said. "Obviously BYU has always had the resources, and budget to put together great products like this, but under the old regime and contracts this might have been avoided, or restricted. It's extremely satisfying to be a fan of a university creating really great stuff for its fans."
Brad Spencer has watched 15 past games so far. "It's not only football, all BYU sports are there," he said. "One of my most-used apps. It's amazing."
According to BYUtv digital media director Ryan Holmes, thousands have downloaded the app so far. "We're hoping hundreds of thousands will download the app and use it to get their BYU sport fix," he said.
The app requires iOS 4.3 or later and is compatible with iPad, iPad2, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and iPod Touch. BYUtv is working on a web app (a mobile version of the website) for Android and other mobile devices.
The news gets even better for Cougar faithful. BYU is entering an eight-year partnership with ESPN, which will televise many of its future games.
"One thing fans can look forward to because of our partnership with ESPN, is access to the ESPN library," Holmes said. "There are over 120 football games that are in the ESPN archive. We are getting access to all of those games, and we'll be posting them on our website and making them available through all of our platforms. We already had a lot of those games, but we'll be adding the ones we don't have and making them available to fans. The ESPN archive will be part of what comes later this fall."
Part of the frustration for BYU fans in recent years has been difficulty in watching games due to the limited distribution of The mtn. What's more, there were restrictions on replays of games. But the ESPN contract offers BYU both rebroadcast and video-on-demand rights.
"If ESPN broadcasts a BYU game, that game will be available that evening," Holmes said. "After the game's over, it becomes part of our digital library."
As per BYU's former contract with The mtn., BYU had to wait 12 months after the game's completion for rebroadcasting rights.
Holmes was hired a little more than a year ago, charged with developing a broadband distribution strategy. The BYUtv app, which can stream live television, is part of that. "The app, at its heart, plays and streams video," Holmes said. "What makes the app powerful is that it's connected to our entire digital media platform. When you go to BYUtv.org and see a live stream or you see all of our video-on-demand archive, our app accesses and uses those same web services and delivers that video. We're developing a new website called byutvsports.com, which will be very cool. That video archive will live on that new website. We're trying to separate our brand a little bit, the sports brand from the regular TV brand.
"The other thing that's cool about this app is, it's linked to our web sites and so if you go to BYUtv.org and create a login, we will track your playlist and your play history," Holmes continued. "In theory, you could go to the website and start watching a football game, and pick it up on your iPhone or iPad, drive home, then pick it up again on the web site and we would track that as you jump from device to device."
The way Holmes sees it, this technology is simply the wave of the future.
"That's what we see coming out of the rising generation, this desire for on-demand programming. We deliver a little bit of that," he said.
Though the BYUtv app has been out a short time, reaction to it "has been very, very positive," Holmes said. "We've been getting five-star reviews. People grab the app and immediate start streaming football games. In the video streaming world, we measure consumption of our online content by gigabytes delivered each day. Since releasing this app, the amount of content consumed via streaming has jumped by 10 times. It gives you an idea of the pent-up demand. The strange thing is, all of this content was already available on our website. You can stream games in HD, if you have a good connection, on our website. And if your Android phone supports flash, you can stream it right now. But that tells you how people want to view their content. Our goal is to provide it on as many different platforms that we can reasonably support. We're just getting started."