By Julie Walker
KBYU Television has created a new national network—BYUTV—that will bring BYU devotionals and other family programming to more than 3.4 million subscribers of the Dish Network nationwide.
Featured as part of Dish Network’s basic 40-channel programming package, the new non-commercial public service network will make educational and values-oriented programming available to viewers in all 50 states and parts of southern Canada.
BYU President Merrill J. Bateman says that the BYUTV network will extend the university’s educational reach. “People from all across the United States can now join us for broadcasts of our campus devotionals and firesides—they can be a part of the live audience,” he says. “It’s very exciting to me, and I believe it will bless many lives.”
John L. Reim, CEO for KBYU and BYUTV, says the new network will have its own 24-hour programming schedule, separate from KBYU, which is a PBS affiliate. “The programming will be as diverse as what you might find on a university campus,” he says. “It will challenge you intellectually, but at the same time it supports the mission and the values of the university.”
Programming sources for BYUTV will include Education Week broadcasts, BYU Women’s Conference, and some BYU athletic events, though the station will not have access to games which are already under contract to ESPN. The station will also receive programming from LDS-owned Bonneville International Corporation, which produces LDS General Conference, Music and the Spoken Word, and family- oriented programs like Family Times and Center Street. KBYU productions—including the Ancestors genealogical research series, documentaries, and entertainment programs such as BYU concerts—will be featured as well, but BYUTV will not have access to any progamming that is owned or distributed by PBS.
Launched in January, the new network is receiving enthusiastic support from viewers. “After our first two weeks on the air—with no promotion and no advertising—we had already received more than 150 e-mail messages from people all over the country saying ‘I found you’ and offering support,” says Duane Roberts, the station’s general manager.
“There’s no question that the reason there’s an audience on Dish Network for BYUTV is the LDS audience. People are looking for conference, BYU Education Week, devotionals—all the stuff we take for granted along the Wasatch Front. Anybody who has lived outside of this area realizes how hungry for religious and family-related programming people are,” says Roberts, who lived outside Utah for many years as an officer in the U.S. Air Force before he came to BYU. The creation of BYUTV is one way BYU is preparing to take advantage of the opportunities that the imminent conversion to digital television will provide. Reim explains that digital television will allow for more narrowcasting, to meet the needs of specific audiences. It will also facilitate on-demand broadcasts, which would be particularly useful in providing educational materials to student audiences, whether they are studying on campus or participating in distance learning.
While restructuring the technical aspects of the station and upgrading hardware is one challenge, Reim says the new network also requires a new economic model to sustain it. Unlike public television stations, which rely heavily on membership dollars, BYUTV will be broadcast to an audience that already pays a subscriber rate to Dish Network—but none of those subscriber funds come back to BYUTV. As a result, for now the university will operate BYUTV as a revenue-consuming entity.
“It is truly a public service to help extend the reach of the university,” Reim says. “We want to take the richness of BYU and bring it to a national audience.”
For more complete information about BYUTV, see the network’s Web site https://www.byutv.org or call 1-800-298-5298.