NDSU embracing TV opportunitiesFARGO — Pick a letter. Any letter. Now put three or four of them together and chances are it’s a network that will air a game of some sort this week.
By: Jeff Kolpack, Forum Communications Co.
FARGO — Pick a letter. Any letter.
Now put three or four of them together and chances are it’s a network that will air a game of some sort this week.
There are more television options these days than once thought imaginable. Fox Sports, for instance, has 19 regional networks with the North Dakota audience having access to Fox Sports North.
Then there’s the new Midco Sports Net, the regional arm of Midcontinent Cable. ESPN and CBS have their networks and the list filters down to college conferences having their own networks and school’s doing their own internet streaming.
It’s a virtual alphabet soup.
The University of Minnesota and the University of North Dakota hockey teams were far and away the leaders for getting their games regionally televised this season. All but two of the Gophers’ games were on the air. UND had 28 of 39 games on a TV network of some sort.
“Not too many places in North and South Dakota can’t see our broadcasts,” said Sean Johnson, UND’s senior associate athletic director.
Twenty of the Sioux games were on Midco Sports Net, which advertises relationships with 10 regional schools. Twenty-two games were on Fighting Sioux Sports Network, which is distributed to 20 cable carriers, including Consolidated in southwest North Dakota.
No money is exchanged in the agreements, but UND likes the exposure, Johnson said. The school has a national contract with Fox College Sports.
Trevor Arroyo, senior coordinator for programming and production for Fox College Sports, said he’s received feedback from Sioux alumni and fans as far away as Arizona and Florida, who have watched games through digital cable.
“Around here in the office, we’re big on college hockey to start with,” Arroyo said, from company headquarters in Los Angeles.
A balancing act
with TV, attendance
North Dakota State, meanwhile, had two men’s or women’s basketball games televised this season, and both were more because of the opponent, Oral Roberts, than NDSU.
NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor said the school’s television partner, Fargo-based Valley News Live, could not find dates that would work within its network schedule. And Taylor said attendance at the Bison Sports Arena is also a factor.
“If we couldn’t get it on statewide, we felt televising up and down the Red River Valley could potentially affect attendance more so in basketball than in football,” he said. “But we are re-evaluating with where we are with TV.”
The contract with Valley News Live, which does not call for a minimum number of games, calls for both parties to mutually agree on what games to air, if any. For instance, NDSU associate athletic director Troy Goergen said Valley News wanted to televise the December game with the University of North Dakota, but NDSU opted not to so as to not hurt ticket sales.
A home game school record 10,709 fans showed up at the Fargodome.
Another reason, he said: Valley News Live had a change in sports directors with Scott Peters resigning and Dan Hammer taking over. The station didn’t have the personnel to do the Oakland University game on Jan. 22, said Jeremy Jorgenson, NDSU director of sales and broadcasting. And, he said, once February rolls around, Valley News is committed to its high school state tournament coverage.
NDSU, however, is looking at being more receptive to networks like Midco Sports Net, said Goergen and Jorgenson. It’s a balancing act between getting revenue from a Valley News game as opposed to strictly exposure with the likes of a Midco.
“That’s one of the factors we take into consideration when you talk about an exclusive deal,” Goergen said. “There’s reciprocation there. But if you broadcast with Midco, there’s no opportunity. It’s exposure. That’s why you see so many of the smaller schools taking advantage of the exposure over revenue.
“That is not to say exposure is bad, but when you look at the overall value of our property, we want some remuneration.”
Fox Sports North continue with talks
One reason NDSU did not go the Midco route this year is the network is not available in Fargo, Jorgenson said. In comparison, Valley News Live in a statewide broadcast potentially reaches every TV set in North Dakota.
But Midco is only available in Moorhead and West Fargo and some other rural areas.
“We have Fargo surrounded,” Buetel said. “There are people there. There are NDSU fans and sports fans there.”
The network partnered with the Summit League to televise the first two rounds of the conference men’s and women’s basketball tournament from Sioux Falls, S.D. NDSU has been in talks with Fox Sports North in recent years, even to the point where Taylor and Jorgenson drove to the network’s company headquarters in the Twin Cities for talks.
NDSU has had 32 men’s basketball games on live TV in the last five years, but only 18 were available to area viewers in some network form.
Football had a much higher percentage with 27 football games in the last five years aired on an area network. Most were on the statewide NBC network with four others on FSN, which airs to a prime recruiting area.
Fox College Sports replayed the Craig Bohl Football Show with the Bison head coach last fall. Additionally, NDSU wouldn’t mind more of a presence with FSN.
“It’s a tough fit in scheduling with them,” Jorgenson said. “They’re definitely an option, but it’s hard to work out a scheduling deal with them because they have so many prior commitments with pro stuff and other college stuff.”
Kolpack is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.