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BYU Broadcasting to Streamline TV and Radio Operations, Boost BYUtv Distribution

The parent company of cabler BYUtv is making big changes to its TV and radio portfolio in a bid to refashion the operations for the digital era.

Provo, Utah-based BYU Broadcasting, owned by Brigham Young University, will transform its local broadcast TV station KBYU-TV from a PBS affiliate to a simulcast of its BYUtv entertainment cabler as of June 30. The BYUtv International arm will no longer operate cable and satellite channels in Latin America. Instead, BYU will shift its Spanish-language strategy to programs that stream on BYUtv.com.

BYU also plans to streamline its two radio outlets, the Utah-based terrestrial station KBYU-FM, devoted to classical music, and BYUradio, distributed by Sirius XM Satellite Radio. The single BYUradio feed will incorporate classical music into its menu of live sports, entertainment, talk and other genres of music.

BYU’s goal is to make more efficient use of the resources it devotes to its TV and radio operations, said Michael Dunn, managing director of BYU Broadcasting. But it is not a cost-cutting effort. No staff reductions are planned amid the restructuring, Dunn said.

“One of the few pressures we don’t have is the monetization pressure. Our clarion call is to do better work,” Dunn told Variety. “This really affords us to do that opportunity put our best foot forward in a very competitive market.” 

BYU Broadcasting dates back to the 1940s. Like the university, the broadcasting company was designed to help promote the ideals and values associated with the Mormon Church. In recent years, BYUtv has de-emphasized overtly religious content in favor of family-friendly entertainment ranging from the sketch comedy “Studio C” to the newly launched sci-fi drama “Extinct.”

BYU’s target is multi-generational viewing of kids in the 7 to 16 age range and parents in the 25-54 age range. Dunn spent most of last week in Cannes at the Mipcom TV conference scouting for programs and potential partners for original content.

The consolidation effort will greatly expand the availability of BYUtv in a key target market as KBYU reaches the entire state as a free over-the-air offering with a VHF signal. Moreover, Utah already has a PBS affiliate in KUED-TV, which originates from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. BYUtv is a fit with KBYU’s charter as a public TV station in that it does not carry direct paid advertising but would be able to accept underwriting for specific shows from sponsors.

With a range of new series in the works and renewed focus on beefing up BYUtv, Dunn predicts 2018 will be a “breakout year” for the company. Programming efforts have been enhanced with the appointments last month of BBC Worldwide alum Andra Johnson Duke as director of content and former Epix executive Ian Puente as director of operations and strategy.

“We have a staff that is audacious enough to believe we can do world-class things out of Provo, Utah,” Dunn said. “We have our mission and our purpose.”

(Pictured: “Studio C”)

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