BYUtv Provides Quality Family-Friendly and Uplifting Entertainment
Contributed By By Ryan Morgenegg, Church News staff writer
In January 2000, BYU launched its own TV channel: BYUtv. Its vision was to provide uplifting and entertaining programming that enables its viewers to see the good in the world. Today, BYUtv is carried by DirecTV, DISH Network, and almost 877 cable television providers nationwide. It won 11 Emmy Awards last year alone. BYUtv is growing but remains committed to producing family-friendly content.
Scott Swofford, creative director for BYU Broadcasting, said, “The mandate from our leadership is to create programming which enlightens and uplifts members and those who share our values.” Seeing the good in the world is a literal mission statement at BYUtv. Brother Swofford explained that original programming needs to be “virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy” and relevant to nonmember audiences as well as Latter-day Saints.
The programs on BYUtv have expanded over the past few years from devotionals, sports, and general conference to family-friendly comedy, reality TV, and American history. For example, a reality TV program called The District follows real Latter-day Saint missionaries as they meet with investigators and do missionary work. This is an example of the expanding possibilities at BYUtv.
According to Brother Swofford, the five most popular programs on BYUtv are Granite Flats, Studio C, American Ride, live sporting events, and Story Trek.
Granite Flats is a BYUtv original series taking viewers back to 1962. In a small Colorado town, a military base mysteriously explodes. Was it the Russians or something more sinister? Mysterious people show up in town while three kid sleuths and the police chief try to discover the truth. What they find is a complex web of secrets.
American Ride is a show about U.S. history. Stan Ellsworth, an American history teacher, looks like a tough biker complete with beard, mustache, leather jacket, jeans, and bandana. He rides a Harley-Davidson around the country to teach history where the history actually happened.
History teacher Stan Ellsworth tours the country from the back of his Harley-Davidson to discover interesting facts and stories about American history on the show American Ride.
Studio C is a sketch comedy program with ties to BYU’s Divine Comedy troupe. The comedy is family friendly and contains fun characters and clever writing. Fan favorites include the “Shoulder Angel,” “Captain Literal,” “Batman,” and “Downtown Abbey.”
Televised sporting events on BYUtv have been some of the most watched programs over the past three decades. BYU Cougar fans are some of the most loyal and dedicated fans in the nation. BYUtv offers football, basketball, and other sports from today and yesterday.
In the BYUtv program The Story Trek, former news reporter Todd Hansen sets out to share the fascinating stories of so-called ordinary people.
Story Trek is a program about people. Everyone has a story to tell. Former news reporter Todd Hansen goes out door to door across the nation to find interesting stories from ordinary people. Factual accounts can be more captivating than fiction.
BYUtv produces all of its original shows, but at times there are needs for outside talent and technical expertise. For example, the program Granite Flats was created and directed by BYUtv, but the show relied on industry professionals in the local market.
Actors were located locally, but some also came from New York and Los Angeles.
The four main sketch actors on the show Studio C left to right: Jason Gray, Whitney Call, Matt Meese, and Mallory Everton.
Getting a show from proposal to production follows a specific process. Brother Swofford said, “Right now, new programming is proposed and developed by our three-person content department and approved through our file leadership. Then we seek the best professionals and staff for the job. We do a lot of research and are in close touch with the audience we are trying to attract. That informs our decisions.” Program funding is an important ingredient and comes mainly from the university, Church, and private donors.
The key to the success of BYUtv is filling a void of family-friendly programming. That means the entire show is appropriate and not just part of it. Jared Shores, supervising producer on Granite Flats, said, “BYUtv programming allows families to enjoy content together. People don’t have to worry about the content. Our writers are not going to go in the direction of inappropriateness.” Matt Meese, one of the stars of BYUtv’s Studio C, said, “This is content the whole family can enjoy. It has universal appeal. I believe there is a demand out there for clean, wholesome niche family entertainment. People have waited a long time for that.”
National critics from the New York Times, Miami Herald, Sci-Fi Magazine, and others are responding very positively to BYUtv programs. “Our research shows that the programming attracts viewers of all ages,” said Brother Swofford. “Seventy percent of viewers on our newest shows tend to watch together as a family. That is unheard of in the world of television.” Jason Gray, another star from BYUtv’s Studio C, said, “We are grateful for the popularity of the show, especially with families. The content is clean so parents don’t have to worry.”
BYUtv is available through direct satellite broadcast services (DISH Network Channel 9403 and DirecTV channel 374), cable and satellite providers, and Internet streaming at byutv.org. It is also available as video on demand with the BYUtv app on iPad and iPhone, Roku, and this fall on android and Xbox360 platforms. The original content is free online or with a mobile device. With so many ways to experience BYUtv, there are few barriers trying to access it.
“We are proud of the history and tradition of BYU Broadcasting, but, really, if you haven’t watched it lately, you don’t know us,” said Brother Swofford. “We are a legitimate choice for entertainment, information, and enlightenment. The outside world is recognizing our accomplishments. … Now we need to get the Saints to plug in and help us continue our growth and new direction.”