UMD 'thrilled' with Bulldog sports presence on TVCOLLEGE SPORTS: Years ago — before KBJR-TV agreed to broadcast Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey games — station manager Dave Jensch was reluctant to follow in WDIO’s footsteps and air the Bulldogs.
By: Rick Weegman, Associated Press
Years ago — before KBJR-TV agreed to broadcast Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey games — station manager Dave Jensch was reluctant to follow in WDIO’s footsteps and air the Bulldogs.
“It’s a barely break-even proposition — there’s a reason WDIO got out of doing it years ago,” Jensch said Tuesday. “We were very hesitant to take on this project. When (former athletic director) Bob Nielson reached out to us after Channel 10 decided not to do it any longer, my initial reaction for a couple years was ‘No, we’re just going to lose money on this.’
“It’s very expensive to come up with this part-time staff. It’s not like anyone has camera operators and technical directors just sitting around.”
But after airing games on its My9 channel the past three years, KBJR recently signed a new three-year deal to broadcast all men’s hockey and football home games as well as select men’s hockey road games and men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball and women’s hockey home games on My9.
Jensch, who is also station vice president, said the previous agreement had several out clauses in case the venture was a financial loss.
“We thought about it long and hard and tip-toed into it three years ago,” Jensch said. “Frankly, we were able to make it a little better than break even only because of the support of some very good sponsors.”
Jensch said Essentia Health and Minnesota Power are the station’s main advertising partners.
My9 will televise all home games except next Saturday’s contest versus Notre Dame — which will air on KBJR Channel 6 — as well as road series at North Dakota and Nebraska-Omaha.
UMD also will have two games shown on CBS Sports Network, including this Friday’s National Collegiate Hockey Conference opener at Colorado College. That’s part of an 18-game NCHC package, which includes the conference tournament in March.
“We’re thrilled with our TV presence, nationally through CBS Sports Network, and we’re very excited about our three-year partnership with Northland’s NewsCenter,” first-year UMD Athletic Director Josh Berlo said. “People are going to know that for the next three years they are going to be able to see Bulldog hockey, football and other sports on My9 and select games on the NBC channel.”
While KBJR doesn’t pay UMD directly during the contract, it is responsible for all production costs and has agreed to invest in better technology. Jensch says the station purchased HD cameras for its Amsoil broadcasts, and even though My9 is not yet available in HD, there should be better picture quality.
“It’s a big step up from analog cameras,” he said. “One of the things I’ve promised Josh is that I’m going to do everything in my power to make the investment to get My9 up to HD, hopefully during this current agreement. Today’s sports fan, whether they are watching football, hockey, baseball or basketball, expects everything to be in HD. That’s why they have that 45-inch or 55-inch TV.”
NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton said local and national exposure was an important point discussed during formation of the league more than two years ago.
“College hockey is still very much a niche and regionalized sport, and it’s very important to us to be in local and regional markets,” he said. “Whether it’s a game that’s being broadcast on CBS Sports Network or on My9 in Duluth, it’s important on a lot of fronts.”
Other NCHC teams also have full- or partial-season TV agreements. Most of North Dakota’s games are shown on the Mid-Continent cable system, while St. Cloud State goes through Charter Communications — which aired UMD games for four years — and Colorado College, Denver, Miami, Nebraska-Omaha and Western Michigan have partial-season agreements with local affiliates.
In addition, the Big Ten Network has entered the fray with the creation of Big Ten hockey, Fox Sports North still airs Minnesota games and NBC Sports Network and the ESPN family of networks also will have several national telecasts.
“I don’t know if people thought this would be a byproduct of the realignment, but it sure seems like it has been,” Fenton said of the increased number of telecasts. “That’s a tremendous thing for college hockey in general.”