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Scott D. Pierce: Despite all the hate, KJZZ committed to prep sports

Published March 20, 2012 11:34 pm

UHSAA • Channel 14 sees televising high school sports as public service, not a moneymaker.
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KJZZ is talking to the Utah High School Activities Association about extending its contract to televise prep sports. You almost wonder why anyone at the station would want to go through the hassle.

"We have gone out of our way at KJZZ to dedicate hours and hours of air time to high school sports and really give what we see as a service to the community," said Jeremy Castro, vice president of broadcasting and operations for the Jazz (and KJZZ). "Most of the response I get from the community is, 'Why did you show that game? Why didn't you show this game?' "

Some viewers seem to mistakenly believe that Channel 14 is in this for profit. But once you factor in production costs, there's not a lot of profit to be made from televising prep sports.

"I can't disclose the financials on it, but it's certainly not a huge moneymaker for us," Castro said.

So why do it?

"We think it's important," Castro said. "It's a great thing for the kids. And, we hope, it's good for us, too."

Not always. Last fall, KJZZ took the brunt of the anger when the Class 3A football championship between two Southern Utah schools — Hurricane and Desert Hills — was played at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.

"My email, voicemail, everything just lit up about how evil KJZZ was because we were not going to let these teams play in Southern Utah," Castro said. "You wouldn't believe how angry people were. And that's out of our control."

That decision was made by the UHSAA, said assistant director Kevin Dustin. A semifinal game between Desert Hills and Cedar City played at Dixie State College in St. George had taxed the capacity and facilities of that stadium, and part of the thinking was that more people in Southern Utah would be able to see the game if it was televised live from Rice-Eccles.

"They weren't going to expand Dixie State in a week," Dustin said. "Fewer people would have seen it. The schools [Hurricane and Desert Hills] supported it. And those kids had been aiming for a championship game at Rice-Eccles all year.

"This wasn't KJZZ's decision at all."

Channel 14's deal with the UHSAA runs through the 2012-13 year, and both sides sound interested in extending it.

"We're very pleased with KJZZ's production and their commitment to high school sports," Dustin said. "We have a great partnership."

And Channel 14 has consistently done a good job with their prep sports telecasts. We're not talking ESPN, but the production quality has been high.

"And it's fantastic way to give the kids some exposure," Dustin said.

Let's face it: Most of the kids who play high school football or basketball on Channel 14 are never going to be on TV playing college sports. Their prep games are memories in the making.

Dustin, who coached Sky View to the 1994 Class 4A boys' basketball championship, said he recently attended a team reunion and they watched a recording of the TV telecast of the title game.

"It's a big deal for kids to be on TV," he said. "We want to keep those games on TV."

So do the folks at KJZZ. They aren't necessarily looking for a lot of love to be thrown their way. But they do get a little tired of all the hate.

Who can blame them?

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce; read his blogs at sltrib.com/blogs/tv.






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