FARGO — North Dakota State has hopes of putting a different-looking football team on the field this fall when the Bison resume a normal Division I FCS fall season. For those watching on television, the look will also be different.
Forum Communications Company was awarded the rights to televise Bison athletics for at least the next three years, a deal that was announced Thursday by Learfield IMG’s Bison Sports Properties. Forum Communications owns WDAY-TV, The Forum newspaper and InForum.com among more than 20 other regional media brands. The deal carries an option for two one-year extensions.
“This relationship provides for expanded coverage across all Forum Communications assets including broadcast, print and digital platforms and delivers unprecedented content to Bison fans across the country,” said NDSU athletic director Matt Larsen.
The statewide television network owned by Forum Communications includes WDAY in Fargo, KBMY in Bismarck, WDAZ in Grand Forks and KMCY in Minot.
The relationship calls for an annual broadcast of eight to 11 football games, approximately 40 men’s and women’s basketball games, seasonal coaches’ shows for football and men’s and women’s basketball as well as the airing of 15 Olympic sports. Additionally, Forum Communications will carry the NDSU spring football game, postseason TV specials for football and men’s and women’s basketball, and NCAA National Signing Day for football in December.
The majority of basketball and Olympic sports (volleyball, track and field, cross country, golf, soccer, wrestling, baseball and softball) will air statewide on WDAY Xtra.
“This type of engagement is unprecedented,” said Josh Rohrer, vice president of broadcast for Forum Communications. “The WDAY and Forum Communications team are thrilled to be the exclusive TV partner in this new chapter of NDSU athletics broadcasting. The partnership of two of the most storied brands in our region is an exciting prospect. It is our commitment to bring Bison fans the very best in broadcast, digital and written content in the region. Not only will we continue providing the very best in NDSU athletics coverage, we anticipate growing the broadcast experience to levels well beyond today’s expectations.”
Forum Communications has a long media tradition associated with NDSU athletics. Its radio station had the broadcast rights for 43 of 46 years ending in 2007.
“The brand of Forum Communications and the brand of NDSU athletics are steeped in huge tradition together,” Rohrer said. “Beginning a new chapter together is really exciting for both of our organizations.”
The news ends a long run by KVLY-TV, owned by Gray Media Inc. out of Atlanta, which held the TV rights since 2007. The company was re-upped in 2016 with a four-year deal that included a one-year option that was exercised this past season.
Gray submitted a bid for rights along with Midco Sports Network out of Sioux Falls, S.D. Forum Communications is locally owned with base operations in Fargo.
WDAY plans on using its digital sub-channel WDAY Xtra to focus on NDSU athletics in more than just football. It’s available on some regional cable companies and over the air in Fargo (6.3), Grand Forks (8.3), Bismarck (17.3) and Minot (14.3.).
The Forum Communications deal is among the first for Learfield’s Bison Sports Properties, which took over the media contract process when it signed a 10-year, $21.9 million deal with the university in 2020. The NDSU athletic department will receive $1.85 million in the first year from Learfield with that figure escalating over the duration of the contract.
In return for the flat fee to NDSU, Learfield owns the broadcast rights, sponsorships and advertising.
Last week, NDSU announced Bison 1660 retained the radio rights for three more years with an option for two more. Bison 1660 is owned by Radio FM Media of Fargo.
The TV rights have taken a greater importance in the last decade. It wasn’t until the 2012 season when every regular-season game was televised. The North Dakota NBC Network televised just three games as recently as 2010.
KVLY was awarded the television contract in 2007 in a media climate where nobody else submitted a bid. Before that, WDAY was the television host.