Bemidji State University men's hockey games may find a new television home next season.
Lakeland Public Television General Manger Bill Sanford said Thursday the station has a tentative deal with BSU to televise all home games live beginning this fall for the inaugural year in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
"The deal is contingent on finding sponsorships and we're working to attain those sponsors to help cover the expenses," Sanford said. "We should know whether we're going to be able to do this by mid-June."
Lakeland is the only television station based in north central Minnesota and operates in Bemidji on KAWE 9/22. Lakeland also operates a satellite station in Brainerd and a translator station in Roseau.
If enough sponsors are gained, the hockey broadcasts would reach as far south as Little Falls, west to Wadena and Fosston, east to Aitkin and Grand Rapids, and north to the Canadian border cities of Roseau and Warroad.
Sanford said Lakeland is looking for the sponsorships in northern Minnesota, including Bemidji-based parties and 'larger players' in Lakeland's broadcasting area.
Most of the games would likely be broadcast on the Lakeland Plus channel because of PBS programming commitments on the primary station, though Sanford said those discussions are ongoing.
Games aired on the primary Lakeland station would reach an even larger audience as it would be accessible in the Twin Cities market on Dish Network and DirecTV satellite providers.
"We see this as not just a hockey thing but a way to expose a larger audience to the Bemidji Regional Event Center and the Bemidji community," Sanford said. "We think this would be a neat thing not only for BSU, but for our community."
Lakeland would need to invest about $200,000 in broadcasting equipment and hire as many as 13 new positions to televise the games according to Sanford. There are no immediate candidates for play-by-play and color commentary roles.
"It is really a big investment and without the support of underwriters and sponsors we're not going to be able to do it," Sanford said. "Lakeland cannot be in a position to lose money so we have to find underwriters before we can move forward."
Lakeland Director of Development Sharon Pugh is handling the underwriter search and Sanford characterized the response so far as "pretty good."
There are no immediate commitments to high-definition broadcasts or road game broadcasts, though Sanford said there is discussion of possible road game broadcasts in 2011-12.
BSU men's hockey games on Lakeland would be available to other PBS affiliates in Minnesota, but Sanford feels there would be little interest from other stations.
Sports coverage on public television is not an uncommon partnership.
Lakeland produces local news broadcasts in Bemidji that includes sports coverage of area teams. Lakeland once broadcasted local high school hockey and basketball games in the 1990s.
In Northwest Indiana, Lakeshore Public Television produces broadcasts live Valparaiso and DePaul Division I basketball games.
If the BSU games are broadcast on Lakeland, it would give BSU men's hockey exposure to one of the largest regional television audiences in the WCHA.
Fox Sports North is the largest broadcast outlet in the WCHA and carries all home and away University of Minnesota games to audiences in the upper Midwest.
North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota State University, Mankato home games are televised on local cable-based channels.
The majority of Denver games are aired on FSN Rocky Mountain.
St. Cloud State home hockey games are televised on the iniversity's television channel, which is similar to the current broadcast setup for BSU men's hockey.
KBSU, Bemidji State's student-run station, televises live home games for BSU men's hockey, football and basketball.