“What makes BYUtv a unique entertainment network is that we’re always trying to bring out the spark of the divine that’s in all of us and in everything,” said Jeff Simpson, managing director of BYU Broadcasting.
As they develop programs, the BYU–owned-and-operated studio is endeavoring to do much more than just make “clean TV,” though their shows are designed to be watched by the whole family. They gravitate toward rich, complex stories about characters and people who “are on paths that we think are noble,” Simpson said. “We break down stereotypes about faith-filled journeys, instead looking for the Light of Christ in people, whether they call it that or not.”
Their diverse programming — which ranges from drama, sketch comedy, reality shows and sports to religious discussions — is deliberately outward-facing. It’s intended in part to uplift people of all beliefs and to share with the world the things BYU values, in a way that only entertainment can.
“It’s commonly said that once you meet face-to-face with someone who is different from you, you understand better who they are. Through research, we’ve learned that when viewers who may not be of our faith see BYUtv content that moves or inspires them, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes, it changes their perception of us and the things we care about for the better. It’s like getting to know someone a little bit,” Simpson said.
With its distinctive approach to entertainment, the channel has been drawing ever-larger audiences and thriving among industry giants. BYUtv recently received seven Children’s and Family Emmy nominations from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, including a nomination for Best Children’s or Family Viewing Series for period drama “Malory Towers.” The other nominees in the category were from the likes of Disney, Nickelodeon and PBS Kids.
In addition to “Malory Towers” being nominated for best series, the show’s lead actress Ella Bright was nominated for an acting award, up against household names like Tim Allen and Gina Rodriguez, and the series was also nominated for Lighting and Costume Design. BYUtv reality competition series “All-Round Champion” was nominated for both Best Non-Fiction Program and Best Casting; family drama “A Kind of Spark,” whose three lead actors are neurodivergent, also received a nomination for casting.
“The nominations speak to the quality of our teams’ work on a national stage,” Simpson said. “It’s validation that our programming is entertaining, but just as important to us, it’s validation of that excellence we are striving for that President Kimball talked about in his BYU ‘Second Century Address.’”
“Recognition like this also enhances our mission with students,” he added. “We average three student employees for every full-time employee, and exposure to the industry at this level provides rich, inspiring learning opportunities. It also builds credibility that helps opens doors for BYU graduates.”
It certainly seems that audiences are responding to BYUtv’s excellence: the past two years have seen a more than eight-fold growth in monthly downloads of the BYUtv app and a 10-fold growth in monthly digital audience. Strikingly, while audience numbers in Utah have remained steady, 95% of audience growth has come from outside BYU’s home state — California, Texas, Florida, Illinois and New York each now eclipse Utah in BYUtv viewership.