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Tom Mix, Published April 23 2013

NDHSAA board officially approves TV contract with Forum Communications

VALLEY CITY, N.D. – When TV viewers flip on the North Dakota high school state tournaments next year, they will see new faces in the broadcast booth.

After a three-decade long run of being televised on the North Dakota NBC Network, the broadcast rights for the state’s football, boys and girls basketball and boys and girls hockey state tournaments were officially awarded to Forum Communications on Tuesday.

Forum Communications, which owns ABC affiliates WDAY-TV in Fargo and WDAZ in Grand Forks, has already started planning several parts to the upcoming broadcasts, the key one being on-air talent.

“The inner workings are certainly underway,” WDAY sports producer and assistant programming director Stacey Anderson said. “In house we have Dom Izzo and Jody Norstedt, who both have play-by-play experience and we have Pat Sweeney up in Grand Forks at WDAZ.

“We have pretty large stable of broadcasters that can do play-by-play. We are confident in the talent we have already in place.”

The North Dakota High School Activities Association Board of Directors officially approved the television contract by a unanimous vote. The contract runs through the fiscal years of 2013-14 to 2017-18 and is worth $680,000.

The last time WDAY-TV broadcasted a NDHSAA state tournament event was 1982, however the station broadcasted the first three Dakota Bowl football championships starting in 1993 prior to that event being added into the NDHSAA television rights contract.

“These North Dakota High School Activities Association state tournaments are some of the top-tier events in North Dakota and we are really excited about having them and putting them on TV,” Anderson said.

“I think it’s a great day for the NDHSAA, WDAY, WDAZ and ABC sports in North Dakota.”

Anderson did not know how the tournament broadcasts would be split up among the on-air talent and said that could depend on which teams qualify for each tournament based on coverage-area regions.

Television stations KBMY in Bismarck and KMCY in Minot, both ABC affiliates and owned by Forum Communications, will air NDHSAA state tournament programing in the western part of the state.

KBMY and KMCY do not produce live news broadcasts so highlights and pre-tournament team feature stories from teams in the west will be funneled to Fargo through several methods.

Anderson said a working agreement with CBS affiliates KXMB in Bismarck and KXMC in Minot will provide highlight footage from the western part of the state. Those stations as well as WDAY and WDAZ will produce features on select teams that qualify for the state tournaments.

WDAY-TV also broadcasts several Minnesota boys basketball section tournament games, which Anderson said the station plans on retaining.

One part of the contract that was discussed Tuesday was that the NDHSAA will not be able to allow other media outlets to televise or internet stream games during a Forum Communications state tournament broadcast.

Anderson said Forum Communications doesn’t recognize the NDHSAA as a media outlet, so as an association, it can stream footage of state tournaments to the internet. However, it will not be able to hire another media outlet to produce those webcasts.

“That was a big thing for us,” NDHSAA board president Scott Ulland said of the web streaming flexibility. “We want to look into what else we can do for our patrons and our students in regards to webcasts.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562