North Dakota

Yurachek: TV in North Little Rock ‘unavoidable challenge’

FAYETTEVILLE — If you want to watch the No. 10 Arkansas Razorbacks play Bradley at 3 p.m. Saturday, you need to be at the Simmons Bank Arena in North Little Rock.

Only those attending the game, announced as a sellout for the 18,000-seat venue, can see it.

That’s because there will be no TV broadcast or streaming of the game in any form.

As has been the case since the SEC network was formed in 2014, the only University of Arkansas basketball game this season not to be televised or available on the internet or streaming platforms is the one played at North Little Rock.

The game was not selected to be televised by any of the SEC Network’s network affiliates, but because it falls under the rights of the SEC Network and is classified as an Arkansas home game, it is not eligible to be televised by any third party.

Arkansas’ four exhibitions played in Spain and Italy in August were able to be streamed by FloSports because the SEC did not control the rights to those games.

“Not all of our games at Bud Walton Arena are televised,” said Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek. “But we built our own manufacturing facility into the Bud Walton Arena. We have our own cameras, we have our own crew there.”

Arkansas spent $7 million prior to the launch of the SEC network in August 2014 to equip a studio and control room at Walton Arena with television capabilities at all of its athletic venues, according to an athletics department budget report.

That’s why the Razorbacks’ first three games this season at Walton Arena against North Dakota State, Fordham and South Dakota State were streamed live on SEC Network-Plus.

Since then and for the remainder of the season — except for Saturday — every game in Arkansas has been or will be televised on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, CBS, or the SEC Network.

However, according to UA officials, Arkansas does not have the capability to independently produce a North Little Rock television show.

“To broadcast or stream a game [from Simmons Bank Arena], there would be a significant cost — several thousand dollars,” Yurachek said. “They would have to rent a production truck, hire a crew to come in and make the game, and then put it on the SEC network or ESPN-Plus.

“There’s no third party that could do that like Cox or a local TV station because the SEC owns those rights.”

Yurachek said he knows some fans are upset that Saturday’s game won’t be televised or streamed.

“I don’t know how many people across the state are going to miss seeing the game who, if it were available, would tune in at 3pm on Saturday,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s hundreds, I don’t know if it’s thousands.

“I know there are a few who have expressed disappointment that the game isn’t running [TV or streamed]. But I think many also understand why that is.”

Arkansas will host a game at Simmons Bank Arena for the 23rd time since the 1999-2000 season.

The only seasons in that span that the Razorbacks did not play at North Little Rock were 2000-01, when no game was scheduled there, and the 2020-21 season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Yurachek said Arkansas plans to continue playing one game per season at North Little Rock for the foreseeable future.

“I understand that access is limited because the game is sold out on Saturday, and then we have our fans here in Northwest Arkansas who may not be able to be there,” Yurachek said. “But it’s just an inevitable challenge right now as long as we keep playing there.”

Yurachek said he believes the advantage of playing at North Little Rock is more significant than one of 31 regular-season games not available for television or streaming.

“This game is sold out, so there’s obviously interest from people in the central part of the state and surrounding areas to see the Razorbacks play in person,” Yurachek said. “We’re touching on a segment of our Razorback fan base that most likely doesn’t have the opportunity to come here in person to the Bud Walton Arena – where every game is sold out.

“So I think the positive of allowing another 12,000 to 15,000 people to see the Razorbacks in person who couldn’t otherwise, outweighs the fact that there are also fans who want to watch this game on TV but can’t that in this one case.”

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