With all the commotion about DirecTv being temporarily dropped from Versus over a rate increase, it is time to rehash my favorite punching bag which is known as the Mountain West Conference television package. A few years back the Mountain West decided to jump ship from ESPN --and consequentially their local television affiliates-- for a deal with CBS College Sports --then CSTV. The new deal paid nearly double the money that ESPN was offering and guaranteed no more midnight eastern hoops games part of Big Monday and football would be on Saturday with a few Thursday games.
While there have been improvements with games in high-def and then availability on DirecTv. Most of the country is not able to get the The Mtn., which broadcasts the majority of the football and basketball games. To get the channel one must be in the regional footprint and your cable carrier must have the channel; which most do now. DirectTv customers within the league footprint gets the channel for free, but if you live outside then the channel is on the sports package at a charge. Currently Dish Network does not have The Mtn. in any of their lineup packages.
The first big rumble was a few weeks ago when Florida State traveled to BYU and the game was on Versus. That game was labeled a huge success by Versus even though the four plus million DirecTv viewers were not able to view. The grand total was a .940 which equals just under one million viewers. Now compare that to the Florida verse Kentucky game was 3.5 million viewers. More big games as TCU vs. BYU is on Versus in two weeks and that game could shape the BCS race for both teams.
The reason the television deal is perceived as laughable, is because of where the games are on the dial. For starters The Mtn. is available nation wide on DirecTv however if you live outside of the league footprint the channel is only on the sports pack which lowers the viewership by quite a bit, and my educated guess would be maybe be a couple million subscribers.
Then on cable the channel is on 29 carriers that serve basically all of Utah, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada minus Reno, Colorado, all of Arizona, Wyoming, San Diego, Orange County California, very little of Texas and not in Fort Worth. However, the channel is not on the basic package for most of these cities, but rather require some sort of upgraded package.
Dish Network does not even carry The Mtn. in the league foot print, and to get Versus and CBS College the lowest package is the Classic Gold 250 which is $47.99 per month. Then on DirecTv to get The Mtn people in the local foot print get the channel for free similar to the regional sports channel. However, if a fan wants to get the channel and lives outside of the area must subscribe to the sports pack that includes all the regional sports. Then to get CBS College Sports the package is a reasonable $39.99 with the Choice Xtra, and Versus is currently not available because of the dispute over a nickle.
So, as people can tell it can be a chore if you live outside of the area --or even inside-- to get the channel, and the odds of a voter or even casual fan can find it tough to watch the Mountain West unlike the Big Ten Network. It also does not help when on DirecTv all these channels are in the 600 range.
For those who do not know the CBS deal does not allow for games to be shown on local affiliates with ESPN Regional television, so there are actually games that are not on any of the three networks and can not be shown even in the local market.
The television deal is ideal if you are a fan of the bottom teams because nearly every game is on tv and can be seen nation wide. Before the only teams on national television was BYU, Utah, Colorado State, and the short time TCU was in the MWC before the deal came along. As explained earlier in this piece the move was because of money, and little or no week night games or 10pm local basketball tips.
Commissioner Craig Thompson must get the league back on ESPN and should follow the Big Ten model-- if possible. Which has the top games on the ESPN networks and then the rest on the Big Ten Network. My opinion is that Versus needs to be dropped in favor of ESPN, because Versus does not show games every week with Mountain West football, and very few people have even heard of the channel or know where to find it if they did want to.
The Mtn. channel and CBS College Sports should host most of the games, with ESPN hosting one or two games a week that are the best matchup, and yes Thursday or Friday night games might be required but that would be worth the exposure. Thursday night used to be WAC/MWC night with those schools getting a night to themselves, but now it is taken over by the BCS leagues. To make things more faire the MWC could have a tier system where one week CBS College gets the first pick, The Mtn. gets the first pick, or something along those lines so those channels are stuck with always having bad matchups featuring New Mexico and San Diego State every week.
There have been rumors of CBS showing games at noon eastern on Saturday mornings so that they could have more double headers which would be great, but those are just rumors are probably not going to happen. Getting back on ESPN would be the ideal choice I understand that The Mtn. is the leagues channel and they want people to subscribe to it, however getting people and voters to see the games is the most important issue.