Earlier today I wrote why the Mtn. channel was a positive for the Mountain West, but now I will take the other side, because there are plenty of valid arguments against the network.
The biggest issue comes from distribution and that I can squarely blame on Comcast and the negotiators of the Mountain West to get a good deal done prior to the launching of the network. I completely understand that getting nationwide access for any new startup channel is difficult, just look at the NFL Network that is having issues with Time Warner who refuse to carry the channel. From the beginning I recall in Utah it was only available via Comcast and not an option in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and parts of San Diego since there is both Cox and Time Warner.
That was the beef from the beginning where fans even in their own city could not see the game, unless they paid for an online feed of the game which was an option for at least the first year. That pay-per-view online option went away as part of the deal with DirecTV. I knew of people who used a SlingBox to get games to people out of state so that they could see games that were on the Mtn.
Some of the most vocal fans came from BYU -- or that could be that I live in that area -- who could not see games across the country since there are a lot of BYU fans dispersed across the country due to the LDS religion. Then there was the verbal agreement that BYU had to rebroadcast games, but Comcast was insistent in not putting it in writing and that was a key reason why BYU left since they could not air those games; I also still believe more of it had to do with Utah heading off to the Pac-12.
In my opinion once Comcast got involved they should have put the Mtn. on their pay sports tier which is the same level to get the NFL Red Zone channel to at least get out of state fans an option. However, that was not done until the past 18 months when the channel was placed on the sports tier in East Texas, the East Coast as well as Atlanta. That would at least given people the option to buy the channel to see games, and it seems that the way Comcast holds their distribution plan with an iron fist they would have wanted people watching the channel.
High definition was not implemented until the end of the 2008 season for football for the final two games and it never was able to broadcast regular season basketball games or studio shows. Football was able to have all of their 2009-2011 games broadcast in high definition which was good, but the lack of HD for other sports made those games unwatchable. Basketball was tough to watch and with so many good teams over the past few years it was a huge disappointment to not even have select games in higher quality.
Then there was the announcers, oh my, they were not good. Well I should not group them all together, but it seemed like half the staff was a former BYU player and their biased showed. Particularly with James Bates who already was annoying to me for his loud voice on big plays, but it was even more clear when BYU scored compared to a non-BYU team that he had more excitement for BYU. That was my biggest issue with the broadcast crew, and that at times they seemed to be lost with getting players names right at times.
Not showing more non-conference basketball games was an issue. The Mtn. did not get into basketball until conference play and that left a lot of non-conference home games not on television. New Mexico and San Diego State took advantage of a clause that allowed for home games to be shown on local television if not picked up by the Mtn., and that did help. Overall, their basketball coverage was weak until January rolled around.
Then there is the production value that was nothing special. The camera guys would miss the ball nearly every time on a reverse, end around or play action or miss a key fumble by focusing on something else. They would come back from commercial late and miss a play or focus on some graphic and miss a play. All things that should rarely happen, but they did happen on too many occasions.
Big games were not promoted as well as they could have. Yes, CBS Sports gave a free weekend viewing in 2010 when TCU drubbed Utah en route to the Rose Bowl. There was rarely the promotion during the SEC games on CBS promoting their own CBS Sports cable channel. This last part is not indicative of the Mtn., but those on ESPN completely shut out highlights of the games on SportsCenter or their college football scoreboard shows.
I recall when Utah whipped the floor with UCLA back in 2007 when the Bruins were ranked in the top-10, and safety Robert Johnson had a huge game with two interceptions and I believe named to a national defensive player of the week award, but when it came to highlights: Nothing. ESPN just showed the score and that is it. I would get if Utah smoked a team that was not ranked, but this was against a Pac-10 team and one that was in the top-10. Also, ESPN's College Game Day would never mention when a big game was on a different network, and just say that it is on a hard to find channel. That I get to an extent since it is not one of their channels, but I do recall that they would mention games on FOX, CBS or NBC on occasion.
The people who voted in the polls had a tough time finding the Mtn., -- even though I will always contest it is their job to find out -- and therefore only went off of box scores and did not even try to find highlights. It did not hurt Utah, Boise State or TCU when they were ranked up their in the polls, but it hurt San Diego State and Air Force who were fringe teams the past few seasons and they were bypassed over teams from the SEC or Big 12 who were not as good.
The money was better then what offered and games were on Saturday, but the product was inferior and it was a pain in certain parts of the country to find your team play on the Mtn. Hopefully, the next round of television negotiations is much better.