In an article posted to the San Diego Union Tribune by Mark Zeigler, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson shared his frustrations over the conference’s current TV deal with CBS in regards to start times and a decline in game attendance.
Thompson, who has served as the conference commissioner since 1998, has grown dissatisfied with the late starts for both men’s basketball and football. His most recent irritation coming this past Friday during the semifinals of the Mountain West tournament when a game between Colorado State and San Diego State was scheduled for a 9:30 p.m. Pacific tip off, but didn’t officially commence until 9:52 that night. Then the championship game being played the following day at 3 p.m. PT just so it couldbe broadcast on CBS proper.
In the article, Thompson aired his dissatisfaction by noting that the late start times have impacted the conference in multiple ways, and others are noticing.
“They hear it from fans. They go to the games themselves," Thompson said. "Presidents are saying, ‘Wait a minute. I have a 6 a.m. breakfast in the morning, and we have an 8:30 p.m. kick?’ The question becomes: Is it worth $1 million per school to have all these disenfranchised fans?”
And there lies the issue, as Mark Zeigler points out, the conference must now determine whether or not the money is worth the grievances. With their deal ending in 2019-20, the Mountain West can then go ahead and find a new broadcasting partner, one option on the table is to go the way of streaming.
The conference already has deals in place to have their games streamed on platforms such as ESPN3, their own Mountain West Network and Campus Insiders.
By going this route, they would no longer worry about odd start times. In addition to this caveat, Thompson’s hope is that with better start times, the schools would also see a spike in attendance.
While there is still a ways to go before a decision needs to be made, it seems as though Thompson’s goal in all of this is to ensure that these games are available to the fans.
If so, then a streaming deal might be the way to go, and eventually, when the conference becomes more competitive, they can create their own network. That dream is still a ways off and remember the Mtn. network shuttered so seeing that being brought back from the dead seems unlikely. Yet, #ZombieMtn has an intersting ring.
One huge concern about moving more games to a streaming network is money. From the CBS deal teams are getting around $1 million per year. Could that be replicated if those games go to a atreaming service like Amazon, Twitter or even Hulu, which is getting into live programming soon?
The answer is probably no for a full package, but maybe a few extra to test the waters might be a way to start.
Or this could be a huge ploy to get more money from their current network partners.