The Mountain West is not all that happy with certain aspects of their TV contract, and specifically the basketball tournament that had a nearly 10 p.m. local tip time in Las Vegas with a turnaround for a 3 p.m. title game the following day.
“They hear it from fans. They go to the games themselves," Commissioner Craig Thompson said during the conference basketball tournament. "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?”
Yeah, these late kickoffs are a bummer for fans even in their own time zone, let alone those who are displaced and in the Central and Eastern time zones.
What are the options?
This was discussed at length on a prior version of our podcast where we went over many options, including streaming the games at a cost.
Since our prior podcast, Amazon won the rights to air Thursday night NFL games for an absurd $50 million for the 2017 year, and that comes out to $5 million per game for the 10 game package.
The Mountain West is obviously not going get anything near that amount as the league currently takes in just over $1 million per year, and Boise State close to $3 million per season.
For as much slack this league gets it has been innovated with the Mtn. Network which was used as a model for the Big Ten Network and then so on to the other conference and leagued-owned sites.
The league also has a lot of games on Campus Insiders and was part of games being aired on Twitter this past year.
The big question for the Mountain West, and the rest of the non-power leagues, is to figure out how to make as much money as possible. Conference USA took a huge hit in their latest media rights deal and had games are on beIN SPORTS which is more known for airing fútbol and not football.
Then there is the news where ESPN laid off a ton of major talent in part because they paid so much for media rights deals like Monday Night Football, the NBA deal and various major college conference deals.
The layoffs themselves are big in terms how some sports are covered, but what is more concerning to a new deal from the Mountain West is that the ESPNU studios are moving away from Charlotte, to Bristol, Connecticut, Baseball Tonight is moving away from a nightly show to just once a week and also that MLB Network programming will also air on ESPN.
Where will we all consume Mountain West sports in the next five years?
— Remain on ESPN, CBS Sports (or other major network like FS1 or NBCSN)
This might seem obvious or fairly bold and it might depend on what side of the fence one sits on. For starters, the Mountain West deal is cheap and there is still and brand name school in the league with Boise State, and that is something Conference USA does not have.
However, ESPN dropping even all of the talent they did this past week is a drop in the bucket compared to the MNF deal which ESPN is paying $1.9 billion per year. That just shows that ESPN is going to nickel and dime to drop their over costs as people either drop pay TV or go to cheaper bundles which pays ESPN left.
ESPN is not going away and live sports are still a big deal that people do not want to DVR. Expect there to be some sort of Mountain West programming on ESPN or other networks.
— Hulu, Netflix or Sling or another skinny bundle
When people discuss streaming live sports some point to established places like Hulu, Netflix, Sling or even the new YouTube TV platform. Those are likely all non-starters because those companies, with the exception of Netflix, air live programming that is similar to cable or satellite TV.
Netflix has already said no plenty of times to airing live events and unless the others want to invest money into hiring talent, production crews, a robust sales team and whatever else is needed to show live sporting events, this is not an option within five years.
Things move fast so you never want to say never, but these models seem to be taking channels people actually watch and allow them to pay less.
— Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo, Campus Insiders
Why not look at streaming companies who are already doing this. Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo and Campus Insiders air live sports on their own and free — we will get to Amazon shortly.
This is a much more realistic option than getting on Netflix, Hulu and those skinny bundles mentioned previously. These have zero barrier entry and can be watched on nearly any device.
— Amazon Prime or other PPV options
This option is two-fold. Amazon Prime is behind a paywall for their services which include their video service. The one sports show that Amazon Prime has produced is the All or Nothing series about the Arizona Cardinals a few years back.
The other is to go the pay-per-view option on either per game or monthly to watch Mountain West sports. Going to a PPV option is very tricky because a per game - season or monthly — is somewhat of a new concept. There are similar packages from the pro sports leagues like NFL Sunday Ticket, NBA League Pass and others who allow to purchase out of market games. The NBA allows to buy single games and not be locked into a season long package.
This option could work but the Mountain West would need to have some entity to produce the games and have talent to call the games, too and those costs add up. Perhaps something small of $10 per month for all of the games could be an option and if there are enough people who pay and also in game adds to help cover costs and also pay outs to the league each year.
A full pay-per-view model is highly unlikely, however a Mountain West-esque network could be an option. Amazon Prime has add-on channels like Showtime, HBO and other channels. Perhaps the Mountain West could air their games on a sub-channel for a few bucks a month in addition to subscribing to a Amazon Prime, plus Hulu has an option of add-on channels.
— Combination of all of the above
Odds are that the Mountain West will stay on some form of tradition television like ESPN. However, do not be surprised if the league goes with an alternative route — for some of the less prominent games — with a service like Amazon as they have been pursuing live sports over the past year-plus, or even go all-in with Twitter which allows broader distribution as it is a free service.
How will Mountain West sports be viewed in five years?
This poll is closed
ESPN, CBS Sports, and other traditional TV
Exclusive PPV model
Streaming service (Twitter, Hulu, Amazon)
Combination of traditional and more streaming options.