Mtn goes dark, leaving Conference in the dark

The Mtn. is going dark in May. There are many readers to this blog that live outside of the area where this is news, but for those who live in the markets where this was a part of your cable package this is huge news and a sad day.

I recognize that I am in the minority and the comments line will be filled with several synonyms for the word moron which will be directed at me, but I am a college football junkie so anytime there is a reduction in outlets to view College football I am saddened.

The Mtn., in concept, was a good idea, a 24 hour sports station dedicated to one conference . The network did a fabulous job of covering the Mountain West Conference as a whole. It was able to provide human interest stories about athletes in that conference, and even gave an inside look into the athletic programs in the conference. Some of the programming was cheesy, and Tim Miles, the ex- Colorado State hoops coach can owe some of his marketability to his reality show; “Reaching the Peak”.

This however is a football blog so we do not need to talk about some of the programming that resembled something that was one step above public access. Football-wise, MWC programs were pretty much assured that as long as they were playing a division 1 opponent at home, that game would be on television, heck, I believe even that was not entirely true, as I seemed to recall a Texas St. vs. Wyoming and an Air Force vs. Midwestern St. contest making the low definition airwaves of the Mtn.. Conference programs during the Mtn’s run were on television more regularly than “King of Queens” reruns, and exposure for conference programs were at an all-time high. If you are a fan of a conference program or a casual fan that wanted to watch TCU, or Utah and BYU before 2011 you knew where to set your dial. This extra exposure however did not translate into extra money finding its way into the athletic budgets of conference schools.

That issue of money, or lack of it being shelled out to conference members is the primary reason the network will be going dark. The conference’s marquee and most successful programs all bolted for more television money, yes the Pac-12 and Big 12 are better conferences, and BYU’s deal with ESPN is far better than anything the Mtn. could put together. The Big East’s attractiveness to Boise St and San Diego St. has less to do with competition, student athletes and travel budgets, and more to do with the extra money the Big East receives in television revenue and BCS money. The lure of cashing bigger checks became too great and with the network’s most marketable programs no longer in the mix, the Mtn. could not generate enough revenue to justify paying what was left in the MWC what it had paid in prior years. How marketable is the conference without markets like; Salt Lake City, San Diego, Dallas/Fort Worth, and of course BYU which hate them or love them brings a unique and worldwide market.

Fans in many MWC markets vilified the Mtn. and believed that were it not for the Mtn. their programs would be seen on ESPN and ultimately would get more exposure, there are fans in the market that I live in which constantly slammed the Mtn. and cited it as the reason the program does not receive more recognition. Those fans failed to recognize that before the Mtn. MWC programs were barely on ESPN, and usually occupied the Thursday night slot, along with a couple of late night Saturday games, nestled between the end of a an SEC game and late night Hawaii vs. insert BCS conference program here. If one looks around the dial in those time slots MWC fans will now notice there are Pac-12 and ACC games on Thursdays, so ESPN has no need for MWC teams on that night, and the Saturday evening slot is occupied by Pac-12 programs, SEC programs, WAC games involving BYU, and Big 12 games that take four hours to play and it is a tighter, neater window for television. So I ask where would ESPN air any MWC games? Is the country really salivating for that classic UNLV vs. New Mexico game? The reality is this, ESPN does not need the MWC, and it knows it, there is a small local market for some of the programs in the conference, so how big could the national market for many conference teams.

The conference has announced it is working on a new television deal, and with the clock running down, there is a belief that this deal will just be a “stop gap” for one year. The issue could be is if the deal is similar to the Mtn’s deal and the network does not allow for at least a similar volume of airtime for conference programs, the conference will have done a disservice to its fans. Additionally, with the market set, it will be hard to convince some network to pay more money for a product with even less marketable programs as two more will leave after this year. Well without the Mtn. I guess, I will start becoming a fan of Altitude or Root Sports; I can catch some random Big Sky or Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference school on tape delay, or a couple WAC schools engaged in their weekly pillow fight this fall. Decisions, decisions; which now will involve one less network, bummer.