The Mountain West has officially announced a TV deal with ESPN for football and men's basketball that, combined with the conference's CBS Sports deal, could reportedly bring the conference up to $116 million in television revenue during the next seven years.
The long-rumored deal was stamped with simultaneous announcements from the Mountain West and ESPN's PR department. The releases state the deal allows ESPN to televise up to 22 conference football games - including all Boise State home games - and 31 basketball games annually, which is a big boost to the league's national profile.
The biggest winner is Boise State, which is guaranteed three home football games on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC, thereby guaranteeing the Broncos at least $900,000 in league-provided TV bonuses, according to the Idaho Statesman's Brian Murphy. But other Mountain West teams increase their chance at football bonuses as well, with $300,000 for weekday national games and $500,000 for weekend ones.
Between CBS and ESPN, the Mountain West can have up to 44 football games and 56 men's basketball games aired on the networks' platforms — the national TV bonuses don't apply to web-only platforms or ESPNU — while being able to sell other games and packages to regional networks.
ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy was the first to report the combined deals would net the Mountain West up to $18 million a year. Neither the conference nor ESPN had officially disclosed the financial terms of the deal, including how much each school could make, but other reporters have confirmed the figure and the Mountain West has not contradicted it.
What does this mean for Utah State? More money, and more exposure.
In the 2011-2012 season, Sports Illustrated reported that eight WAC schools each received $104,873 in television revenue. The $18 million the Mountain West could make in its latest set of contracts will be unevenly split with Boise State, but will still be much more than the Aggies earned this past season.
The biggest effect, however, might just be the attention that comes with being on ESPN. If Utah State's football team continues to be competitive, the Aggies could become in demand for national games, including those with the widely familiar Boise State. Coaches will tell you that being on ESPN, perhaps moreso than any other channel, offers branding opportunities and opens up recruiting areas that may not have been previously available.
That may also be a boon to basketball, which has been a big part of the Mountain West this year as well. With five NCAA tournament teams, the added exposure on television in the next seven years could help increase interest in the league. It goes a long way to helping Utah State's basketball team recruit or build a recognized NCAA Tournament profile, among other benefits.
Said MWC commish Craig Thompson in a statement: "Our goal is to maximize exposure opportunities. These deals with CBS Sports Network and ESPN accomplish just that."
The Mountain West is finalizing its schedule, hoping to have conference games and television rights settled in April. Utah State's non-conference games are unaffected by the deal.
— Kyle Goon