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Pierce: Lucky USU! Mountain West is better TV place to be

Published May 1, 2013 12:02 am

Television • Now that The Mtn. is dead, it will actually be easier to see MWC football games.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Mountain West Conference isn't finished announcing its television schedule for the upcoming football season, and already Utah State has it better than BYU or Utah did their last five years in the league.

And Aggie fans are going to be able to watch most if not all their team's games this fall — if they have a cable hookup and Internet access.

The MWC's primary national TV partner is the CBS Sports Network, and USU is scheduled to appear on that channel five times (at Air Force; vs. BYU; vs. Boise State; at New Mexico; and vs. Colorado State). The league's secondary national partner is ESPN, and the Aggies currently have one game (at San Jose State) on that network.

After a six-year hiatus, in 2012 ESPN/ESPN2 licensed four games from the MWC. That number will quadruple this season with the seven Thursday- or Friday-night games already announced and another 10-12 games pending.

"There's a plethora of games and we're still working on some regional packages, along with the digital network we're launching," said MWC associate commissioner Javan Hedlund. "Our goal is to have as many football and basketball games as possible out there."

Details are pending, but MWC games that aren't selected by CBSSN, ESPN or the yet-to-be-named regional partners (maybe ROOT or Altitude?) will almost certainly end up on that Mountain West digital network.

Which means few, if any, local TV broadcasts.

"The digital network is going to be similar to what you see on ESPN3," Hedlund said. "It's going to be a very high-quality broadcast that you can watch on your laptop, on your phone, on your tablet anywhere in the world."

It's what was promised to MWC fans back when CBSSN was still CSTV and the Mountain West Sports Network — aka The Mtn. — was launched. Only this time, it looks like it's actually going to happen.

In terms of TV, Aggie fans in Utah and around the country will have an easier time seeing games than Ute and Cougar fans did after the launch of The Mtn. in 2006. Of the 10 Utah State games for which the MWC holds TV rights (home games and league road games), six are currently scheduled on a readily available cable channels.

(CBSSN is in about 48 million homes — which is still about 35 million more than The Mtn.'s distribution at its peak — but it is carried by Comcast, Dish and DirecTV.)

In 2010 — their last year in the Mountain West — that number was four out of 10 for BYU and three out of 10 for Utah — and that's counting both CBSSN (then CBS College Sports) and the NBC Sports Network (then Versus), which were harder to find in 2010 than they are in 2013.

The other 13 games were on the poorly distributed channel The Mtn.

The forthcoming Mountain West digital network is designed to replace The Mtn., which folded its tent 11 months ago. It's not just a question of football and men's basketball, but everything from women's basketball to volleyball to softball to baseball.

"With The Mtn. going away, our goal is to provide as much of that content to viewers as possible," Hedlund said. "We're trying to replace the content that we lost from The Mtn. And now have that through our digital network, our two national partners and whoever we go with regionally."

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.