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TV or not TV
Scott D. Pierce
Scott D. Pierce writes about television for the Salt Lake Tribune. Vice president of the Television Critics Associationn, he's covered TV in Utah since 1990.

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As expected, The Mtn. is about to sign off for good

To the surprise of absolutely no one, The Mtn. is dead. Or will be very shortly.

According to the Sports Business Journal, the channel will case operations on May 31.

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You've got to feel sorry for the employees, but maybe not so much for the Mountain West Conference, which bungled the channel from the beginning.

Without replaying everything, here's what happened:

The league and all of its then-member schools - including BYU and Utah - went into this with the best of intentions. ESPN was offering less money and bad timeslots, and the MWC was looking for an alternative.

The goal of getting every game possible on TV was accomplished. The goal of increasing the league's exposure was not.

The fatal flaw was that the league and all of its then-member schools vastly underestimated how difficult it was going to be to get distribution for the channel. If you're in fewer than a million homes - as The Mtn. was when it launched in 2006 - it's like not being on TV at all.

Even today, the channel is available in about 13 million homes. Which means it's not available in more than 100 million homes.

Add to that the fact that promises made to BYU regarding replays and games not picked up by MWC TV partners were broken. That drove the Cougars out of the league altogether.

Looks like the Mountain West's TV rights are going to end up with the CBS Sports Network, which is in about 45 million homes. And whatever schools are still left in the league will be scrambling to work out local broadcast rights.

Of course, at this point we don't know what the MWC will look like or if it will even exist. There's the impending merger with Conference USA, but that may be an association between the two leagues and not an outright merger.

Of course, Utahns pretty much stopped caring when Utah went to the Pac-12 and BYU went independent in football and joined the West Coast Conference in most other sports.

If the Mountain West-Conference USA admits Utah State, we'll have reason to care about the league's TV rights again. But we won't have to worry about whether we get The Mtn.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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