Could a deal be brewing between the Mountain West Conference and FOX Sports 1?
On Tuesday, FOX announced the beginning of their new sports-only television network FS1, which will have a reach near that of ESPN’s 99 million national households, a tantalizing 90 million TVs in America.
FOX is on a mission to overtake ESPN, which will be an arduous task, but not completely impossible. For years, ESPN has set the standard for cable sports television broadcasting, showing everything from the NFL to NCAAF to Olympic qualifying events and even high school games. In recent years, parent company Disney decided to move Monday Night Football from sister station ABC to their sports-specific ESPN. It was the end of an era, in which the biggest NFL game every week was shown on national broadcast television, as it moved over to cable. There was an immediate backlash from fans, at least those who didn’t purchase cable, though the uproar has died down.
Now FS1 wants part of the pie, and they’ll show just about any sport to do so. FOX Sports 1 will broadcast everything from MLB to NASCAR to UFC, as well as college football and basketball. They’ve already come close to finishing a deal to show Georgetown Hoyas and Marquette Golden Eagles basketball games, but, they need much more in terms of college sports.
The Mountain West Conference has exactly what FS1 needs, in a multitude of both college football and basketball games with no TV network to show them on. When the Mountain West Sports Network was turned off permanently in Jun. 2012, it left a majority of schools searching local networks to show their games. For some, it was easier than others, and many fans went without their favorite team last fall. FS1 could be just the network the MW needs.
Of course, the nearing of a seven-year deal between the MW and ESPN throws a wrench into the equation, especially since FS1 said specifically that they’ll attempt to out-do ESPN. ESPN will broadcast 22 MW football games and 25 basketball games annually, including all six Boise State Broncos home contests each season.
The MW also has a deal with CBS Sports Network, and with the ESPN deal, earn the conference around $18 million annually.
Still, a majority of games continue to go without a network, and if it’s not going to be FS1, the Mountain West must find someone else.
Slowly but surely, they’re gaining respect in the college football world where perennial powerhouses rule. And in basketball, the Mountain West has been undoubtedly one of the best leagues over the last few years; five teams have a legitimate case of making the NCAA Tournament.
In order for the Mountain West to continue to grow their brand, they have to find even another broadcast partner.