Mountain West, ESPN Close To Seven-Year Deal

By Rich Kurtzman
Kirby Lee – USA Today Sports

The Mountain West Conference is on the rise.

According to many sources, including ESPN themselves, the MW and ESPN are close to signing a seven-year deal that will broadcast 22 of the conference’s football games, and 25 basketball games annually.

For the MW, who had their Mountain West Sports Network turned off permanently in Jun. 2012, this is wonderful news.

ESPN, the Worldwide Leader in Sports, is the most widely known sports specific channel, and indeed one of the most popular channels in the entire television spectrum. They spare no expenses in bringing fans the best possible production value, commentators and presentation of whatever particular sport they’re broadcasting; this will be a big branding boost for the Mountain West.

According to the network’s website, ESPN will show 22 MW Football games per season, including all six of the Boise State Broncos’ home contests each year. Of course, Boise is the best out west, and they have been for years; and now it seems like retaining the program from jumping ship to the Big East earlier this year was an even more crucial move. There are no guarantees for the other nine teams or how often they will all be shown on national TV. This also comes on the heels of Boise signing a deal to play a home-and-home series against the Florida State Seminoles in 2019-2020.

It also means the Mountain West is now pulling in $116 million for their broadcasting rights from both CBS Sports Network and ESPN, or around $18 million annually. It’s certainly an improvement, but is the conference done looking for broadcasting partners?

Even between CBS Sports and ESPN’s 22 games, the two deals aren’t adequate enough; many teams’ games – especially non-conference ones – aren’t being shown on television. Fans have voiced their displeasure, during basketball games as well; they demand every game be available for viewing from the comfort of their couch.

Well, they may be in luck.

FOX announced Tuesday their new FOX Sports 1 Network, which will have nearly as large a reach as ESPN’s, around 90 million homes nationally, will show a variety of sporting events. Their network will be in direct competition with ESPN and other sports-only national networks like CBS and NBC Sports. FOX Sports 1 is looking for content to fill their airwaves in time for the Aug. 2013 launch date, and the MW will have many football and basketball games to offer.

But, will ESPN’s new deal with the conference complicate things? It’s too soon to tell, or whether or not the two sides have even talked yet, but it could be a match made in heaven.

One thing is clear; the Mountain West is determined to gain national recognition as one of the top college conferences in both football and basketball. This move was a step in that direction.

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