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TV: The Mtn.'s improvements come too late for Utah, BYU

Published September 29, 2010 1:23 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Mountain West Sports Network is in its strongest position to date. It's now seen in 8 million homes. All of its football telecasts are in HD. It's having its best year yet selling advertising (although profitability remains elusive).

After this season, will anybody in Utah care?

Not unless the MWC happens to add Utah State.

And will The Mtn. even exist after this season?

According to published reports, Comcast and CBS (which co-own The Mtn.) could withdraw if the conference membership changes substantially. Like if Utah and BYU leave the league.

"I can't comment on any of that right now," said Kim Carver, vice president and general manger of The Mtn.

No one from CBS, Comcast or the Mountain West is talking. At least not on the record.

According to a well-placed source, the word is that The Mtn. will survive after a renegotiation of some kind. Which could hit MWC schools where it hurts — right in their bottom lines.

For now, however, it's full steam ahead at The Mtn. It's expanding its presence in Texas. It's in talks to expand distribution in the Fresno and Reno TV markets, pending the WAC's lawsuit against Fresno State and Nevada. (No one knows if those teams will be join in 2011 or 2012.)

Whether it will continue to be widely distributed in Utah remains to be seen.

"It's way too early to even have that conversation," Carver said.

Whatever happens with local distribution, it would be hard to argue the value of The Mtn.'s programming won't fall in 2011. You could, perhaps, argue that swapping Utah for Boise State is somewhat of a push — except that Utah is in the No. 38 TV market and Boise is in No. 113.

And swapping BYU for Fresno (No. 55) and Nevada (No. 108) isn't even close. BYU will get $8 million from ESPN for its football telecasts — two-thirds of what the entire league gets for a full year of all sports from its current TV deal.

Anyone who thought BYU wasn't more valuable to the MWC than any team that will be in the league after this season has been proved wrong.

Local college football fans can rest easy this season. The Mtn. has gone from no football telecasts in high def in 2008 to nine in 2009 to 30 in 2010. And the number of complaints about the channel's coverage have plummeted.

"No news is good news," Carver said. "Without question, it makes a difference."

(If you're not getting games in HD, call your cable provider. It's choosing not to pick up the HD feed.)

The technical quality of the The Mtn.'s telecasts is on par with other networks these days. And the announcers … well, there are a lot of weak sportscasters.

The bottom line is you can now watch football on The Mtn. and not be driven to distraction by how bad the telecast is. And you can't ask for a whole lot more than that.

Basketball, however, will remain mostly in standard def. As was the case last year, there will be no HD telecasts until the MWC tournament in March.

"We still have some progress ahead," Carver said.

But not until after BYU and Utah leave the league.

Arguing with the fans • During the radio postgame coverage of Real Salt Lake on Saturday, a lot of fans were clearly unhappy with coach Jason Kreis' decision to rest many starters against Colorado for Tuesday's CONCACAF Champions League game at Toronto. Radio co-host Spencer Checketts was defensive, combative and, at times, even insulting to those fans. The people who buy the tickets.

Not many people employed by any professional franchise could get away with that.

But not many have the same last name as the guy who owns the team.

SCOTT D. PIERCE covers television for The Tribune. His columns on sports appear Wednesdays.






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