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Negotiations to get television satellite services Dish Network and DirecTV to carry The Mountain regional sports network, which televises Utah and BYU games, are dragging on.
"There's a lot of hope that Dish and Direct will carry the network, we just can't give you a deadline on when that's going to be," said Javan Hedlund, associate commissioner for the Mountain West Conference.
As for why it's taking so long, Hedlund said, "No matter who you talk to, you can call five or six people, and you'll get five or six different answers."
Dish Network's Kathie Gonzalez declined comment, saying "We just don't talk about the status of negotiations with channels."
Calls to DirecTV were not returned Tuesday.
Comcast SportsNet, which is half-owner of the Mountain network, said it is aggressively trying to get the satellite providers to carry the channel, which is seen in most parts of Utah on Comcast's channel 37.
"As with over a dozen other networks that Comcast has invested in, we want to bring The Mountain to as many fans as possible, including fans with satellite," said Comcast SportsNet spokesman Tim Fitzpatrick.
U. Athletic Director Chris Hill is anxious for more viewers but understands that slow growth might come with creating a sports TV network.
"I want to have some patience," he said.
Two years ago, the conference was moving from ESPN to an $82 million, seven-year deal with the College Sports TV (CSTV) network - owned by CBS - to show more MWC football and basketball games. The conference did not want to stay with ESPN cable sports network because ESPN wanted to move MWC college football games from Thursday nights to Tuesdays and Wednesdays, something the conference's presidents voted not to do. The network also offered less money for the broadcast rights.
This summer, Comcast entered the picture, becoming half-owner and operator with CSTV of The Mountain network in a new 10-year plan worth $120 million, according to the MWC's Hedlund.
"Each school was getting about $800,000, and that was going to drop to about $500,000 [if MWC stayed with ESPN]. And under the new contract, we're making $1.1 million per school. We all have a fiduciary responsibility to our universities," Hill said.
"The big mistake early on is we didn't let people know what we would have if we stuck with the old plan," he said. "We over-promised and under-delivered, and we made some mistakes there."
Under the new deal, most games are televised on The Mountain; some are available on Versus and CSTV, available to satellite owners.
Hedlund says the new plan means broadcasting nine national and 38 regional football games vs. eight national and 15 to 20 regional games under the old contract.
"We're the first conference out there to build its own network, so it takes time," he said about getting more viewers. "It's part of the process."
What's been bad for Ute fans has been a godsend for Lumpy's co-owner Chris Simonsen. The Salt Lake County sports bar on Highland Drive had to upgrade its Comcast service to show the Utah and BYU football games.
"Every game they've had on The Mountain now, the crowd has been near capacity if not at capacity," Simonsen said.
"I've heard some pretty nasty comments" from fans who want satellite coverage, Simonsen said. "Funny thing is, people don't know who to make the comments to."