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Updated 6:43 PM- Nearly two years after declaring that the Mountain West Conference's
new television network would "reach all four corners of the country," commissioner Craig Thompson was overjoyed Friday to finally be proven right.
"It is a good day," he said. "I've always believed in the model."
One day after word leaked that a deal had been struck, the mtn. network that broadcasts most Utah and Brigham Young football and basketball games consummated a complex 60-page agreement that will make it available nationwide on DirecTV satellite systems no later than Sept. 1.
"This is extremely exciting news," network vice president Kim Carver
Nobody has to tell sports fans in Utah. Many have complained for months that few of them -- especially those outside the region -- could see the pioneering network, created two years ago to broadcast Mountain West Conference games and other programming exclusively.
Only 1.4 million homes have access to the mtn. -- that's about 1.2 percent of the nation's 114 million TV households - including those with Comcast cable in Utah. But DirecTV had 16.8 million customers nationwide at the end of last year, according to financial reports, vastly broadening the network's reach and perhaps spurring rival
satellite company Dish Network to pursue a similar deal.
"We would love to have an agreement with Dish Network," Carver said. DirecTV has not decided which channel or pricing tier the network will occupy, but Carver said "there's a pretty good chance" that it will be available in the most basic subscription plan.
Network and league officials -- backed by Comcast and CSTV, which each own half the network -- had been working for the deal for months. Carver said negotiations started to grow more intense about four months ago, in part, she suspects, because of the pressure that angry fans exerted on DirecTV to add the mtn. The network and the league steadily had urged fans to lobby DirecTV and other distributors to add the network, in the face of withering criticism that they should have arranged for wider distribution before the network launched in 2006.
"I think it was a combined effort," Carver said, thanking the fans.
"It's a really complicated deal. It's a long, long process, and I realize that it was a lot longer than anybody wanted. . . . I'm so glad to be here finally."
Neither party would specify the length of the deal past describing it as "multi-year," but it's safe to assume that it will run for most, if not all, of the eight years remaining on the league's 10-year, $120 million deal with Comcast and CSTV to produce the network.
"We're not going to be doing this again real soon," Thompson said.