Mountain West TV network will be discontinued

FRANK SCHWAB Updated: April 5, 2012 at 12:00 am • Published: April 5, 2012

When The mtn., the television network dedicated to Mountain West sports, goes off the air at the end of the day May 31, it will open up a set of questions for the conference’s institutions, such as where and if many of its games will be televised.

For all of The mtn.’s issues, such as low distribution fueled by the inability to get on all major cable providers, it did provide an outlet for many live games in all sports to be televised. The network’s demise, which was announced to its employees Thursday, leaves open the possibility that not every Air Force football game will be televised in 2012. There will almost assuredly be a steep decline in the number of televised Air Force men’s basketball games next season.

A deal between CBS Sports Network, the Mountain West’s primary television partner, and the conference to increase national distribution of football games is close, according to a source who did not want to be named because the television partners hadn’t announced future plans.

CBS Sports Network could shop the rights to games to other networks, which means there is a chance some Mountain West games could end up on ESPN, or it could put more games on its platforms or fellow MW television partner NBC Sports Network.

There will probably be an unselected inventory of games, considering The mtn. broadcast 30 football games last year. The schools will likely be able to shop the rights to their unselected home games.

Air Force had six football games on The mtn. last season, so it could have the chance to find a broadcast partner for some 2012 home games. But that would require figuring out how to handle production costs and whether it can find a television station that could recoup those costs with advertising. If Air Force is unable to sell every remaining game, it could look into outlets like online video streaming.

The Mountain West, which is going through a transition as it continues to work on a union with Conference USA, hopes to have a new television deal by the 2013-14 school year, when the two conferences hope to begin their alliance.

“This is simply one step in the ongoing, evolutionary process which is focused on developing a new organization and structure for our member institutions,” Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said in a statement Thursday. “The goals continue to be creating greater stability, broader exposure platforms and increased revenue, and we are progressing in each of those areas with the appropriate parties.”  

The mtn., which was the first network dedicated to one conference when it started in 2006, took some huge hits when schools left the league, losing markets such as Salt Lake City, San Diego and Dallas. Rumors had been circulating at The mtn. for a few weeks that the demise of the network was possible, and the staff was called into an hourlong meeting Thursday to announce the news.

There were 44 staffers at the network who will be given priority consideration at Comcast’s sports networks around the country, including a new one in Houston, and at other NBC platforms, according to two sources who were at the meeting. Those who are unwilling or unable to relocate will be given a severance package.

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