SBD/May 31, 2012/Media

The Mtn. Leaves A Mixed Legacy As First Conference Channel Signs Off Tonight

The mtn., the Mountain West Conference's sports channel, will cease production at the end of the day today, and "much of its legacy will be tied" to what conference and network officials claim are "misguided arguments about distribution and revenue," according to Frank Schwab of the Colorado Springs GAZETTE. The net, which launched in '06 and was the "first dedicated to one college conference, was meant to give unprecedented exposure to Mountain West schools, and delivered almost 38,000 hours of programming." The mtn.’s goal of "unique exposure was met, as it showed football games that might have been covered only locally and other sports that might not have been covered at all." That coverage "was unheard of six years ago, and was a recruiting tool for many of the league’s coaches." But MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson said, "Some people thought it was supposed to be ESPN Junior and be national. I think the biggest thing was the expectation that The mtn. would be in 50 million homes -- that was never the intent.” Schwab noted the net was "ripped for not being available in enough homes," and it would be "included in criticisms of how little money each conference school made in the television deal, although that wasn’t part of the plan either." Even if the channel "made money -- which it didn’t -- that money would have gone to the television partners, not directly to the schools." However, there were "underlying issues" with the net. Most nets began moving to HD, but "production costs were high and The mtn., which was struggling to find an advertising niche as a quasi-national network with programming aimed mainly at a small region, stuck with standard definition for almost all of its shows." Thompson said that he "regretted not pushing for HD earlier." And when the Univ. of Utah left for the Pac-12 in '10, conference realignment "was on its way and The mtn. was in trouble" (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 5/30).

SAYING GOODBYE: In Denver, Dusty Saunders wrote The mtn. "never gained the high-profile status of a major supplier of college sports events, but it has a special place in broadcasting history as the first cable network devoted to the coverage of one college conference." Saunders: "In retrospect, such coverage of one conference, while creating initial industry and viewer enthusiasm, was destined to have a limited audience. ... It didn't help The Mtn. that several high-profile schools have left the Mountain West. BYU and Utah started the departures, and TCU followed. Boise State and San Diego State will be gone by next summer" (DENVER POST, 5/28).
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