Mountain West Rights Deal Means No More Boise State On ESPN
ESPN will "no longer broadcast Boise State football home games" under the Mountain West Conference's new TV rights deal with CBS and Fox, according to Ron Counts of the IDAHO STATESMAN. Beginning in the '20 season, CBS Sports will have the rights to BSU away games, and Fox will "own the rights to the Broncos' home games." Those games could be aired on CBS, Fox, CBS Sports Net, FS1 or FS2. The "allure of ESPN played a role in not only keeping Boise State" in the MWC, but also "building its national brand." Boise State football has appeared on an ESPN affiliate 119 times since '99, but the team "likely won't be on ESPN at least until a potential bowl game" in '20. The shift away from ESPN "comes with significant risk in terms of viewership." Only five regular-season games on FS1 drew 1 million viewers in '19, "compared to 66 on ESPN or its related cable channels." But the conference's new deal will be "lucrative." MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson said that the six-year deal is worth $270M. He added that Boise State will "continue to receive the same additional revenue it received in the previous deal" (IDAHO STATESMAN, 1/10). Fox Sports already has pegged FSU-Boise State for the net's "Big Noon Saturday" window on Sept. 19. That means a 10:00am MT kickoff on the signature blue turf. Fox Sports President Mark Silverman said, "We're strongly considering that game for a unique 10am kickoff" (Michael Smith, SBJ College).
GAME DISTRIBUTION: The AP's Pat Graham noted the new rights deal includes football and men's basketball, and will begin in '20-21 and run through the '25-26 season. Additional "third-tier rights" are still "in negotiation." The new deal marks the "inaugural arrangement between the league and Fox, which will show the conference's football championship game," though CBS Sports "remains the primary television rights holder." CBS' annual football deal will include 23 games on CBS or CBSSN, with a "minimum of three games annually for CBS," with 10 additional games available for the net. CBS also "receives the first seven picks of conference-controlled games." Fox will show the football championship game on "either Fox or FS1 and it will be played either on a Friday or Saturday." On the basketball side, CBS nets will show the men's basketball championship game on CBS, and another 32 games will be shown on CBS or CBSSN. The net also receives the "first 12 picks of league-controlled games and then alternates with Fox" (AP, 1/9).
TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE: In Colorado, Kelly Lyell notes no MWC football games will kick off before 11:00am or after 8:00pm local time under the new deal. Under the previous deal with ESPN and CBS, games could "start as late" as 8:35pm. Thompson said that there are "no restrictions on the number of night-time football games a school might play in a single season," though each of the networks are "limited to a maximum of five Friday night broadcasts each season." Thompson added basketball games still can "tip off as late as" 9:00pm local time (Ft. Collins COLORADOAN, 1/10). In Idaho, John Wustrow notes Boise State road games against MWC opponents in the Pacific time zone "could still have a later start time," but home games will "start a little earlier." Boise State AD Curt Apsey said, "That's something we battled for and during the course of this contract we've really tried to do the best we can for our fans. Hopefully that helps, it's a 30- or 45-minute difference, but I think that's a big deal" (IDAHO PRESS-TRIBUNE, 1/10).
A CHANGE IS GONNA COME: Thompson said that six years was the "maximum the league was willing to go given the ever-changing media landscape." He added, "The bottom line is eight, nine or 10 years, we just could not justify because of the changes potentially we'll see in the marketplace and the other rights fees that are going to open up in the next five or six years" (CASPER STAR-TRIBUNE, 1/10).