HELENA – The Big Sky Conference has a five-year television deal that it says could make conference football and basketball games available to viewers across 18 states and bring more money into the league’s 13 schools.
League Commissioner Doug Fullerton said Tuesday that ROOT SPORTS will televise up to 18 conference football games each season, beginning next season, including the annual Montana-Montana State rivalry game.
“We would look to select that one and frankly put considerable resources into covering that and the lead-up to it,” said Patrick Crumb, president of DirecTV Sports Networks, which owns ROOT SPORTS. “It is a great rivalry. We would definitely like to feature that game.”
“The production quality and game-day experience that they’re going to provide with their outdoor studio show is going to be second-to-none,” Fullerton said.
Under the agreement with DirecTV Sports Networks, ROOT SPORTS also may broadcast up to 12 regular-season conference basketball games along with the quarterfinal and semifinal men’s basketball tournament games.
The games will be produced in high definition. ROOT SPORTS reaches a combined 6.3 million viewers in its Northwest and Rocky Mountain regions, on channels previously owned by Fox Sports Network. It has another 2.4 million cable and satellite homes in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, New York and Maryland in its ROOT SPORTS Pittsburgh region.
Fullerton said ROOT SPORTS will have to choose the football games it plans to broadcast by mid-March, giving the conference time to work with other broadcasters who might be interested in bidding on the remaining games.
The financial details were not disclosed.
Crumb said the featured football game likely will kick off at 1:30 p.m. Mountain, with the possibility of double-headers with a second game at 5:30 p.m. Montana State has begun adding lights to its field while Montana has said it plans to have lights in place in time for the 2012 season.
Fullerton acknowledged that some Montana and Montana State football games will no longer be broadcast on channels that can be received over the air, leaving some pockets of the state where viewers cannot watch the games. However, he said the trade-off is that through ROOT SPORTS, the games will be available to millions of viewers.
“My job is to write contracts and try to promote 13 institutions,” Fullerton said. “This is more than the Montana media market. This is 13 institutions in the west building the Big Sky brand.”
The contract only includes rights to conference games, leaving nonconference games available for broadcast by other stations, Fullerton said.
Beginning in 2012, the Big Sky Conference football schools will include: Montana, Montana State, Eastern Washington, Portland State, North Dakota, Idaho State, Weber State, Northern Colorado, Southern Utah, Sacramento State, UC Davis, Cal Poly and Northern Arizona.