For the past few years, there's been little good TV news for the Mountain West Conference.

One bright spot got even brighter this week, however. Not only is DirecTV adding The mtn. to its lineup on Aug. 27, but it's not going to cost an arm and a leg.

An arm, maybe. But not an arm and a leg.

If you live in the MWC "footprint" — the states of Utah, Colorado, Nevada and Wyoming and the San Diego and Dallas/Fort Worth television markets — The mtn. will be part of DirecTV Choice, one of the satellite provider's most popular and cheapest programming packages.

If you're already a DirecTV customer, you're paying $52.99 a month for it; new subscribers will pay $29.99 a month for the first year. That's cheap, but it's certainly not an outrageous amount when you consider how much cable costs.

If you want to see every game involving the Cougars and the Utes this fall, it will cost you more because MWC games are on three different channels. You'll have to upgrade to Choice Extra (another $5 a month) to get Versus; you'll have to pay $12 a month for the Sportspack to get CBS College Sports and Fox Sports Net (which may telecast the BYU-Washington game).

And it may cost you more to get local channels, depending on what programming package you subscribe to. (Local channels like KJZZ, which may telecast Utah-Utah State and BYU-Utah State.)

Still, it's in the same ballpark as cable. And, most importantly, it wasn't placed at the top end of the tiers (in terms of cost).

As for those who live outside the MWC "footprint," they're going to have to subscribe to the Sportspack to get The mtn. But an extra $12 a month is pretty cheap, all things considered. Certainly cheaper than football and basketball season tickets.

Quite honestly, this DirecTV deal is an improvement for just about every fan of every MWC team in America ... except those who live in Utah. BYU fans, particularly, had it great for a long time, with KSL-Ch. 5 telecasting just about every football game not on ABC or ESPN and a lot of basketball games as well.

KJZZ-Ch. 14 had a lot of Utah games, plus the occasional BYU game (through ESPN's syndication package).

There was far less local television coverage for other Mountain West (and, before 1999, WAC) teams. And Ute and Cougar fans outside Utah saw their teams only on national telecasts or pay-per-view of regional telecasts.

The whole Mountain West Conference television deal remains a downgrade for fans here in Utah. For fans everywhere else, this is fantastic. Being able to see The mtn. (as well as Versus and CBS C) through DirecTV means a Ute fan in New York or a Cougar fan in Florida can see more games than they could possibly have dreamed of in the past.

And I don't want to hear any complaining from you about what this costs.

As for those of us who live in Utah, we're going to complain. It's what we do. But it won't make any difference at all.

DON'T GET ME WRONG. I'm not suggesting that the DirecTV deal solves all of the MWC's exposure problems. If you believe that the limited exposure hurts member schools' recruiting, rankings and so on, this isn't going to help much.

But getting on DirecTV and not having it cost subscribers more than it will is definitely an improvement.

DISH NETWORK SUBSCRIBERS still want to know when they'll get The mtn.

I don't know. Neither, apparently, does anybody else.

We're told they're still talking. And, honestly, it makes sense to keep those talks quiet and not negotiate in public.

If (when?) The mtn. signs a deal with Dish, it will come as a bolt out of the blue. Unless, of course, San Diego State's athletic director blabs the news the day before the announcement.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com