Mountain West Conference football games are now viewed coast to coast for the first time. And while fans from Virginia to Florida and Texas to Iowa are grateful for the access, feedback and reaction range from ecstatic for the peek-and-see to disappointment over production.
Reaction is basically gratitude, but there's a mounting desire by viewers for high-definition broadcasts.
Right now, the fact BYU and Utah are nationally ranked football programs is bringing the conference more national exposure on wire service roundups and a place on ESPN's SportsCenter. It's a spotlight The mtn. channel cannot do on its own.
"It's fantastic," said Kim Carver, vice president and general manager of The mtn., now available on DirecTV nationally. "Fans for the most part are very excited, and we've had a great response from all over the U.S."
Carver, who is a football fan, recognizes the craving for HD broadcasts and is working on it.
"It's not going to happen in 2008," she said.
When the network started up, it acquired equipment and is in the process of upgrading.
"It's a time-consuming and expensive process, but we're working on it," she said.
According to Nielsen Media Research ratings provided by The mtn., the BYU-Northern Iowa game was seen by an average of 35,000 households in the Salt Lake television market. That's 4 percent of the 874,650 TV-equipped households in the market, which includes all of Utah and parts of Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada. And an average of 11 percent of the homes where someone was watching TV during the telecast were watching the Cougars beat the Panthers.
At its peak, 44,000 households tuned in to the game; the lowest number was 24,000 households.
Here's a sampling of reaction from throughout the country, folks who added DirecTV for league coverage.
From Roby Hammond, human resource project manager for San Antonio, Texas:
"I caved in and subscribed to DirecTV just to get The mtn. We had a huge party on Saturday to watch the BYU game. ... It was awesome to be able to watch games again. The picture quality was pretty sad. ... The main problem was the camera, unbelievably fuzzy, and I had a brand new 1080 HDTV ... sideline cameras were OK. ... Announcers were decent but still made their share of dumb comments but that happens on every channel, even the hallowed ESPN. Glad I switched, cost is favorable to cable."
From Mike Lowder in Alabama:
"It's so cool to be able to watch all the games now on The mtn. on DirecTV. I'm really glad they were finally able to strike a deal to make this happen. ... One thing is left to do and that is The mtn. to broadcast in HD. It's not good that the highlights of the games on The mtn. shown on other networks are in SD and all the other highlights of games are in HD. I hope they switch to HD soon, but I'm not holding my breath."
Ben Jaussi, president, Gonzaga Society for Law and Business:
"After watching The mtn. for a few days and understanding that it's only been on the air for a few years, my reaction was this: With all of the people willing and desperate to work in sports television, be it on-air talent, producers, or camera operators, etc., that's the best they could come up with? From the name of the shows (Mountain Cap) to the design of the sets, even the anchor's wardrobe (Todd Christensen was wearing an ash gray suit, circa 1981, with a red tie with way too much pattern), it just seems cheap and sophomoric. The worst decision was putting Craig Thompson in a tuxedo talking about the 10-year anniversary of the MWC. He looked so awkward in the full body shot too, which unfortunately was used every time he was on camera. One of my friends commented that the shows and telecasts look as good as a community college broadcast. I understand that might be a stretch, but there is huge room for improvement."
From Brad Foster, Phd film studies student, Oklahoma State:
"Honestly, I was just glad to be able to watch the game! That said, the quality was poor, at best. It was difficult to make out players at many times unless the camera was fairly close-up being the first game, I was hoping to get a good understanding of who plays where, new numbers, etc., but the poor video quality made it difficult. Again ... I feel bad with these complaints because I at least get to see the games this year. ... "
From Mark Stoddard, South Dakota:"I live in Aberdeen, South Dakota, outside of the MWC footprint. I purchased my DirecTV and purchased the Sports Pack a couple of months ago. I am excited to get to watch BYU games again on TV and not have to sit in front of my internet listening to the game on the radio. The mtn. is an OK network. They have a lot to improve on, but as long as I can see the games and the plays, I am happy."