How the Big Sky's new television deal affects you

Jan. 19, 2012

Now that the dust has settled on the Big Sky Conference's new television contract with DirecTV/ROOT Sports, it's time to determine how the move affects the nationwide band of Griz football fans who are accustomed to watching Montana play every Saturday in the fall.

1. What is ROOT Sports?

ROOT Sports is not a new network and it is not available only on DirecTV. It is only owned by DirecTV.

ROOT Sports is made up of three separate networks, ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain (based in Denver, Colo.), ROOT Sports Northwest (based in Bellevue, Wash.) and ROOT Sports Pittsburgh.

These were formerly known as Fox Sports Rocky Mountain, Fox Sports Northwest and Fox Sports Pittsburgh and are available through many cable providers in the Big Sky's footprint.

ROOT Sports Northwest serves more than 3.7 million homes, including many in Montana. ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain serves 2.6 million homes, also in Montana. The plan right now is for those two to share many of the Saturday broadcasts next fall.

ROOT Sports is also available nationally on both Dish Network and DirecTV. Subscribers of Dish Network and DirecTV outside of the Rocky Mountain and Northwest regions would need to purchase enhanced sports packages to pick up ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain and ROOT Sports Northwest.

On Dish Network the enhanced regional sports package is called the Multi-Sports Pack. On DirecTV it's the Sports Pack. Those packages can be ordered on a month-to-month basis for a minimal cost.

ROOT Sports Northwest is located on channel 687 on DirecTV and 426 on Dish Network. ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain is on channel 683 on DirecTV and 414 on Dish Network.

2. Will ROOT Sports broadcast all Montana's games?

No. The five-year contract calls for a total of up to 18 Big Sky Conference football games per year, some of which will be Montana games. ROOT Sports anticipates making its broadcast decision by the end of March.

At that time, the games not picked up by ROOT Sports will be offered to the secondary market. Big Sky Conference television partners such as Montana's News Stations and Max Media of Montana have indicated they are interested in bidding on games not selected by ROOT Sports.



3. What is the future of Big Sky TV, the league's video streaming service?

Big Sky TV will continue in 2012-13 and will likely continue to be a free service. The games ROOT Sports picks up, however, will not be part of the Big Sky TV package. ROOT Sports controls the option of streaming these games and may or may not provide its own streaming.

4. Will Montana be playing games at non-traditional times and days?

ROOT Sports has indicated that they will not move games to nights such as Tuesday or Wednesday, as some conferences have done to accommodate national coverage. ROOT plans on making the Big Sky's primary slot 1:30 p.m. (MT) on Saturdays, with the potential for a doubleheader. In the case of a doubleheader, the second game would be placed in the 5 p.m. (MT) time slot.

If a game is to be played on a Thursday, it would only be by mutual agreement of the two schools involved. Many of the Big Sky's schools would not favor playing on Thursday because of the large fan bases that travel on the weekend to attend games.

5. What about the fans who live in Montana who don't have cable or DirecTV or Dish Network but are accustomed to watching the Grizzlies play on Montana's News Stations?

The Big Sky's faithful television partners have expressed interest in picking up as many Griz games as possible following ROOT Sports' broadcast decision in March and offering those on a free over-the-air basis as in the past. Unfortunately the Montana games that ROOT Sports televises will not be available to those home viewers.

The tradeoff is that the Big Sky Conference's contract with ROOT Sports will be adding millions of potential viewers, which will enhance the league's exposure and profile.

6. What about the Montana-Montana State game?

ROOT Sports will be televising the Griz-Cat game from Missoula on Saturday, Nov. 17. That ROOT Sports has already chosen this as one of its 18 games will come with a tradeoff. While the game will not be available for over-the-air viewers in the state, it will now be available nationwide through DirecTV and Dish Network.

7. What about the playoffs?

ESPN still owns the rights to every playoff game of the NCAA Division I Football Championship.

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