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New deal with Root a big deal for MWC

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The Mountain West Conference’s new regional TV deal with Root Sports Rocky Mountain, says University of New Mexico athletic director Paul Krebs, really is a new deal.

It’s a big deal, as well, he says — worth perhaps as much as $2 million annually to the Mountain West when revenue and savings are combined.

“It’s a seven-year deal, the timing of which is lined up with our CBS and our ESPN (national) contracts,” Krebs said Thursday. “There’s a rights fee for the conference, and all the games that they produce, they’ll do at their cost and produce in high-def.”

The new deal, Krebs said, thus is far more than a mere formalization of a relationship that already existed.

Root Sports aired a significant number of Mountain West football and basketball games last season, but many of those — including several UNM men’s basketball games — were locally produced telecasts picked up by Root.

“Last year,” Krebs said, “we had to pay to produce a lot of the games that were on Root. This year, they’re paying the productions costs, plus a rights fee.”

Krebs said the rights fee is about $500,000 annually. He estimates that between $1 million and $1.5 million in production costs, conferencewide, will now be assumed by Root.

Fans who don’t have access to Root, Krebs said, will be able to watch the network’s Mountain West telecasts online at no charge on the conference’s digital network.

“It’s a really good deal for our league and for our schools,” he said, “and it’s just one more piece of our overall TV package.”

Root and the Mountain West announced the new agreement Wednesday, without specifics regarding finances. In a news release, it was announced Root annually will produce and televise in high-definition “approximately 10 football games and a minimum of 25 MW intraconference and nonconference men’s basketball games.”

Earlier, CBS Sports and ESPN, the Mountain West’s primary and secondary national TV partners, selected 43 MWC-involved (conference and nonconference) football games they will carry this fall. Those two networks have rights to a total of 56 men’s basketball games, as well.

Once Root selects the games it intends to carry, Krebs said, UNM will seek to supplement its national and regional presence with a local TV package.

The UNM football team will appear on national TV three times this fall, all on ESPN networks: Nov. 8 (a Friday) at home against Air Force and on the road at Fresno State on Nov. 23 and at Boise State on Nov. 30.

The Air Force game will air on ESPNU. It has not been announced which ESPN network will carry the Fresno State and Boise State games.

Three UNM football games, all on the road, aired on Root last fall: Hawaii, Air Force and Colorado State.

The UNM men’s basketball team appeared on Root 10 times last year. Seven of those were locally produced games that also aired on KASY (My50TV). In Albuquerque, Root Sports is on channel 261 on Comcast, 414 on Dish and 683 on DirecTV.

Krebs said Root’s keen interest in New Mexico men’s basketball was a factor in the arrival at the new deal.

“One of the drivers for this package,” he said, “is access to New Mexico basketball.”

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