ESPN TV, streaming deal part of a big fall coming for Cats, Griz fans

Full stadiums expected, but fans who can't go to live games will have exciting new ways to watch MSU, UM football this season


Last updated 7/2/2021 at 7:47am

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Full stadiums and more normalaties are what fans can expect when the Montana Grizzlies and Montana State Bobcats play their 2021 season this fall. But, for fans who need to view the games at home, the Big Sky Conference' new deal with ESPN will be a game changer.

As of today, both the Montana State Bobcats and Montana Grizzlies are preparing for full stadiums with no restrictions for the upcoming 2021 FCS and Big Sky Conference football season - a season that starts in less than two months. But for fans who rely on TV to see the Cats and Griz, the options will be even better this season.

ROOT Sports will continue to feature the Big Sky with one game each week, while Montana and Montana State games not on ROOT will likely be once again picked up by SWX Montana. From there, though, streaming was also a big draw for Cats and Griz fans, and the streaming is what should get much, much better, as the Big Sky recently announced a deal with ESPN.

ESPN, the "worldwide leader in sports," and the Big Sky announced a new multi-year, multi-platform media rights agreement that will bring conference events to the industry-leading ESPN+ streaming service and the ESPN family of networks.

The new agreement replaces the league's previous deal with PlutoTV and moves Big Sky contests to ESPN+, which currently boasts more than 13.8 million subscribers. The deal also expands the conference's exposure on ESPNU and other ESPN linear networks.

Under the new agreement, more than 600 Big Sky events in both men's and women's sports will stream on ESPN+ and the ESPN App, which is available on nearly all streaming devices and platforms.

ESPNU will televise two football games each year, in addition to one regular-season men's basketball game. The championship games for the Big Sky men's and women's basketball tournaments will also be shown on ESPN networks, marking the first time the Big Sky women's basketball championship game will be broadcast on ESPN linear TV.

"This landmark agreement for the Big Sky and our membership rightfully aligns the nation's preeminent FCS conference with the strongest media brand in sports," Big Sky Commissioner Tom Wistrcill said in a release. "We are absolutely thrilled to join the ESPN family and deliver an elevated viewing experience with hundreds of Big Sky contests on ESPN+ each year. In addition, the numerous linear opportunities on ESPN networks now available to us is unprecedented among our peers, and yet another way that we will enhance the brand of the Big Sky."

ROOT Sports will also continue to broadcast conference football games, putting the league's contests inside millions of homes nationwide.

The first Big Sky event on ESPN networks as part of the new deal is the conference's annual Football Kickoff, which will stream live on ESPN+ Monday, July 26.

The Grizzlies and Bobcats both open their season Sept. 4, with Montana playing at Pac 12 power Washington for the second time in four years, while the Cats visit the University of Wyoming.


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