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Scott D. Pierce: Big Sky's big TV deal really not a big deal

It's great when the local college teams and they leagues they play in get television exposure.

And the fact the Big Sky Conference is getting more TV exposure for its football teams than ever before is certainly a step in the right direction.

But — and you knew there was going to be a "but" — when you listen to a league commissioner get all hyperbolic about how "exciting" this sort of thing is, make sure you take it with a grain of salt.

"More than half of the 36 conference games will be televised this year, including five regionally on Altitude," said Big Sky Conference commissioner Doug Fullerton. "We have two teams in our league that will have all of their games televised.

"There are a lot of Bowl Subdivision teams who wished they received that type of television exposure."

That sounds great. It's also incredibly deceptive.

Of the 36 Big Sky football games currently scheduled to air this fall, half are on local TV stations in Montana. So, yeah, Montana and Montana State will have all their games televised.

Eight games are on a variety of relatively minor regional sports channels. Three are on Northern Arizona University's digital channel.

Five will indeed air on Altitude, which reaches 5.2 million homes — 4.5 percent of the homes in America that have televisions.

The only game featuring a Big Sky team that will get any real exposure is Montana State at Michigan State on the Big Ten Network (73 million homes).

So, no, there aren't a lot of Bowl Subdivision teams who wish they could receive this type of television exposure. That statement was, well, ridiculous.

PRESEASON NFL: It's always been tempting to pretty much completely ignore preseason NFL games on TV.

After all, the games themselves are utterly meaningless. They count for nothing. They're essentially televised scrimmages.

But, on the other hand, a lot of people watch them. Believe it or not.

According to Nielsen Media Research, the most-watch sporting event on TV last weekend was the preseason game between the Bills and the Titans. And it wasn't even close — that game attracted 7.9 million viewers — 20 percent more than the 6.3 million who watched the final round of the Bridgestone Invitational golf tournament. And that, of course, featured Tiger Woods winning.

(The rest of the top five, by the way, were the 4.7 million who watched a baseball game on ESPN; the 4 million who watched split-national baseball coverage on Fox; and the 2.5 million who watched a NASCAR race on ESPN.)

So, if you're wondering why networks will pay seemingly insane rights fees to the NFL, remember that viewers would rather watch a meaningless preseason game than anything else.

Weird, huh?

e-mail: pierce@desnews.com