The PAC-2's Deal With The CW is a Big Win For the Big Sky

The PAC-2 finally has a TV deal, however two other schools in the Northwest benefit by virtue of association.

Portand State and Idaho State will appear on The CW as part of Oregon State and Washington State's deal with the network
Source: Jack Ellis/CougCenter

College football's long-awaited marriage finally happened. The PAC-2 and The CW are close to signing a deal to air Washington State and Oregon State home games.

The partnership is ideal given The CW has gradually made a name for itself as a sports broadcaster over the last year. The network already has the rights to 13 ACC football games and 28 basketball games per year. This agreement began in 2023 after the CW received the package of Raycom-produced games from regional sports networks.

The deal with Washington State and Oregon State begins with much fanfare on Labor Day Weekend. Both schools open their seasons hosting Big Sky schools. Washington State hosts Portland State, while Oregon State hosts Idaho State. Although a small development, it contributes much to the growing exposure of the Big Sky.

In addition to receiving two guaranteed games on ESPN's linear networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU), the conference also partners with Scripps Sports to air Big Sky games to Scripps-owned over-the-air stations throughout the Big Sky's footprint. Spots on ESPN's linear channels give the league increased legitimacy among casual fans, while games on over-the-air stations increase accessibility.

Despite these opportunities, an appearance on The CW could bring the Big Sky's exposure and reputation to new heights. Below are the viewership statistics of the six regular season games broadcast on ESPN's linear networks since 2021 and the two CW games involving FCS games. (Statistics provided by

Big Sky TV Ratings on Linear Networks
Source: Table Created by Author From Data via
TV Ratings of FCS Games on The CW
Source: Table Created by Author From Data via

The data does not tell the whole story, but appearances on The CW will likely be more beneficial for the Big Sky than late-night appearances on ESPN networks. Of course, Florida State's #4 ranking heading into the North Alabama game and its status as a national brand skews the data to some degree.

However, VMI's game against an NC State squad with less brand appeal and tradition than Florida State still drew more viewers than a top-10 matchup between the #2 and #3 FCS teams on October 21st.
Portland State and Idaho State benefit significantly from The CW appearance.

As the table shows, Idaho State and Portland State have never appeared on an ESPN linear network since the advent of the Big Sky contract in 2021. Five of the Big Sky's 12 schools have yet to appear on a linear network, while a Montana school has appeared in every game.

Portland State and Idaho State will receive exposure from appearing on The CW that they would otherwise not have due to their recent lack of success on the field. In a way, this helps grow the Big Sky's brand. When most people think of the Big Sky, they likely gravitate to the Montana schools and Idaho. Portland State and Idaho State do not come to mind.

The Big Sky's games on ESPN linear networks are significant opportunities, but they do not offer the exposure of playing on an over-the-air network, even if it is The CW. The conference already has a presence on network TV in its geographic footprint. The PAC-2's contract with The CW allows new viewers to introduce them to the Big Sky. The PAC-12's decline was tragic, but ultimately a victory came out of it for the Big Sky.