If, as Illini says, the CW demographic is a loser from Tribune's perspective, maybe they re-evaluate. If they have an affiliate in many major markets, it could perhaps be easily converted to a sports network, similar to the way FOXSports operates, with regional affiliates all over the country, that buy up rights to local teams and conferences in their regions.
This could become the CBS Sports (regional) network, with production by CBS Sports, airing stuff that they own / can buy the rights to...
For example the Denver affiliate airs events from the.mtn, Colorado Rockies, Nuggets and Avalanche.
The Salt Lake City affilitate airs the mtn., Utah Jazz, the Utah MLS games.
Affilites in the Southeast air the secondary SEC game, while the primary game is on CBS....
Now, I wouldn't be surprised that the individual affiliates would go after local sports properties, but the problem is that is something that can't be instituted on a nationwide basis (the Fox Sports Net model works for cable because there are certain sports properties, such as Pac-10 and Big 12 football, that they have national rights to). WGN in Chicago is the prime example - it is a CW affiliate with rights to the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, and, starting this season, the Blackhawks. However, there are clauses within the station's contract with the CW (as is the case with all of the network's affiliates) that they can only move regular network programming a fixed number of times per year. This has resulted in WGN, which used to show virtually every Cubs game over-the-air, to move a number of sporting events to WCIU (which is an independent station in Chicago). I have always thought that this was foolish since sports in Chicago, in particular, have always drawn higher ratings than any CW/WB/UPN shows (and I think that Sam Zell, who now owns the Tribune and is the one complaining about the CW, believes the same thing). That being said, that clause is still in place and as long as the CW exists, that will be a major roadblock to further sports programming.
I think that if we're looking at this issue in a vacuum, it's easy to say that a network should just set up a sports department. As I said about the economics of sports today, though, it's cable that's the profit maker. CBS makes a lot more profit by putting MWC games on mtn because of the dual income stream (subscriber revenue and advertising dollars) than putting games on over-the-air - the whole selling point of mtn is that it would have exclusive rights to certain MWC games and as soon as that's chipped away, the network risks getting put on the dreaded sports tier as opposed to basic cable in its home markets (this is already the case in a number of MWC markets) and loses out on a whole lot of money. With all due respect, the MWC isn't the Big Ten or SEC - the president of an over-the-air network isn't going to expend a lot of resources on a sports department that would be anchored by the MWC (and that president would rightly question why they should spend money or sell air time to broadcast games over-the-air nationally that never were broadcast nationally by other networks).
Aside from that and more importantly, as someone pointed out before, networks (whether over-the-air or cable) aren't in the business of giving conferences exposure just because of the goodness of their hearts. They give conferences exposure based upon what ratings those conferences provide back to the networks. If the MWC wants over-the-air coverage, it has to prove that it can deliver the ratings (and judging by their national ratings on ESPN historically, they cannot prove it) - no one in their right minds is just going to give national time slots to any conference off the street. Remember, you're trying to sell a package to a television executive that lives in New York or Los Angeles and basically knows (or thinks he or she knows) four things about college football: Notre Dame is a really famous football school, Michigan-Ohio State is a really big game, Snoop Dogg and Will Ferrell like hanging out on the sidelines at USC, and people in the South love the SEC as much as NASCAR so we ought to broadcast it even though we have no clue why they love that crap so much. Not surprisingly, the three college sports entities that have across-the-board great television contracts and exposure happen to be Notre Dame, the Big Ten, and the SEC, while USC is put on TV at every turn (the Pac-10 overall has what I would characterize as good, but not great, TV contracts). The chances that these NY/LA-based executives would even think two seconds about what a group of college sports fans that live in a decent-sized city such as Denver, much less places like Wyoming or New Mexico, would want to watch is pretty remote.