How are Fans Getting Their College Sports Fix?

Last Updated on June 5, 2014

Fans love their live college sports. It comes as no surprise then that over the years more and more NCAA games have been available on Cable and Satellite, with teams getting more national exposure than ever before. When teams and conferences create their own networks, the deals that cable providers make to carry these networks can be extremely lucrative. The most recent of these deals comes in the form of DISH network coming to terms with The Walt Disney Company to carry both the Longhorn Network and SEC Network.

In response to this new deal, it is interesting to note how college sports fans are really watching their favorite teams compete. Prior to SEC Network signing on with DISH, the only providers that had arranged to carry the network were not national ones. Thus, if someone from outside the coverage networks of either AT&T U-Verse or National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative would have wanted to watch a program on SEC Network starting this summer, he or she would have had to look elsewhere.

With the proliferation of online streaming services, such as Netflix, when viewers can’t get their college sports fix on TV, it makes sense that they would turn to the Internet. In fact, ESPN is giving 15 college conferences their own dedicated, national TV channels streamed over the Internet through WatchESPN. These channels will initially be available on Apple TV and Roku set-top devices, but there are plans to expand to computers, tablets, smartphones, etc. Typically, one can access WatchESPN, a website that allows one to stream a multitude of ESPN channels, if he or she is a current subscriber of a traditional cable provider such as Comcast, Time Warner Cable, AT&T U-verse TV, Cablevision, or Verizon FiOS. WatchESPN has also been available through Apple TV and Roku, whose subscribers have spent a higher than average time viewing WatchESPN, in comparison to those that have access to it through their cable subscriptions. The 15 new college conference channels are from those conferences that do not have a major TV presence currently, such as the ACC, America East, Big West, Mid-American, Missouri Valley, Southern, and Sun Belt.

The Costs of Watching College Sports

One of the advantages of WatchESPN providing these channels on Roku and Apple TV is that the conferences do not need to negotiate with cable or satellite providers about carriage fees and terms. What some viewers do not realize is this helps them from paying those TV subscriptions fees that seem to increase every year. When ESPN inks a deal with a certain conference (professional or collegiate), it usually pays a hefty price to broadcast the games. Those costs are then passed onto the TV providers (cable or satellite) that broadcast ESPN. Finally, those costs are then passed onto the viewers, who continue pay for the cable and satellite subscriptions due to the fact that these TV providers are still the main players in bringing live sports action into the home.

Besides the costs borne by viewers, TV providers also stand to bear dire costs by not providing their subscribers with the college teams that they want to watch. Presently, DirecTV, unlike its main competitor DISH Network, has not come to terms to carry the SEC Network. This has angered many fans, with some of them taking to Twitter to threaten that they would switch providers if DirecTV will not carry it. How many subscribers would actually switch still remains to be seen, but since many hardcore sports fans choose DirecTV because of its NFL Sunday Ticket package, the number could potentially be substantial.

A more in-depth breakdown of the costs associated with carrying collegiate sports on television can be found here.

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