Tuesday, August 19, 2014

MAC and ESPN Tie the Knot...

Huge news in MAC-land today.  Actually started to leak out yesterday, but the league has nailed a big deal with ESPN that will take a couple of important steps to helping the conference provide a better product to fans in the coming years.

If you read this blog, you know we have gone on and on about the sacrifices made by the fan bases for weeknight games.  The emptyish stadiums for most of the games has backed me up...among those of us who are the year-in and year-out fans, I think we felt a little sold out.

Early on, (like 2 ESPN deals ago), it was especially irksome because we were more or less doing it for free.  So, maybe the feeling that we were sold out was acerbated by being sold out for a bag of potato chips.

Those things have changed...and, there's significant benefits to the programs and the fans in the ESPN deal announced today in Bristol.

The MAC's official release can be read here.

The deal is big. It is long-term, involves real money and provides some important benefits to fans.  Let's review.

First, the money is finally reaching a critical mass.  At $90K per year, it was pretty weak.  $650K per year per school is a big step up and is meaningful cash to everyone program in the MAC, allowing better coaches, better facilities and better recruiting, all of which makes life better for fans.

Second, ESPN is going to contribute space on ESPN3 to ensure that every MAC football game can be viewed through the platform with an expanded presence of men's and women's basketball.  This is a big deal for fans...especially basketball games.  Yes, I know it is not the same as being on the actual TV, but video is moving to the web, and what the MAC will have has been described elsewhere as an SEC-lite/virtual network.  If you have access to ESPN3 (and Comcast and Dish customers both do), then you will be tied in to a lifeline to feed your MAC habit.

It means that hard core fans can follow their team more effectively on the road...this is especially true for fans that have dispersed around the country.  I see this as a payback to fans for sacrificing by attending a football game at 6 pm on a Tuesday night...even if it is a partial payback, fans clearly get something out of this deal.

I think the added cable sports networks really helped the MAC nail this stuff down.  Like any 24-hour channel, ESPN has to think, "WTF are we going to put on the air," and with Fox, CBS and NBC all trying to answer the same question, I think the MAC had some negotiating power.  Also, people did watch the MAC games in very solid number for cable and MAC football is entertaining.

Anyway, I'm excited and happy for our conference.  I have been critical in the past, so credit where credit is due to conference leadership.  To me, this is five times more beneficial than another obscure and money-losing bowl tie-in.  They have delivered what appears to be a very good deal for us and I think fans will get some benefits.  Nicely done.

Update:  Hustle Belt has a comprehensive explanation of what the deal entails.


NOEL said...

Good review and I agree with the significance of the deal on a few levels and as a dispersed fan I appreciate the access afforded to me moving forward!

Anonymous said...

The problem is all these new sports channels (Fox, CBS, NBCSN)will not have MAC games.