SBD/June 26, 2013/Media

The Old College Try: ESPN, Conference Nets Look To Capitalize On CWS Popularity

College World Series exposure on ESPN could be altered by a new tourney format
The "optimism around college baseball’s TV potential stems largely from the results produced" during the College World Series, which since '07 has seen viewership range "between 1.1 million and 1.9 million on ESPN," according to Matthew Harris of the Baton Rouge ADVOCATE. ESPN2 in that time frame "posted averages between 770,000 and 1 million viewers." The format of the CWS "certainly plays to the network’s advantage." For the first four days of the tournament, ESPN "gets two games -- one in the afternoon and one at night." Holding the championship series on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday "ensures it doesn’t compete head to head" with Wimbledon or the Stanley Cup Final. However, questions "arise over what role the network might play in shaping the event." The NCAA in the past two years has "discussed the possibility of altering the NCAA tournament’s format, adding a 32-team round at campus sites with best-of-three series to replace the traditional regional stage." Moving forward, college baseball "figures prominently into ESPN’s plans, including 270 live games and branded showcases" such as ACC Monday and the SEC Game of the Week. Conferences are "eager to use baseball as another avenue to access TV revenue, and follow the CWS’ method of using the exposure to drive attendance on campus." How the SEC Network handles college baseball "will offer an insight into whether the sport -- outrageously popular at LSU, Mississippi State and Arkansas -- appears as a leading candidate." SEC Network Senior Programming Dir Chris Turner said, "What is happening on national networks will not change moving forward. We’re simply migrating some content over and boosting our inventory as it expands for the SEC Network" (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 6/23).
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