ESPN Launches Internet Channels For 15 Different College Conferences
ESPN is giving 15 college conferences "their own dedicated, national TV channels stocked with live events and on-demand replays -- streamed over the Internet, initially to Apple TV and Roku devices," according to Todd Spangler of VARIETY. The net is launching the initiative through WatchESPN and will aggregate "conference-related programming from ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3 and ESPNews, starting with live men’s and women’s college basketball events as well as replays of college football games." The conference channels at launch: ACC, America East, Atlantic Sun, Big South, Big West, Horizon, MAC, MAAC, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Southern, Sun Belt, Southland and a channel for HBCUs. The idea is to "provide a space on the TV dial ... for collegiate sports conferences to connect with fans." The 15 channels do not include the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12, which "have launched or are launching their own traditional TV networks." ESPN VP/WatchESPN & ESPN3 Damon Phillips said that the net "focused only on conferences that don’t currently have linear TV network strategies." Spangler reports the channels later this year "will include live college football, Olympic events like swimming and track and filed and non-event programming, such as news, highlights, analysis and features." They also will add "on-demand video clips from ESPN.com, and are slated to be accessible on computers, smartphones, tablets and other connected-TV devices at a later date." ESPN VP/College Sports Programming Rosalyn Durant: "This is about aggregating our college sports in a way that is more discoverable. We have a broad rights set in college sports, so it made sense with the conferences we have relationships with to do this" (VARIETY.com, 2/27).
DISTRIBUTION DYNAMIC: Knoxville-based WBIR-NBC’s Jim Matheny noted the SEC Network is set to launch in August, but there "are not many signed letters of intent from cable and satellite companies." The only "major provider in most of the Southeast to sign on with the SEC Network is AT&T's U-Verse." There is "still no deal with Comcast, Time Warner, or DirecTV." There also is not a deal with Dish, though "various reports in the last month have indicated they are close to an agreement." ESPN is "banking on the SEC's rabid fans to apply pressure on cable and satellite providers" (WBIR.com, 2/26).