ESPN packing more hoops into the stream
Nowhere is ESPN’s commitment to its streaming platforms more evident than in college basketball. The company will air more than 3,100 men’s games this season and 2,340 of them will be exclusive to streaming on either ESPN+, ESPN3 or the streaming channels for SEC Network and ACC Network.
That represents 75.5% of ESPN’s total college basketball inventory of live games that will be streamed. The 2,340 streamed games are up from 2,000 streamed games in 2018-19, the year ESPN+ made its debut. ESPN+ will carry 1,500 of those games alone this season.
ESPN will be similarly busy covering women’s basketball, with more than 250 games available across the network’s linear channels in addition to 2,200 streaming games on ESPN+ and its other streaming platforms.
One primary source of the increase in streaming is the Big 12, which recently struck a deal between ESPN and eight of the conference’s teams to form Big 12 Now, a streaming service for member schools except Oklahoma and Texas. (Texas has its own deal with ESPN for the Longhorn Network, while the Sooners have a direct deal with Fox Sports.) Forty-one men’s basketball games are pegged for Big 12 Now, which is carried by ESPN+.
“We’re extremely excited about reaching into that digital market,” said Jeff Jackson, the Big 12’s executive associate commissioner for men’s basketball. “We hope to create a scenario where we maybe have a chance to hit more homes, hit more people with the message of the Big 12.”
Jackson said Big 12 schools also are eager to exercise some of the flexibility with tipoff times that comes with streaming games.