Last month rumors started spreading that the American Sports Network had met its demise, giving fans of Group of Five programs serious concerns about the availability of sports broadcasts moving forward. The former turned out to be true but not the latter.
This afternoon Sinclair Broadcast Group, Silver Chalice, and 120 Sports announced a gigantic merger of the three companies’ broadcasting forces into a yet-to-be-named conglomerate. The new venture will leverage Sinclair’s linear distribution through their American Sports Network assets while also providing industry-leading online streaming options through the resources of Campus Insiders. 120 Sports enters the picture by bringing “a broad array of post-game highlights, up-to-the-moment news, and original, long-form programming as well as full game archives provided by various partners.”
The merger combines the three companies and aims to create a platform that could eventually outreach that of ESPN. While WatchESPN is currently the industry leader in sports streaming it does require a cable subscription to view. Campus Insiders was completely free to view and it’s safe to assume that trend will continue with their new merger venture. As less and less consumers opt to pay for monthly cable subscriptions the appeal of subscription-less entertainment options such as this new merger increases exponentially.
Fans that prefer to watch their programs through traditional broadcasts will still be able to follow their favorite teams just as they did with the American Sports Network. The merger provides a perfect bridge between current cable consumption habits and an inevitable cordless future as the American Sports Network was broadcasting in millions of homes over the past two years.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the merger will be exactly how 120 Sports fits into the picture. Will they simply provide commentary and in-game coverage or could their presence be expanded to create syndicated programming such as talk shows?
The idea of an “Undisputed” or “SportsCenter” competitor that focuses on the G5 conferences is highly enticing and could do wonders to help the G5 gain much needed exposure.
I was unfamiliar with 120 Sports before this merger was announced but I took a quick look at their website and came away quite impressed. Their video offerings are of very high quality, both in terms of on-air talent as well as the technical specifications of the streams. Here’s a link to a video piece about the potential early signing period for college football as an example.
Per Chris Ripley, President and CEO of Sinclair, the merger will also bring improvements to the future network’s existing television network. "With this incomparable set of strategic partners, we are evolving ASN into a vastly improved network with access to exclusive content and a combined linear and premium OTT offering that is the model for the future of television," Ripley announced in a recent PR release.
The American Sports Network held football broadcasting rights for several conferences including Conference USA, the MAC, and the Sun Belt. Campus Insiders delivered broadcasts for over 500 live sporting events last season and made waves as being the first streaming service to gain broadcasting rights to an FBS bowl game. They have been closely partnered with the Mountain West Conference over the past few years.
Stay tuned, for the following weeks will bring announcements regarding a full programming schedule, new product offerings, network branding, distribution partners, sponsors, and studio details.
While we’ll have to wait for more details to be announced to fully gauge the transition, it’s hard to walk away from this news with anything besides overwhelming excitement for what it could mean for Underdog conferences in both the short and long terms.