Yesterday the Sun Belt announced that they have agreed to a new deal with ESPN that will gain the conference exposure on multiple levels. In the press release and teleconference, there was a ton of information that was shared and there were even some questions that were left unanswered.
After taking a day to do some thinking and reading up on some of the more finer details, I am here to tell you why this deal is going to be great for the league but also why it may be a pain in the rear end for the fan bases in the conference.
Either way, the exposure on national television is going to increase for the Sun Belt and having the league represented on the first Saturday in December every season is a big step forward as the conference has locked in their footprint.
What is ESPN+?
Much like Netflix and the WWE Network, the four-letter network is getting into to the streaming game and will be looking to make it a profitable business. Starting some time this spring, the network will go life for all of the cord cutters for $4.99 per month.
As of right now, this platform will be showing MLB, MLS, and NHL events to join along with the Sun Belt. On the platform, all events aired on Sun Belt campuses will be available for your viewing experience. However, ESPN will be keeping the current Watch ESPN platform and it is unsure if all Sun Belt football games will be included behind this paywall.
As of right now, you will not be able to access ESPN’s linear channels (ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU) on ESPN+.
Why is this good?
Don’t like it? Just ask a C-USA fan about their current television situation. Staring in a few years the Sun Belt will be awarded with 10 games per year on the network’s linear channels and that will in turn be great exposure for the league.
The first reaction is probably going to be that all of these games will cause a shift to more weekday football and that will in turn ruin the fan’s gameday experience. However, Commissioner Karl Benson stated in the negotiations it was vital for the Sun Belt to keep the majority of games on Saturday and that is exactly what this deal will allow them to do.
Why is it bad?
It appears that ESPN is using the conference as a test run as they are going to see just how well this ESPN+ platform will work. It is unclear at the moment how many fans are going to be willing to pay this extra cost per month in order to, more than likely, just watch a couple games per year.
It will be interesting to see the fans reaction to this and the subscribers that ESPN gets in this experiment will likely determine the future of this platform.
Either way, I believe the risk is worth the reward for the Sun Belt. Drop in the comments section and let us know what you think.