Earlier this week we ran through the first half of our 10 sports media questions related to this upcoming football season. Below is the second half of various things we're curious about as we slowly inch closer to the fall...
5) Will ESPN GamePlan Get An Overhaul?
Not too long ago ESPN GamePlan was a must for college football fans. Often you'd get stuck with lackluster games due to your geographic location while a clash of the titans took place forcing you to pay up for the package. However over the years, the package has lost almost all of its value.
The Big Ten Network, Fox, and now the Pac 12 Networks have entered the fray and have removed a lot of the surplus of games. Meanwhile, ESPNU and ESPN3 have become more prominent to consumers in addition to ESPN's Goal Line package, which bounces around from game to game that you may be missing.
The package is still not offered in HD (IT'S 2012 DAMNIT!) so the games themselves look like a Youtube video circa 2005 on a big screen television. Many of the games are individually available as PPV options in addition to ESPN3.com and random channels thanks to syndication through Raycom.
I labeled the package as worthless back in September and there were some comments from former subscribers who also communicated that they no longer saw the need for it.
The demand for additional college football is certainly there. However with no HD, a drying up surplus of games, and no real tier one or tier two games on the package anymore, you have to wonder if ESPN will totally repackage this product as it has very little value and nowhere near where they price it at currently.
4) What To Expect From Pac 12 Network's Rookie Campaign?
Rewind back to Big Ten Network's launch in 2007. Thought to be a high risk/high reward venture, the network launched with little distribution to the dismay of Big Ten fans. Cable operators commented that nobody wanted to watch crappy games like Michigan vs. Appalachian State (the network's first live game along with one other).
The Appalachian State upset along with improving lineups of games and solid production quality helped get the network over the hump. The rookie year was rough with the network stuck in carriage purgatory even through basketball season, but when the fall rolled around again, BTN was solidified as a long term viable entity and moneymaker.
Other conferences have used used the tactic of bluffing their own network over the years to leverage better television deals, but nobody has pulled the trigger on their own network until now. The Pac 12 will launch one national network and 6 regional networks, which a lot of folks are very suspect on as they'll lack substantial sports content. In a way, it's the next evolutionary step from BTN with the regionals providing that same risk/reward proposition.
The national network is already in a good place having worked out agreements with Time Warner, Comcast, Bright House, and Cox that will get them in 40 million households. That said, there has been little chatter on if DirectTV, Dish, Charter, and others will also offer the channel.
Carriage issues are to be expected, but more intrigue lies in who will be the on air talent for the networks? What original programming will they offer? What will the quality of the games be throughout the season and how accessible will highlights be?
Thus far the Pac 12 has shrewdly maneuvered to this point, so a lot of media folks are curious as to what to expect when the fall rolls around from their startup networks.