Football is a clear-cut game.
One team scores either 1, 2, 3 or 6 points at one. At the end of 60 minutes, the team with more points wins.
Likewise, for decades, watching college football was a clear-cut process. You clicked into ABC, CBS, ESPN or whatever channel and you watched your game.
If it wasn’t on TV, then at least it was on the radio. It was either clearly TV and radio, or just radio.
Since this system worked far too well for for so long, naturally the powers that be have decided to throw a wrench into it.
There’s now a third category for viewing games that exists in a twilight world between an actual television broadcast and frantically clicking on ESPN’s Gamecast for updates.
It’s Internet-only streaming, which is something that Arkansas football fans may not have to mess with in a few years once SEC team coffers are filled with money from the addition of Texas and Oklahoma (more on that later).
There was no better example of this twilight-zone genre of game broadcasting than today’s Rice vs Arkansas game, which arkansas won 38-17.
Arkansas vs Rice: 38-17
Here are a couple of the biggest plays:
The Headache that was Arkansas vs Rice
Arkansas’ season-opening win vs Rice aired on ESPN+.
The fact that ESPN is calling it “ESPN+” when it really is an add-on to the SEC Network (owned by ESPN) is perhaps the most confusing part.
“I don’t know if ESPN does this on purpose or something, but get rid of the plus stuff if it’s confusing to people,” said HawgSports.com publisher Trey Biddy.
“Why not call it SEC Network Stream?”
You do not need an extra subscription. If you have access to ESPN, you have access to this game, he points out.
“If you have a regular cable subscription or YouTubeTV, Cox, Comcast, DirecTV, any of those types of things, you can use those login credentials on the ESPN app and view all their programming there.”
“That’s where you’re going to find, when you go to the ESPN app, you’re logged in — just go to ‘Browse football’ and you’ll see all the football games, including the Arkansas game.”
New “Razorback Network” Channel Should Resolve This
For years, the Texas Longhorns have had their own network on ESPN.
With Texas and Oklahoma set to join the SEC in the next few years, expect the coffers to open for most every SEC team to have its own channel.
The money to be gained from this SEC expansion should fun the resources it will take to pull this off.
We don’t have hard numbers yet, but the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Texas and Oklahoma will go from making about about $34 to $35 annually in their current contract with the Big 12 to an expected $60 million annually in the SEC.
Even without Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC, the conference’s bottom line was still set to skyrocket.
Consider that “beginning with the 2024-25 season, ESPN/ABC will be taking over the Saturday afternoon football TV package that CBS currently holds,” USA Today’s Steve Berkowitz reported.
“ESPN/ABC will pay the SEC ‘in the low $300 million range’ annually, according to Sports Business Journal, a significant increase on the $55 million the league makes per year from its contract with CBS.
So, without Texas and Oklahoma, the SEC already is headed toward an incremental revenue increase of about $245 million in 2024-25.”
Adding Texas and Oklahoma to the mix would raise the SEC’s estimated conference revenue to $1.301 billion within a few years (this total also accounts for an expected expansion of the College Football Playoffs).
For comparison, the entire NCAA is expected to bring in about $1.28 billion in revenue for 2024-25, Berkowitz reported.
Adding tens of millions of extra dollars into the coffers of each SEC program should resolve the issue of what channel which non-conference game will air on once and for all.
In a late July podcast, SEC analyst Jake Crain said: “I think each SEC school will have an individual ESPN Plus channel where, if you want to watch baseball games, women’s volleyball, whatever, equestrian, quidditch, it doesn’t matter, you are going to have to go to ESPN Plus to be able to watch that.”
It will be a place where every sport, especially college baseball, can get shine. But these new channels will be especially useful during non-conference games like Rice vs Arkansas that otherwise are sent to the nether-world of Internet-only streaming.
I agree with Crain that a Razorback Network channel as part of a larger suite of SEC team channels is inevitable given all the cash coming the SEC’s way.
With the confusion all the Arkansas vs Rice ESPN+ mess is causing, this new era can’t get here soon enough.
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