Man, ESPN and its subsidiary the SEC Network sure are fun to rag on.
They seem to provide a never-ending supply of ammo to light fans up, too. This past week shows that in two ways. Most spectacularly, of course, was SEC Network analyst Todd Walker’s pronouncement on Wednesday night that the four SEC teams with the best chance to win the national championship are Tennessee, Florida, LSU and Vanderbilt.
In response, no less than 5,000 Arkansas baseball fans displayed disbelief that the No. 2 Razorbacks were left off such a list for Tennessee. Sure, Walker likely intentionally left Arkansas off the list to poke the bear and gin up ratings, but that’s show business. If that was his intention, mission accomplished. The outrage was still simmering even after Arkansas collapsed down the stretch and lost Game 2 in its series at No. 12 Vanderbilt, and then lost a nail-biter in the rubber match on Saturday afternoon.
That Game 2 loss, as much as Hog fans hated to see it, only made Game 3 of Arkansas vs Vanderbilt all the more enticing. If Arkansas had beaten the Commodores in the rubber match, they would have won win the SEC title outright.
As it is, they still clinched a share of the SEC title.
Arkansas vs Vanderbilt Deserved Prime Time
So, essentially you had a situation where Arkansas and Vanderbilt were set to play in a hugely important game in the nation’s toughest league with the conference title on the line. On top of that, there was likely more interest in the game than there would have been otherwise thanks to Todd Walker’s absurd list.
And what did ESPN decide to do?
Put the game on one of their main channels? Nope. Put it on the SEC Network itself? No, that would make too much sense.
They put it on SEC Network +. So, it cost more to stream it and went out to a much smaller audience.
A few days ago, Razorback sportscaster Mike Irwin spoke harshly about ESPN’s decision to stream last week’s Arkansas vs South Carolina series on ESPN+ instead of a main channel. The same logic holds true with the SEC Network and its streaming earlier this week about doing this kind of thing.
“You Don’t Have a Brain In Your Head”
“If you’re an ESPN venue and you have teams like that, why would you not want that on your airwaves,” Irwin said on Pig Trail Nation’s “Ask Mike”. “It’s because you don’t have a brain in your head. It’s because your executives don’t know what they’re doing.”
Or, as his co-host Courtney Mims pointed out, it’s simply a business decision. They want subscribers who have to pay in to ESPN+ and SEC Network+ so badly they will essentially sacrifice high-profile games that should air on the main channels for the sake of marginal gains around these smaller, streaming channels.
In my humble opinion, this is exactly what happened. Arkansas and Vanderbilt fans, as well as thousands of other college baseball fans, fell victim to the “Yellowstone Effect.” If you haven’t heard of the Yellowstone Effect, it’s because I just made it up.
Kevin Costner Knows What’s Up
Let’s first touch base on the show. If you don’t know what “Yellowstone” is, you’ve been living under a rock more dense than our newly beloved Todd Walker’s head. The wildly popular series on Paramount centers on the Dutton family of the Dutton Yellowstone Ranch. It stars Kevin Costner and a bunch of other modern-day-horse-riding cowboys who cling to the “old ways” and just kill people who make them mad. After they do this, they throw the bodies in a huge ravine called the “Train Station,” which is at the state border where no law really exists. But I digress.
Everyone used to be able to watch it on Paramount. However, when it became wildly popular, Paramount apparently at one point moved it to Paramount+, as in plus-a-higher cable bill. Sound familiar?
But then the executives decided it would be too simple to leave well enough alone and moved it to the Paramount Network or Paramount Network app (these networks and their love affair with apps).
It would be nice if ESPN would use its programming power for good instead of evil. Apparently, however, they don’t want to promote the game so that maybe someday the audience will be large enough to charge higher ad rates. Instead, they would rather force fans to subscribe to a whole lot of programming they just don’t give a damn about in order to see the few things they do.
More from Mike Irwin going off on streaming channels and ESPN at 11:20 below:
Evin Demirel contributed to the above column.
Get an in-depth preview of Arkansas vs Vanderbilt Game 3 and follow here: