Insights and Observations
Monday, May 23, 2005
By Henry Hinton
Only one known cure for
sparse TV slate
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Commissioner Britton Banowsky has orchestrated a television strategy for the
league this year that will get more games than ever on the tube.
Unfortunately, East Carolina will not be the beneficiary.
At first glance, this
year’s television contracts are not very sexy. However, in putting together
a new television contract, Banowsky utilized the theory of getting more
games on the air while allowing the primary carrier, ESPN, to drop back in
its coverage and financial commitment to the conference.
Overall, the league makes
more money and has
more games on television than ever
before by bringing in a little known new channel that is hoping to utilize
this agreement and similar ones in the country to make a name for itself.
College Sports Television
Network has just signed a
six-year deal with C-USA that not
only includes coverage of football and basketball but a number of
non-revenue sports as well.
ESPN will still be the
marquee’ carrier for league sports but will dramatically cut back its
commitment to the league. The cable sports giant will air only a minimum of
12 regular season Conference USA football games this coming season. ESPN
will also air the first ever conference championship game on Saturday, Dec.
3, and five bowl games which will feature a league participant.
Getting to that
championship game might be East Carolina’s only hope of appearing on ESPN
this year. Airing of Pirate games was once taken for granted on the premiere
sports television network. But a lack of wins at ECU has translated into
little interest to a national audience, so there has been little coverage in
the last few years.
The Pirates were offered
just one regular season appearance as part of the conference package this
season. The opener with Duke will be aired on CSTV on Saturday, Sept. 3. The
game time was moved to 1 p.m. to
accommodate the broadcast, meaning
it will be played in sweltering heat and humidity in Greenville.
The recently realigned
conference will welcome some new members for the 2005 football campaign and
they will get some national exposure early on.
Coach George O’Leary will
take his Central Florida team to Columbia as the contestant in Steve
Spurrier’s debut at South Carolina to open the season. That game will be the
featured first Thursday night ESPN broadcast on Sept. 1.
Ole’ Miss travels to play
at Memphis in Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in the traditional Labor Day
game. That contest will be aired on ESPN at 4:30 on Sept. 5.
Other than those two
games, the only other regular season game that are to air on the ESPN
mothership will be a Friday night Southern Miss-UAB match-up on Oct. 21.
All other games as part
of the ESPN contract will be carried by ESPN2 and all but two of them will
air in the first three weeks of the season.
So, check your local
listings, but it is pretty obvious that coverage of this year’s Conference
USA football is going to be a bit of a challenge if you live outside the
immediate area of a league participant.
CSTV is just getting off
the ground and while it has signed contracts with many of the large national
cable carriers, it may take a few years to get coverage in your area.
DirecTV has agreed to put the games up on the bird and cable companies such
as Cox, Time Warner, Comcast, Charter and Adelphia have signed national
agreements with the new network.
However, local operators
will have the option to carry CSTV games or not and many are having trouble
finding room for another sports network that will provide little audience
and revenue in the first few years. So, it is not a slam dunk that your
cable provider will air the CSTV games even if you are a customer of one of
ECU will still have a
local TV package that will air on WITN and will include at least four
football games this year.
Nowhere is the Pirates’
drop from the national scene more glaring than this just announced set of
television schedules for the 2005 season.
At one time, ECU was one
of two major universities (the other being Notre Dame) which had its own
agreement with a major television network. Those days seem long gone at this
National television is
driven by two things: audience and revenue. Those things go hand in hand and
there is only one way for ECU to get back to the point that the executives
who run those companies will be willing to let us back in the door.
As Oakland Raiders owner
Al Davis once said: "Just win baby!"
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02/23/2007 10:16:20 AM