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Archive for May 15, 2019

May 15, 2019 — The power of an athletic department and a cable network

The four host institutions for this weekend’s NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse championship — Maryland, North Carolina, Boston College, and Northwestern — released their schedule for their national quarterfinal matches. All four games will be on Saturday, giving the victors six days’ rest rather than five, a tactical move by all involved.

But I also noticed something interesting: only one of the four matches will be on an over-the-air cable network, and that’s the game between Maryland and Denver. Maryland is one of the members of the Big Ten, and the Big Ten Network had a 7 p.m. slot on Saturday for the game. Evidently, someone in the network brass talked with the Maryland athletics department to get the prime-time TV slot, meaning that this one game is likely to get more views than the other three games combined.

I think there are going to be a lot more of this kind of thing as the spread of boutique college sports TV outlets continues. The ACC Network, which starts this fall, is going to have enormous reach throughout the Eastern half of the United States. There is room for growth with the current Longhorn and Pac 12 Networks.

Most of the rest of what are badged as conference “networks” are only available through a computer or a streaming device. Heck, even the New England Small College Athletic Conference has its own digital network.

But all of these digital streaming networks are simply delivering games either live or on demand. There isn’t a dedicated slot on your TV with programming surrounding the games — talk shows, lifestyle shows, documentaries, and so forth. That’s the definition, for me, of an actual TV network.

Then again, perhaps the definition of a “network” is changing as radically as the broadcast landscape.