The digital era’s effect on college sports has never been more obvious than it will be Saturday, when all three in-state FBS teams play Week 2 non-conference football games that will not be shown on conventional television.
Fourth-ranked Oklahoma hosts South Dakota on pay-per-view while McNeese State at Oklahoma State is on ESPN+ and Tulsa visits San Jose State on an online ESPN stream. Because of the opponents, the three games were not selected by networks for traditional broadcasts.
“I think people balk at some of those things initially, but it’s kind of the way of the world now,” TU athletic director Derrick Gragg said regarding digital broadcasts in the spring. “I do think avid sports fans will always do what they need to do to follow the sports they’re trying to access.”
The Sooners playing on pay-per-view is not a new development, with one game from each of the past seven seasons being designated for such treatment, including the memorable overtime win against Army last year.
As part of OU’s lucrative contract with Fox Sports, Fox controls one football game per year. Ron Thulin (play-by-play), Gary Reasons (analyst) and Lesley McCaslin (sideline) will call Saturday’s game for Fox Sports Oklahoma, the Sooners’ first matchup with an FCS opponent since 2012.
The cost varies for the broadcast, which will be shown by satellite, cable and streaming providers. To watch it on SoonerSports.tv, the online price is $54.99.
To watch the Cowboys vs. the Cowboys on Saturday night, the only option is an ESPN+ subscription that costs $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year. The broadcast is a result of the Big 12’s new digital network, the Big 12 Now.
“It’s easy to subscribe to and it’s cutting-edge,” league commissioner Bob Bowlsby said at Big 12 media days in July. “It is very much anticipatory of what tomorrow’s technology environment is going to look like. … Obviously cable is not going to go away. It’s going to continue to be a huge part of our strategy, but we are on the right side of technology.”
Although TU-San Jose State is broadcast on ESPN3, which is available via streaming through TV and Internet providers, some of the Hurricane’s games will likely be on ESPN+ starting in 2020, when the American Athletic Conference’s groundbreaking television contract takes effect.
“ESPN+ is the cutting-edge future,” American commissioner Mike Aresco said in March. “It is exceptionally reasonably priced. It is easy to access and use. It is fast-growing and is available everywhere.
“With the unmatched promotional clout of Disney and with its aggressive content acquisitions, ESPN+ will be a major presence in the digital age, and being a branded part of ESPN+ will be like having our own conference network, and more of our sports will now be available to more of our fans than ever before.”
As more people ditch traditional cable and satellite TV — an increase of 48 percent in the past eight years, according to Nielsen — digital offerings will become common and less of an issue for sports fans.
“ESPN+ is available in the same way that Netflix is, for example, now,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN’s executive vice president of programming and scheduling. “It’s across every platform, every technology, every over-the-top device, whether those are AppleTVs or Rokus or Chromecast, etc., on your iPhone, on your computer, on your Android device.
“Everywhere that you can get the ESPN app, frankly, ESPN+ is available on all of those devices and technologies. So it’s pretty widely available.”