ESPN GamePlan Overpriced and Over Hyped Has Lost Its Luster To College Football Fans
Conceptually, ESPN GamePlan makes complete sense. More football games. Given displaced alumni all around the country, you would think that just like the NFL Sunday Ticket, a premium package of additional football games would be a great thing.
And for years I’ve paid the roughly $140 or so knowing that there are few people in the world who have more access to football than myself.
But in terms of value, common sense, and actual usage of the package, it’s one of the worst deals on cable and satellite, potentially even worse than renting “Something Borrowed,” duped by female company.
The most glaring issue is that the package does not come in HD. (Cue my yuppie jackass persona to bemoan stretched out standard definition games that actually are being shown elsewhere in HD.)
A little known secret is that GamePlan games are usually available in HD by other means, but not through GamePlan. College football fans have been some of the fastest adopters of ESPN3.com, as seemingly the whole portfolio of ESPN network games are available there, and in HD. If you’re actually savvy enough to hook it up on your television, you’ll really find no difference between the regular broadcast and the Al Gore version.
Then, thanks to various complex relationships between the ACC and SEC having their own syndication networks with the help of ESPN and Raycom, you can almost always find a good chunk of the games advertised as being GamePlan exclusives on random channels you already have.
The general sports tier and even your local channels will very often opt in to showing a tier two or tier three game rather than running paid programming or reruns.
Most of these aired on the sports tier or local channels. Which game here could you have lived without?
ESPN3 is not the only product diluting the “unique” value of GamePlan, though. Last year, ESPN unveiled ESPN Goal-line, their version of the Red Zone Channel, which bounces you around with look-ins to all of the games (in HD of course), giving you all the big plays across a wide spectrum of games. The channel is free for many and is usually found to fill time on ESPN News and in between games on ESPN and ESPN 2.
A lot of cable and satellite companies also have individual game pay-per-view options, meaning you can buy games A La Carte, just in case you’re in a pinch and can’t commit to the full season.
Given ESPN’s broad amount of broadcasting deals with various conferences, there is currently an abundance of programming that can only be found via GamePlan. However, the reality is that soon enough that surplus will evaporate. FX and Fox have their foot in the door, Versus/NBC Sports Network is drooling to add additional college programming, the Pac Ten Network will launch next year, and other upstarts like LHN, BTN, and The Mountain will continue to hoard off a larger portion of their games. The bottom line is that ESPN’s market share in broadcasting the vast majority of college games has peaked and will slowly leak out over the next decade or so.
This trend is already underway as GamePlan’s weekly schedules over the years have continued to become less attractive to even the biggest diehards.
I feel like a chump for renewing when I never really watch it. The one game I clicked over to watch during a timeout this weekend, I quickly found in HD on another channel. In the end, barring a scheduling anomaly, I’ve likely paid $140 for less than an hour of entertainment. Oversold and under delivered — $140 down the drain for an hour of disappointment. At least I don’t have to tip.
Going forward, ESPN needs to get real here as they can’t keep trotting out a product that is eroding and at a high price point. ESPN Goalline, ESPN 3, and ESPN PPV all make the package irrelevant. Maybe the sports bars will keep paying, but other than that the package is worthless and needs to be either overhauled or re-priced. While we’re at it, can we do something about Mark May and Craig James, too?