A Gonzaga-Tennessee game graphic. A Gonzaga-Tennessee game graphic.

The pay-per-view model in sports is an interesting one. It’s worked very well for boxing (to the point where even initially non-PPV models have incorporated some PPVs), MMA, and wrestling, but attempts to work that into other sports haven’t always gone as smoothly. For example, there was much rejoicing earlier this year when the Oklahoma Sooners’ long-standing football PPV went away in favor of an ESPN+ deal, and the idea of a The Match golf PPV fell apart over technical difficulties and eventually turned into a regular cable broadcast for the rest of the series.

So, with that context in mind, it’s notable to hear of a pay-per-view men’s basketball match between Gonzaga and Tennessee coming up. That match, the inaugural Legends of Basketball Classic, will take place on Oct. 28 at 9 p.m. Eastern from the Comerica Center in Frisco, Texas. It will come with a suggested retail price of $9.99 on all platforms, and proceeds will benefit the McLendon Foundation:

Here’s more on this from a release:

iNDEMAND will carry the game in the U.S. and Canada on its streaming service PPV.COM, and through cable, satellite, and telco PPV providers. Fans can stream the game live online at PPV.COM, the first PPV streaming service to offer interactive fan engagement during live-action sports events. PPV.COM’s ground-breaking digital video technology allows fans to engage in live chat with other fans & experts, as well as post fan-react videos and other activities. Customers can also order the Legends of Basketball Classic on TV through their cable, satellite, or telco providers, including Xfinity, Spectrum, Contour, Dish, Verizon Fios, Altice, and other leading providers. The suggested retail price will be $9.99 on all PPV platforms.

…Intersport, a sports marketing and events agency that will also manage the Aurora Health Care Brew City Battle, Citi Shamrock Classic, Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off, Elevance Health Women’s Fort Myers Tip-Off, CBS Sports Classic and Legends of Basketball Showcase during the non-conference season, will manage all ticketing, game operations and event production for the exhibition. The National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA) will serve as the title partner for the charity exhibition. Founded in 1992, the NBRPA serves former professional basketball players in their transition into life after basketball.

“This is going to be great! In partnering with the nationally renowned Gonzaga and Tennessee basketball programs, along with pay-per-view content industry leader iNDEMAND, we are going to bring a March-like atmosphere to college basketball’s preseason,” said Intersport Founder and CEO Charlie Besser. “We love building innovative events in the college basketball space – we’ve been doing it for decades. In this case it’s especially meaningful because it benefits the important work of the McLendon Foundation.”

Mark Boccardi, SVP, Programming & Marketing for iNDEMAND & PPV.COM, said, “This will be the first opportunity for Gonzaga and Tennessee fans to see their teams in action this season. We’re proud to be a part of this benefit for the McLendon Foundation, and looking forward to delivering a viewing experience that’s easy to order and great quality.”

While getting college sports fans to buy a pay-per-view may still be a hurdle, the $9.99 price here is at least far more reasonable than the $55 Oklahoma was charging for a single football game. That was cheaper than the PPVs for boxing, MMA, or wrestling. But those sports have a long history of pricey single-event PPVs, something not as prominent in college sports.

This is comparable to the monthly price for a streaming service like ESPN+, and while this is only one game versus the hundreds on those services, it’s one game people can’t get anywhere else. And as with other discussions such as that around Aaron Judge and Apple TV+, it’s worth noting that games on traditional cable networks like ESPN are not “free”. They’re included for those who have a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD, such as cable, streaming, or virtual bundles) package that features  ESPN, but that comes at a price (usually at least $60 a month). So while a standalone PPV is an extra cost for those people, it is a cheaper game to watch for those who don’t have a MVPD package.

Will doing this as a PPV pay off? Well, there certainly will be a lot of people interested in a game between Gonzaga and Tennessee, teams that reached the Sweet 16 and Round of 32 respectively this past season. And doing this in conjunction with an important charity may also make the price tag easier to swallow. But there certainly will be those who are annoyed this isn’t televised in their regular cable or satellite package. We’ll see how this winds up doing and if it winds up leading to more PPVs in college basketball, or if it proves to be an exception.


About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.