ESPN and the Big West announced a deal today that will see hundreds of conference games in a variety of men’s and women’s sports televised or streamed across ESPN platforms.
The Big West is made up almost entirely of schools in California (the University of Hawaii is the lone exception; it competes in the Mountain West for football and the Big West for other sports), and would be a prime candidate for the old SVP & Russillo bit “Who’s In It?” thanks to its litany of UC and Cal State schools. (All of which are excellent institutions, to be clear. And UC-San Diego has a trippy, awesome library.)
But the new deal makes a lot of sense for ESPN; obviously most of the games will be taking place live in a time zone that isn’t densely populated with other live events. And California alone is a massive market; the Big West has schools all over the state, with big alumni bases. For ESPN+, which is presumably where a lot of these newly-broadcast games will land, that’s certainly attractive inventory. The Big West, meanwhile, will have access to all the benefits that come with being a part of ESPN’s platform.
From ESPN’s release:
ESPN and the Big West have announced a multi-year, multi-platform media rights agreement, enhancing ESPN’s college sports portfolio with the addition of hundreds of Big West live events. More than 600 Big West events in both men’s and women’s sports will stream on ESPN+. ESPN networks will continue to present the men’s semifinals and title game of the Big West Basketball Championship, as well as nine regular season live events across its networks, including five men’s basketball contests.
“The Big West has been a mainstay of our men’s basketball programming for decades, and we’re excited to further highlight the conference, its student-athletes and member institutions with this new, dynamic media rights agreement,” said Dan Margulis, ESPN senior director, programming and acquisitions. “ESPN platforms will now be the destination for the best of the Big West’s 18 sponsored sports.”
“The exposure generated in this agreement sets a new standard by delivering a tenfold increase in the number of Big West games and content available to our fans on ESPN networks,” Big West Commissioner Dan Butterly said. “Aligning the Big West with the strongest and most innovative sports media company in the world, as well as the creativity and storytelling of Disney, is an unmistakable opportunity for us to engage our fan base with compelling content both live and on demand.”
Content inventory (ah, that sweet, sweet content inventory) is obviously a huge part of both retaining ESPN+ subscribers and attracting new ones. As it becomes cheaper and cheaper for a service like ESPN+ to carry events in some form, it only makes sense to expand offerings with smaller conferences like the Big West.
Plus it almost guarantees more late-night live programming during the school year for people to watch and/or gamble on.