Analyzing UConn’s New TV Deal

On Monday, UConn announced they reached a deal with CBS Sports Network to broadcast their home games until 2023.

While the first year of the deal will broadcast four home games, the network will carry the Huskies’ full slate in the remaining years.

The question of who would carry UConn’s home games loomed heavy ever since their departure from the American, but this deal provides needed stability and exposure, to some degree.

One of the points of friction for UConn fans was the increased prevalence of sporting events on ESPN+. These fears mostly pertained to basketball as it is debatable how many of UConn’s football games or American games, in general, would have been broadcast on ESPN+.

Most of the ESPN+ games are likely to come from the American’s previous sublicense with CBSSN. The new American deal calls for a minimum of 40 games telecast on ESPN’s linear networks. Additionally, only games that did end up on CBSSN and ESPN3 last year. The conference broadcast 25 games on the two networks, eight of which were FCS games.

Simply put, the fear of the conference’s most impactful games being exiled to ESPN+ is almost nonsense. Arguably, the only reason UConn fans had that fear was because of their underwhelming performance over the past two years.

The addition of UConn games is beneficial to CBS Sports Network as they get some football inventory to replace the anticipated loss of American games. The network will pay the Huskies around $500,000 per year to broadcast their home games, which will combine with the Big East’s TV deal to give them $4.5 million in media revenue per year. This total lags behind the approximate total of $7 million the American’s schools will receive. The production costs of ESPN+ are unlikely to cause that total to fall below the $4.5 million that UConn will make.

Along with this, they get some Power Conference games to air, something their other partners in the service academies, C-USA, and the MAC lack.

Good Move For Purists, But Not So Good For Cord-Cutters

While the Hartford Courant writes of the low carriage numbers of ESPN+, at around 8 million, CBS Sports’ does not have the carriage numbers of a prominent sports network.

NBC Sports Network had 82 million subscribers as of 2017, while Fox Sports 1 is in around 83 million homes as of 2018. As for CBS Sports Network, they are in 55 million homes as the Courant reports.

Additionally, cost and accessibility will be an issue for cord-cutting UConn fans. While ESPN+ is only around $5 a month for content that extends well past AAC sports, CBS Sports Network is harder to find in the streaming domain.

Unlike Fox Sports 1 and ESPN/ESPN+, CBS Sports Network is not as prevalent in streaming packages as the only ones the channel is available on are Fubo TV, Hulu Live, and YouTube TV.

The prices of all services are all over $50 compared to the $5 paywall that some of UConn’s football games would have been behind. Yet, the increased cost for fans to see the Huskies on linear TV appears to be worth it for perceived exposure.

One advantage of the CBSSN deal is UConn not having to pay production costs for their telecasts. However, the accessibility of ESPN+ makes up for the production costs of schools to use the platform.

While UConn has some good home games against Power Five schools, none of these schools are particularly rating producers. In the next four years, UConn hosts Indiana, Purdue, Boston College, Syracuse, and NC State.

Arguably, the pinnacle measure of Power Five TV exposure is prime-time network TV appearances. Below is each school with the number of appearances they have had since 2006, the start of ABC’s Saturday Night Football. This is a good start point because it was the first time one of the over-the-air networks broadcast prime-time college football on a weekly basis.

  • Boston College: 4
  • Indiana: 0
  • NC State: 1
  • Purdue: 3
  • Syracuse: 2

Also of note, is Purdue’s one appearance as Fox’s headlining noon game against a 4-4 Nebraska school. Yet, this appearance also comes with a caveat, as a dry slate allowed SMU and Memphis to gain a rare appearance in ABC’s primetime slot.

The stats show that while these teams are a bigger draw than most of UConn’s former counterparts, they will not suddenly bring more people to watch UConn football. People are not going to start watching a UConn team that’s gone 4-20 in the last two years because they are playing Indiana.

Aside from the increased cost, this new deal with CBSSN is beneficial. Many thought UConn would partner with SNY, but this move is an obvious upgrade over any regional network.

This puts them on par with Army, in terms of exposure of course, and a step behind BYU. The Huskies avoid partnering with a streaming service with the lack of reputation of FloSports, which carries UMass and New Mexico State’s games.

Still, UConn has a ways to go in using this deal to make their program comparably marketable with both their former cohorts in the American and other independents.

*Special thanks to mattsarzsports.com for the broadcast data used in this article. This site is an absolute must for college sports fans.

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