Kansas braces for changing consumer climate with ESPN3 deal

At its core, Kansas’ new deal with ESPN3 is under the umbrella of the school's seven-year agreement with IMG worth $6 million annually for its third-tier television, multimedia and advertising rights.

But the Jayhawks are aiming higher than traditional contract-speak because of some key phrases in the Tuesday release: Apps. Smartphones. Tablets. Apple TV. WatchESPN. ESPN on Xbox LIVE.

The deal will include a minimum of 70 games and events across multiple sports broadcast through traditional means -- either locally on Time Warner Cable or on the ESPN3 channel. The 70 events will include one football game and four men's basketball games.

But it also prepares KU for the possible -- or inevitable -- change in how consumers who cling to conventional satellite/cable models will watch college sports. These games can be found in several places that don't involve a cable cord.

Better to highlight the change instead of hiding from it, KU says. 

“That was our thought process,” said Jim Marchiony, Kansas’ associate athletic director of external affairs. “This is a growing industry. We want to be at the forefront of that. We’re not going to be watching TV 10 years from now the way we are now. This addresses that.”

KU isn’t the only one adapting. Talk to the Big Ten Network folks, for example, and they’ll pump their BTN2Go project for live streaming and on-video demand. It’s another way to build the brand on new platforms. If people don’t watch you under traditional deals, you’d rather they go to the websites or apps that you want to promote. 

Locally, Kansas calls this programming the “Jayhawk Network” because that was the plan all along for in-state broadcasting. But don’t get it confused with Texas' Longhorn Network. This isn’t 24-hour broadcasting. It’s a set number of games used in creative ways.

Other schools could follow Kansas’ model, but not that many have third-tier rights available. Conferences with their own networks are gobbling up their schools’ rights to tie into 24-hour programming. The Big 12 is the only power conference without plans for its own channel.

“I think it’s unique -- I don’t know if we’re the only ones. It certainly works for us,” Marchiony said. “We want to make these events available as widely as we can.”


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