Not too long ago, I wrote on this exact same topic. Today we revisit ESPN’s progress in projecting the college baseball tournament as a feature event.
Starting at noon tomorrow, there will be 96 total hours of college baseball on display–from 12 noon to 12 midnight–featuring teams from all across this great sporting country of ours. Of those 96 hours (32 games) would you like to know how many hours ESPN will dedicate to delivering college baseball’s premiere postseason tournament to your television? 15. That’s right, FIF-TEEN!
Of the 32 games being played–only on Friday, not to mention what’s going on Saturday and Sunday–the nation’s “leader” in sports and entertainment, E-S-P-N, will be showing only five games live and in their entirety.
From Noon to 6pm on ESPN’s three more prominent carriers, ESPN-ESPN2-ESPNews-ESPNClassic, the sports provider will be broadcasting a whopping ZERO hours of college baseball. Will those hours instead be devoted to the French Open? Nope, that’s being covered by NBC who has devoted at least two of their channels, the main NBC and their NBC Sports channel, to full-time coverage of the event.
Will they be broadcasting the Women’s College World Series? Nope, the women don’t play until 7pm tomorrow.
So what will be taking up 28 hours of ESPN programming across those four channels? Taped talk shows like His & Hers (3 hours), Rusillo and Kanell (3 hours), Sportsnation (3 hours) and First Take (2 hours).
But surely ESPN’s dedicated SEC Network channel will be leading the charge into college baseball, right? Wrong. From 12 noon to 6pm the SEC Network will also have ZERO hours of live sports coverage of any kind. But, there will be three full hours dedicated to Paul Finebaum talking your head off—so there’s that.
There are some good things that ESPN is doing with respect to the upcoming tournament’s coverage, surprisingly. Namely…
I love that ESPN has a dedicated online provider of live sports entertainment in ESPN3. ESPN3 covers a ton of college baseball and has done a terrific job this year of being slightly better than local providers like Tigervision have done showcasing collegiate hardball over the last decade plus. Also, more often than not–as long as you have a good wifi or hardline internet connection–the feed from ESPN3 is pretty decent. But is that any replacement for live television? Hell->No
I also love that ESPN has the Bases Loaded program going on during these timeframes for hardcore baseball fans who want the NFL Redzone treatment during the first weekend of tournament action. But for anyone who has a dog in the fight they simply don’t want another person holding the remote as they switch from game-to-game only landing on your particular team’s game by happenstance.
If you build it, they will come!
Look ESPN, maybe you don’t believe that college baseball has yet produced the kind of viewer tallies you would prefer. But I can promise you, if you don’t MAKE it take off as a sport–it likely never will. College basketball didn’t get where it is by telling the viewer: “hey, if you like this thing, go find it”. No, CBB got where it is by slapping the viewer in the face repeatedly with a round, orange ball. Round the clock coverage and a catchy, teary-eyed theme song really is the best recipe. College baseball already has a theme song, so now can you please get on with the supped up coverage!
P.S. Let’s not pretend the sport and its small, but spritely followership should be astounded for what little coverage you’re dedicating toward it.