ESPN to launch own streaming service

Cameron Hoover

Mid-American Conference fans who enjoyed watching events for free on ESPN3 are in for a rude awakening April 12.

ESPN is launching its own direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service, called ESPN+, next week for $4.99 a month. Customers can also choose to pay $49.99 for a whole year’s subscription. The new streaming service will be integrated into the existing ESPN mobile application. ESPN+ does not include any of ESPN’s eight cable networks.

College sports are the main selling point of ESPN+. According to a release from ESPN, ESPN+ plans to broadcast “thousands of live college sports events,” including everything from football to golf. The plan includes over a dozen conferences, the MAC being one.

“The ESPN+ lineup will be rich with thousands of live college sports events, including football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, track & field, gymnastics, swimming & diving, lacrosse, wrestling, volleyball, golf and more — from over a dozen conferences across the country including the America East, ASun, Big South, Big West, Horizon, Ivy League, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Missouri Valley, NEC, Southern Conference, Southland, Summit League, Sun Belt, WAC and many more,” according to a release from ESPN.

So what does this mean for Kent State fans who became accustomed to watching the Flashes’ competitions for free on ESPN3?

These events will now be behind the $4.99 per month paywall. If a fan can’t get out to the MAC Center for a Kent State basketball game or to the Diamond at Dix to watch Flashes softball, they will need to fork over $5 for the right to see those contests.

As for how this will affect Kent State internally, that is still to be seen. Aaron Chimenti, the interim director of athletic communications, said he doesn’t see how this will change anything for the athletic department, but conceded it is still too early to tell.

“To this point, there has been no communication from the MAC to its members,” Chimenti said.

Kent State’s home events that were broadcasted live on ESPN3 were produced by TeleProductions, Kent State’s full-service video production resource made up of industry professionals and students gaining experience. Chimenti said he doesn’t see how the advent of ESPN+ would change this system, but reiterated no word has come down from the MAC.

In 2014, the MAC and ESPN reached a 13-year agreement (10 years on top of the remaining three years from the previous deal) where the sports media giant earned broadcasting rights to all MAC sports. Exact figures of the agreement are still unknown, but ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported in 2014 that the MAC receives $10 million annually over the deal’s last 10 years.

It is unclear whether the MAC knew ESPN was going to put its events behind a paywall four years after the original contract was agreed upon. The MAC was not immediately available to comment.

Also included in ESPN+’s live programming offerings: One MLB game per day (something MLB.TV already offers for free), one NHL game per day, select boxing matches and every out-of-market MLS game.

ESPN’s $4.99-per-month director-to-consumer subscription-based streaming service, ESPN+, launches April 12, 2018.

Cameron Hoover is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].