Want to watch some #MACtion? Pay for it.

Bruno Beidacki

ESPN recently announced it is launching its own paid streaming service, a Netflix or Hulu of sports. Fans across the country were ecstatic. After all, it seems amazing that for only $4.99/month you get to watch college sports, MLB, NHL, MLS, tennis matches and much more.

Except that you could already do that before. For free.

ESPN3 has been streaming all those leagues and sports for free, as long as you had access to an ESPN cable subscription. If you were on campus at Kent State, for example, you were able to watch those events free of charge. 

In other words, ESPN is rebranding its ESPN+ platform, adding one or two partnerships and charging people $4.99 for something that used to be free. 

That includes Kent State athletics events. So if you ever pulled up WatchESPN to support your friend who is on the gymnastics team, guess what? Now you have to pay for it.

As a college student who is passionate about sports, this is, to say the least, frustrating. I love watching tennis and soccer, and the truth is that most Americans do not. What that means is that I barely ever get to see those sports on national television; ESPN3 used to be the means to do so without having to add another monthly charge to my already bleeding bank account.

Disney, which owns ESPN, has to look out for their own stakeholders and overall finances. I’m not denying a company that has had to lay off hundreds of employees last year should take measures in order to prevent that from happening again. But it still frustrates me that sports other than football, basketball, baseball and hockey are becoming less accessible to the average American.

We get it, the four big leagues are the most popular and bring in the most revenue. However, how does the United States expect to expand its success to other sports, such as soccer — the most popular sport in the world — when it makes it harder for people to watch them?

Major League Soccer is undergoing its most successful moment in history. Stadiums are packed, franchises are growing in recognition and the MLS continues to bring international soccer stars to play here. Still, MLS games are rarely on national TV. 

At the end of the day, it’s hard to demonize Disney/ESPN. They have no obligation to offer their services for free. It’s just disappointing to see a service that used to be free becoming paid, especially when the target audience of that service is not the most financially stable out there. In other words, middle-aged men who love sports are not the people watching ESPN3. College students and young adults like you and I are. 

In a period of our lives in which we have to prioritize where to spend our money, sports and entertainment will eventually be placed after everything else. 

Trust me, I love supporting our Flashes, but not if that means having to spend more money than I already do through the non-optional athletic fee that’s added to my tuition.

Bruno Beidacki is the opinion editor. Contact him at [email protected]