With the MAAC’s agreement with the ESPN family of networks set to expire after the 2016-17 season, commissioner Rich Ensor doesn’t feel any pressure.
In fact, it might be the opposite considering how much the conference is already expanding on the ESPN3 platform. Monmouth and Fairfield have both already dove in head first with games on ESPN3 and Ensor believes that by this time next season we could see a drastic increase in games available via ESPN3 and on the WatchESPN app.
“I expect things, by this time next year, we’ll have about five to seven schools doing it regularly,” Ensor said.
While that might seem ambitious for an 11-team conference, Ensor said that site visits have been concluded at Manhattan and Iona to test the viability of the production. Add that to visits coming up to Siena and Canisius, among others, and Ensor stands by his bold prediction.
“I would think by this time next season, we’ll probably have at least five and maybe as many as six or seven regularly producing broadcasts,” Ensor said.
The current hurdle for most schools, which are organizing their ideas of how to broadcast games on ESPN3 has been purchasing the necessary equipment, which is a substantive cost hurdle. The schools also need to decide how the broadcasts will fit into their plans, for instance if students or professionals will be running the majority of the production. Monmouth has tied theirs towards their communications department, while Fairfield has used a “staff driven” approach according to Ensor.
“I think you’ll see different models at different campuses,” Ensor said. “I think it does provide the schools a great opportunity, if they want to make it a part of their academic mission to provide these skill sets to students that can go into the industry.”
“As we start getting this year round programming going, it will give us an added element to discuss when we get into the negotiation stages for an extension of the agreement with ESPN.”
While this might seemingly interrupt deals with upstate New York schools like Siena, Niagara and Canisius – who’s games have been showcased on Time Warner Cable this season – there is a chance that games could be on both Time Warner and streamed on ESPN3 in the future.
“We are in the final stages of getting some Time Warner programming for lacrosse from Siena to go on ESPN3, just blacked out in the New York Time Warner footprint, so certainly they’ve worked together on things, but I don’t know what the schools have planned in terms of that,” Ensor said. “I’m not sure they’re that far down the road, frankly. They’re still thinking about how to get the production set up and then the two can co-exist. There’s no reason why they can’t.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.