I'm sure that whenever games started being played on cable instead of the traditional networks, people who didn't have cable howled about not being able to easily see their games.
And I'm also sure that one of the responses to those upset about these basketball games being streamed online is that this is where technology is moving and eventually watching games online will be as commonplace as watching them on regular television.
I love that ESPN3 exists. It's amazing that I can watch live games on my phone from virtually anywhere.
But here's my problem with this set-up for Arkansas' games this week. That should not be the only way to see a game for people who aren't used to it.
There are a hell of a lot of people out there who are going to ask where they can see the game. The response is that it will be on ESPN3. Their response will be "okay, what channel is that?"
There are still a lot of fans out there who've never streamed anything online, much less a game they're used to seeing on TV. If you're anything like me, there are people in your life you absolutely dread having to explain how to do something involving computers and the Internet.
It's easy to forget sometimes, but many fans don't use twitter and aren't on message boards, but still read the sports section in the newspaper and watch the sports segment on the local news. These are also some of the fans who want to watch the Razorbacks play to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. They may still watch them, but they might not. They might not want to go through the hassle, or they won't be able to.
ESPN3 isn't available with every cable provider. It's available through most, but not all. Here's the list.
If you're reading this, you're probably at least mildly tech-savvy. You understand that it's easy to download an app on your phone or tablet. Or watch on you Apple TV or Smart TV. Or use an HDMI cable to hook your laptop up to your TV. Or use your Xbox or other device to watch through your TV. If you have some of those things. But I'm willing to bet you also know plenty of people who would look at you funny if you tried explaining any of that stuff to them, or at the very least, they'd have to go spend a lot of money to buy some of that equipment because they're not set up for it.
And that leads to another point. The more state-of-the-art home theater stuff you have, the more fun and accommodating the in-home experience is, and the less inclined you might be to actually attend the game, right? When it's more and more convenient for you to stay home, doesn't that make you have less motivation to actually leave home to go to a game? And aren't we so worried about attendance numbers? Aren't universities spending millions of dollars to improve the game day experience for fans?
And that leads to yet another point. One of the most common things schools are spending money to improve is the wifi access for fans at games. They know that for a lot of people, being able to communicate on your phone while watching an event is now an important aspect of being fan for many people. However, if you have to use your phone or tablet to watch the game, or hook your laptop up to the TV, it's a lot more difficult to use that device for communicating. How many devices are people going to have to buy to enjoy games like they want?
The response to that from many, including officials at UA, is to just come to the games instead. But these aren't all home games. Arkansas' regular season finale at Alabama on Saturday is ESPN3-only.
And that leads to, yes, another big point. A lot of people have complained about a fan-interest problem in SEC basketball in recent years. Yet with Arkansas, here's a team that plays a really fun style of play, playing in some pretty important games that have national relevance due to the team's standing as a bubble team, and their last two regular season games aren't on TV. How many casual observers of college basketball actually watch games on ESPN3 that don't involve their own team? I watched a lot of Kentucky vs Alabama last night because it was on TV. If it was on ESPN3 only, I doubt I'd have seen a dribble. I'm just saying, if you want fans to be excited about SEC basketball, put games worth being excited about where casual fans can find them. That seems to be common sense.
So please, spare me any SEC fan apathy articles this spring.
And finally, there's this. How many times have we been told that every SEC game was going to be televised? When people hear that, they typically think "ok, I've got cable and a TV, I'm good to go." They don't think, "so I better make sure I get a Smart TV with high-speed wifi Internet throughout the house."
If ESPN3-only games are going to be a prominent part of "every game is televised', fans should be better informed of it. Give people a better chance to be prepared for these games. Saying "every game is televised" is misleading at best. At the very least, if football and/or basketball games are only going to be available via online streaming, make that a more prominent part of the announcement so people can get ready. Because they want to watch, but they won't be able to find the game on their cable guide.
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