That number is up from UCF’s win at Temple on ESPN2 on October 26th of last year, which was watched by 277,000 viewers, according to SportsMediaWatch.com. Keep in mind the Owls game aired at 7pm versus the 2pm game against Tulane on Saturday.
The game aired at 2pm due to ESPN2’s coverage of the UFC 254 prelimenary fights, which aired at noon and drew 343,000 viewers. The marquee game in The American on Saturday night between Cincinnati and SMU on ESPN2, which aired at 9pm, drew 485,000 viewers.
UCF to Make ESPN + Debut This Saturday at Houston
This Saturday, UCF will face Houston on ESPN+ at 2pm with David Saltzman and Stan Routt on the call. This is the first season of The American’s new TV deal with ESPN, which includes games airing on ESPN+. That means you will more than likely have to pay for a subscription to watch the game online.
Now, before everyone flips out and gets mad about paying to watch UCF, I want to remind you of a few things about ESPN+:
The American on ESPN+ is a good TV deal.
That is not me saying that - that’s experts that follow sports television saying that. You don’t believe me? Listen back to Black and Gold Banneret podcast episode 152 on March 21st 2019, when we had Michael Smith of Sports Business Journal and Sports Business Daily, starting at the 39-minute mark.
Under this deal, as Smith pointed out in the interview, The American would have more football games on ABC, as we have seen this season with UCF. Also, basically, it’s an American Conference Network under the ESPN+ umbrella. That’s a huge win for all UCF teams, players and coaches, and the same can be said for all American schools. The Big 12 has a similar deal with ESPN+.
The football and basketball games that are airing on ESPN+ would have aired on CBS Sports Network and possibly ESPNews in the past.
Ask yourself: When was the last time you tuned in to see CBS Sports Network or ESPNews? Do you have those channels on your cable system?
CBS Sports Network does not report any TV numbers from Nielson and neither does ESPNews in the last few years.
The most watched UCF sporting event on ESPNews all-time? 171,000 on October 24, 2015 in a blowout home loss to Houston in what turned out to be George O’Leary’s last game as UCF Head Coach. That is not a big number in television.
Odds are, if you do have those channels on your cable or internet server, that means you’re paying extra to have it as part of your package. The only sporting events that are free are ones that air on network television - ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX.
ESPN+ continues to grow at a rapid pace as last week Disney announced that ESPN+ had 8.5 million U.S. subscribers at the end of its third fiscal quarter of 2020, and has previously said that it expects the service to gain between eight and 12 million paying customers by the end of 2024. The service accumulated a good number of subscribers since Disney’s first quarter of 2019, growing its subscriber base from 1.4 million to 6.6 million in just one year.
Subscription is the direction sports content has been going. You have to pay $40-50 to watch UFC PPV, and prices are similar for boxing pay-per-views on ESPN+. Fans of Soccer had to pay more money in the past than what they do now on ESPN+ for international soccer leagues.
The Big 12 also has many sporting events on ESPN+, similar to The American. This season, Oklahoma charged $50 for Sooner fans to watch the season opener against Missouri State on pay-per-view. If you want to read sports newspapers or online sports sites like The Athletic for coverage of your favorite sports, you have to pay as well. Many NFL fans pay for the Red Zone channel which costs money, as well as the NFL Sunday Ticket. Entertainment is also following suit with Disney+, Peacock, WWE Network, etc.
I am not saying the deal is perfect. If I could tweak the ESPN+ portion of deal, I would have ESPN+ be part of a package for people that already have ESPN channels, similar to how those who subscribe to HBO on cable get HBO MAX as part of the deal. But in the end, the big thing about this deal is UCF and The American are still getting big exposure on TV, and now will have more exposure for the other sports courtesy of this deal.