The Missouri Valley Conference will get more televised sports on ESPN platforms, especially the Internet-based ESPN3, with a 10-year agreement announced on Thursday in Chicago.
If you missed watching last season’s Evansville at Loyola men’s basketball game, for example, that problem is solved in the future. The same goes for Wichita State women’s basketball and volleyball when those teams travel for Valley games.
Valley commissioner Doug Elgin trumpeted the deal as a way for the 10 members to keep up with higher-profile conferences through dramatic increases in exposure for all sports. He declined to disclose financial aspects of the contract. The deal reflects ESPN’s heavy investment in sports viewing on phones and tablets and the Valley’s willingness to jump in before most conferences.
While the financial gain is unknown, and certainly not comparable to ESPN’s contracts with football-driven conferences, the Valley hopes to benefit in recruiting and connection with fans. In 2015-16, all men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball home non-conference games and all Valley games will be available on ESPN3, if not available on another network.
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“The MVC is going to be able to talk about how many times we’re on television,” Wichita State men’s basketball coach Gregg Marshall said. “Anytime you can appear on ESPN, it helps you with your regional and national exposure.”
The games will be branded as “The Valley on ESPN3.”
“The exponential increase in exposure will bring significant benefits to men’s and women’s basketball, and to every conference-sponsored sport,” Elgin said in a news release.
For Valley men’s basketball fans, the deal means all 90 conference games will be televised, with four on ESPN2 and six on ESPNU in addition to Fox Sports Midwest and local packages such as Cox Kansas. Valley and home non-conference games not covered by those outlets will be produced by the home school with high-definition cameras and ESPN graphics for ESPN3.
For Wichita State, which already featured most or all of its men’s basketball games on TV, the change is not as dramatic as it might be for other Valley schools with lesser local TV packages.
The change is greater in women’s basketball and volleyball, where fans can now count on home non-conference games and all Valley games on ESPN3, if not televised by another network.
An ESPN official on Thursday’s conference call described the agreement with the Valley as unique in college athletics for its scope of including all sports and its reliance on student talent for producing the games.
“A key aspect of this new campus-based production model will be the involvement of students in academic programs — broadcast media and journalism majors — providing hands-on experience that will translate to opportunities for our graduates to gain entry into television media,” Elgin said.
Other sports will be added as schools improve their staffing and production capability. According to the news release, ESPN and the Valley plan to show a minimum of 820 events each year in the final six years of the agreement.