For the past two seasons, Wichita State volleyball fans knew they could watch the Shockers in almost all conference road matches on internet-based ESPN3.
Watching the Shockers on the road in the American Athletic Conference is more of a challenge. Fans must watch games through school websites, most of which charge a subscription fee.
No. 24 WSU (8-3) opens American play at Temple (4-4) on Friday and at Connecticut (7-5) on Sunday. Friday’s match is free on The American Digital Network on YouTube. Sunday’s match will cost $9.95 for a monthly subscription to HuskyVision.
The MVC debuted its ESPN3 coverage in 2015 with the goal of expanding to all sports for all conference home games. The package gave fans of sports such as women’s basketball, volleyball and baseball a consistent viewing option for most games.
The American wants to follow the MVC’s lead. While its TV packages for men’s basketball and football are superior to the MVC’s offerings, viewing other sports is less convenient.
“We’re going to have to move in that direction,” said Tom Odjakjian, American senior associate commissioner. “We do realize how the world is changing. We're going to need to ramp up our digital network.”
Volleyball matches are streamed for free at East Carolina, Cincinnati, Temple and SMU.
Memphis, Connecticut, Tulane, Tulsa, Houston, Central Florida, South Florida and Wichita State charge.
Fans who watch Shocker home games from their home are also affected by the change in conference and the loss of an ESPN3 contract.
For games not selected by a TV network, Wichita State’s goshockers.com will stream home volleyball, women’s basketball, baseball and softball for a fee ($7.95 for a 24-hour pass, $89.95 for a year).
Audio broadcasts are free through goshockers.com. Cox Kansas plans to show one more volleyball match, Oct. 20 vs. Cincinnati at Koch Arena.
The American’s contract with ESPN ends in 2020 and part of the negotiations for a future broadcast deals will include treatment of sports beyond basketball and football. To get its contract with ESPN3 rolling, MVC schools built and funded broadcast facilities, helped by a $50,000 startup check from the conference. Schools supplemented professional announcers and crew with students.
American schools may need to similarly equip themselves to offer more sports in a uniform viewing package.
“We're definitely studying that as we prepare for our next TV negotiation,” Odjakjian said. “We realize by that time, regardless of who our (broadcast) partners are, the schools’ production capabilities are going to have to ramp up.”