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Big East Strikes A Deal With FloSports For Women’s Basketball

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I’m seeing some positive and negative angles here to how you’re going to watch Marquette women’s basketball this season.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 12 Big East Tournament - St. Johns v Creighton Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On Thursday, the Big East announced a new wrinkle to how you will experience women’s basketball in the league this season. The conference has made a deal with FloSports for the distribution of women’s hoops for the 2020-21 season.

Let’s start with the bullet points, shall we, and yes, for the record, we’re reading straight out of the press release here:

  • All conference tilts not designated for television are streamed on BEDN, accounting for upwards of 75 regular-season contests annually.
  • FloSports will also carry BIG EAST original content such as “Fast Break”, the Conference’s weekly women’s basketball features show.

And then there’s this paragraph later on:

The BIG EAST is in its eighth year of its comprehensive national television agreement with FOX Sports, which airs a total of 15 regular-season women’s basketball games annually, as well as the quarterfinals, semifinals and final of the BIG EAST Tournament presented by Jeep. Additionally, CBS Sports Network airs two regular-season BIG EAST contests annually, while a recently announced agreement with SNY provides additional game coverage for UConn women’s basketball.

Okay, enough of that. Let’s rewind a second and highlight a section of Commissioner Val Ackerman’s statement here:

“We’re very excited to partner with FloSports, a dynamic and fast-growing player in live sports event streaming, to supplement our existing network coverage of BIG EAST women’s basketball,” said BIG EAST Commissioner Val Ackerman. “The BIG EAST Digital Network has provided unparalleled digital coverage of our women’s basketball programs over the last six years, and our agreement with FloSports will offer even wider distribution of our games and significant additional promotion of our student-athletes and coaches.”

Emphasis there is mine, because I want to quibble with Val and/or the press agent that wrote that statement for her.

In the 2015-16 season, the Big East Digital Network was available for the first time for free via Fox Sports Go. That continued over the next three seasons after that. I’ve got an internet site with an archive full of women’s basketball previews. Anyone with an internet connection could fire up FS Go, click on the games, and watch them. No cable log in required.

For 2019-20, the enterprise moved to the Big East’s YouTube channel, I presume largely if not completely because Fox Sports started reducing the effort they were putting into FS Go because they sold off the Fox Sports Regional channels. Again, as long as you had an internet connection, you could go to YouTube, click on the games, and watch them. You didn’t even need to sign up for a YouTube account.

And now — and this is not a complaint about the base fact, as I’ll get into in a minute — the Big East Digital Network is on FloHoops, which will set you back $30 a month or $150 for a full year, which works out to $12.50 a month.

Moving from five straight years of “freely available to everyone with an internet connection” to “behind a paywall” is not, as Commissioner Ackerman said, a way to “offer even wider distribution of our games.” It’s just not. Them’s the facts. I could hammer out a link to YouTube or FSGo on Twitter lightning quick if a game came down to the wire, and anyone could immediately tune in and watch. Now they have to make the conscious decision to subscribe to FloHoops in order to see the games. That’s not wider distribution. Words have meanings.

Okay, enough about my quibbles about grammar.

I actually like this deal for the Big East, or at least the intent of the deal.

It remains to be seen as to how well all of the streaming goes. If it goes poorly, none of what I’m about to say matters. If no one can stream the games because FloHoops can’t keep their servers running, then the whole arrangement stinks.

However.

You’ll notice that we are still in the middle of a damn pandemic. We know that there won’t be fans at the McGuire Center for Marquette women’s hoops this season, and having watched the men’s games in a few various buildings already, it’s clear that the same thing is going to be happening in the women’s department across the league. That’s 10 league games worth of home attendance gate receipts this year plus whatever non-conference games getting thrown straight out the door while expenditures are way up as a result of extra COVID-19 precautions.

Take Marquette for example. Season tickets are $100 for the blue chairs in the lower bowl and $50 for the general admission bench seats on the ends and in the upper deck. Last year, with 15 home games, that came out to either $6.67 or $3.33 a game. Single games are $10 for chairbacks, $5 for upstairs. Last season, Marquette averaged 1,694 people in attendance per home game. If we figure $5 is the average ticket price (it’s probably more, stick with me here, you’ll get the idea), that’s about $8,500 per game on average that Marquette isn’t getting this season.

Paying for FloSports for December, January, and February is $90. If you have to run it to a fourth month because that’s how the schedule shakes out this year, that’s $120. If you were paying for two season tickets to go to every Marquette home game with your spouse or with a friend, then this is cheaper than that or at least in the ballpark. Two chair backs were $200 for the year, two GenAd tickets were $100. If you were a season ticket holder and you made the trip down to Chicago for the road game against DePaul, that definitely takes you up and above the $120 for four months and probably even over the $150 for the year between tickets and parking. And, you get every game, not just Marquette’s home games, in a year where no one can actually go to the games anyway.

This is why I’m not actually complaining about going behind a paywall. This is the Big East cashing a paycheck when they need to cash an extra paycheck to get a few dollars coming in to the teams’ cashbox. It is, after all, just a one year deal as the press release says. Maybe there’s an option for future years if it goes well for everyone involved. Maybe things go back to YouTube after this year. Who can say?

And hey, a FloHoops subscription is actually a FloSports subscription that gets you access to literally anything on the site, not just basketball. If you think about it that way, it’s a pretty good deal.