Why ESPN College Extra sucks (and why you need it!)

For years I have advocated that any operator that dares to refer to themselves as a sports bar has an inherent obligation to buy all the programming available via DIRECTV or their cable operator. I have been passionate and adamant that this is the way to build your business and prove to your guests that YOU ARE THE PLACE to watch sports. Well, this past week, my resolve has been sorely tested by a sports PPV package, ESPN College Extra (ESPNCX).

ESPN College Extra is a hybrid of two previous stations — ESPN Game Plan and Full Court. The problem with this union is that College Extra has essentially thrown away the wheat and kept the chaff. 

For example, last week in 27 games delivered by ESPNCX, only three were between ranked teams. With NCAA Football, out of 140 games aired there was a grand total of two games with ranked teams, and that was only because the MAC Conference’s Toledo was ranked for a short hot minute last season.

The only major conference to contribute football and basketball content is the ACC, and that is only until they launch their own ACC Network (à la Big 10 and SEC). With business viewing prices starting at $705, most of our Sports TVGuide subscribers will be closer to $2000 annually. It’s a bitter pill to swallow given the other schlock that is included.

And here’s the worst part: You still need it. 

If ESPN College Extra sucks, why do I need it?

Believe me, enriching ESPN and the cable/satellite operators isn’t part of my agenda. However, I still firmly believe you can’t be a sports bar and not have everything. Since we’ve looked at the lowlights of ESPNCX, let’s look at some of the highlights of the college sports station.

It’s a year-round station, showing football to basketball to baseball. It airs more than 600 events per year. You get all the NCAA Football Championship playoff games, lots of heretofore ignored women’s basketball games and NCAA Baseball, which has been a growing segment for the past five years in both interest and availability. 

Let’s look at the math. If only 100 of those games appeal to your guests at the high end, it’s still just $20 per event. Is that enough to justify the cost? Your call, of course, but I would say yes. It’s better to break even on this programming and retain a guest than not buy it and lose them.

So, how do you make ESPNCX work for you? 

Simply put, it isn’t easy, but it’s a part of the continuing proof to your guests that your business is the “go-to” place for everything sports. 

Buffalo Wild Wings, one of our largest chain clients, did a survey to find out what the biggest reason their guests chose them over other venues. Care to hazard a guess of what it was? To watch sports.

So stop fighting it. Yes, your chicken wings rock; yes, you have that amazing beer dispensing system; yes, you have a great looking/performing staff. None of it matters if you’re terrible at showing sports. Therefore the sad news is that means you have to buy ESPN College Extra -- and related stations -- if you want to truly own the distinction of being a sports bar.

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