Is ESPN using ‘College GameDay’ as pawn for SEC Network, ACC Network carriage in NYC?

College GameDay set
Greg Bartram/USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in its 25 years of on-location broadcasts, ESPN’s “College GameDay” is headed to the Big Apple.

ESPN would like you to belive taking its signature college football studio show to Times Square is simply an attempt to reach underserved fans.

“New York City is a melting pot of college football fans and the heartbeat of America,” ESPN vice president of production Lee Fitting said. “Thousands of alumni gather in the city each fall Saturday to root on their school and we are bringing “College GameDay” to New York for them! We want every alumni base and college football fan near and far to join us in Times Square to provide the celebratory, festive atmosphere that is synonymous with the show.”

There may be more at work, however, than meets the eye.

According to a report from Bloomberg, ESPN is currently involved in carriage negotiations with Altice USA Inc., which presently controls roughly 2.4 million cable homes in the New York City metro area. Altice already provides its New York City customers ESPN, but as part of the new deal, ESPN would like the cable provider to add SEC Network and the soon-to-be-launched ACC Network to its suite of offerings.

Oh, and ESPN would like a higher carriage fee from Altice for the main channel – which is already by far the most expensive channel for cable providers to offer – to boot.

This all may be more than Altice is willing to stomach as subscribers flee cable television in general and ESPN, in particular, desiring more personalization at a cheaper cost when it comes to its TV consumption. Bear in mind as well, New York City is not home to a school in either the SEC or ACC footprint, although Syracuse bills itself as “New York’s College Team.”

Bringing the enormously popular “College GameDay” show to Times Square in front of an audience that could swell into the thousands might be an attempt by ESPN to show Altice the power of college sports and evidence that its customers would respond to a higher monthly cable bill with SEC Network and ACC Network on it.

“This is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, for us and the fans,” “College GameDay” host Kirk Herbstreit said through a press release. “With iconic Times Square as the backdrop and alumni bases from all over the country making their presence known in the crowd, my expectation is that it will be one of the top ‘College GameDay’ settings of all time. We can’t wait to bring the show to the Big Apple!”

Time will tell if ESPN’s chess move with “College GameDay” pays off.

(You can follow Chadd Scott on Twitter @ChaddScott)

© 2016, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

To Top