In the past, games from the Big South conference could be found on the conferences official website. After a deal with ESPN in July, Big South conference games will be available to stream to a wider audience.
According to a press release from ESPN Media Zone released on July 24, “ESPN and the Big South Conference have reached a comprehensive extension to its existing media rights deal, resulting in ESPN becoming the exclusive rights holder of the conference and greatly increasing the conference’s presence on its platforms.”
ESPN+ is a subscription based service which costs $4.99 per month, to not only view Big South Conference events, but also a wide range of different sports and leagues.
“We unfortunately don’t get the numbers on a game to game basis the way we did with the Big South Network, but its estimated that we’re going to have huge growth in viewership over the next few years especially as ESPN+ grows," said Assistant Director of Athletic Communications Darius Thigpen.
However, an estimate is just an estimate, and ESPN+ is in its beginning stages of operation.
“Right now, Big South Network is ESPN+, so as ESPN+ goes, the Big South Network will go," said Thigpen. "Because the conference made the deal, and schools made the deal with ESPN+, so that is our official broadcast partner. Big South Network and ESPN+ are one and the same essentially.”
There have been small issues as far as production with events produced here at Longwood.
“What hinders us a little bit is, the amount of bandwidth we have for our internet speed," said Coordinator of Broadcast Operations and senior Kiersten Freedman. "Pretty much all of the freak problems I’ve had go back to that. This town is a little bit limited on internet strength, so, what ESPN expects from us is sometimes a little hard to achieve because of the maximum bandwidth we can get from the town.”
As a result of the internet issues, there has been a lowering in quality in which events at Longwood are streamed.
“Our broadcasts are not the best streaming quality that ESPN might expect, or what you might see on ESPN on TV," Freedman said. "They are coming through well enough that people can watch them, but we have been known to have a little bit of buffering. Everything comes back to the internet service, and we just make the best of what we can.”
Even with the lowering in quality, Freedman said that the product does meet ESPN's point of satisfaction.
The changeover to ESPN+ broadcasts has not cost the university, according to Thigpen.
”The big thing is, actually we’re getting back money from ESPN+. So ESPN has made a commitment to help upgrade the equipment with all the different schools," he said. "Every school is getting three new cameras from the Big South Conference, and helping along with that is ESPN, then ESPN is also sending money to each school, just as a little stipend to help any other equipment, or personnel issues that may come up.”
According to BigSouthSports.com, the agreement between ESPN and the Big South Conference will run through 2024-25.