People forget that the first-ever conference network came from the Mountain West in form of the now defunct The Mtn., and not the highly successful Big Ten Network.
There were a lot of reasons that network failed and part of it was market size and distribution for the Mountain West Network, and yes there were some issues with announcers and camera work. Overall, it helped pave the way for conference networks and also league-wide networks we enjoy today.
These conference and league networks provided an extra avenue for revenue and now they are at that point again. There is not necessarily a sports rights bubble ready to burst for high-profile leagues like the Big Ten, but for smaller brands like Conference USA which was the first college league to decrease on a new media rights deal, the problems are real for those leagues.
The Mountain West was one of the first league’s to stream games on their own digital network and Campus Insiders a few years ago — superscription free — and they were part of the Arizona Bowl which was the first bowl game produced by a streaming network. It did get picked up by the American Sports Network to air on a linear channel.
This was a free streaming platform and not like WatchESPN, Fox Sports Go or the other streaming services that require a pay television service.
While Netflix and Hulu are non-committal on live sports, at least in the near future, there are other services which are looking to get into this arena. To be fair, Netflix does have Chelsea Handler talk show that records and airs new episodes on a weekly basis, but that is the closest they have moved to airing live content.
Whereas Yahoo, Twitter, Amazon and Facebook are in the game. The NFL streamed a game from London last year on Yahoo and they also air select region free baseball and NHL games.
Twitter is simulcasting some live sports including Thursday NFL games, Amazon produced the Arizona Cardinals documentary “All or Nothing” and Facebook has rights to CONCACAF Champions League and also simulcast select Team USA basketball games heading up to the Olympics.
Things are changing again with the college game, and the American teaming up with Amazon Prime is a big deal.
Putting the AAC deal into context, we're seeing a gradual move to address both cord-cutters and increase exposure: pic.twitter.com/OUOnwz8NsM— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) August 3, 2016
At, AAC media days commissioner Mike Aresco said the league is exploring a non-traditional avenue to broadcast its sports inventory with some of its women's basketball and non-revenue sports as soon as this year.
"Anyone with eyes can tell that the big Internet companies—I wouldn't even call them new media, they're not anymore—are going to be bigger players," Aresco told SI.com. "There's no question. TV is TV and media is media. You can watch a game on a pie plate."
Aresco recently said that he believes the American should be considered a Power Six league which is laughable because to be in that discussion as a power league one needs to pull in significant revenue.
The American’s current TV deal pays them no where new what the Power Five conferences that distribute well over $20 million per year while the AAC is no where near $10 million per school per year.
However, Aresco has the vision to go in different avenues by looking into Amazon Prime to stream games live. Credit him for looking to find an outlet to get his teams more exposure and money.
However, within the next decade or so do not be surprised if there are mid-level games between Power Five teams for college football and basketball appearing exclusively on a streaming platform.
This move to streaming games has been going slowly but the past few months it has exploded and look for the non-power leagues make the move to this area and pick up some extra money to try to stay competitive with the 10-figure paydays that the Power Five teams are earning.