Big 12 fans were understandably skeptical when the conference announced its partnership with ESPN this spring that would see conference games move to the Worldwide Leader’s streaming platform, ESPN+. In an age where the other four Power 5 conferences now have their own cable networks, the Big 12 moved games to a platform that is literally not available on any cable service.
The second conference game arrived on Saturday with No. 21 Oklahoma State’s win over Kansas State (West Virginia at Kansas aired on ESPN+ the previous week), and those fears were not allayed by the actual product. Viewers missed the final minutes of the second quarter as the ESPN+ production was slow to return from a lightning delay, and “technical difficulties” prevented viewers from seeing a Kansas State touchdown.
Add in that viewers paid an extra $5 to see the game on top of their traditional television package, and people were understandably upset.
“Those things just wouldn’t happen if the game was on ESPN or ESPN2,” K-State athletic director Gene Taylor told the Wichita Eagle. “We were told any conference game on ESPN+ would be produced at that level and it clearly wasn’t at that level. We do a better production job when we do games in house than they did at Oklahoma State.”
ESPN apologized for the technical difficulties, while Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby did his best Baghdad Bob impression.
“I don’t have an answer for you as to why that would be,” Bowlsby said, “probably something was malfunctioning, because the production is exactly the same as they are doing on every other game. At least it’s supposed to be.”
Bowlsby told the Eagle that ESPN has free rein to put any conference game it so chooses on ESPN+ (outside of Oklahoma and Texas games) but the network assured K-State fans their remaining eight Big 12 games will remain on regular television.
Note: It should be mentioned Big 12 teams have appeared on ESPN+ a total of six times this season and ESPN has reported no issues in their five other streaming broadcasts. As always, individual viewer experiences may vary.