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College conferences might help speed up sports TV cord-cutting

One FBS conference is openly discussing the idea while others plan for the future.

Arkansas v Florida Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

At the start of last season, we put up a guide to watching college football legally, without paying a cable or satellite bill.

Since then, the future has been filled with promise and wonder, such as YouTube soon launching a streaming service that includes the ESPNs and FOXes and such, but no Turner, meaning it could be perfect for CFB fans, but much less so for hoops fans.

Now, some conferences might be adding to the situation. Mid-major officials have long grumbled about ESPN's power, with those smaller schools' need for revenue and exposure meaning television can dictate kickoffs at bizarre times. From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

The Mountain West already has numerous football and men’s basketball games on Internet-only feeds like ESPN3, CampusInsiders.com and Themwc.com. The idea, if the networks refuse to rescind control over start times, would be to go all digital, which would significantly reduce the rights fees but also eliminate the 8:15 p.m. Thursday night football game or the 12:52 a.m. Eastern time semifinal in the conference tournament.

There are no time slots on the Internet. You just play whenever you want to. And some of that lost money in rights fees, you’d think, would be recouped by increased ticket sales.

The decision: Are you more concerned about the 40,000 in the stadium who buy tickets, or the 250,000 watching on TV for free?

The MWC has already been one of the most experimental conferences in this regard, simulcasting some games on Twitter. Jumping in fully would be quite a risk, for now. MWC Connection:

One huge concern about moving more games to a streaming network is money. From the CBS deal, teams are getting around $1 million per year. Could that be replicated if those games go to a streaming service like Amazon, Twitter, or even Hulu, which is getting into live programming soon?

The answer is probably no for a full package, but maybe a few extra to test the waters might be a way to start. Or this could be a ploy to get more money from the MWC's current network partners.

The West Coast's bigger conference, the Pac-12, is in a similar predicament, often kicking off at times that are either too early for attendees or too late for East Coast audiences. One potential, long-term advantage: the conference's self-owned network, which could become a real digital asset despite struggling to land national TV distribution.

And now we're back to waiting on the glorious future of pick-and-choose TV.

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