Big Sky Conference heads to Pluto, cuts the cable

Big Sky headed to PlutoThe SEC, ACC, and the University of Texas have TV network partnerships with ESPN for the upcoming season. Pac-12 has a deal with Fox. Where did the Big Sky Conference go to get a TV deal? It’s heading to Pluto.

Pluto TV, an Internet-based TV platform, announced this weekend it is launching the Big Sky Conference Channel (Ch. 230). Pluto TV is available on AppleTV, AndroidTV, Roku and PlayStation consoles.

It has more than 100 live TV channels as well as multiple music stations.

This is Pluto’s first channel that will show live sports. Under the deal, Pluto TV will stream as many as 700 football, men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball and selected soccer, softball and track and field events from teams in the conference.

According to its news release, Pluto said it will broadcast all football, basketball, soccer, and more and “it’s all completely free, all the time.”

Free? Such a nice departure from ESPN and its worries.

You might recall some layoffs occurring at the worldwide leader several months ago. Those layoffs were sparked by the issues ESPN has with its dwindling number of cable subscribers. Cable providers pay networks like ESPN a certain amount per customer each month.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the providers pay a little more than $28 for a few dozen channels (depending on the provider), with ESPN taking more than $6 of that. So when they say ESPN is down 8 million subscribers, that means revenue from cable subscriptions is roughly down $48-50 million … per month.

Pluto is not a planet, yet

At Pluto TV, it is concerned with the total number of users it has on its app. As of 2016, it has 5 million. Not a huge number, that number is up from 50,000 users in 2015.

OK, an exciting matchup of Weber State and Southern Utah might not double the number of users, but it is an indication a trend for smaller schools and conferences are headed. And no matter the size of the team or sport, digital media companies are mining everywhere for sports content.

As mentioned in a post here, a recent story in the Sports Business Daily reports that the digital media companies have been working furiously to seal sports rights deals, so much so that it has “energized league executives” … because they see these deals as a way to keep rights fees high during the next round of media negotiations.

One has to assume the NCAA and college conferences are viewing it the same way.


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