Thursday, January 2, 2020

Kansas basketball games on Big 12 Now/ESPN+ a new source of frustration for some KU fans

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) powers in a dunk against East Tennessee State center Lucas N'Guessan (25) during the second half on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) powers in a dunk against East Tennessee State center Lucas N'Guessan (25) during the second half on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.


On Saturday afternoon when third-ranked Kansas and No. 16 West Virginia square off at Allen Fieldhouse to open Big 12 play, a matchup that has become must-see television in recent years will not be watched by some KU fans.

The same goes for Wednesday's game at Iowa State and two more Big 12 games later this season.

For the first time in KU history, the Big 12 Conference has taken a chunk of its college basketball games off cable and put them exclusively on the new streaming service known as Big 12 Now through ESPN+.

To get the Big 12 Conference games on Big 12 Now/ESPN+ — 20 in all during the upcoming Big 12 season — fans are required to subscribe to ESPN+ and watch them on their phones, tablets or computers. The games then can appear on television sets through various casting services and Smart TVs.

The cost for a subscription to ESPN+ is $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year and can be canceled at any time.

According to KU Athletic Director Jeff Long, the move, which has been met with frustration from several segments of the KU fan base, was made at the conference level and, as Long put it, is “very much a part of being in a conference.”

“Obviously it’s going to be a challenge for our fans who don’t have the streaming service, Big 12 Now, to see those first two conference games,” Long recently told the Journal-World. “But the fact that Kansas was chosen to be on in those first two games, there’s a reason for that. And the reason is it will drive people to subscribe and that’s obviously ESPN’s goal here.”

Judy Hollingshead, 70, of Lawrence, has no interest in signing up for the service and is frustrated that games that used to be so readily available for viewing have become hard to watch.

“This is my favorite time of the year,” Hollingshead said. “KU basketball season is what I live for. The season is one-third over already and I’ve seen two, maybe three, games. It’s just so rude that it’s changing now. We’re so used to being able to watch the games live, and it’s frustrating for them to be streaming now. A lot of older citizens don’t even know and understand how to stream.”

The frustration from KU fans has not been limited to the subscription requirement.

Lawrence resident Jim Bowen, 78, has been following KU basketball since he first listened to a game on the radio in 1951. And while the streaming service and cost associated with it caused Bowen to grumble initially, he said he signed up for ESPN+ because he “can just hardly stand to know there’s a game going on and not be watching.”

With that said, Bowen’s frustrations are not about the pay-per-view aspect but instead the quality of what he’s watching.

“I would get comfortable with it if I had assurances that the quality would be the same as I’m used to on cable,” he said. “Consistency and dependability I guess is what we’re looking for.”

Several other KU fans have taken to Twitter and email to complain about the production quality of the broadcasts.

One game, KU’s 98-57 victory over Kansas City at Sprint Center, in Kansas City, Mo., had so many production issues it prompted both ESPN and Kansas Athletics to release apology statements a couple of days later.

By season’s end, the KU men’s basketball team will have played 10 games exclusively on Big 12 Now/ESPN+. The two exhibition games and four nonconference games already are in the past. And four of KU’s final 19 regular-season games — starting with Saturday vs. West Virginia — remain slated for streaming.

KU’s rematch with West Virginia on Feb. 12 in Morgantown, W.Va., also will be on Big 12 Now, along with a home game against TCU on March 4.

KU’s total of 10 Big 12 Now games ranks tied for second among its Big 12 peers.

Only Kansas State, with 15, will play more games on Big 12 Now/ESPN+ this season. Oklahoma State joins the Jayhawks in having 10 of its games on Big 12 Now/ESPN+.

Long does not see that as a bad thing.

“Kansas being on is a tribute to our success and the demand that people have to watch Kansas basketball,” he said. “So you can understand why ESPN and Big 12 Now chose Kansas.”

Texas, because of The Longhorn Network’s affiliation with ESPN, is only on Big 12 Now twice, and both times as the road team. Oklahoma and Texas Tech are each on three times, Iowa State four times, West Virginia five times, TCU six times and Baylor eight times, four Big 12 games and four nonconference matchups.

A request by the Journal-World for more information from an ESPN+ representative about the programming and future of the Big 12’s contract with ESPN+ was not immediately returned. But Long said fans should get used to this sort of setup.

“The streaming is the way of the future,” he said. “If you watch some of the television negotiations that are playing out right now, the streaming piece is a big part of it. So the Big 12 has positioned itself very well and it will be to our advantage when we go into our negotiations.”

Well aware of the frustration surfacing among its fan base — in fact, Long on Wednesday evening engaged in a back-and-forth dialogue on Twitter about this very topic — KU has taken some steps to help people get the streaming service.

Associate Athletic Director for Public Relations Dan Beckler and Assistant AD and radio color commentator Greg Gurley recently went to a local retirement home to outfit the theater room with Roku access so its residents could watch the Big 12 Now games.

“All of us, even our new folks, understand the passion our fans have for KU basketball,” Long said. “And we wish we had an army of people who could go out and set up these things for people.”


Phil Leister 1 year, 11 months ago

If you've got a problem with the quality of the stream, it's your internet. Save the game against UMKC, I haven't had any problems with quality.

Streaming is indeed the way of the future. Get used to it.

Andy Godwin 1 year, 11 months ago

Or like some, who have been loyal KU fans for life, finally figured out that KU basketball (and football) is not all that big of deal and moved on to other things in life that might be a bit more important. I know many older individuals who are technically challenged and have resigned to either listen on the radio (I wonder if Mr. Long has tried to figure out a way to bill for these airway broadcasts) or not watch these games at all.

Dale Rogers 1 year, 11 months ago

Not necessarily an internet connectivity problem. Our internet is advertised at 150 bps and tests at closer to 165. We stream a lot of other things without problem. Quality on espn+/Big12 Now is definitely sub-par. There are video dropouts. There are audio dropouts. There are times the picture goes fuzzy for a few seconds to half a minute, then suddenly clears up.

Further, I am not happy that we cannot watch a Texas-Kansas game that's on Longhorn Network. We can not individually subscribe to that network. You can get it only if your cable provider carries it (usually extra cost). Cox is my carrier but I live in California. Cox does NOT carry Longhorn TV here despite my numerous pleas. So, no KU basketball or football for us when it's on Longhorn Network.

We seem to be going backwards in the interest of more profit for ESPN and more money for the schools at the expense of the fans. It comes across as pure greed, KU and ESPN.

Jim Stauffer 1 year, 11 months ago

It is greed or at the very least need to keep up financially. I am not sure how necessary it is to always keep up with the Joneses, but that is certainly what is afoot here. I must agree with the comment we seem to be going backward. Mr. Long says this is the new thing. Well the new thing is less efficiently produced than the old thing.

Steve Hillyer 1 year, 11 months ago

KU is actually getting less ,Indy with this deal, they were getting $7 million a year for their third tier, now with this deal they are getting $4 million, brilliant!

Spencer Goff 1 year, 11 months ago

My friend and I were unable to get the games due to "area restrictions." He lives in Utah and I live in Western Kansas. We both cancelled. Is a shame too, as I liked the service just fine until I couldn't get the team I was paying money to see.

David Robinett 1 year, 11 months ago

Jeff Long - never ignore complaints of lifetime fans - that’s all you’ve got when things go South.

Brian Babcock 1 year, 11 months ago

Streaming has been great for me. It's the ever changing viewing provider that I have an issue with: ESPN, ABC, CBS, Fox, ESPNU, ESPN2, ESPN+. Why can't I pay one business to be able to watch every game? I can't get over the air tv reception where I live, the big networks only stream if you have a cable provider (cable is a waste of money for me), and Sling - you have to have orange for this game, blue for that game, sports add on for this game and they don't provide local channel access . . . These first world problems are hard. I'm kind of leaning towards Andy's sentiment and thinking of moving onto a different pasttime. Like complaining. That's still free and available 24 hours a day.

Buck Bukaty 1 year, 11 months ago

I have Fiber To The Home (FTTH if you are learned in the industry), the trouble was not my internet.

When I attempted to cancel after frustrations encountered the first two football games I discovered that the ESPN+ (I call it "minus") platform would not allow me to delete my credit card number and other data from their data base. I was so incensed that I filed a detailed complaint email and insisted that someone from their legal dept contact me, which they did. I was surprised to experience that the person who contacted me actually researched internally my complaint prior to contacting me. He agreed they were deficient and determined that the only way they could delete my credit card information was to totally delete my account profile, which he claimed they did. I asked him, if he were to go into a restaurant and pay with a credit card, would he allow them to hold onto the card just in case he decided to come back? He agreed with me, that would not make sense. I advised them that because of their deficiencies, should their credit card data base ever become cyberattacked, I will hold them accountable should my data be compromised, and that includes any of their media partners, including the Big 12 Conference. Like someone alluded to before, there are a lot of things I can do without in this life, now there is one more, and it's no loss on my part.

Armen Kurdian 1 year, 11 months ago

The streaming landscape is becoming more and more fractured. I joined the Disney+ bundle because there finally was enough content that made it make sense for me, otherwise I would have continue to just listen over the audio feed. Right after I graduated, you could actually call a 900 number, give a credit card, and listen to the game over the phone. Then you could listen over the internet, then you had to subscribe to yahoo sports for $5 /month, that was a pain because it didn't always work, then that went away, then ESPN would stream all their content online, then ESPN+ was only content that was not available on TV, and the rules do keep changing and it is in fact very frustrating trying to keep up.

W Keith Swinehart II 1 year, 11 months ago

I'm 77 and enjoy my ESPN+ subscription in South Carolina. It's not expensive and it is high quality. You miss nothing and, in fact, have extras like pregame and post game analysis and interviews. Game announcers are the ones you know and like. The only negative is the inability to pause and record. You've got to be ready at game time (hint Actually, programming begins 30 minutes before to get pregame discussion. Post game will run another hour or so. I like the extras!

Don't fight it. Streaming is not going away.

Shannon Gustafson 1 year, 11 months ago

You can pause, rewind, etc. I turn it on at game time, pause it for a half hour, then start watching it so I can skip the delays. The only thing that frustrates me is that fast foward or rewind doesn't show the game when you're doing so (so you can't tell when you've went far enough to avoid the commercial break for instance).

Micky Baker 1 year, 11 months ago

Streaming is here to stay, but there are some things that need to be worked out. Lot's of buffering, and this might indicate that there is not enough memory in the devices that are being used. The data speeds from the carrier are more than sufficient.

Robert Brock 1 year, 11 months ago

KU is a major national power in college hoops. The Hawks deserve to be on regular TV, not some tutti-frutti streaming service.

Adam Bengtson 1 year, 11 months ago

I already pay for garbage production on ESPN networks through AT&T. Why would I pay for more garbage? All of you who say streaming is here to stay and to get over it, the older you get the more likely you don’t care or follow sports like you use to. Young kids don’t have same passion as a decade ago and the sport is losing viewership. ESPN has lost almost 10-14 million subscribers over past decade and had fired 100s of people in the process. The obvious reasons of politics but it’s also a poor product. I would buy it from any other broadcast at this point but not ESPN. They have lose their touch and provide the Big 12 with sub par marketing.

Steve Quatrocky 1 year, 11 months ago

The deal sucks all the way around. College athletics is about its fanbase and anything that keeps games away from the fanbase is stupid and counterproductive. Given that we used to have every game on tv with Spectrum and now we dont its a bad move, a blatant attempt to extort the fanbase for a little more money, and then they havent delivered a quality product for those who paid the ransom.

Michael Maris 1 year, 11 months ago

“But the fact that Kansas was chosen to be on in those first two games, there’s a reason for that. And the reason is it will drive people to subscribe and that’s obviously ESPN’s goal here.”

Here's the nuts and bolts of all new Sports channels contracts. The College Sports TV industry created their own financial pitfalls, and now they're trying to make consumers pay for their prior year financial mistakes. The Networks overbid themselves (on TV Contracts to the P5 Conferences) to the extent they keep forcing the cost upon the cable TV consumer. So now, ESPN has devised a new avenue to make college sports consumers pay even more for their Conference TV Bidding Wars. Recently (as I have read), FOX Sports basically said, "We're out". Now ESPN says, we're going to make you pay even more for our services (above and beyond your normal monthly cable subscription). Yes, streaming is the way of the future. But, the millenials are less sports minded than their previous generations are. So, ESPN, FOX Sports, etc...... are not doing themselve any favor by implementing these new additional monthly subscription + streaming services. And, if Joe Bloe in Kokomo can't watch the Jayhawks via the ESPN+ services, how is that helping ESPN and Bob Iger? This industry created their own financial pitfalls, and now they're trying to make consumers pay for their prior financial mistakes.

Barry Weiss 1 year, 11 months ago

I guess I am fortunate to have access to the ESPN + streaming on my Direct TV account. It started out a bit sketchy, but seems to be improving. Sure I wish it was like several years ago when every KU game was on a major network or one of the ESPN channels. The ESPN + does help get KU football games, which because of our lack of success in that sport, we were rarely on a major network or ESPN or Fox. Go Jayhawks, beat WV!!

Charlie Gaughn 1 year, 11 months ago

Jeff Long portrays this as some kind of reward to KU for being a high profile program. I think his logic is a bit flawed. If that's indeed true, K-State is viewed as 50% more in demand. I think it has a lot more to do with the number of TV sets in the geographic region of the schools.

I personally don't mind the $4.99 per month for ESPN+. It gives you access to a lot more than just the KU games (e.g., Miles to Go series). However, the quality of the announcers and the the overall game experience is similar to watching a Kansas high school playoff game on TV. The other concern I have is the reduction in the number of games available to potential recruits on cable. If a basketball recruit has the choice of watching Kentucky or North Carolina on cable or pay $4.99 to watch KU, who knows....

I'm just waiting for the football season where we get bumped to ESPN+ AND it's an 11:00 kickoff. In my mind there would never be a reason for that to happen but I'll bet we see it.

David McNickle 1 year, 11 months ago

I can watch the SEC channel, the ACC channel, and the Big 10 channel thru Direct TV. Where's the Big 12 channel? Let's you know where the BIG 12 stands in the scheme of sports broadcasting. I would gladly pay $4.99/mo extra in my sports package. I do agree with Barry that it is nice to be able to watch other KU sports on ESPN +.

Chandler Accipiter 1 year, 11 months ago

I've commented before about this as well. My sports package with Cox includes the aforementioned ACC, Big 10, and SEC channels along with the PAC 12. Where's the Big 12 channel? It's called the Longhorn Network! And that tells you all you need to know about the Big 12 conference.

Gary McCullough 1 year, 11 months ago

UT has blocked a Big XII conference channel like the PAC12, SEC, and B1G. UT's actions caused the turmoil that resulted in Mizzou and aTm going SEC, CU to the PAC12, and NU to the B1G. Texas' demands for the Longhorn Network is at the expense of every other Big XII team. I worked at a UT campus for nearly 30 years before I retired and found the hierarchical, authoritarian approach is their M.O. with faculty as well as their Big XII mates. Despite the marquee value of the Longhorns, I wonder if their worth the trouble they cause. I subscribed to ESPN+ because they have me over a barrel. But the solution is to get UT to throw in with the rest of the league for our own league network.

Dane Pratt 1 year, 11 months ago

They’re doing it because they can. Most of the conference is afraid of UT leaving and the ensuing collapse of the B12 and so they allow them to do what none of the other stable conferences would tolerate. Texas could write their own ticket to any conference in the country but I think they would prefer to stay in a ten team B12 where their chances of reaching the playoffs are better.

Steve Hillyer 1 year, 11 months ago

If streaming is the future then why did espn just start the acc network, why didn’t they just put that on espn+? Streaming may be fine for singles and couples, but due to limited log ins and simultaneous viewing it is impractical for larger families. I looked at going to streaming only, Hulu+ and YouTube were the only ones that would come close to working for us yet there were no local channels and some of the kid channels my youngest watch were not available, it still cost $50/ month but when you figure in increasing your internet speed which raises that bill it was a wash financially for us, not to mention you are tying up a device when watching a program it just isn’t worth it or convenient. Also, as someone mentioned earlier there are so many services starting and they are removing their programming from rival services how many accounts are you going to have to sign up for?

Robert Robinson 1 year, 11 months ago

In an attempt to look at the glass half full, at least we can cancel the hot garbage known as ESPN+ after the TCU game on March 4th. And I don't buy the "poor internet quality" talk. I have Netflix, Hulu Live and watch other streaming videos through my Roku and they play fine.

Gary McCullough 1 year, 11 months ago

I'm with ya' bro. But it seems they have scheduled our games so we have to keep the subscription active for the whole season.

Charlie Gaughn 1 year, 11 months ago

Absolutely! I was hoping to cancel after the second football game and then they announced we were going to have 10 basketball games on as well. I was hoping it would be like the old Time Warner days when all of the games would be during the non conference portion of our season. They are getting creative and AD's like Long are being good little sheep and following along.

I grew up listening to Max Falkenstein and I honestly enjoyed the radio broadcasts as much. Perhaps we need to stand up and say we've had enough and go back to listening on radio.

Mark Wooden 1 year, 11 months ago

The self absorbed had a point. ESPN can steal your CC number and buy a bunch of stuff. They need money now that Disney has to spread it out all over. Seriously though I subscribed to watch the WV game and canceled after mostly cause streaming on a phone is annoying.

Glen Miller 1 year, 11 months ago

I think some folks just like to complain. Plus, you can watch the game wherever you want or watch a replay of it if you'd like. ESPN+ is great and you get so much more than just games for $4.99 a month. I just don't understand why so much bellyaching is happening. I know some who only have antenna TV will be unhappy, but you weren't catching every game of KU basketball anyways that way. I've paid $40.00 a month for things that gave me less content than ESPN+. I think your internet connection is probably your biggest issue, because the games play just fine so far for me.... other than the UMKC game, which they addressed.

Curtis Blankenship 1 year, 11 months ago

I tried ESPN+ for football and it wasn't that great (can't pause without reprecussions). I really hate the idea of paying for two subscriptions. There isn't much else on it (F2 Racing and Costa Rican Soccer). At least the NFL playoffs are tomorrow around the same time. Rock Chalk!

Gary McCullough 1 year, 11 months ago

I'll just reduce my annual contribution to the Williams Fund by $50/yr.

Kenneth Johnson 1 year, 11 months ago

I simply hate this change to ESPN+. First of all, the quality is just terrible. And the cost is really $5.34/month, after they add taxes. Plus, I have to watch on my computer, not my large TV.

I would suggest that AD Jeff Long ought to consider resigning after making this stupid move. It certainly isn't fan-friendly.

Ken Johnson, Ph.D. (KU MS '70) Author of Kansas University Basketball Legends, published by The History Press of Charleston, SC

Charlie Gaughn 1 year, 11 months ago

Buy a Roku stick and plug it in to one of your HDMI ports. It comes with a remote and easy to install instructions. Then you can stream just as if you had cable. It's a little cumbersome to navigate but beats the heck out of the $125+ we were paying for DirectTV along with internet costs.

Phyllis Hartwick 1 year, 11 months ago

Plug your computer into your TV via a HDMI cable. We do that when we are on vacation in Mexico so that we can watch KU basketball. (We do have to use a VPN connection to a US IP address.)

Brian Skelly 1 year, 11 months ago

I posted on another thread, but found this one... which is where the topic is...

I for one hate that it's on ESPN+ now. Not because the technology -- I happily subscribe to ESPN+ and think that the content level for the value is unreal.

But I hate the idea that TEN (10!) KU games aren't on TV anymore. When was the last time TEN KU games were not available on TV?!?!?!? I can't recall at all.

I hope like crazy Jeff Long pushes back on this. Sorry. KU's BBall ratings on ESPN are only trail a small handful of teams. His argument is essentially that's why ESPN+ wants those eyeballs.

This is a huge slap in the face to KU Alums and fans in my opinion. So on a January Saturday a game between two ranked Big 12 teams is only available on the internet... behind a paywall. Brilliant move for the fan base!!!

Robert Brown 1 year, 11 months ago

Why is no one reporting how much the ESPN+ deal with the Big 12 has cost KU by packaging KU’s Tier 3 media rights in the deal.

Drew Doerfler 1 year, 11 months ago

i'd like to preface this rant by saying that i am a huge ku basketball fan and alum that hasn't missed a game in 20 years......but the pure greed is getting on my nerves....this move is not what's best for the's trying to milk the fans out of more and more money just to support their team. greed...greed...greed....the fact that they purposely had random games only available on espn+ spread throughout the schedule so that people had to purchase the subscription for the entire season really pisses me year there will be a new espn++ where there will be 5 games on it, 5 games on espn+, then the next year espnlive will have 5 games for another subscription fee.......greed.....i'm losing interest in supporting this greed even though i love ku basketball...i live in western ks and the internet speeds are not great so the game quality isn't great to watch.....but hey, screw the fans for another extra buck....greed.....i am not a fan of the new ad...pure greed......and next year is not going to be a great year for ku might be a rough year losing pretty much all of our best players and only having sub 100 recruits coming in..great time to milk more money out of loyal fans......ok rant over....but i am slowly losing interesting in supporting the athletic department

Brian Babcock 1 year, 11 months ago

I'm kind of done supporting them too. I stopped buying KU gear a couple of years ago. I might change that someday when my last KU shirt has more holes than material. No, wait, the shirt was the last thing I bought and it's already falling apart?

Phyllis Hartwick 1 year, 11 months ago

We live in AZ so we are just glad to be able to watch KU games. We cut the cable 5 years ago and chose SlingTV and it does have ESPN and ESPN2, but not ESPNU.. With Kansas playing on ESPN so often, we love getting to see them play. We have digital antennas for local channels, so can watch when they are on CBS, ABC, or Fox local stations.

Last year, I did subscribe to ESPN+ for the preseason games and it was nice to see those and was worth the $10 for November & December, But this year, I was was surprised that there would be 10 games and that I would have to pay through March!

As for the announcers, one benefit is that Bill Walton or Dick Vitale do not work ESPN+ We turn the sound way down or off when those guys are on ESPN. When we lived in Topeka, we would turn the volume off on the TV and listen to Max on the radio. He was the best!

Dane Pratt 1 year, 11 months ago

Where is your internet connection from?

Blake Brown 1 year, 11 months ago

Not a fan at all and have to think this is only a monetary benefit for the school who is the only winner here.

I cannot record the game to watch later and FF though commercials and talking head half time. Additionally, I can't go slow mo for detail and iso. As others have stated, I can pause and FF, but without knowing how long to go to resume to the action. Since I can't record, I can't save games to watch next year as I've done for years for top games. And since I can't record, I have to schedule to watch the games when they are live which isn't always easy or convenient.

And then there are those like my sister who can't get ESPN+ on Frontier and have to use them in an exclusive condo situation. She lives part time in the desert and is a season ticket holder via serious Willaims Fund contributions and is relegated to watching on her iPad. Ridiculous.

And now I know a little more abut Jeff Long. What is he thinking? It surely isn't about the fans.

Wayne Propst 1 year, 11 months ago

BA 71 ....WAS GOING TO LEAVE 20% of my estate to KU....not no more..KU is a sad shadow of its former self....also sending notes to all my cronies...DON/T GIVE THEM A DIME....totally corrupt sad

Kevin Pavey 1 year, 11 months ago

The streaming - or the method of content delivery - doesn't bother me. I have smart TVs (and streaming boxes) that have apps that stream content. Been doing that for several years now. What bothers me is that I now have to pay $5 / month or $50 per year to watch content that used to be included in my TV package. There are some interesting documentaries on ESPN+ but I wouldn't pay extra for them if the basketball games weren't on there.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.