Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Notebook: KU coach Bill Self focused on recruiting impact of games being on ESPN+

Kansas coach Bill Self applauds his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa State, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Kansas coach Bill Self applauds his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa State, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)


Ames, Iowa — Kansas basketball coach Bill Self does not have ESPN+ and is not afraid to tell you that he doesn’t really know how to get it.

Considering where he sits on game nights, he also doesn’t need it.

But that has not stopped Self from forming his own thoughts about the streaming service that, after Wednesday’s 79-53 Kansas victory over Iowa State at Hilton Coliseum, already has shown eight KU games this season and has two more still to go before the postseason arrives.

The frustration that several KU fans have voiced about the Big 12 Now/ESPN+ platform is derived from both the subscription element and the quality standpoint of the broadcast.

But Self is paying attention to it for a totally different reason.

“I know the wave of the future is streaming and that sort of stuff, so maybe we’re ahead of the curve a little bit,” Self said. “So you can’t look at it as all negative. But the one thing that is a little bit more difficult is you’re not seen by recruits and recruits’ families as much nationwide. … I’m just curious, of the top 100 (recruits) in the country and their families, how many are subscribers?”

Although that exposure hurdle might make recruiting slightly more difficult for KU’s coaching staff, Self acknowledged that he was aware of and sympathized with the reasons for the frustration from KU fans.

He also said “the jury’s still out,” about whether it will be good or bad for Kansas basketball in the long run.

“It’s not ideal,” he acknowledged. “But, who knows; two or three years from now, it may be a very clever move to have done it to get ahead of the curve. So I don't think anybody can bash anybody about it, it’s just kind of a change of times and how it works. But I can certainly appreciate the frustration by fans.

“Even though I know it certainly affects fan bases everywhere, it has ours because some (fans) aren’t quite as equipped to handle some of the modern technology as what others are. And nobody likes that, but it’s just kind of what the league has decided to do. You can’t say it’s bad now because we haven’t given it time to determine if it’s going to be good or bad.”

The Jayhawks’ next nine games will be nationally televised on either CBS or ESPN’s cable networks. After that, two of KU’s final eight games of the regular season (Feb. 12 at West Virginia and March 4 vs. TCU) will be on Big 12 Now/ESPN+, bringing KU’s total of stream-exclusive games this season to 10, including the two exhibition games.

“(I’m) not excited about that,” said Self, noting that 10 was “a pretty big number.”

“But it may be better for us than some other folks because other folks may have more games on there,” Self said. “You can get it. I don't know how, but you can get it. I mean, based on what I've been told, you’ve got to go through a little bit of stuff, but you can get it.”

Wild road success

KU’s victory on Wednesday night pushed the Jayhawks’ record in conference road openers under Self to 16-1.

Until last season’s road loss to Iowa State in early January, which opened their Big 12 road slate in 2018-19, the Jayhawks had won their conference road opener in 27 consecutive seasons, including the first 15 under Self.

Prior to last season, the last time Kansas lost a conference road opener was during the 1990-91 season, when they fell to Oklahoma, 88-82, in Norman. That also was the last time KU lost a conference opener.

The Jayhawks are now 28-1 in their last 29 conference openers on the road.

Former KU coach Roy Williams, Self’s predecessor, was 14-1 in road openers during his 15 seasons in Lawrence.

Watch lists

The John R. Wooden Award on Wednesday announced that Kansas senior Udoka Azubuike and sophomore point guard Devon Dotson both had been named to the Midseason Top 25 Watch List.

Azubuike, who leads the nation in field goal percentage at 81.1 percent, also leads the Jayhawks in rebounding (8.9 boards per game) and blocks, with 28. He entered Wednesday’s game averaging 13.3 points per game and had pushed his rebounding average to 11.4 per game during the Jayhawks five games leading up to Wednesday night.

That run included the first three-game streak of double-digit rebounds in his college career.

Dotson, meanwhile, entered Wednesday night leading the Big 12 in scoring at 18.5 points per game. He also held the team lead with 57 assists, 31 steals and 70 free throws made entering Wednesday night.

Wednesday opponent Tyrese Haliburton, a sophomore at Iowa State, also cracked the list, pushing the number of players on the Wooden Award watch list that the Jayhawks have faced thus far to five.

This and that...

KU now leads the all-time series with Iowa State, 183-66, including a 71-40 edge in games played in Ames and a 27-22 mark at Hilton Coliseum... The Jayhawks are now 12-2 or better for the second consecutive season and the 10th time in the 17-year Self era... Kansas is now 2-1 in true road games this season and 5-2 in games played outside of Allen Fieldhouse... Class of 2020 KU signee Tyon Grant-Foster, who plays junior college ball in Ottumwa, Iowa, about 120 miles from Ames, was in attendance on Wednesday, wearing a black KU jacket.


Drew Doerfler 2 years, 7 months ago

Self's diplomatic way of saying that he is not a fan of having 10 games on espn+...that is a ridiculous number strictly to force a great fan base to spent more money on something they otherwise wouldn't even consider purchasing. streaming is the future, but it is already getting very irritating with limited content on all the different streaming services and you will have to have 20 apps and services just to be able to see what you used to get on are not pro are just pro money

Kit Duncan 2 years, 7 months ago

I suggest you aim your anger at the Big XII. THEY negotiate TV deals and determine which games will be televised and on what channel. KU is fortunate to be the leader of the Big XII when it comes to nationwide viewership, otherwise half the games might only be available on radio (like they were, as recently as five to ten years ago).

Those of us who live outside the state of Kansas have had a difficult time in years past finding KU games on radio, before SiriusXM. And SXM is a pay for service which can be even more expensive per month than ESPN+.

Don't get me wrong, I am not happy about having to pay to watch, but it certainly is better now than it was several years ago.

Marc Frey 2 years, 7 months ago

I said this before, my son offered to pay my I took a crowbar to my wallet and bought the monthly fee for +. Picture is ok, even with my country internet. I watched the half hour pregame, and postgame interview with Dodson. I will use it for 7 months, drop it in April, and return for football. Am I happy about it? Not really but figure I can pony up the cash to watch my beloved Jayhawks.

Brad Avery 2 years, 7 months ago

"He also said “the jury’s still out,” about whether it will be good or bad for Kansas basketball in the long run." No, coach, the jury has delivered its verdict and it is horrible for KU basketball and its fans. ESPN+ will not even let me subscribe. And who wants to watch on their computer anyway? Texas v. OU and a variety of schools with basketball as a sport were on ESPN regular television last night, but not the number 3 ranked KU Jayhawks and Iowa State.

Roger Ortega 2 years, 7 months ago

You don't have to watch on your computer. There are SEVERAL ways to watch it on your tv.

Hal Urbanek 2 years, 7 months ago

No national audience for that W.Virgina game...tsk tsk

Andy Godwin 2 years, 7 months ago

I am not a fan of ESPN+. The primary reason is frequently I am not able to watch the game at the scheduled tipoff. If you begin streaming mid game, the score is shown (ESPN - I don't want to know the score before watching the event) and you cannot start watching from the beginning until after the game and a long wait. I worked very late last night and it took over 30 minutes after the the conclusion of the game to have access to the game on demand. So I did not get through the game until after 11 pm. Yes, on demand and streaming is the future and in the not so distant future major events in the US, maybe even the Super Bowl, will be on paid preview (whatever approach makes the most money for schools, professional sport organizations, etc.).

Mike Greer 2 years, 7 months ago

Maybe I'm in the minority, but my iPad is too old for ESPN+, as a result I've missed every game that's been on that streaming crap. Supposedly it works on my smart TV, but I'm like Coach, I don't know how to make that connection. Maybe today's youth prefers to watch on their smart phone, I prefer the 60" I bought for this purpose!

Chris Shaw 2 years, 7 months ago

Buying ESPN+ is actually cheaper than the former ESPN College Basketball package you use to have to purchase in order to get the KU games if you lived out of the state.

It’s mind boggling to me individuals are complaining about $4.99 a month to watch the KU games. You would spend more way more if you went to a bar to watch the game or the former package they offered.

And, buy the subscription and then cancel it at the end of March if you’re such penny pushers. But, ESPN+ has some great content with shows, the 30/30, so IMO you’re getting it for dirt cheap. It’s all a matter of perspective.

I’m fine with ESPN+ to watch the games, my only criticism is that it makes it hard to go back and forth between other games quickly in between action between ESPN, ESPN 2 and the ESPN+ games.

David McNickle 2 years, 7 months ago

For me, it has nothing to do with "penny pushing". I receive the channel with my ESPN magazine subscription. Luv the channel during football season. The football product and our nationally recognized basketball product are two completely different situations. If i want to want to watch Duke, UK, or MSU play, i turn on my TV. If someone wants to watch KU play 10 times this season, they have to subscribe. It's not so much just about the KU diehard. National perception.

David Robinett 2 years, 7 months ago

Exactly Chris. 15 bucks for the season, no big deal. On the other hand for those who cannot access it for geographical reasons, I sympathize.

David McNickle 2 years, 7 months ago

I'd be interested in the number of games Champions' Classic participants shown exclusively on ESPN + as opposed to the Big 10, ACC, and SEC channels. Meanwhile you have a LHN showing a 8-5 football team, last year's NIT champs, and a 27-27 baseball team. PAC 12, even with their disinterest in sports, has their own channel.

Brian Jahelka 2 years, 7 months ago

ESPN+ Pros:

1) I was able to watch EVERY KU football game this year, which I don't think has EVER happened (attended 4 home games too, good times!) 2) I couldn't watch all of the KU basketball games the last few years, because some of them were on "Jayhawk TV" (or whatever it was), and that wasn't offered in my area. This year I got to see them all (without going to a bar in KC and spending $50 for dinner and drinks). 3) Miles to Go episodes (what, 18 of them or something?) were all great. 4) I don't understand the complaints about $5/mo. For $60 a year you can watch ALL the KU FB and BB games (well, at least the ones that aren't on regular TV), and get the extra shows like Miles to Go, all for less than the price of a single FB or BB game ticket (not counting travel expenses to get to the game, parking, and $7 beers). Seems to me like it has great bang for the buck.

ESPN+ Cons:

1) You have to either start watching while the game is going on (Live), or wait until about an hour after the game is over to watch the Replay. I had to stop watching 30 mins in last night, paused and walked away, and came back and the stream was gone. Had to wait another hour before I could watch the Replay. This sucks. DVR on DirecTV is way better. 2) I personally haven't had any issues with video/audio quality, except for that KU/UMKC game, which was horrible with the video and audio dropouts.

You also don't have to watch this on your computer or phone or tablet... Go get a Roku (for under $100) and you can get streaming from ESPN+ (and a bazillion other services) on your TV. Or you can stream through a PlayStation or XBox (like I do). We get Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and that is all we watch anymore (no commercials is AWESOME). Still have DirecTV (at $165/mo) just for those sports shows that aren't streamed yet. But all of that is slowly changing over to streaming, and I'm looking forward to ditching DirecTV ($$$) ASAP.

I would have to think that the rest of the Big IIX is thrilled about all the additional games being on ESPN+. How many KSU or ISU games were televised nationally last year? A fair percentage weren't. KSU has 15 games on ESPN+ this year. At least they CAN watch those games on TV now... As I understand it, this was a Big 12 decision, not a Jeff Long decision, so I don't get why he is getting a bad rap out of this deal.

Steve Hillyer 2 years, 7 months ago

Brian, How were you not able to watch every ku game previous to this year, channel 38 was the local Jayhawks tv and they were on cable systems throughout the state, if you were elsewhere in the country they were on espn3 which didn’t cost extra to watch online unlike espn+? I pay $90 for directv, call them, threaten to cancel and they will drop your bill. I keep hearing streaming is the future but it so fragmented now you have to sign up for several services, you have limited log ins and simultaneous viewing that you don’t have with directv which makes it impractical for families, singles and couples can pull it off maybe but not my family. Almost all but one or two football games were televised nationally in the big 12, and all conference basketball games in the big 12 were televised nationally regardless of school, big 12 made the decision to remove those games from tv platform and their 90 million subscribers to espn+ and it’s 2 million subscribers, brilliant!

Brian Jahelka 2 years, 7 months ago

I am local, just outside of the KC metro area. The games (both FB and BB) that were broadcast on "Jayhawk TV" weren't available on DirecTV where I live (and I do have 38 the spot). The games (mostly FB) that were broadcast on Fox Sports were done on different flavors of the FS channels, and I didn't have all of them in my package, so I missed a few of them.

And I didn't get ALL the KU FB games this year, should have mentioned that I had to go watch KU/TX at the bar because of the LHN. Grrr...

I don't understand why we didn't get the Jayhawk TV games on DirecTV. I have another buddy/alum that lives near me that has all the sports packages etc and he didn't get them either. It wasn't all bad, we hooked up at a bar, caught up with each other, and watched the game.

My biggest issue with cable/satellite, is that I'm locked in to paying a huge amount of money, just to get a few extra sports channels that I want, and I'm also paying for a bunch of crap I don't want (MTV, CMT, etc, I could list 100 channels that I don't want). I just want a package that has all the NFL (Chiefs), CFB, and NCAA BB games and I'd be happy.

My kids (10 and 13) don't watch anything on DirecTV anymore, its all Netflix and Amazon Prime for them. Wife is the same but she likes to watch the network crime dramas and crap like that as well (Hulu). So we have pretty much everything we want, but I still have to pay through the nose to get all those sports channels in a satellite package.

It would be great if there was a single streaming service that could have checkboxes next to each channel/package you want. Maybe some day. But for now, I agree, the transition to streaming/on-demand is going to be a bit painful.

Barry Weiss 2 years, 7 months ago

It works on both your TV and your computer. Last night my TV was acting up so I just went in and watched in on the computer. Granted, I did have my son do the hook up on my TV, that was beyond my tech skills. But the computer part, even an old geez like me has that down.

Brian Skelly 2 years, 7 months ago

I love ESPN+ and the unreal amount of sports content for 5 bucks a month. It's great.

I hate, HATE the fact that KU has T E N basketball games on it. The last few years almost ALL of those 10 would have been on ESPN, ESPN2, or ESPNU. There's ZERO question this will affect both the fan base and recruiting.

If your going to make people jump through hoops for it, don't complain when your not getting as many people to watch. Your only getting the true believers. Your certainly not growing your fan base.

The WVU / KU game this weekend I found particularly galling. It was likely the Big 12's best match up of the day -- two ranked teams going at it in Allen Fieldhouse. Sounds like an CBS or ESPN primetime game right? Nope. It's on the internet... behind a paywall no less. The kids love to use the "Epic Fail" expression. I don't know if this was epic, but it was a failure to be sure. Especially when you consider the number of games on this past weekend. Only a few of them were up to par with that matchup. But all those were on national TV.

Brian Jahelka 2 years, 7 months ago

I don't understand why the KU/WVU game wasn't televised nationally on ESPN/ESPN2 either. Makes no sense. KSU/TCU? Sure. But KU/WVU... #3 vs #4?

I think I'd have to agree that from an exposure standpoint, and for recruiting, ESPN+ probably isn't helping. Its only if you specifically WANT to watch KU, that I think it is a benefit.

As these streaming services become more popular, and hopefully easier for folks to bring in to their home, it will be less of a factor. But for right now, not ideal. Kind of like that electric car everyone thinks I need to go buy. I can't make it to grandma's house in an electric car!

David Robinett 2 years, 7 months ago

Brian, good point about now having access to games that were unavailable in prior years. That probably is the trade off that the big 12 had - they will show ALL the games but only if they get to win subscribers through ESPN plus. ESPN does have to pay somebody to produce the games or compensate them for broadcast rights.

I agree that it is not a reason to bag on Jeff Long.

David Robinett 2 years, 7 months ago

BTW y’all - If you are still paying for cable then you are paying way too much. I traded my $120 a month for $40 a month, with YouTube TV.

I would think the only reason to use satellite TV now is if you don’t have local Internet access at your home.

Steve Hillyer 2 years, 7 months ago

I pay 90 for directv with unlimited log in and simultaneous viewing online, I looked at you tube and Hulu live a couple of months ago, $50 a month, didn’t have local channels or a few kid channels my youngest watch, I believe only two people can view simultaneous and got three log ins, with six people in my family that is not going to work not to mention tying up a device and then having to pay more to increase my internet speed, it was basically a wash financially. I do watch stuff on the net and when I hook it up to tv the picture quality isn’t the same, I’ll stick with old fashion satellite, watch tv in 1080 hd, going to 4K soon.

Brian Jahelka 2 years, 7 months ago

Youtube says they support three simultaneous streams as of right now:

But yea, if you have 6 in the family and more than three TVs, then you could run in to problems. Geez, what a world we live in. More than three TVs in the house! I remember when that single 25" console TV with 4 channels was the only thing we had.

Spencer Goff 2 years, 7 months ago

They are using one school to push the product but not giving proper due. They tell us repeatedly nobody cares about basketball and that KU does not have the following of "insert jackass SEC school here," but what games do they lock over to their ESPN+ as fast as they can?

I love streaming, we have had Vue since its inception and we wish they had chosen to continue the service. We'll switch over to Youtube TV after this month. Anybody arguing that detractors from + are because they "don't have the internet to stream" or "don't know how to use it" are full of bull$hit. I want quality streaming services, not hot poop on a plate.

The broadcast quality is trash, the national exposure is trash, and I am warming to the argument that the Big 12 is trash.

Armen Kurdian 2 years, 7 months ago

Listen to us. Me included. I remember in 1992 when Cal came to KU, and it was such a huge deal, Thursday night football game on ESPN. Our first national audience in a really long time, KU was too tight and lost by 3. Then there was an option to call into a 900 number and listen to KU sports. Then yahoo broadcast was free, then it wasn't, then it was again, then you could stream some games online, then you couldn't, then you have to sign in with your provider.

The real problem is that the delivery keeps changing and that is frustrating. Truth, $5/month is very little to pay...however with the streaming content services so fractured, you have to have several to get what you want, then you realize you are paying way too much for what you want.

I got the Hulu/Disney+/ESPN+ bundle. I have a new 65" TV that is smart so I can stream. But my overall setup is not ideal...going to have to stay that way until I get a new house then just do it right for once.

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