As Sinclair Broadcast Group launches its foray into televising Conference USA sports, the impact in the Charleston-Huntington market won’t be great, just yet.
Let’s put it this way: Marshall’s football program is a bit too good this fall. For a bigger impact in this area, check in during basketball season.
Sinclair, which owns WCHS-TV, Channel 8 and operates WVAH, Channel 11 through a marketing agreement, has struck a partnership deal with C-USA to produce and distribute more than 100 sporting events in each of the next two years.
This isn’t a small undertaking. Sinclair owns and operates, programs and provides sales services to 162 TV stations in 78 markets, reaching approximately 40 percent of U.S. households. C-USA’s footprint reaches 10 states and markets from El Paso, Texas, to the Hampton Roads region of Virginia.
“They want to get into college sports,” WCHS general manager Harold Cooper said of Sinclair. “They talked with several conferences, but didn’t think they’d get in for the ’14 season. But they did.”
Sinclair, through its newly hatched American Sports Network, has landed deals with five conferences, with C-USA the largest. The others are the Big South, Southern, Patriot League and Colonial Athletic Association.
C-USA lists a 30-game schedule, which includes two MU games: the Sept. 6 home opener against Rhode Island and the Nov. 8 game at Southern Mississippi, with both starting times at 7 p.m. Cooper didn’t seem certain about the Southern Miss game, but it is listed.
Fox Sports Group (including Fox Sports 1, Fox College Sports, the Fox regionals and the like) and CBS College Sports have first dibs on C-USA football. Fox has five MU games — Oct. 4 at Old Dominion, Oct. 11 vs. Middle Tennessee, Oct. 25 vs. Florida Atlantic, Nov. 15 vs. Rice and Nov. 28 vs. Western Kentucky.
The FAU game has been set for 7 p.m. on Fox College Sports and the WKU game is on Fox Sports 1 at noon; the others are on a 12-day window for determining network and game time.
The Herd’s Sept. 13 game vs. Ohio is set for noon on CBS College Sports. The Aug. 30 game at Miami (Ohio) is a Mid-American Conference property and will stream on ESPN3.com.
That doesn’t leave much MU football inventory for the American Sports Network or anyone else. The only MU games not spoken for, it appears, are the Oct. 18 game at Florida International and the Nov. 22 contest at Legion Field against the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The Conference USA championship on Dec. 6 is on ESPN or ESPN2.
Basketball season is a little more open. Cooper said Sinclair’s new network will take on 55 men’s basketball games, which should help get MU televised in the Charleston-Huntington market more than the seven times of 2013-14. (There were additional airings on Comcast Sports Southeast, airing on Comcast in Cabell County and small parts of Putnam County.)
There are expansion opportunities locally as Sinclair-served stations such as WCHS and WVAH expand their digital platforms. C-USA football and basketball games not involving Marshall, as well as events in other sports, could air in this market.
Reach Doug Smock at email@example.com, 304-444-5130 or follow @DougSmock on Twitter.