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Otis 83

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I have not been alone in complaining about the SLN in this forum.  I finally got so fed up that I wrote the Commissioner.  I am posting my email and his response below.  I was impressed that he wrote me back within 24 hours.  I tried not to be too snarky but I don't think I was 100% successful there but he was gracious in his response.  I have a couple of thoughts.  The first, if the member institutions were all able to start their streams on time last year and now are not as successful perhaps some of this is on MidCo.  Is the process to start a stream in need of some re-engineering?  Secondly, I feel buried in the weeds of his response about why they went with MidCo is the Dakota schools entanglement with MidCo.  That has been surmised on this board before, particularly by @Old Titan.  Dang it that stinks!  Anyway, since there's no baseball this afternoon some of you may want to fight through this.

My Email

Commissioner Fenton,

I’m writing you to share my experience with the Summit League Network on the MidCo Sports Plus platform.

For background, I am an Oral Roberts University alumni living in Dallas, TX.  Therefore, I rely almost exclusively on the SLN to consume ORU sports.  Prior to the creation of the SLN, I consumed ORU sports on the ORU Sports Network, which was free, the free streaming provided by most of our member schools and ESPN+.  I subscribed to ESPN+ because many of ORU’s non-conference baseball and basketball games were carried on that platform.

 With the creation of the SLN all the free streaming platforms provided by member schools, including ORU, went away.  To get was once mostly free, I now pay $9.99 a month plus tax.  Not great but if that helps ORU and the conference maybe I can get over that additional expense.

 My issue is that that the fan experience has deteriorated from what I experienced in prior years.  I am not always able to watch games live.  I often will plan to watch a game the morning after.  I don’t think there has been a single time during the basketball season, or so far in the baseball season, that replays were available on the SLN the morning after a game.  Previously, when I was relying on member schools, for free I might add, replays were always available the next morning and often within 30 minutes of the conclusion of the game.  On ESPN+ replays are available shortly after the conclusion of the game, by the way.

Another example of the deterioration in the fan experience is with the reliability of the SLN.  It is not uncommon for the broadcast to not be available when games are scheduled to start.  MidCo provides a variety of “error messages” when this happens.  Sometimes the message is that the event hasn’t started.  I know this isn’t true because I am following the game on my phone using “live stats.”  Last week, MidCo was telling users that their subscription wasn’t current, and we should check with the platform we used to subscribe.  This was bogus and 16 minutes after the start of the game the stream on SLN finally started.  I know from talking to other ORU fans this isn't unique to me.  Reaching out to MidCo customer service in these situations is an absolute waste of time.  

 Previously, when I was relying on member schools, for free I might add, games always started on time.  In fact the streams often started 15 minutes prior to the start of the game and fans could enjoy the pre-game show.  We get a very abbreviated pre-game show from MidCo if any at all.  Why don’t broadcasts start earlier like they used to?  I know that ORU still has pre-game shows because I hear them referred to during game broadcasts.

Finally, I am baffled by the decision to use MidCo and CBS Sports.  I can only assume the economics are better for the league but at what cost to the fans?  As I said in my opening comments, in the past I would subscribe to ESPN+ to pick up non-conference games.  If I want to do that now I am paying for two subscriptions.  If the Summit League had partnered with ESPN, like virtually every other mid-major conference has done, one subscription gives fans conference and non-conference games and a better fan experience.  Why is it that the partnership that works for our peer conferences wasn’t workable for the Summit League?

Here’s my assessment of my experience with the Summit League Network.  I am paying more and receiving less.  I hear you speak a lot about how important the student athlete and the fan experience is to you.  I can tell you that with the Summit League Network, you have fallen short of the standard you claim to set for the league.

 Sincerely,

 John Wright

And the response from the commissioner

Mr. Wright,

Thank you for taking the time to craft a thoughtful email.

First, let me thank you for your support of ORU Athletics and the Summit League. We appreciate the passion from our various fan bases.

Second, I apologize for the experience you’ve had viewing games digitally or via television. As you noted, the experiences of our student-athletes and fans are incredibly important to the Summit League and the operations through the conference office. We understand that fans have their favorite teams/schools, but we hope to augment the experiences felt through the campus with an aggregated approach from the League.

I want to take a moment to address a few points, particularly the technical ones, you noted below.

  • Replays – Assuming the process to complete a live event and create an archive is done correctly by the home institution responsible for producing and managing the stream, the full game replay/archive will be available within an hour or so from when the process is completed. We have experienced situations where the archive creation process was not done (or not done correctly). This then leads to the replay not being available. We have reoccurring meetings with those managing at our schools to remind of this process, which included another one earlier this week.
  • Games Not Starting On-Time/Error Messages – As noted above, each institution manages their streams. They set the start times within the technology platform and ultimately initiate the stream when ready. Schools have the flexibility to start the stream whenever they want. Some may start much earlier than the scheduled start to ensure the stream is already running when the game commences, and others may not start until closer to the starting time. We encourage our schools to start the stream early enough to make sure everything is working properly. If schools have ‘pre-game’ shows prior to the scheduled start, they have the flexibility to adjust the start time to accommodate the pre-game show and start the stream before that show begins. If a stream has not been initiated, the viewer will then see a message indicating the game has not yet begun.

Third, as it relates to the League’s overall media partner strategy with the Summit League Network and national television distributor, CBS Sports Network, the decision was made after a year-long process that involved a membership committee. The process involved establishing priorities, which included 1.) Expanded National Linear TV; 2.) Increased Revenue; 3.) Brand Building & Fan Affinity; and 4.) Protecting Existing School Local/Regional Partnerships. As you can likely appreciate, the process included an exhaustive review of all options. Some of the options contained restrictions that would have impacted the membership negatively (production requirement challenges, increased costs, limited linear opportunity, impacts to existing partner agreements, and more). It is also worthwhile to note that only certain options were available as we attempted to structure a model that involved national linear TV and digital distribution. Intentionally, we put together these new relationships with a short-term agreement structure, knowing the evolution in the media rights landscape will continue to evolve.

Fourth, rest assured that I will continue to communicate with our partners the constant need to improve, particularly in areas you and others have noted. We value the relationships with our partners and will continue working closely with them to make improvements for the future.

Finally, I want you to know that your (and other fan’s) experience are important to the Summit League. This feedback is important and helpful. I’m hopeful that provided you information to better understand the overall structure and why specific technical challenges might be arising.

Best Regards,

Josh

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Very will written email Otis.  

I would guess that Priority #4 was given much  more weight than any of the others.

Also, given that the membership of the league was basically the same last year as it is this year, some of his comments regarding the start time and archiving the broadcasts seem difficult to understand.

 

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Thanks for posting Otis, and thanks for writing the Commissioner.  Although it appears (at least to me) that his response lays blame for the problems on the "member institutions", I wonder why in previous years we did not experience these problems with the ORU Sports Network?  Further and again maybe it is just me, but his "Third" response appears to justify what the SL did this year because the League wanted to protect certain of the member institutions' "regional partnerships" which I take to mean the Dakota schools and Midco.  Finally, I would love to know just what each member institution is receiving in the form of $$$ for this deal.  I do know that a league like the MAC generates north of $1,000,000.00 per year for each of its member institutions with its deal with ESPN.

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Make no mistake friends, I do intend to let my contacts in the athletic department know that he is blaming them for the problems we are experiencing with the SLN.  I also intend to reply to the commisioner asking him why member institutioins could start games on time and post replays in a timely manner and last year but can't manage to do that consistently this year.  Only one thing changed 🤔

Finally, I would encourage others to communicate similar themes to the league and to ORU.  There's no change without the peasants rising up.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 4/20/2024 at 9:10 AM, Otis 83 said:

Make no mistake friends, I do intend to let my contacts in the athletic department know that he is blaming them for the problems we are experiencing with the SLN.  I also intend to reply to the commisioner asking him why member institutioins could start games on time and post replays in a timely manner and last year but can't manage to do that consistently this year.  Only one thing changed 🤔

Finally, I would encourage others to communicate similar themes to the league and to ORU.  There's no change without the peasants rising up.

Wasn't adding GEB as a broadcast partner new?  They may have likely been the ones who dropped the ball.  In either case, it's a fact that each university is responsible for connecting it's live broadcasts and replays to Midco. 

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No, no and no.  GEB covered two games...both of which started on time.  That is the sum total of their involvement.  Plus it isn't just ORU broadcasts that aren't meeting these expectations.  You can see in the commissioner's response he makes no mention of GEB but nice try.  Why are you such an apologist for MidCo?

And it's a fact that the MidCo arrangement isn't as good as what we previously had for free except for the occasional XDSU paywall.

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Otis, this is great stuff. I’m embarrassed that I missed this thread when it was first posted, and am seeing it AFTER my back-and-forth today with the unnamed Midco Sports representative I mentioned in the ORU-Oklahoma baseball thread. 

Can’t help but theorize that “Priority #4” (“existing regional relationships”) is THE de facto primary consideration for most decisions regarding the Summit League Network, with all other supposed priorities realistically anything but.

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11 hours ago, Old Titan said:

Otis, this is great stuff. I’m embarrassed that I missed this thread when it was first posted, and am seeing it AFTER my back-and-forth today with the unnamed Midco Sports representative I mentioned in the ORU-Oklahoma baseball thread. 

Can’t help but theorize that “Priority #4” (“existing regional relationships”) is THE de facto primary consideration for most decisions regarding the Summit League Network, with all other supposed priorities realistically anything but.

Don't be embarrassed.  I kind of kept it on the QT hoping nodak wouldn't find it and derail it with MidCo defense motions.

Yea there is no doubt that Priority #4 is the binding constraint.  As I have mentioned elsewhere, my daughter is a college athlete. Her first two years she was at a D2 school and now is at a D3 school here in Texas (she still made it to nationals btw).  What should embarrass us is how much better D2 and D3 acrobatics and tumbling broadcasts are compared to the Summit League Network.  Broadcasts start on time always.  Stream quality is excellent.  Replays are available no later than the next morning.  I watch these Acro meets on the schools websites as well as platforms like Flo Sports and Stretch Live.  My point is, specific to this response from the Commissioner "Some of the options contained restrictions that would have impacted the membership negatively (production requirement challenges, increased costs, limited linear opportunity, impacts to existing partner agreements, and more)."  even if some member institutions aren't ready for ESPN+ prime time there are other options if it were not for Priority #4.  The MidCo entanglement with the Dakota based schools keeps us shackled to a partner who isn't holding up their end of the bargain yet take our money every month.

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29 minutes ago, Otis 83 said:

What should embarrass us is how much better D2 and D3 acrobatics and tumbling broadcasts are compared to the Summit League Network.  Broadcasts start on time always.  Stream quality is excellent.  Replays are available no later than the next morning.

We never had these problems when it was just GEB.

This entire deal is just a kickback to Dakota school partners and EVERYONE gets decreased exposure hidden behind a paywall no prospective student athlete will ever see.

 

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Yesterday I forwarded my exchange with the commissioner to Jarrett Hardwick and copied Tim Johnson.  I'll let you know when I get a reply.

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1 hour ago, Otis 83 said:

I kind of kept it on the QT hoping nodak wouldn't find it and derail it with MidCo defense motions.

Wouldn't be surprised to learn he's somehow affiliated with the MIDCO broadcasts for the Summit League in general and UND in particular, perhaps one of their radio/TV guys who financially benefits from the association.

To mangle The Bard:  "Me thinks he doth defend too much". 

 

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Posted (edited)
22 hours ago, Old Titan said:

Wouldn't be surprised to learn he's somehow affiliated with the MIDCO broadcasts for the Summit League in general and UND in particular, perhaps one of their radio/TV guys who financially benefits from the association.

To mangle The Bard:  "Me thinks he doth defend too much". 

 

I basically repeat the same few things over and over again because people keep repeating things that aren't true.  I like Midco and appreciate that they want to work with the league, relative to ESPN which hasn't given the Summit League the time of day.  Here's proof that I'm not affiliated.  I've messaged with one of the Midco guys and have asked questions for a few years now, and I have asked questions to people in athletic departments instead of making assumptions.  This exchange below is me asking a Midco guy about the possibility of Midco Sports Plus to stream (continuously 24/7) their live Midco Sports TV Channels.  In his response, he happened to mention that schools are responsible (the answer to the question at hand) when he had no reason to be defensive about it (he wasn't shifting blame).  FYI, my comment about the blackout was for hockey, which Midco didn't own the streaming rights for despite being the TV broadcaster.  Honestly, the Midco deal probably hurts UND fans the most, because in order to stream football, bb, and hockey, we need 3 different subscriptions.  ESPN+ to get all FB games $10, Midco for BB/Volleyball $10, and NCHC.TV for hockey $30 a month or $115 for the season.

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On 5/2/2024 at 11:05 AM, Otis 83 said:

Yesterday I forwarded my exchange with the commissioner to Jarrett Hardwick and copied Tim Johnson.  I'll let you know when I get a reply.

Apparently Jarrett is no longer with ORU.  Duncan White reached out to me this morning and I repeated all of my concerns to him.  One point I made to him is that I'm active in the "ORU online community" and that I wasn't the only alum frustrated by the MidCo issues.  I'll report back on what I hear.

Just for fun I may repeat this 8 or 9 times BECAUSE IT IS TRUE.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

If you are paying by the month like me, don't forget to cancel your Midco Minus subscription today.

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