The success of the University of Hawaii’s football team could become a double-edged dilemma for the athletic department as ESPN considers whether to pick up the Warriors’ Nov. 6 game at Boise State.
With their 5-2 start (3-0 in the Western Athletic Conference), the Warriors have emerged as the biggest remaining threat to the Broncos’ third consecutive conference championship and an undefeated regular season. As such, WAC officials say, the game has drawn renewed interest from ESPN, which is said to have until Monday, under terms of its contract, to decide whether it will show the game.
On one hand, heading into the winter contact period that begins Nov. 28, UH could use the visibility for recruiting. Especially since it is not currently scheduled to appear on any of the network’s three major platforms — ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU — the remainder of the regular season.
But if ESPN picks up the game, UH and its pay-per-view partners, Oceanic Time Warner and KFVE, could lose their most attractive game of the season and a payday of $200,000 or more.
The pay-per-view package has had upward of 12,000 for its most popular games, including more than 5,000 individual purchases, since PPV began.
UH’s share of the $3.4 million pay-per-view package from last year
Individual games are priced at $25-$65.
UH athletic director Jim Donovan said ESPN set its initial WAC TV lineup in July and, "we’ve known of the possibility they could come back and look at the Boise State game depending upon how our team was doing."
The Boise State game was included in Oceanic’s 18-event, 20-game PPV package put on sale in August and a change could involve refunds if it is picked up by ESPN.
Last year’s PPV package did about $3.4 million in sales. UH’s share was $2.5 million. Whether UH’s payout would be reduced this year in the event ESPN adds the Boise State game could depend on what financial thresholds in the contract are met, UH officials said.
Under its contract, ESPN guarantees the WAC a minimum of 10 games spread across ESPN and ESPN2, plus six games on ESPNU. It has committed to 10 games, including the UH-USC opener, but can go over that. It still owes the WAC two ESPNU dates.
ESPNU reaches 73,689,000 homes, according to a network spokesman, while ESPN and ESPN2 each go into more than 99 million homes, he said.
Because ESPN is allowed to show one team up to six times in a season under the WAC contract without renegotiating and it is committed to showing five Boise State games, speculation is that the network might wait to see how UH does against Utah State on Saturday in Logan, Utah, before making its decision. ESPN could also take the Dec. 4 Boise State-Utah State game, the Broncos’ regular-season finale.