November 28, 2012 by Charlie Eisenhood in Livewire with 2 comments
On the radio show yesterday, Wes and I talked about the importance of getting Ultimate on national television, particularly on ESPN. We realized during the taping that this may be the true race for supremacy: which league lands a big TV deal? Consider the Triple Crown Tour.
If USA Ultimate announces an ESPN deal early next year, would any Pro Flight club player even consider leaving USAU to play in the AUDL or the MLU? Even with the rising costs of playing, it’s hard to imagine turning down an opportunity to play the best competition, at the best run tournaments, with a shot at being on national television.
The fact is, USA Ultimate has a huge advantage over the pro leagues at landing a big TV deal. They have the ear of some top ESPN people — there’s a reason a bunch of Club Championships clips made it onto Sportscenter. A USAU deal wouldn’t necessarily preclude the pro leagues from getting their own, but it seems unlikely in the short term that networks would try two different Ultimate leagues.
USA Ultimate CEO Tom Crawford told us when they announced the Triple Crown Tour, “We have very high level discussions going with just about every serious sports television network that you can talk to. And we are talking to them about this: that there is a new competitive structure that the top teams and top athletes will be competing in that fans will be able to follow…And they’re getting interested as a result of the new structure.”
How quickly would criticism of the Triple Crown evaporate if they announced a deal with ESPN?