Why the Razorbacks' North Little Rock games are not televised

By: Matt Jones
Published: Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Some of the 9,426 fans wait for the start of the Arkansas-Louisiana Tech game at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock on Tuesday, May 12, 2010.
Photo by Karen E. Segrave
Some of the 9,426 fans wait for the start of the Arkansas-Louisiana Tech game at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock on Tuesday, May 12, 2010.

— For the fourth time in less than 16 months, Arkansas will play a sporting event in North Little Rock tonight that only those in attendance will be able to watch live.

The Razorbacks' baseball game against Memphis will not be televised in any capacity - including online - because Arkansas does not have the infrastructure in place to independently televise games off campus. The same was the case for Arkansas' baseball game against ULM at Dickey-Stephens Park last year, and for basketball games against Mercer and Sam Houston State at Verizon Arena the past two Decembers.

Those four games are the only baseball and basketball games that have not been televised in some capacity over the past two years. The term "televise" is meant to include streaming options outside of traditional cable and satellite providers.

According to market estimates, it would cost Arkansas at least $40,000 to independently televise a single game like the one tonight. That cost far exceeds the value of such a broadcast.

The lack of televised games in North Little Rock is due to multiple reasons, most notably the SEC's long-term TV arrangement with ESPN. Through that contract, only ESPN-affiliated networks are allowed to broadcast games from SEC campuses. (There are exceptions for football and basketball games shown on CBS).

Although games played in North Little Rock are off campus, they still count as home games for the Razorbacks and SEC TV rules apply. Arkansas no longer is able to enter into a home contract with a regional cable network like Cox Sports TV, which frequently televised the Razorbacks' baseball games prior to the SEC Network.

Cox Sports has shown Arkansas games this year at Louisiana Tech, the Frisco Classic and Missouri State, and is scheduled to televise the Kansas State game in Kansas City, Mo., next week. The control for all of those games falls outside the reach of the SEC's TV contracts.

But for events the SEC does control, all games not picked up by a TV network must be aired through ESPN's over-the-top app, Watch ESPN and its online companion ESPN3.com. Those game broadcasts are produced by on-campus production teams, such as Razorback Sports Network in Fayetteville.

According to a 2016 finance summary, Arkansas spent more than $8 million over two years to build the RSN control room inside Bud Walton Arena and buy the necessary equipment to produce a quality broadcast. But there are limitations.

RSN does not have the capability to produce a broadcast anywhere but on campus, and the Razorbacks do not own the mobile command or satellite trucks necessary to produce from a remote location. This is not an issue for Arkansas' games at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock because all football games are produced by a network.

Arkansas fans wishing to watch the Razorbacks play basketball or baseball in North Little Rock ultimately have two options: buy a ticket or hope an ESPN network picks up the game. Otherwise the games there will serve as a throwback to an era when watching games on TV was not an expectation.

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