University of Kentucky men's basketball fans will need to work a bit harder this weekend to prove their dedication.
Rather than just using the remote control, the Wildcat faithful will need to show off their computer skills: Saturday's game against Penn State University will be broadcast live only on the Internet, at ESPN3.com.
A tape-delayed version of the game will air locally on WKYT (Channel 27) at 7 p.m., and on other stations across Kentucky throughout the evening.
Unlike the ease of just tuning to the universally available CBS network or nearly universal ESPN, fans will need to verify that they receive the online network and then do some tweaking if they want to stream the coverage from online to their televisions.
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"Any time you have something new that's not in the mainstream, it takes some getting used to," said Kenny Klein, an athletics spokesman at the University of Louisville, which had two men's basketball games broadcast on ESPN3 last year. The Cardinals' Saturday game against Butler also will be broadcast only on the online network.
In general, whether you can receive ESPN3 depends on who provides your Internet access. The Web site and games can generally be viewed without any sort of log-in screen if you're on your home computer, because ESPN3 recognizes your Internet service provider, or ISP. You can register your account, though, which can allow you to access it from a computer elsewhere that doesn't have an ISP that offers access to the site. For steps on how to access the site for major area Internet service providers, see the box accompanying this story.
Klein said the questions from Cardinal fans last year varied, but there was an overarching theme.
"Everybody wants to watch it on their TV screens instead of on their computers," Klein said. "Can you get it from here to there? Yes, you can. But there isn't one technical way to do it, because you have a wide range of computers and a wide range of television sets."
To stream the video from computers to televisions, most newer models will allow an HDMI cable to connect the two. For older models, consult operating manuals.
UK Athletics spokesman DeWayne Peevy said he anticipates fewer questions from Wildcat fans because of the tape-delayed version airing on broadcast television later in the evening.
Peevy said the tape-delay helps fans avoid having to decide between watching the noon basketball game or UK's football game against Georgia, which starts at 12:21 p.m.
And, he said, the tape delay "helps our fans who can't watch it to see it."
The airing is flummoxing some area restaurants that are known as game destinations.
At this point, the Buffalo Wild Wings near UK's campus is not expected to be able to show it, said Lee Travis, manager at the South Broadway restaurant. Travis said he hopes a last-minute deal will be struck to televise the game live. If not, he said, he expects a "pretty big" impact from fans expecting to watch the game.
No last-minute deal is expected, Insight Communications spokesman Jason Keller said. He said the Lexington cable provider approached ESPN about airing the game live on a cable channel, but ESPN declined "due to some contractual obligations that would not allow us to do that."
On Southland Drive, Alvaro Fernandez, manager of Winchell's Restaurant and Bar, said he is "going to have to figure out something quick."
"I thought it was going to be on regular TV," he said. "That'll definitely put us in a bind."
Pazzo's Pizza Pub near UK's campus came up with its plan last week.
"We had a member of our staff who's pretty good with computers," manager Brian Behr said. The staffer has set up a computer to stream to the restaurant's TVs.
"We definitely didn't want to miss that," Behr said.
Louisville's Klein said issues like this just showcase the intense passion of a team's fans.
"They think it's their inalienable right to watch your team," he said. "Not that along ago, every game was not on television.
"It's a challenge but when you've got great fans like we do and the University of Kentucky does, they find ways. It's not as convenient for them in some situations, but they find ways."
How to watch the game
In general, access to ESPN3 is determined by which company you purchase Internet access from. Here's a rundown for three major Lexington-area Internet providers:
Insight Communications: All Insight broadband customers have access to ESPN3 for no additional charge. You can use your Insight e-mail address and password or account number to log in at ESPN3.com.
Windstream: All Windstream broadband customers have access to ESPN3 for no additional charge. If you plan on viewing it from a computer that doesn't use Windstream Internet, you'll need to register your account on ESPN3 from your home computer first.
Time Warner Cable: Time Warner Cable offers access to ESPN3 to any cable customers who have a package that includes an ESPN channel. Whether you buy Internet from the company doesn't determine access, so you can be a Time Warner Cable Internet subscriber and not have access to ESPN3 if you don't have a cable package with an ESPN channel. Use your Time Warner Cable account number to log in.
Learn more: Go to ESPN3.com and click on FAQs to learn more about access offered from other Internet service providers and for answers to technical questions.