Kentucky fans will need a familiarity with the digital age of telecommunication in order to watch Monday's exhibition game against Ottawa. The game is not on commercial television, but can be seen with the help of SEC Network Plus, a digital cousin of the SEC Network.
In addition to the exhibition against Ottawa, UK's regular-season game against New Jersey Institute of Technology on Nov. 14 will also be available only via SEC Network Plus.
UK Deputy Athletics Director DeWayne Peevy said that the catch-22 nature of scheduling necessitated the two games be placed on SEC Network Plus. To meet team needs, UK did not have available windows for the games on commercial television. So UK turned to its usual digital Plan B to give fans the opportunity to watch the games.
The lack of an available TV window Monday night prevented the UK-Ottawa game from being televised by a member of ESPN's family of networks. The most likely channel, the SEC Network, is televising the Southeastern Conference women's soccer tournament on Monday. So a window for the Kentucky-Ottawa game telecast was not available on the SEC Network before 9:15 p.m. EDT. And that was what Peevy called a "best-case scenario." If soccer games went into overtime, UK-Ottawa would start even later.
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"I didn't think that was a great solution for our fans, for an exhibition game, not knowing the game time and it being a school night," Peevy said.
So, UK turned to SEC Network Plus, which is available to SEC Network subscribers through a variety of digital devices. The game will begin at 7 p.m. EDT.
Kentucky's second exhibition game — against Kentucky State on Friday — also conflicts with the SEC Network's telecast of women's soccer. But ESPNU had an available window beginning at 6 p.m., which UK took.
Kentucky's scheduling needs and the lack of available windows on any ESPN channels or the SEC Network led to the decision to move the game against New Jersey Institute of Technology to SEC Network Plus, Peevy said.
UK coaches did not want to play NJIT on Sunday, Nov. 15, which would be two days prior to a showdown against Duke in Chicago, Peevy said. The coaches preferred to play Albany on Friday, Nov. 13 and NJIT on Saturday, Nov. 14 in order to have more time to prepare for Duke and travel to Chicago.
But a Saturday game conflicted with the usual glut of college football telecasts that day, which Peevy and UK coaches took into consideration.
"We wanted to play two games before we played that third marquee opponent (in the) first travel game," Peevy said. "By moving from Sunday to Saturday, we lost our television window."
SEC Network Plus had the same summer-of-2014 launch as the SEC Network. SEC Network Plus provides hundreds of additional streaming-exclusive events to fans through the WatchESPN app. They can be viewed through WatchESPN on smartphones, computers, tablets and other streaming devices.
While SEC Network Plus is not a television channel in the traditional sense, many fans stream SEC Network Plus content on their televisions through Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
SEC Network Plus carried more than 1,000 live events last year. Those included men's and women's basketball, gymnastics, softball, baseball, volleyball and soccer.
Kentucky games have been a fixture on SEC Network Plus. More than 80 games featuring UK teams have been available through SEC Network Plus. All UK men's basketball games from last season were available through SEC Network Plus, Peevy said.
A UK basketball game available only online is not unprecedented. Peevy recalled that a basketball game in UK's national championship season of 2011-12 was televised online on ESPN3. That game had UK playing Old Dominion in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off event at the Mohegan Sun resort.
Peevy and UK basketball spokesman Eric Lindsey offered two glass-half-full views of the Ottawa and NJIT games being available via SEC Network Plus.
■ These games will give UK fans additional chances to become more familiar with digital options, which are becoming a growing presence in college athletics.
■ Before the advent of digital options, conflicts in scheduling and available television windows meant games could not be seen anywhere.
There's also one other silver lining for UK fans who are not comfortable with digital devices and hate the thought of missing the games against Ottawa and NJIT.
"The good thing about those games," Peevy said, "is we still have tickets available."