If you have cable TV and plan to watch the dawning of the Mark Stoops era (aka the Kentucky-Western Kentucky football opener in Nashville on Saturday), you better have an upgraded package of television options offered by Time Warner Cable.
The game will be televised on ESPNews, which is not part of Time Warner's basic cable television plan. A spokesperson at Time Warner Cable's Lexington office said customers with only the basic channels would need to pay an extra $10 per month to get an upgraded package that includes ESPNews.
If your television already includes a digital box, ESPNews can be installed in minutes via a phone call to Time Warner Cable (859-514-1400). If you don't have a digital box and want to watch the game, you need to get a box at one of Time Warner's regional stores.
"You can install it yourself," Time Warner spokesman Mike Pedelty said. "If you don't want to do that, call us up and schedule an installment (for a fee). I'd recommend call us no later than Thursday to watch a game Saturday evening."
All Dish Network satellite customers have access to ESPNews. DirecTV customers should check their guide to be sure the channel is in their programming package.
ESPN programmers chose to put the UK-WKU game on ESPNews. ESPN is in the second year of an eight-year contract to televise Sun Belt Conference games. The deal requires two games on ESPN or ESPN2 per season, and six games on ESPNU, Sun Belt spokesman John McElwain said.
ESPN's many contracts to televise college sports, including one with the Southeastern Conference, led to a decision to put as many as 15 games on ESPNews this season, spokesman Michael Humes said.
ESPNews reaches a smaller audience than ESPN, although it's difficult to get exact numbers. Humes said that ESPN is available in about 98 million households across the United States. ESPNews is available in more than 74 million households, he said.
Rentrak, a ratings service that measures viewership in a 40-county area of Central and Eastern Kentucky, showed that about 36 percent of ESPN viewers typically watched ESPNews in the period of February through July of this year. In March during the heart of the NCAA Tournament, ESPN was watched in about 311,000 homes in Central and Eastern Kentucky and ESPNews in 120,000.
When asked about a game on ESPNews providing less exposure, Western Kentucky Athletics Director Todd Stewart said, "I'm just glad there is exposure so that people who are not able to attend the game will be able to see it."
As of Monday, about 32,000 tickets had been sold for the game, Stewart said. LP Field has a listed capacity of 68,798. Ticket sales this year compare favorably with the Kentucky-Western Kentucky game played in Nashville two years ago. "At this point, only 12,000 tickets were sold last time," Stewart said.
Stewart dismissed the notion that a game on ESPNews means a telecast of poorer quality than presented on ESPN or ESPN2.
"Nah, I'm not concerned about that," he said. "... I'm sure ESPN will do a terrific job with that. I have full confidence in terms of them putting out a very good product."
The announcers working the UK-WKU game are not familiar names: play-by-play man Joe Davis and analyst David Diaz-Infante.
Humes noted that Davis and Diaz-Infante had worked games for ESPN a number of seasons. "This is not a starting point for them," he said in an email message. "Viewers will see the same quality of production they would on any other ESPN or ESPN2 (game)."
This is the first season Davis and Diaz-Infante have worked together.
The announcing team worked a high school game in Tennessee last weekend. They will arrive in Nashville on Friday after working the Tulsa-at-Bowling Green game for ESPNU on Thursday.
Davis, a 2010 graduate of Beloit College, is the youngest play-by-play announcer working a full schedule of games for ESPN this season. He's 25.
Davis played football for his father, Paul, a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and for Beloit. After college, he worked at several broadcast jobs, including a stint as radio play-by-play man for the Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits, a Class AA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Diaz-Infante played offensive line for San Jose State. His pro career included time with the Frankfurt Galaxy, Sacramento Gold Miners, Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles, Las Vegas Outlaws and San Diego Chargers.
Davis spoke enthusiastically of Kentucky-Western Kentucky being an attractive game for television.
"It's easy to see the sexy story: two new head coaches," he said. "... Clearly, it's going to be a competitive game. I think it's going to be a competitive and exciting game."
Where to find ESPNews
Time Warner Cable — Channel 513 (927 in HD)
Dish Network — Channel 142
DirecTV — Channel 207