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MAC announces 2014-15 ESPN numbers, but are they misleading?

47 million is a big number, but how big is it when we put things into perspective?

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

When the MAC announced their exclusive deal with ESPN to put most of their content on the WatchESPN app, it was met with mixed reactions.  Some thought the money was low while others thought the reach wasn't far enough.  Still, it provided the conference a highly valuable asset in that anyone, anywhere could see action from the conference's 12 members (and Massachusetts Minutemen in football last year and this coming year).

Today, Jeremy Guy, head of Media and Social Communications at the conference's headquarters in Cleveland, tweeted out a number to show just how much the MAC was viewed over the first year of the contract:

47 million minutes!  That's a lot!  That's 89 years worth of #MACtion!  One's whole life in fact.

But wait, is it REALLY a lot?

Let's just look at football for a minute.  Most games last about three and a half hours, or about 200 minutes for a nice, round number.  If we take our total time (47,000,000) and divide it against our minutes per football game number (200), we get 235,000.  What's that number?  That's the total number of MAC football games watched on the WatchESPN app*

* remember, this is not including other sports yet

So we take our 235,000 and we continue on.  Consider that there were 104 MAC regular season football games.  But wait!  Don't forget that of those, a few (34!) were on national TV (CBSSN, ESPN2, ESPNU, B1G Network, etc).  So we take the max number of games on ESPN3 (70)  and divide that against the 235,000 games to get ~3,357.

So you're probably asking, "What does 3,357 mean?"  Easy children!  That number is the average audience per football game*.

That's not a lot.  Even if we took out some of the games that no one would watch anyways, or blowouts and such, moving the game number to 50, we still get 4,700 viewers.  That's not terrible, but then when we add in replays and basketball games (which last 120 minutes themselves), we still end up with around sub-3,000 numbers.

After noting this (from a very broad perspective admittedly) on Twitter, Guy reminded me that in basketball, most schools are not at broadcasting level yet.

That helps explain some of the basketball numbers, but we're still stuck with numbers in the 3,000's for football, easily America's most watched sport as shown by the NFL and their extremely deep pockets of money from revenue.  For reference, the conference nailed a 0.4 rating for the Ball State Cardinals vs Northern Illinois Huskies game this past year with 533,000 viewers on ESPN2, while the conference championship game on the same network (and about a month later) only hit a 0.5 rating with just under 700,000 viewers (the latter showing a HUGE decline versus recent years).

So was it just an off year for the conference, or are fans just not interested in booting up their computers/XBox's/Playstations to watch #MACtion?  It'll be interesting to see how the numbers move as more schools get up to par with broadcasting, but the initial numbers are troubling to say the least.