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League Unveils Free Streaming Sports For All: The Patriot League Network

It was hard to know what to think when the following announcement came up on the Patriot League Twitter account:


Out of the blue, there it was.  What could it be?  More (gasp) expansion news?  The pro-bono hiring of Jon Gruden as Frank Tavani's assistant defenisive coach at Lafayette?  Free sno-cones at football's Patriot League Media Day, scheduled for this Wednesday?

It wasn't any of these three possibilities, but it was something even better.

Now, any Patriot League fans with a decently-fast laptop, tablet or phone will now be able to stream a large number of games over the internet.

For free.

For years Lehigh fans wanting to stream select live games in football, basketball, and a litany of other sports would have to shell out cash.

Programs like Patriot League All-Access and Lehigh's paid streaming offerings were for the most part really good productions (well, except the time when I needed desperately to find an replay stream of the Lehigh/Monmouth game that finally showed up in a watchable format two days later, but I digress).

But in order to follow all the action at home, it would cost you.

While someone as nuts as me might be willing to fork over $100 a year to immerse myself in Patriot League sports, one can understand if not everyone might, um, avail themselves of the broadcasts.

But now, with the newly-announced Patriot League Network,that $100 can now go back towards my son's college fund:

The Patriot League, in collaboration with Campus Insiders, announced Monday the creation of the Patriot League Network (PLN) that will greatly expand the video content and reach of its digital programming starting in the fall of 2013. Under this multi-year agreement, the Patriot League will live-stream hundreds of its men and women's sporting events, add branded studio programming, develop sponsorship opportunities and grow distribution on multiple platforms and devices.

PLN offers marketers with a unique opportunity to reach a targeted audience both regionally and nationally, as well as enhancing the League's multimedia presence. The League also has a multi-sport television agreement with CBS Sports Network which includes live event coverage of football, men and women's basketball and men's lacrosse.

All Patriot League programming will be available through www.campusinsiders.com, the online destination and leading digital content syndication source for college sports, as well as through the Patriot League and member institution websites.

In football, this free model has worked extremely well for teams of the FCS.  The Big Sky offered free broadcasts of their league games for several years now, allowing fans like myself the opportunity to watch teams like Montana State and Eastern Washington that I wouldn't have been able to catch otherwise.

For recruiting, too, this is a valuable tool for the league, publicizing their league the same way the OVC, Big South, and some other leagues have done with their online streaming broadcasts. 
This is not only great news for cheapskates like me - it's great news for people who like to follow all the teams of the Patriot League and FCS, not just one team.

For example, on Lehigh's opening weekend, September 7th, I'll be at Murray Goodman finally enjoying the Mountain Hawks' opening game vs. Central Connecticut State, which is a 12:30 start.  But you can bet I'll be getting home to catch Fordham hosting Villanova, a preseason Top 10 team, for a 6PM start on PLN.

(Ironically, catching the game on PLN will probably be the only way Villanova fans will be able to watch the game locally.)

All the home games for five of the seven Patriot League teams, including out-of-conference games, will be available for streaming broadcast on PLN.  Lehigh is one of those five teams who will be broadcasting their home games on PLN.

“The Patriot Network will provide our league and all member schools expanded visibility through the combination of a league correspondent filing league reports for a nationally marketed website, and the broader access it will enable to our league and institutional content,” said Lehigh Murray H. Goodman Dean of Athletics Joe Sterrett. “The network will not have fees for most content and will enable viewing of content on a range of media devices, including smart phones and tablets.  Additionally, we will be migrating to high definition productions, which benefits our viewers.”
Available to fans in mid-August, high-quality PLN content will be accessible on multiple devices, including laptops, smartphones and tablets, and will feature 10 unique channels of Patriot League action. Each of the league's institutions will have its own individual school-branded channel, while the Patriot League will offer a Conference-wide channel featuring all available digital content. In addition, beginning in 2014, Campus Insiders will produce TV-quality basketball and football games for PLN, as well as various other sports and championship events. The Patriot League will also provide reports and content from its PLN Correspondent for Campus Insiders and PLN.


Importantly, on Lehigh's side the games are not simply going to be a student pointing a webcam in the press box - they're the same professional production crew that has produced the games for years. 

In football, they're the same local broadcasts that will air on local TV on Service Electric 2, with Mike Yadush and Mike Zambelli calling the games.

It's basically the same broadcast I paid for in the past, but free.


(The two CBS Sports Network games, Lehigh vs. Fordham on 10/5 and Colgate at Holy Cross on 10/'19, will not be broadcast over PLN.  For those games, you'll have to watch it on cable, if you get the CBS Sports Network, or head to your local sports bar.)

For me, of course, my excitement about the network focuses on the amount of football games I'll now have access to for free.  But what others will also undoubtedly drool over is the fact that almost all the schools' home games in basketball will be broadcast on PLN as well.

Last year, in order to get all of Lehigh's home basketball games you had to nab a monthly subscription through LehighSports.com, then you had to subscribe to Patriot League All-Access for the rest.  Now, it's all under one network.  For free.
 
There's also going to be two online shows devoted to the Patriot League, produced by Silver Chalice Ventures and features two different shows, individually hosted by CBS broadcasters Bonnie Bernstein and Seth Davis.  (Remember Mr. Davis during the NCAA tournament, when Lehigh beat Duke?)  For free.

Then there's other championships - field hockey, softball, baseball, lacrosse, you name it.  Home games for free.

I probably don't need to tell you that this is a great deal for fans of all Patriot League schools, but all I know for sure is I'll be using PLN frequently all throughout the 2013-2014 season.

Let's hope I don't break it.

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