A quiet day in the college football offseason news cycle saw St. Thomas' media deal with Midco Sports+ become the biggest news story of the day, at least in FCS circles. The streaming service announced it would broadcast every Tommies home game this year.
For context, the Pioneer Football League does not have a national TV contract with each school broadcasting games with the network/streamer of its Olympic sports conference. For example, Valparaiso and Drake stream games on ESPN+ since they are members of the Missouri Valley Conference, while Butler partners with Flosports since they stream most Big East Olympic sports.
This arrangement leaves some teams without a home to air or stream their games. St. Thomas, Dayton, and Davidson were three such schools. Dayton streams games on Facebook, Davidson uses a $9.95/month (or $5.95/game) service called Davidson All-Access, and St. Thomas previously streamed games for free on its website.
St. Thomas' deal with Midco Sports+ likely lines its pockets, but it comes at a cost to the fan, with them now having to pay $9.99/month to watch their Tommies play. St. Thomas is Minnesota's sole FCS program, and the Tommies have a significant following, drawing large crowds at Allianz Field in 2019 and Target Field in 2017. St. Thomas should focus on making their games accessible to everyone.
Nevertheless, the move could have some upside in the long run. The agreement came days after the Summit League announced a media deal with Midco Sports+ to stream any games that CBS Sports Network does not televise. Streaming only holds an advantage over cable when it consolidates content for the viewer. Now, Midco Sports+ serves as the unofficial home of St. Thomas sports with the addition of Tommies' football.
Naturally, markets come into the conversation with any media deal. The Pioneer Football League is in sizeable media markets like San Diego, Charlotte, and Indianapolis. However, none of the schools exceed 10,000 enrollees, and three of the league's 11 schools have enrollments below 3,000.
The Pioneer Football League's vast footprint allows a regional streamer like Midco Sports reach- more houses. Even though the increase will not be significant, Midco Sports+ having viewers nationwide benefits the Summit League. The football games will serve as an advertisement for the streamer's Summit League package and could get college basketball superfans from hoops-focused schools like Davidson, Dayton, and San Diego to stay with the service. Unfortunately, this is a long-shot.
As mentioned earlier, consolidation is key for streaming services. Consequently, ESPN+ is the most desired streamer for the Group of Five and FCS since most leagues broadcast games on the service. The Coastal Athletic Association's deal with Flosports receives scrutiny for this reason. While St. Thomas likely receives substantial pay from Midco Sports+, it will be an uphill battle for subscribers already taxed with bills from other streaming services.