SNY will air its first-ever Northeast Conference game when LIU-Merrimack gets the #NECTapeDelay treatment, with SNY airing the game on tape delay. SNY's involvement with NEC football marks the league's growth in the Northeast. However, it also raises the question of why another northeastern regional sports network (RSN) does not partner with the upstart conference.
NESN, the longtime TV home of the Boston Bruins and Red Sox, was the home of UMass football throughout their age of independence until the Minutement partnered with ESPN. The network is an institution in New England with around four million households subscribing.
This year, NESN has continued a recent partnership with Dartmouth and a new partnership with Harvard. Partnerships with two of New England's Ivy League schools are a solid start for the conference, but NESN has room for more.
The Northeast Conference is a sensible partner for NESN as the league has two schools in Eastern Massachusetts, Stonehill and Merrimack. Several Massachusetts residents have NESN, and with Boston College and UMass ranging from irrelevant to mediocre, a Stonehill-Merrimack game could generate buzz for the network.
Both Merrimack and Stonehill have scheduled regionally pertinent non-conference home games over the past two seasons. Merrimack hosted Holy Cross in 2022, while Stonehill hosted New Hampshire this season. Holy Cross and New Hampshire each have strong regional followings and would have drawn respectable viewership numbers had NESN partnered with either team.
As mentioned repeatedly on this site, consolidation is vital for RSNs in college athletics. NESN can build upon its portfolio by partnering with Stonehill or Merrimack while getting opportunities to televise regional brands in New England.
No casual FCS fan will subscribe to a television provider with NESN to watch one Harvard and one Dartmouth game per year. However, multiple NEC games could sweeten the deal for casual northeastern college football fans. With all this in mind, NESN's failure to partner with the NEC's Bay State schools is a baffling decision.