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Crosstown Shootout... on ESPNU?

This is a non-Bengals related local sports post. Tomorrow (Wednesday), the University of Cincinnati plays Xavier in the annual Crosstown Shootout. The level of discussion is down this year. Some say it's because Cincinnati has changed so much, that the fanbase has either changed or remained skeptical. Some say it's because Bob Huggins is gone so the level of intensity in the rivalry has waned.

Either way, unless you have ESPNU or go to the game, you won't have the luxury of watching it. Like the NFL Network, ESPN wants their ESPNU channel on basic cable while charging cable companies way more than Time Warmer wishes to charge for their basic service risking more increases to their basic subscribers.

A high-stakes showdown between The Walt Disney Co. and Time Warner is preventing the annual showdown from being televised in 640,000 homes in Southwest Ohio that subscribe to the cable company. The game is being carried on Disney's ESPNU, which is currently available only on satellite systems such as DirecTV and DISH Network.

I'll admit, I'm a little surprised that none of the local channels are bidding for broadcasting rights like WLW-TV did with the Bengals Thursday Night game.

But, it's going to get worse.

UC has six ESPNU games on its schedule this season, and Xavier has four. Next season, the Big East enters into a six-year deal worth reportedly $250 million that gives ESPN exclusive rights to televise every Big East basketball game on one of its networks: ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPN Regional, ESPNU or ESPN360.

Some UC games will still be available for a local network channel to televise, but most of those will be nonconference games, leaving WXIX general manager John Long questioning whether it's in his station's best interest to renew its contract to show at least 13 UC games next season.

"The days of good UC matchups on Channel 19 are over," Long said. "I can tell you our ratings are way down. This power play by ESPN is basically holding local viewers hostage."

Welcome to the new age of sports television.

Crosstown blackout [Enquirer]
Enquirer Shootout Section [Enquirer]