For those who added ESPNU to their cable, satellite or streaming services to watch the NCAA men's hockey regional tournaments last weekend, don't cancel that package quite yet. You're going to need it to watch the Gophers play Minnesota State Mankato in the Frozen Four.
ESPN2 originally was scheduled to broadcast both NCAA semifinal games on April 7 and the national championship game on April 9 from Boston. That, however, changed this week for one game. The Minnesota-Minnesota State semifinal instead will air on ESPNU at 7:30 p.m. April 7. The first semifinal between Denver and Michigan remains on ESPN2 at 4 p.m., as does the national championship game at 7 p.m. April 9.
The reason for the move: Major League Baseball, or more specifically, the money fight between the players and owners that dragged on and delayed the start of the season. Instead of the Gophers-Mavericks game, ESPN2 will air the season opener between the World Series champion Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds because of a contractual obligation with MLB, an ESPN spokesperson confirmed. If you're wondering what the flagship ESPN will air in that time, it's the first-round replay of the Masters.
The difference between airing on ESPNU vs. ESPN2 when it comes to potential audience size is substantial. ESPN2 is packaged with ESPN on cable and satellite systems, and parent company Disney in a Security and Exchange Commission filing in late November estimated ESPN had 76 million viewers. ESPNU had an estimated 51 million viewers, per Nielsen research that Disney included in its filing.
Compounding the situation is the fact that ESPNU often isn't on the same package as ESPN and ESPN2. For example, Xfinity requires a higher-level, and higher-priced, package to have ESPNU than it does to have ESPN2.