Friday Night Lights might have trouble staying on the air, but we’re about to be inundated with a whole lot more real high school football. ESPN launches its expanded RISE High School Football Kickoff on Friday night with a match between Manatee High and Tampa Plant. (Amazingly, this is a preseason matchup.)
The game is the first of between 28 and 30 the Worldwide Leader will broadcast during the coming season. ESPN2 will show a tilt between Sacramento schools Grant and Folsom.
Don’t look for the attention to high school football – and sports in general – to fall off anytime soon.
“We are networks driven by ratings,” ESPN director of high school programming Dan Margulis told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “At the end of the day, an elite high school game with an elite player has better chance to draw more than a smaller college game.”
Other venues are getting into the act as well.
HighSchoolSports.net launched the Super 25 online video series, which lets people watch live games. This series kicks off with Del Oro High School of Loomis, CA, vs. Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas, NV on Friday, while 11 other matches will be available on-demand Saturday morning.
Meanwhile, all this attention hurts local media. Some outlets are complaining that national attention – specifically ESPN’s presence – makes covering the games much harder. The WWL gets “priority for all camera positions” and press box space is “extremely limited.”
Sucks to be you, local media.