Posted on: August 31, 2011 3:00 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2011 3:44 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Texas A&M announced Wednesday it would apply to join "another conference," a conference that even the tubeworms living without sunlight at the bottom of the Pacific could tell you* is the SEC. The Aggies will certainly-as-certainly-gets make 13 for Mike Slive's league, and since a 13-team conference with one 6-team division and one 7-team division is the college football equivalent of a table with one leg an inch too short, expect the SEC to find a 14th team sooner rather than later.
The question begged by A&M's arrival is this: why now? During Expansionpalooza 2010, Slive and the SEC seemed more than happy to stand pat with the same 12 teams and two divisions that have made them the sport's proverbial 500-pound gorilla, the elephant no one has proven capable of shoving out of the room. But come 2011, when the Aggies called griping about the changes in their neighborhood, Slive was happy to ask them to move into his.
Ask many fans and pundits, and they'll tell you the A&M invite is Slive's preemptive strike against Larry Scott and the Pac-12 and Jim Delany and the Big Ten, the two commissioners and conferences that -- the argument goes -- are poised to usher in the era of 16-team "superconferences," wresting away control of the sport ... if Slive doesn't beat them to the punch.
But adding Texas A&M isn't about what Scott and Delany might have in the future. It's about what they have right now.
Namely, it's about the television networks that those conference have or will have, and that the SEC version that Slive shortsightedly passed on when he signed the league's current deals with CBS and (more to the point where the league network is concerned) ESPN. While the Big Ten Network's revenues skyrocket and the Pac-12's TV revenues are set outdo the SEC's even before the league's network starts airing, the SEC is scheduled to earn the exact same amount in TV money in 2023 they are today ... when the league's contract is already below market value.
Whether the SEC's expansion will give them enough re-negotiation leverage to either get an SEC network off the ground -- or just keep pace with the Pac-12 in base contract value -- remains a matter of conjecture. But if any expansion choice could do it, you'd think Texas A&M would. The Aggies expand the league's "footprint" into Texas, have close ties to the major-major Houston market, have a massive alumni base, and have traditionally been a highly competitive, nationally relevant football program.
But even the Aggies might make not that much of an impact on the SEC's bottom line. Former CBS Sports president Neal Pilson told CNBC this week that "there are smart people at both ESPN and CBS and I would anticipate that they foresaw this type of contingency ... if there's any adjustment to the TV deals, I would anticipate that it would be a very modest adjustment." Pilson wouldn't even guarantee that after A&M's addition, the SEC's per-school revenue distribution would match what it is now.
That may be selling the Aggies short. But it nonetheless speaks to why even after the A&M-SEC marriage, the age of the 16-team superconference is not yet upon us. Conference expansion isn't as simple as adding a team, sitting back, and watching the bottom line swell; that team has to add enough value to offset the significant division of league profits by 13 (and then, inevitably, 14) rather than 12. There's other substantial drawbacks, too: increased travel costs, fewer games for current members against their existing rivals**, stiffer competition for the league's limited number of national broadcasts (and, you know, championships).
Which is why "superconferences" likely remain firmly in the distant -- rather than the near -- future. If it takes adding Syracuse and Rutgers for the Big Ten to get up to 16 teams, why would they bother? If the new-look Pac-16 includes the likes of Fresno State or even Boise State -- still not exactly a major-market media powerhouse -- that's not exactly going to force Slive's hand. And assuming the SEC's "gentleman's agreement" not to expand into current SEC states is still intact, who would Slive pull for teams No. 15 and 16? The current whispers are that if Virginia Tech stands by its ACC man (as they say they will), the SEC could look at N.C. State--a member that would give the SEC the Raleigh TV market but (with all due respect) wouldn't have Scott and Delany crying into their respective beers.
The one scenario that could overturn the whole apple cart is Texas deciding to listen to Scott's overtures this go-round and dragging the likes of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State with them. But given the Longhorns' already-substantial investment in the Longhorn Network, here's a guess that neither they nor ESPN is going to like sharing their rare live content with the partially Fox-owned Pac-12 Network. And if the Longhorns either stay committed to the Big 12 or go independent, the Pac-12 could add some value by snapping up the Sooners and Cowboys ... but again, are there enough schools out there to justify going to 16?
When even adding A&M to go from 12 to 13 isn't a hands-down slam-dunk for the SEC -- and given that it's a backwards-looking desperation move motivated by the need to repair an earlier mistake, not a forward-looking "gotta do it" type of decision, how can it be? -- the guess here is that no, those schools are not.
14 may indeed be the new 12, but 16 remains what 14 was when the SEC first expanded in 1992--a number major college football will probably reach at some point in the future, but one that's not more than an intriguing hypothetical in the present.
*Trust me, I asked them. They added they were sick of hearing about expansion and scandal and just wanted the season to start.
**In the particular case of A&M and the SEC, this doesn't apply to LSU and Arkansas; the Tigers and Razorbacks have more history with A&M than they do many of their current SEC brethren.
Tags: Big 12, Big Ten, Big Ten Network, Boise State, ESPN, Fox, Fresno State, Jerry Hinnen, Jim Delany, Larry Scott, Longhorn Network, Mike Slive, N.C. State, Neal Pilson, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Pac-12, Pac-12 Network, Pac-12 Network, Rutgers, SEC, SEC expansion, Syracuse, Texas, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech
Posted on: June 27, 2011 3:04 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott topped the CBSSports.com Top 100 this year in large part because of his forward-thinking ability and business savvy. While people always assumed that he was a visionary, perhaps we were underestimating his ability to actually see into the future.
According to the always on top of things Jon Wilner of The San Jose Mercury News, one of the options for the soon to come Pac-12 Network is actually a "whopper" (his term, not mine, but accurate) of an idea that would skip a traditional TV network in favor of a non-subscriber based approach that would see the conference partner with tech giants Apple or Google instead of cable distributors like Time Warner, Comcast or Cox.
iPac anyone? GoogleTV-12? It's all on the table for Scott according to Wilner:
"Instead of turning on your TV to watch the Pac-12 Network, you’d turn on your computer (or tablet or mobile phone).
The drawback to this approach is that in the short term, the conference would give up the revenue that comes from subscription fees — it would rely on advertising alone for revenue.
But because of the $250 million flowing in annually from the Fox/ESPN, the league has financial flexibility — it can select the network structure that best fits its philosophy and long-term needs, even if that’s not the most lucrative near-term option."Wilner also presents two other options for the Pac-12 Network and they are pretty standard: 1. Take an existing channel and rebrand it; 2. Start a new channel from scratch. Both options would take several million dollars in start up capital which might make the school presidents pause a bit.
In talking with several people in the industry and at the conference office, the most likely option is a combination of all three. This would involve taking an existing channel (such as league partner Fox Sports's Los Angeles-based Prime Ticket channel) and rebranding it, with new offices and studios in either Los Angeles or San Francisco and adding a large digital network component to complement it.
Regardless what form the Pac-12 Network takes upon launch next year, chances are it ends up being bold, bleeding edge and forward-thinking.
In other wards, expect Larry Scott's fingerprints all over it.
Posted on: May 13, 2011 12:32 pm
Edited on: May 13, 2011 12:32 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott figured that the conference's new television negotiations would last well into the summer. With all the major players making their pitch, the process did not appear to be moving rapidly at all. That all changed when ESPN's John Skipper reached out to Fox's Randy Freer about a partnership to win the Pac-12 television rights away from NBC/Comcast. Until late April, Comcast appeared to be the leader in the race - offering the Pac-12 a package that would pay $225 million annually and broadcast on Versus and NBC. The Sports Business Journal detailed how the unlikely partnership came about.
However, Skipper, ESPN's executive vice president of content, was intrigued. Not only would a joint effort increase the bid, it would keep Comcast from picking up rights to a BCS conference. It had just bid $187 million per year to win the NHL rights and wanted to add to that with a Pac-10 acquisition. ESPN and Fox wanted to stop that momentum.
The two media giants moved quickly to get the deal done, and Larry Scott freed up some time in his schedule this summer. The interesting take here is the value of the Pac-12, which previously was earning $54 million annually as opposed to the $250 million in the new deal. Clearly the demand for the conference's athletics, particularly football, has grown beyond the West Coast.
As the gap between time zones continues to shrink due to interactivity, the "East Coast Media Bias" will slowly diminish as well. Seeing the moves made by two huge media organizations in order to secure this growing audience is an alert that the Pac-12 plans to continue their rising growth in popularity. College football may not have the lengthy past on the West Coast, but they are making up for it in the present.
Posted on: May 4, 2011 12:38 pm
Edited on: May 4, 2011 12:38 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Though word got out about the Pac-12's new television deal with ESPN and Fox on Tuesday, the conference officially announced its new $2.7 billion agreement that will be bringing a whole lot more Pac-12 football into televisions around the country than ever before.
“We are equally excited by the creation of Pac-12 Media Enterprises," said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott in a release. "Which will enable us to launch our own Pac-12 television and digital networks, providing signi cantly more exposure for women’s sports and Olympic sports in which the Pac-12 excels, in addition to academic and other campus programming of interest to our fan base. These new platforms will also provide us with an unprecedented opportunity to control the distribution of our intellectual property rights in sports, education and other Conference and membership initiatives.”
Yes, yes, but what does this mean for you, the college football fan? Well, it means you're going to have a lot more games to watch on Saturdays.
There will be 44 Pac-12 regular season games televised across ESPN and Fox platforms. Ten games a year will appear as national broadcasts on either ABC or Fox, with plenty of those games coming in primetime. Then there will be 34 other Pac-12 games broadcast on a combination of ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and FX. As for the Pac-12 Network, that will carry any game not on the ESPN or Fox stations, and will average about three games per week.
As for the Pac-12 Championship game, it will be broadcast on Fox in 2011 and 2012, and then alternate between Fox and ESPN for the remaining years of the deal.
Posted on: May 3, 2011 9:30 am
Edited on: May 3, 2011 9:34 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
As the Pac-12 prepare to welcome Colorado and Utah, expanding their membership to a football-friendly 12 schools, the conference has been working furiously to sign a new and more lucrative television deal for the conference. According to the Sports Business Journal, the conference has agreed to a new deal with Fox and ESPN that is worth $2.7B over 12 years. The deal, which reportedly could be made official as soon as Wednesday, will cover football, basketball, and Olympic sports.
In the reported deal, ESPN gets rights to football, basketball, and an Olympic sports package. They have committed to air an unknown amount of football games in primetime on ABC. Fox gets basketball and football rights, airing games on Fox Sports channels and FX. The two networks will rotate coverage of the basketball tournament and football championship game.
The conference's current media deal was also with ESPN and Fox, but the addition of the football championship game and two new schools changed the landscape for the Pac-12. Comcast/NBC made a play for the deal with their sports network Versus, but pulled out of the competition. If the reported amount is confirmed, the new deal will more than triple the Pac-12's current deals with ESPN and Fox.
Posted on: February 11, 2011 1:00 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
When Larry Scott was named commissioner of the then-Pac-10 in summer 2009, more than one observer wondered how involved in football an East Coast-bred administrator whose only previous sports experience came in women's tennis would really be.
It didn't take long for him to give us an answer, aggressively reshaping the league into the Pac-12 and by many accounts nearly convincing Texas to become the tentpole for a 16-team superconference. Scott has already taken one step to extricate the league from its less-than-optimal television contracts, signing a lucrative deal with Fox for the new conference title game. And now two stories out of the West Coast show that Scott's not slowing down his proactive ways anytime soon.
The first: under the direction of former NFL official (and Fox replay-challenge expert) Mike Pereira, the Pac-12 is overhauling its football officiating programs , starting with the departure of longtime Coordinator of Football Officiating Dave Cutaia and continuing with ... well, we're not sure, but it sounds great:
"Like in other high priority areas, we have taken a fresh look at our program, and will be implementing a series of changes that are forward-looking, innovative and take our program to the next level," Scott said. "The game and level of play is always improving, so it's essential that in the critical area of officiating, the program continue to evolve and improve as well."Again, what this "series of changes" entails specifically -- what "adjustments" will be "implemented" when the season begins -- are still a question mark. But given the occasionally laughable errors made by Pac-12 officials the past few years and certain ethically dubious officiating policies , it's clear there's plenty of areas that need the improvement.
But it's the other story that really illustrates how involved with his conference's member schools Scott wants to be. Remember when Washington's athletic director called Oregon's academics "an embarrassment"? Per the Seattle Times, Scott tried to arrange for U-Dub to issue an apology by writing their apology for them :
On the Monday following the Nov. 6 game, Scott sent to UW interim president Phyllis Wise what was referred to as "our suggestion" of a one-paragraph statement UW could release, apologizing for the incident ...
When discussing the most powerful commissioners in college football, the first two names that come to mind are Mike Slive and Jim Delany. But if Scott remains this insistent on managing his league's affairs in this kind of detail as well as leading the charge on issues like TV contracts and expansion, he might find himself in Slive's and Delany's company before too much longer.
Posted on: February 5, 2011 4:24 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Colorado finds itself in one of the bigger financial pickles in major college football, needing to pay: a buyout to the Big 12 after having secured their jump to the Pac-12; any and all buyouts for dismissed head coach Dan Hawkins and his former assistant coaches; the salaries of new coach Jon Embree and his assistants under their new contracts and potential signing bonuses. Not only that, but the Buffs will have to do all of that on a budget that was already described as one of BCS football's most stretched.
But the Buffs got some good news this week, as Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said that though the Buffs would have to wait a year to get a full share of the conference's television payouts, their first season in their new league home will net the program something (emphasis added):
Scott added -- and clearly, the Buffs brass would agree -- that the Buffs will eventually profit by making the move, since the money shelled out by ESPN for the new Texas network suggests that the market will pay handsomely for the new Pac-12 contract (which will go into effect for the 2012-2013 season once signed). And thanks to the initial agreement with Fox, Colorado can even pick up "several million dollars" while they wait.
Until then, the Buffs are still going to be digging out of a financial hole, one that's going to make an already-difficult transition to the Pac-12 under a new coaching staff even more difficult. But they can take heart that even if their new conference brethren "didn't guarantee them" a cent for 2011, they appear nonetheless committed to helping the Buffs out of that hole as best they can.
Posted on: November 18, 2010 5:23 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
With the Big Ten expanding to 12 teams next season and adding a championship game to its football schedule, the logistical challenges facing the conference as it plans its first football championship game ever have come into focus. Back in August, the conference announced that Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis would house the very first championship game, but made no plans past the first year. On Wednesday, the Big Ten made some considerably more stable plans for the television side of the title game, tabbing Fox Sports to carry the game for its first six iterations:
The Big Ten Conference has reached a media agreement with FOX Sports to serve as the official broadcast partner of the 2011-16 Big Ten Football Championship Games. The inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game will be played in prime time on December 3, 2011, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, with the winner earning the Big Ten Championship and a chance to play in the Rose Bowl Game or Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game.
This news isn't a total surprise, since Fox has been a 49% partner with the conference in the Big Ten Network, the hugely profitable television venture that has helped the conference earn more television revenue per school than any other conference, even the SEC; moreover, the disparity in revenue leaves conferences like the Big XII and Big East not only in the dust but in structural peril for that exact reason; the BXI successfully stole Nebraska from the Big XII and by all accounts could have had its choice of Big East teams if it had advanced any offers that way.
And yet, the last time a college football game has been televised on Fox itself*, it was January 5, 2010, and here's what the lingering vestige of that coverage ended up being:
That's Chris Myers asking an absolutely dippy question and getting an equally silly answer. Myers, like all Fox Sports personalities who covered BCS games that January, hadn't spent the entire season covering the teams or conferences in play (and neither did the rest of the announcers or producers, who instead spent the entire time staring at fans or trying to compare the games to other sports), so it's natural that he would ask Ricky Stanzi a for-the-sake-of-politeness "evergreen" question like that, but here's the thing: the vast majority of viewers still tuned in at that point had, in fact, spent the entire season watching Big Ten (or at the very least ACC) football. Myers' line of questioning was a dog whistle to a group of viewers (namely, those completely unfamiliar to Big Ten football) that had already tuned out of the game, basically, and that makes for bad television.
That's why it would be enormously smart of Fox and the Big Ten to appoint Big Ten Network staff to call the championship game rather than Joe Buck or whatever random announcer that's on the Fox payroll and hasn't been calling BXI games all season long. Familiarity's important, especially when the announcer's has to at least approximate the average viewer's, and one of the main complaints about Fox's coverage of BCS bowls over the years has been the fact that the announcers have basically a passing familiarity with the men on the field. The Big Ten can't really subject its tens of millions of fans to that grating superficiality for the next six years, can it?
*Fox's network of regional stations televises a LOT of college football games per week, of course, and is a prominent source of television revenue for the Big 12. Ask the Big 12 how well that's gone for them.