Tag:NBC Comcast
Posted on: February 8, 2012 2:39 pm
 

Big East-to-West moves forward sluggishly

When the ACC raided the Big East once again in September, the stated intention of the fractured league was to remain a BCS conference. Or whatever the definition of a big time conference was going to be in 2014.

That’s the year when everything changes. College football’s postseason is going to be adjusted, making it less about what league you’re in and more about what your league is worth. Right now, the reconstituted Big East is attempting to rebuild its worth before increasing it.

And that’s the tragedy that overshadowed this week’s announcement that Memphis was joining the league in 2013. A few months ago Big East turned down a massive $1 billion offer from ESPN, hoping for something better. Sounds laughable now, doesn’t it? Memphis is in the league for the same reason West Virginia is suing to get out of it.

"The Big East and its Commissioner failed to take proactive measures to maintain, let alone enhance, the level of competition for the Big East football schools,” West Virginia’s lawsuit against the Big East reads.

Remember, this is a football discussion. While Big East basketball remains powerful, it is the economics of TV that football still drives these contracts. By far. Then throw in the fact that college basketball on television is becoming oversaturated. Football is going to have to carry the new Big East when formal negotiations begin later this year.

Things have changed a lot in six months. Commissioner John Marinatto has gambled and won in the sense that is league is still a league. He has lost in that a TV windfall along the lines of $1 billion look less likely. That was the amount ESPN offered last year (for nine years) to broadcast the Big East.

That was before the ACC struck and West Virginia left. Since then, Marinatto’s league has been reduced to selling the Big East brand to the likes of San Diego State more than selling Big East football.  Memphis is marginally better off, I suppose, than in Conference USA. Still, the jokes about Boise State being in the Big East West Division haven’t died down. It’s a great week for Memphis but in the end the school was nothing more than a live body willing fill out the lineup.

And that lineup for 2013 looks more like Conference USA. In about 2005. In fact, the projected 2013 Big East roster includes seven former Conference USA schools.

Back in the mid-2000s the Conference USA football deal was worth about $9 million per year. The current Big East deal, due to run out in 2014, is worth about $35 million per year for what in 2011 was eight teams.

That’s after the league turned down that $1 billion offer last year. Think an average of $111 million per year would have kept the 21-year old football conference together? It certainly would have kept the Big East on ESPN which all that matters these days as conferences morph into content farms for TV. Now there is speculation that the Worldwide Leader, upset at being rejected, could lowball the Big East  when its deal expires after 2013-14. Or drop out all together.

One industry analyst texted me saying the addition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC alone  will worth more than a new Big East deal in 2014. The Sports Business Journal reported Monday that the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse will mean a $1 million-$2 million bump per year for ACC members. In a matter of a whirlwind few months, the Big East’s hopes for a lucrative TV contract now rest with Boise State, Connecticut, Houston and Rutgers.

Those are the four most attractive Big East schools to TV, according to the analyst.

CBS Sports Network may be interested in the new Big East-to-West Conference. The same goes for the NBC/Comcast. Its new NBC Sports Network needs programming. But don’t expect a bidding war. That’s what has driven up the price of college football in the past decade – the public’s insatiable desire for more of it. But even during that gold rush there has been a clear dividing line – thank you, BCS – between the haves and have nots.

The Big East-to-West TV carrier(s) may pay a lot more than $35 million, but it/they won’t overpay. The point is not to lose money on a diminished football league, especially with the Big 12 out there for grabs in 2015.

No matter what the outcome, the Big East is going to be something like the sixth-richest conference, just like it was in the last round of negotiations.  The same market forces still apply. The Big East has been in the BCS only because of a waiver granted in 2007. The latest BCS contract expires in a couple of years, coincidentally at about the same time as the Big East’s TV contract.

Former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese always said there should be a major college football presence in the Northeast. Sadly, that’s not the case anymore. Not in one conference. The league always claimed New York in its TV footprint. But with Syracuse leaving and San Diego, Boise, Houston and Memphis coming in, how much longer can Big East football be a big presence in the <>East<> much less nationwide?

 

Posted on: August 3, 2011 12:45 pm
 

Brave new world for Big East commissioner

NEWPORT, R.I. -- If you saw John Marinatto 16 months ago he was sweating out the future of his conference. Literally.

Back in April 2010 the Big East commissioner was shepherded into a Phoenix resort conference room to discuss his conference's future with media during the annual BCS meetings. The pressure applied (and implied) by the Big Ten's Jim Delany perceived raid on the league had taken its toll. Marinatto was nervous, hot and had few answers.

"April 2010 was a challenge," Marinatto said. "I wasn't sure what we were walking into when we walked into that little room. It was a mine field, everything was so unstable. There was this real sense of fear, really."

He didn't know if his conference would hold together. Remember, this was during the height of conference realignment speculation. Fast forward to Tuesday here at the Big East media day where Marinatto was practically (Charlton) Heston-esque in delivering the conference's new message of optimism and solidarity.

Confident, articulate, proud, a man's man.

The upheaval that was supposed to usher in the era of the super conference was limited to five schools changing leagues this season. The Big East remained untouched; in fact it prospered adding TCU for 2012. There may be more teams on the way.

A combination of factors had Marinatto talking openly this week about further expansion, a possible conference championship game and a rights fee windfall due to hit some time in the next couple of years.

"We're living in a world where you pick up a paper or you're reading your tweets, there's something going on," Marinatto said explaining the Big East's new-found relevance. "You want to make sure you have enough inventory and enough schools. It is about existentialism at some point because you do want to have that security."

That would be the first time any of us have heard a conference commissioner play the "existentialism" card. But a quick check of dictionary.com shows what the commissioner is getting at. One of the definitions for existentialism is, "the individual's unique position as a self-determining agent responsible for the authenticity of his or her choices."

That explains the league's position at the moment. Being the last major conference to renegotiate TV rights in the current rotation, the Big East figures to prosper in a marketplace that is absolutely in love with college football.

Reality TV sells. Sports is the ultimate reality TV because it's, well, genuinely real. Now add the fact that college football is the No. 2 sport in the country behind the NFL. The public wants to see football, it doesn't matter if it's Big East football. The league hasn't exactly been a national contender but in a weird twist has been a postseason success. It has a .615 bowl winning percentage in the BCS era. Despite the lack of a powerhouse, it can now claim seven of the top 14 markets when TCU joins in 2012.

That's part of the reason why Newport was populated with TV types from several networks, at least showing interest in snagging the Big East when its current ESPN expires in 2013 (football) and 2014 (basketball). NBC Comcast, which struck out on the Pac-12, is a player. So is Fox. Conventional thinking has it that current rightsholder ESPN will make a big push.

Point is, there are suitors with deep pockets. Who cares if the league based in the Northeast has extended all the way to Texas.

"If there can be a conference called the Big Ten that can have 12 schools, what's wrong with the Big East having a school in Dallas, Texas?" Marinatto said. "It's a brave new world."

The Big East wasn't such a ravishing beauty 16 months ago. Marinatto was worried that the Big Ten was going to pluck -- take your pick -- Syracuse, Rutgers and/or Pittsburgh. Delany was rattling the Big East's cage, if nothing else, in order to lure Notre Dame to his conference. It didn't work. The most attractive expansion candidate for the Big Ten turned out to be Nebraska.

Marinatto now has several options if his league wants to expand and stage a championship game which he said was "certainly a possibility." Army, Navy, Air Force, Central Florida and Villanova have been mentioned as candidates. Certainly TCU broke the seal for everyone on geographic restrictions.

"It [championship game] would give us more inventory," Marinatto said. "A football championship game maybe in New York City would be phenomenal. If we could ever replicate what we've done in basketball side on the football side in December ... what a phenomenal asset that would be."

How excited is Marinatto?

"We're in a position where, if we do things right, we won't be having this discussion 18 months from now," he said.

That's when TV negotiations begin. Let the deepest pockets win.
 
 
 
 
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