Monday, May 23, 2011

Big East TV Rights: Where I would go

First, lets remember that ESPN (football and men's basketball) and CBS (men's basketball) holds the rights to the conference until 2013 for both sports, so ESPN is the only one that can make the conference an offer until open bidding is available on the rights, sometime in 2012.  Also remember that the existing contracts are separated by sport, with football separate from men's basketball.

I believe this is going to be a two horse race, if the conference gets to open bidding on its rights and that would be my preference as it worked for the ACC and Pac-12.  ESPN and Comcast would be the two entities.

The 1st item to take care of is the financials.  At a minimum, my goal would be to make sure each football playing member makes $11 million and each basketball school makes $3 million from TV.   Based on my earlier projects of the current deal, that would get the football schools a 2.75x increase in revenue and the basketball schools nearly the same proportional increase.  In total, that would mean that Big East should start their negotiations at $123 million.

Now to stay ESPN and CBS for the packages they currently have, I don't need many changes with men's basketball.  Give me the same amount of games on ESPN/ESPN2 and CBS in both packages.  
  • Up the number of regular season games on ESPN/ESPN2 from 49 to 53 to account for TCU's addition
  • Of those 53, 45 should be conference games on ESPN/ESPN2
  • An increase of one conference games on CBS
  • The ability to consider moving the men's basketball tournament back a day for the possibility of the final on ABC in a doubleheader with the SEC final.
  • ESPNU remains the same at 30
  • No exclusives
Football is a different story.  I need the following assurances from ESPN to stick around with them:
  • ABC picks up eight Big East games per year.  
    • One of those must be on Black Friday, another should be the final week of the season.  
    • Six of the games must be conference games.  
    • One game in primetime per year
  • ESPN/ESPN2 takes fifteen games in this fashion
    • Three Thursday night games
    • Four Friday night games, with at least two of them in doubleheaders with the Pac-12.  One of these games must also be a Black Friday game
    • At least one game on the final week of the season
    • One game on Sunday or Monday of Labor Day weekend
    • At least five games September-November on Saturdays, with one in primetime
    • 12 of the 15 games must be conference games
  • ESPNU takes three games, less than previous years
If ESPN can do that, I'll stay.  If Comcast is my rightsholder, I want the following:
  • NBC
    • Seven games
    • Three doubleheaders with Notre Dame at a minimum
    • Of the seven games, five must be conference games
    • One of the games must be on Black Friday as a doubleheader with the NHL's Black Friday game
    • NBC windows are exclusive
  • Versus
    • 20 games
    • Three Thursday games
    • No Friday games
    • Five primetime games
    • 17 of the games should be conference games.
Notice that I've done nothing with regional telecasts or with online streaming.  I don't believe a 24/7 network is worthwhile and I don't believe that the conference should pool all of those rights.  In basketball, I would work with ESPN Regional to do a package of 12 regional basketball games and nine football games, but not give them any more games beyond that.  This would be the Game of the Week syndication package.  I would request that ESPN Regional do the following:
  • Removal of the SEC regional football package from the New York City market, currently on MSG Network
  • Addition of the the Big East regional packages in Houston and San Antonio (if they aren't already), in addition to the Dallas market for TCU
After that, all conference games not selected (7-10 games in football, 40+ games in men's basketball) would revert to the conference to do either a pay-streaming package through and/or syndicate on their own.  Any non-conference games would go to schools to monetize on their own, either via television or the internet.  In the case of football games the regional & conference packages, they cannot air during an over-the-air television window.  Also, if the tournament were to move forward to a Sunday final, the Big East and/or ESPN Regional should take control of at least the syndication of the 1st and 2nd round games, even if some games become internet-only games.

My thought is that though revenue through the conference package is variable based on interest of a game, many schools have media production departments and the overhead to make money on these games should be minimal.  It does put the onus on the conference and member schools to properly market these packages.  This should allow those schools to generate additional revenues that could put them right near the ACC in terms of TV revenues if the conference receives its minimum revenue targets, plus they have the flexibility to sell the conference-owned package at any time to a partner to produce and market if the conference desires to do that.

Since ESPN has been the primary partner of the conference, I think they have the best shot at keeping the Big East rights.  Comcast is there, and they are hungry and would make the conference its showcase for football.  But I believe that the conference has to take control of its own destiny with the games that ESPN Regional currently owns and find ways to create new revenue streams.


Sean OLeary said...

I think you missed one key piece and that's promotion of the Big East conference.

ESPN does a great job promoting Big East basketball. But it basically hides Big East football and contributes to the league's horrible national profile.

Comcast/NBC would promote Big East everything to the nth degree as its big new shiny toy.

In a million years, ABC would never run an ad for a Big East football game during primetime.

NBC would not only promote Big East football in its sports coverage, they would promote it during its high-rated primetime shows. Especially if they started to do doubleheaders with Notre Dame, which they promote endlessly.

Unless ESPN blows the Big East away, I don't see any positives to staying on the network. It's especially annoying since the ESPN Thursday night brand took off in 2006 with incredible ratings for Louisville/WVU and Louisville/Rutgers. And they repaid the Big East by adding more Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC games on Thursday nights.

If the Big East stays with will no longer be a BCS football conference within 5 years. Too much money & exposure for teams in other conferences when eventual mega-conference expansion occurs.

J.D. said...

you could also sweeten the deal a little for nbc by letting them have the games when notre dame plays at a big east team and use the notre dame "brand" for those games. looks like there's at least one of those a season coming up for a while.

NJDevils015 said...

Very interesting post Matt. I do think that being on ESPN gives Big East basketball such great exposure, but football is not promoted very well by ESPN. It would be exciting to see NBC/Versus get the deal.

One idea that you floated out there was to have the Big East Tournament basketball championship pushed back to a Sunday. That is a terrible idea as there is so much buzz and prestige with having the championship take place on Saturday night in the big city. The Big East would not go for a Sunday final.