Sunday, July 19, 2015

Some Mid-July Thoughts on Budgets, C-USA and College Basketball

The nice thing about college sports is that it essentially takes a break from late June to after July 4th.  There wasn't much to write about, at least in the areas I try to stick to covering.  There is one "big picture" item though that I felt was worth touching on.

* As you've probably read in several places, ESPN is making personnel changes outside of their college sports broadcasting departments and have allowed some of the event programming they carry to move on to other entities (NHRA to FOX Sports, Open Championship to NBC, etc.).  You also may have seen that their subscribing household number has dipped as well as cord cutting in pay TV is providing consumers more choice.  Unfortunately, the cost of subscribing to the channel, or the suite of channels, isn't decreasing, but that's another story.

Paying a rights fee isn't just the only cost for a product.  Costs of producing a live event (ie. staffing both on & off air, equipment, transportation, etc.) can be a hidden cost to us that gets defrayed through ad sales & subscriber fees.

I can't say what this means for upcoming negotiations for the Big Ten rights that they currently carry.   Or for a potential bid on English Premier League rights with tender sheets going out recently.  Or any rights coming up for bid over the next two to three years.  Reports are that ESPN is going to make adjustments to future budgets.  What I'm not sure of is how the 2016 & 2017 budgets are structured compared to 2015 before mandating cuts.  My guess is that 2016 and 2017's budgets were not flat compared to 2015, so the context of a cut of $100 million or $250 million isn't necessarily known.  It could be the difference of a 5% increase in spending vs. a 10% increase.

In some ways, with the sports rights market being relatively stable for the next few years, this is a place where ESPN and FOX, who also made some cuts with respect to their news coverage both in the field and in the studio, can reassess priorities and ways to make money.  These aren't charities.  And its also a place where NBC, CBS and others could be more active if the price is right.

* One rights agreement that could be decided soon is Conference USA's.  C-USA's commissioner, Britton Banowsky, has announced he is stepping down to take a role with the College Football Playoff Foundation and I would assume that he has announced this with negotiations for future rights finished, or at least in the hands of lawyers who are finalizing the language.

The best parallel that I can recall for something like this is when the MAC and ESPN finalized a new agreement and announced it on January 28, 2009.  A day later, MAC commissioner Rick Chryst announced that he would resign from the conference at the end of the 2008-09 athletic year.

Conference USA's media days are Tuesday, July 21 & Wednesday, July 22.

* With nearly all start times in the FBS conferences accounted for through the first three weeks of the season (mostly C-USA and Mountain West games are awaiting start times or broadcast outlets), men's basketball scheduling announcements should start to appear later this month and August.  Pairings on a handful of events have been announced or leaked.  Usually the Big 12 is the first conference to have its television schedule released.

If you want to peruse through the basketball listings, here you go.

No comments: