Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Roundup on Rights: C-USA, ACC & Big Ten

* Credit goes to CUSABBS on this one.  Southern Miss AD Bill McGillis was interviewed recently and noted that C-USA's TV partners have until April 1st to select and move any games to weeknights, and that's interesting on two fronts:

1) C-USA has TV partners for next year, which he did not name.  That tells me that a deal has been completed.

2) April 1st has typically been the date where FOX Sports and CBSSN had to finalize its planned weeknight games, though who would be televising the games would be withheld.

Since the conference has yet to announce any formal plans for television next year, it is possible that they elected to go with a short term deal or extension with all partners. Also possible that any finalized weeknight games on or around April 1st will include an announcement about future TV partners.

* Joe Ovies had an interesting discussion regarding the possibility of an ACC 24/7 channel with commissioner John Swofford.  Also touched on during the interview was the long-rumored item that the ACC, at some point, will earn an automatic rights fee bump in the event ESPN doesn't start a dedicated channel during the period covered by the current television contract.

I've personally believed that an ACC channel will cost more to get off the ground because of the amount of content sold to Raycom for the life of the current TV deal, or cutting them (and FOX?) in with equity, provided that the deal has not been shortened behind the scenes or has a buyout price to end it.  Consider that around 30 football games and 80 men's basketball games, plus baseball, women's basketball and other sports are aired either through syndication or regional cable distribution.  Presumably, the simulcasts of the ACC men's basketball tournament and the first Duke vs. North Carolina basketball games would end too.

* Sports Business Journal reports that ESPN and the Big Ten recently met, with the conference informing ESPN that they would be looking to take their rights to the open market.  Presumably, a first offer/first refusal clause was in place, allowing ESPN to name a price &, possibly, contractual format (ie. games on OTA vs. pay TV, etc.) that they would be willing to match.  If you remember, ESPN held this option with the American Athletic Conference when they matched NBC Sports' offer.   Be aware that when the conference started marketing those rights, they had a planned membership that was different from the membership that was constructed when the deal was signed.  This clause appears to have also been the sticking point when ESPN sued Conference USA.

I do not know if the CBS basketball contract will go to the open market as well.  I assume it has separate clauses.

I wrote up a pair of items almost a year ago on the Big Ten.  Since then, we've seen buyouts, cutbacks, cord cuts/shaves and an overall decrease in the number of subscribing homes to many pay TV channels per Nielsen measurements.  How much weight should be given to those items and what can & will be offered by a network group remains to be seen.  Presumably, the conference has an idea on what will be offered on the open market and did not make this decision blindly.

Based on the 2014 & 2015 seasons, which were the two seasons at 14 member schools in football and men's basketball, it looks like around 55-58 football games from ESPN (around 20 on broadcast TV), the conference football championship on FOX and just under 100 men's basketball games from ESPN are up for bid, along with other sports events.  Also not up for bid is content currently on BTN, which has a 25 year agreement with the conference.

One possible item to consider is that the conference will look to sync up both the primary and BTN deals so that they expire at the same time.  It is possible that a new deal will target an expiration date of the completion of the 2031-32 athletic year.

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