Saturday, December 21, 2019

SEC Goes All-In With ESPN?

First, read this from Sports Business Journal.

* My first take is that CBS did make a credible offer.  They knew the value of 15 football games plus seven MBK games was more than $55 million and it wasn't just 2x or 4x, it was somewhere between 5x-6x.  To me, that's not a lowball offer.  Clearly not bid winning, but not standing pat.

Also sounds like CBS truly didn't have a right of first refusal if both ESPN & FOX were able to make offers and talk contractual terms this far in advance.

* Assuming FOX doesn't come in with a bid that blows away ESPN, I believe you'll see changes in a few places, both related to having all rights under one roof:

  • Less exclusive windows.  If there's a SEC game on ABC. its quite possible that you'll see a SEC game programmed on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.  The SEC on CBS was one of the last places television window exclusivity existed.  With everything under one roof, I assume that changes.
  • More SEC in primetime on ABC.  How many?  Its hard to say, but my guess is that it would be more than one.
  • Possibly no more appearance limits.  CBS was limited to showing five games involving a SEC school, excluding the conference championship game.  Those limits are put in place to protect the secondary rightsholder, in this case ESPN, so that their rights agreement retains value and that they have the chance to select games from every school.  Otherwise CBS could choose Alabama every week if it desired.  With everything under one rood, ESPN no longer has that need to be protected, especially from itself. 
  • Maybe more gamesmanship on where the "best" SEC game airs every week.  The appearance limits that CBS had imposed on them do influence selection orders, but that could lead to the occasional gaming of the system by ESPN.  Maybe the best game is to be in primetime on ESPN instead of ABC, therefore, is it the 2nd best game on ABC and is it at 12pm instead?
* Remember that this doesn't take effect until the 2024-25 athletic year unless arrangements are made to release CBS from their obligations.  Expiration dates for other P5 rights agreements:
  • Big 12: 2024-25
  • Big Ten: 2022-23 (see note re: BTN below)
  • Pac-12: 2023-24
So all three of these would know the landscape far in advance.

* CBS can always pour that money into another NFL deal down the road and with NFL rights, down the road is never far away.  Thursday Night Football, until the recent five year deal with FOX, was usually a 1-2 year deal, sometimes with year two as an option.  The 2022 season seems to be the big year for nearly all agreements.

CBS also is spending to retain PGA Tour rights and Mountain West rights.

* I made some comments that CBS could look to the Big Ten and one of the incumbent packages.  Let me reiterate a couple items and expand in other areas, because I also wasn't thinking about the entire picture:
  • Just because CBS is coming in doesn't mean they would automatically go for FOX Sports' package of rights.  ABC/ESPN's could be in play too.  FOX does have a long term relationship with the conference via BTN, but the BTN deal is on a different timeline as it ends after 2031-32.  That said, its a relationship that has been strengthened over the years.
  • When I was discussing this via Twitter on Friday night, I made mention of how CBS could, in theory, pick up a football package and not have to televise any of them on CBS Sports Network. Pick them up, distribute them wherever you want and in this case, broadcast TV.  Roughly a doubleheader a week.

    Where I didn't think this through is the extra items that would get picked up like men's basketball.  CBS could take some of those men's basketball games for broadcast TV and strengthen their existing package of games, but the conference wouldn't be as likely to accept CBSSN as it stands right now.  They'd either have to carve a lot of the basketball games out of the deal, take them on and sublicense them to other entities, or keep them and figure out another place for them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From what I've read in the lead-up to this deal, the SEC greatly appreciated the appointment viewing that CBS at 3:30 produced, pretty much making that timeslot part of the SEC brand.

I think the SEC will allow a few more #1 games to be moved to primetime under this deal, but I think that 3:30 at ABC will be locked as an SEC time period, with production requirements that will probably require the number of cameras to be similar to ESPN's MNF. This will prevent ABC from moving too many of the top games outside of the time period. It also will help ensure the package keeps it's full value whenever the deal expires.

Of course, this frees up ESPN to move a top ACC/Big 10/Big 12 game from 3:30 to noon to compete against Fox's best game.