Friday, December 11, 2020

SEC Moving All Rights to ESPN

You might want to read the press release and media call transcript. Also happened to write this post in late December of 2019 when this news started to percolate.

A few takeaways that I have:

* Unless some trading of rights occurs, I'd expect CBS to keep at least a couple years worth of SEC games. There's still a bit of a logjam when it comes to the content they have and shoehorning in 15 more football games is a bit tough. Taking on a few more men's basketball games isn't as hard to do. CBS seems to make money off of it too with the deal's low cost per season and the rating the package generates allowing it to charge a pretty reasonable rate for advertising and sponsorship.

* The mention of more fan-friendly scheduling and noting when games would start is a welcome addition. Along with that, I am curious to know whether the SEC will continue to publish the upcoming season's schedule while the current season is still active. ESPN is known to take an active role in ACC scheduling for some Saturday games and that could apply to the SEC now that they are completely under the Disney umbrella. Maybe we'll see the SEC schedule come out in January or February instead.

* With the restrictions gone as to when a SEC game can air on broadcast TV during the day, I think your over/under number for the amount of SEC games that you should expect on ABC should be 22.  CBS had 15 and ESPN often had good games to air during the 1st two weeks of the season, so tacking those on plus some premium SEC games that aired on ESPN, 20 seems like a reasonable number to start with.

And with that noted, for the next three seasons, I think you'll see a few more premium games from the Big 12, Pac-12,  Big Ten and ACC end up on ESPN instead of ABC, or maybe a marginal game air on ESPN instead of filling an ABC slot. The increase in inventory isn't much, but the quality of the inventory has increased.

* The addition of ESPN+ content isa value add to both the ESPN+ service and, likely, the SEC Network.  SECN often ends up with these games early in the season and sometimes they end up on the alternate feed. If that content gets pulled from SECN and other ESPN linear TV platforms over to ESPN+, it leaves programming holes to fill.  Some of that might be SEC games from other linear TV platforms to bolster SECN and other conferences could benefit from the openings on linear TV to get more coverage. You also might see some cases where SECN doesn't carry a football game because the desire is to get as many viewers to watch a premium SEC game on ABC or ESPN instead.

* A possible loser in this addition is the American, specifically for its football championship game, as it might be the odd man out and slide into a spot on ESPN instead of airing on ABC. Currently it gets positioned to air on ABC opposite the SEC's game on CBS, but the game is guaranteed to air on either ABC or ESPN.

* As correctly noted by a Twitter follower, CBS will lose out on SEC men's basketball and ACC men's basketball disappeared from the network recently.  As far as I know, the Big Ten will be their anchor conference along with some games from the American and Mountain West, and they'll have sublicensed games from the Big 12, Pac-12, Big East plus the championship games from the Atlantic 10 and Missouri Valley from ESPN.  

ABC is starting to reposition itself in the college basketball space.  They carried five games total last year from the Pac-12, ACC and Big 12 and by adding a few SEC games, they'll have a chance to be back in that game for affiliates.

* And because there's an inevitable question about what CBS does, three Power 5 conferences have their rights agreements expire after consecutive athletic years: Big Ten (2022-23), Pac-12 (2023-24) and Big 12 (2024-25).  At a minimum, CBS would carry three Mountain West football games per season through 2025 and has the Army-Navy game through 2028.


SN said...

Can you clarify this, a few more premium games ... end up on ESPN instead of ABC? Are you saying they broadcast fewer games on ABC in the years before they pick up the SEC or showcase more games from the group of 5?

Matt Sarzyniak said...

I'm saying that when SEC arrives, games from other conferences that would otherwise air on ABC get bumped down to ESPN.

Darrell McKown said...

I could see CBS trying to partner with FOX for the next Big 10 contract. CBS could take 15-17 games (mid-afternoon time slot and 2-3 primetime games), which would effectively give FOX exclusivity for their Big Noon Big 10 games. FOX would have to take about 10 more games than they currently have, which they might want to do assuming they can work them into their FS1 schedule by bumping some Big 12 games down to FS2 as they try to build it up. I didn't count the games, but it seems they are good bit over their minimums for FOX & FS1 under their Big 12 contract.

Just looking at the best ABC/ESPN game from each week of 2019 as an example, they could have a lineup of mid-afternoon like:

Cincinnati at Ohio State
Pittsburgh at Penn State
Ohio State at Nebraska
Michigan State at Ohio State
Penn State at Iowa
Michigan at Penn State
Notre Dame at Michigan
Michigan at Maryland
Penn State at Minnesota
Indiana at Penn State(
Minnesota at Northwestern
Wisconsin at Minnesota

(Minnesota was 11-2 in 2019, including a 9-0 start)

That's obviously not as good as the first SEC pick every week, but it's not bad, and probably about $150 million/year less expensive.

RR said...

Have to imagine the Big Ten will be looking for similar money to the SEC. So if the SEC was too rich for CBS, hard to see how they'll be able to make a play for the Big Ten.