B12,ACC,P10 TV Deal?

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B12,ACC,P10 TV Deal?

Postby 1981Eagle on Wed Sep 23, 2009 5:06 pm

Big 12 takes aim at increasing its TV footprint
By Tom Timmermann
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
09/18/2009

Mizzou's football game Saturday, for the second straight week, will be available only on pay-per-view, which means that to almost the entirety of the nation, no one will see the game.

In the world of college sports, where everyone wants what the other guy has, if not more, this is not the optimal situation. Meanwhile, in the Big Ten Conference, all but one game, Northwestern at Syracuse, is being televised by someone. Thanks to the Big Ten Network, fans in many areas can watch Northern Illinois at Purdue or Wofford at Wisconsin. Last week, at the same time Mizzou was asking fans to pay $29.95 to watch the Tigers play Bowling Green, the casual viewer could flip on Illinois vs. Illinois State for free.

That's not unusual. Last year, 86 of 88 Big Ten home football games (the ones they control the rights to) could be seen nationally, and the two other games were available locally or online. Last year, 20 games in the Big 12 weren't seen outside the stadium in which they were being played, including Mizzou's games against Buffalo and at Baylor.

Prior to this season, the Southeastern Conference signed a deal, for 15 years and $2.25 billion, with ESPN to air some of its games and syndicate others. (The league also has a 15-year, $825 million deal with CBS.) This weekend, eight of nine SEC games will be televised, and ESPN has arranged for its syndicated games to air in markets far outside the SEC's home base, including Dallas, the Big 12's backyard.


And that stings. TV games generate money for schools, and TV games generate exposure, which generates interest from potential recruits, who are the lifeblood of a football program.

"Last year, we were on 12 times in 14 games," said Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel, whose team hosts Furman on Saturday. "That's huge, no question. Our biggest recruiting area is the state of Missouri, then Texas and Oklahoma, the central part of the United States. We're on all the time. Those kids down in Texas see us play. It's a plus. With the Big Ten's deal and the SEC's, the Big 12 has to make some big decisions."

"Kids want to be on TV," Texas coach Mack Brown said earlier this season. A big TV contract "is very important" to the league.

Indeed it is, and the league faces big decisions in the years ahead. Commissioner Dan Beebe said it's the thing he works on the most.

"I think it's crucial," Mizzou AD Mike Alden said. "It's very important for the entire league."

But the decision is in the future. The Big 12 has two TV deals, with ABC/ESPN through 2015-16 and Fox Sports Net through 2011-12. Until the FSN deal ends, the league's hands are tied. Its new TV negotiations won't begin until April 2011. It has from now until then to figure out what the best step is, and that question is very unclear.


"What we're doing now is studying the landscape," Beebe said, "to determine which model works best for us. There are various viewing methods, and we want to be very aware. We're not sitting back and waiting for the negotiating window. We want to set ourselves in the best position possible."

The roads chosen by the Big Ten and the SEC represent the two main options for the league. It can start out on its own, or it can make a big deal with a network. The Big Ten went out on its own because it wanted more exposure than it was getting from its existing deal with ESPN.

The SEC didn't have to start its own network because it got that kind of a deal with ESPN, and that may crowd out the possibility for another deal of that kind for anyone else, because the network has limited shelf space. ESPN will air four SEC games this weekend, spread among ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, and syndicate a fifth. With the existing deals ESPN has in place, giving that kind of wall-to-wall coverage to another league — and the Big 12 would be a prime candidate, considering the power of its football programs — may not be possible.

"There's only so much money to go around," Alden said.

It's been 25 years since the Supreme Court ruled that schools could negotiate their own TV deals, a development that ended the days of tightly controlled TV appearances and led to the football-apalooza that now exists on Saturdays. The next major development was in 1990 when Notre Dame signed a five-year, $38 million deal with NBC to broadcast its games, a deal that has been renewed several times and was recently extended through 2015. At the time the deal was signed, it was thought that the money and publicity would make Notre Dame the hands-down power in college football for years to come.

It hasn't quite played out like that, as Bob Davie and Charlie Weis can tell you, but anyone in college sports will tell you that more money and more exposure can only be good. The Big Ten took the next big stride when it started its own network, starting with the 2007 football season.

"In all respects, it's been a great thing for us," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said. "We took a lot of risk going this direction. It was tough sledding to get everyone to agree to do it."

Beebe acknowledged that the Big 12 has looked into forming a network of its own in conjunction with the Pacific 10 and Atlantic Coast conferences, which would give it a coast-to-coast footprint, with teams in every time zone, and allow for games from noon to midnight on Saturdays. The ACC's current TV deals run out in 2010-11 and the Pac-10's in 2011-12.

"Whether they can get the same deal that the SEC did is hard to say," Delany said. "If they don't go to market for three years and they win the next three national titles, maybe they will.''

If there were rankings of college football TV deals, right now the SEC and Big Ten would be Nos. 1 and 2.

"There are so many factors to being great, and television is just one," Delany said. "Nothing swings anything in an unalterable way. How do you explain the programs that weren't good that are good now? Look at Texas Tech, look at Boise State. They don't have big TV contracts."

But that's easy for him to say, because he's already got one.
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