Canzano: ESPN shut out of Big Ten? If true, great for the Pac-12
Report: ESPN will be without Big Ten football and basketball
The Sports Business Journal posted an interesting story on the Big Ten’s media rights negotiations. John Ourand, a very good reporter, had the goods:
Barring a last-minute change of direction in the Big Ten’s media rights negotiations, ESPN will be without the conference’s football and basketball games for the first time in 40 years. With Big Ten negotiations nearing an end -- I’m told agreements could be reached by the end of this week or push into next -- CBS and NBC have emerged as the clear front runners to pick up Big Ten rights alongside Fox Sports.
Some rapid-fire thoughts:
• This could be a leak, designed to tweak ESPN for a few bucks. A couple of industry insiders that I communicated with wondered if the news was the Big Ten doing some public negotiating. Keep an eye on that.
• Does the Big Ten think NBC can help steer Notre Dame into its arms down the road? I wondered when I read the story. So did some others. The Big Ten would love Notre Dame in the fold. The Irish covet their independence. I took a deep dive on that on Sunday.
• NBC might want to position Notre Dame as a lead-in to the Big Ten’s weekly primetime game. Or it could flip flop the two products, week to week. Doing so would give the network a consistent Saturday football schedule.
• I also wondered if the Big Ten was trying to cannibalize some of the revenue that would have potentially gone to Notre Dame in its next deal. There is only so much money to spend and every dollar that the Big Ten eats is one less for the Irish, right?
• I floated that idea to Bob Thompson, the former president of Fox Sports Networks, on Monday evening. He said, “Problem with that is Notre Dame could walk down to ESPN and get a deal done in about 10 minutes.”
• Thompson also added, “If ESPN is on the outside that’s very good news for the Pac 12.”
• Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff told me on media day that the conference would wait to see what the Big Ten did with its deal before acting.
Meaning, the Pac-12 will allow the Big Ten to set the market and see which networks are left on the outside, looking in. If ESPN is really not getting any Big Ten games, it’s not just good for the Pac-12, but also the Big 12, which will need to eat, too.
• I’ve written a lot about a “loose partnership” between the Pac-12 and ACC. I continue to hear this is a real possibility. ESPN may lean hard into making that happen if they don’t spend any money on the Big Ten.
• Imagine non-conference crossover football and basketball games between the ACC and Pac-12 on ABC/ESPN. Also, imagine conference championship week in the college football season where the ACC champion is pitted vs. the Pac-12 champion in Las Vegas. No. 2 vs. No. 2? No. 3 vs. No. 3? Basically, a late-season festival, presented by ESPN?
• If ESPN’s relationship with the Big Ten is indeed over, it would signal the end of a long-running partnership. Ourand pointed out in his piece that ABC started carrying Big Ten games in 1966. ESPN cut its first deal with the conference in 1982. But this era of college football appears to be the place where traditions go to die.
• USC and UCLA know what I’m talking about.
• CBS lost the SEC games in the last round of negotiations. It needs inventory in the 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time Zone window on Saturdays. So CBS makes a lot of sense as a partner for the Big Ten.
• This whole thing is being positioned by some as an ESPN vs. Fox battle. Industry experts don’t see it that way. During the NFL season, does anyone see it as a Fox (NFC) vs. CBS (AFC) battle? Or do we just watch football?
Thompson, the former head of Fox Sports Networks told me, “Saturdays are just gonna look like Sundays.”
It’s just business, folks.
I’ll have more as this develops…
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