Finebaum, the polarizing personality of college football’s signature call-in show, is leaving the Birmingham, Ala., market where his contract expired in January, for Charlotte, N.C., and a national forum: ESPN. His multi-tiered platform will include a radio program on ESPN networks, 100 televised appearances annually on ESPN and a TV simulcast of his radio show on the ESPN-owned SEC Network launching in August 2014.
It was inevitable, I suppose. What sucks is that now I’ll be stuck paying for him to be on the air.
There’s a reason ESPN charges all that money to watch. We want to pay it.
The risk for distributors is losing subscribers who will leave to find live sports provided by a competitor. More than one-third of consumers would cancel their pay TV service if they lost ESPN, the top cable channel for viewer loyalty, according to a 2012 survey by Lazard Capital Markets.
Even in an a la carte era, that’s not going to change.
Pilson said he thinks bundling will probably become the subject of a Congressional inquiry over the next five years. The New York Times recently reported government intervention doesn’t seem likely since the Federal Communications Commission has ensured telecommunication companies can compete in the TV business and empowered programmers in negotiations with cable distributors.
“Over a period of time, I think we can expect all cable bills to go up,” Pilson said. “There seems to be a public acceptance of (higher) bills right now. I think cable is viewed as a necessity in most homes.”
When it comes to sports programming, we live in a whatever the market will bear world. And the content providers know it.
After everything we’ve seen in the last decade, it’s the SEC Network that’s suddenly hipped people on to the WWL’s power?
Good Lord. Go back to sleep, folks.
Okay, the SEC Network is now a reality. It’s a 20-year deal with ESPN. (Will we even be watching TV in 2034?)
There’s one little tidbit in all the details I hadn’t anticipated.
As for game times, CBS will retain the first pick for which SEC game it wants each week. After that, Slive said scheduling discussions go to what he called a “content board.” Basically any other game will be on an ESPN platform, including the SEC Network, with other outlets for what Slive called “overflow” games.
But CBS won’t have an exclusive window for its 3:30 p.m. games. The SEC Network or ESPN could have a game going on at that time too. [Emphasis added.]
That’s… interesting. Is there a little message sending going on there to a CBS that is perhaps a bit recalcitrant in ponying up a few more bucks for Slive’s new, improved 14-school SEC? Or is it more outright, say, “pay us for the exclusivity, if you want it”?
Of course, it would be a little weird to have a conference network not showing football mid-afternoon Saturdays. But I can’t imagine the suits at CBS were happy about it when they heard the news.
Jon Solomon has a detailed breakdown of what’s coming down the turnpike with the launching of the SEC Network here. Key paragraphs:
Bevilacqua said he believes the SEC missed a big opportunity several years ago by negotiating longterm deals with ESPN and CBS that everybody now knows were fairly under-market deals.
“At the time, they looked like they were fully-valued deals,” he said. “But it’s fair to say the market accelerated forward and has changed quite dramatically. As a result of those deals, the SEC has to deal with ESPN in a non-free agency matter. It’s very difficult because ESPN has the leverage of 15 years worth of future rights to have the preferred structural outcome.”
Which is why history is about to repeat itself with the SEC signing another long-term broadcast deal with the WWL. The conference may have the product, but the networks have the contracts.
Considering what the last set of deals brought us – a round of expansion that the conference is currently struggling with on the scheduling front – who knows what we’ll wind up with this time around. Just remember Mike Slive’s hole card.
“The SEC is noted for the loyalty and support from its fans, who are a passionate audience,” Pilson said.
It’s a comfort to know we’ll always be there for him.
We’re being promised quality product on the SEC Network. The question is, if they’re sincere about that, how do they deliver it? You can probably guess the answer:
The key for getting good games on the network: Balanced scheduling. One source said the league plans to avoid stacking games – in other words, four marquee football games one week, only one or two the next. Spreading the wealth over a 14-week will be imperative.
Naturally, a nine-game league football schedule could help with this. And maybe the SEC will go that route eventually.
If you don’t think ESPN and CBS are pounding Slive on close to a daily basis about this, you’re dreaming. I still think this is coming down to a math issue for the conference ADs: TV revenue versus loss of revenue from a seventh home game. But if the projection of $28 million per team turns out to be accurate, there’s plenty coming in to make up for the ticket revenue loss.
Now this is power:
Those live games will move to ESPN for the conference channel, which is an important development because it means that ESPN will control the entire inventory of SEC football games, with the exception of CBS’s single game each week. That gives ESPN a lot of flexibility to use specific games in markets where it’s having trouble gaining distribution.
That’s not all it gives Mickey.
I’d welcome our new conference overlords, except it’s not like they just showed up last week.
If you’re wondering who will be wearing the pants in this ESPN/SEC partnership, nothing says “Southeastern Conference” like basing the SEC Network’s studio headquarters in a state that doesn’t actually host an SEC team.
Hey, ESPN – great exposé on the synthetic marijuana story at Auburn. Except for the part you got totally wrong. Crackerjack journalism, there.
Maybe you can get Mike Patrick to bring it up again during a broadcast of a Tigers game this fall.