There’s only one reason Mike Slive and his merry band are tampering with the greatest 20-year run of success in the history of college sports.
That’s a record distribution to conference schools, but it falls short of the Big Ten’s jackpot. And it’s a gap that’s expected to grow.
The SEC presidents simply can’t have that. Even though it’s a shortfall born of their own shortsightedness.
Four years ago, ESPN provided groundbreaking money and exposure to the SEC in exchange for most of its content. The biggest asset was acquiring nearly every football game not owned by CBS (usually one per week) or each school (one per season).
ESPN constructed the arrangement specifically to prevent the SEC from starting its own channel. [Emphasis added.] The SEC receives an average of $150 million a year from ESPN over 15 years, according to the SportsBusiness Journal, which first reported the channel discussions. “We sort of broke ground on major media contracts and I think the others have followed along and actually moved the ball a little bit further,” Machen said.
Since then, TV media rights have skyrocketed higher. The market got reset with the Pac-12’s deal with ESPN and Fox that SportsBusiness Journal reported is worth $250 million a year over 12 years. The ACC’s recent new agreement with ESPN took it from an average of $155 million annually to $240 million.
“The SEC has two issues,” said Neal Pilson, a sports media consultant and former president of CBS Sports. “One is they granted a lot of those rights to their broadcast carriers. Second, some of the SEC schools are already exploiting their third-tier (local media) rights.
In other words, Slive got snookered and didn’t have the foresight to bargain for an opt-out clause. So the presidents changed the conditions on the ground with an ill-conceived round of expansion that’s taking on the appearance of a bigger and bigger screw up every time the league meets to decide something, simply to reopen the deal it struck with ESPN.
As far as that goes, it’ll likely work. They’ll get more money, but it’s been at a cost. Fault lines no one previously perceived had existed were opened. The revised basketball schedule is a joke. The 6-1-1 compromise on the football schedule is the best of a bunch of bad options and one that is likely to be revisited sooner than the presidents would like, either because CBS won’t pony up more money without being offered more inventory or because the conference finds itself on the short end of the stick when a strength of schedule component is introduced into the postseason math and the SEC’s eight-game schedule doesn’t offer enough support.
You’ll notice I haven’t said anything about the fans.
This is no way to run a railroad.