They gave you the best years of their lives, Mickey.

Brian Cook looks at my recent post about ESPN’s future in an unbundled world, takes an inferred point from my post and makes it quite specific:

ESPN is currently subsidized by a lot of people who do not care about sports. When the internet is television, that goes away—and it does not necessarily get replaced one for one.

This is why adding Maryland and especially Rutgers was folly. In the near future the only people who get the Big Ten Network are going to be people interested in the Big Ten. They will no longer be able to snatch a dollar from the pocket of every cable subscriber in New Jersey who is a Tulane man. This is going to happen in ten years, at which point whatever short-term revenue gain will be spent, Jim Delany will have his bonus, and the Big Ten will be stuck with a couple of teams nobody cares about.

It’s not just the Big Ten, and it’s not just being stuck with the aftermath of making questionable expansion decisions.  Every P5 conference is guilty of the latter and the Pac-12 is even more heavily invested in its broadcast network than Delany’s conference is.  What do these guys prepare for when their business model is blown to the skies?

Judging from their track record, we won’t find out the answer to that question until it’s already happened.

11 Comments

Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil, It's Just Bidness

11 responses to “They gave you the best years of their lives, Mickey.

  1. You’re correct. The current model contains the seeds of its own destruction (to capitalize on Marx). Thus, the conferences re-realign after à la carte programming is a reality. Missouri goes away and SEC looks at Clemson, OU and others. WVU will perform better than MO in the à la carte world.

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  2. JCDAWG83

    It will be interesting to see what happens to coach’s salaries, facilities and those COA stipends once the huge tv money is reduced to a trickle. When the tv audience can truly vote with it’s pocketbook, I think the powers that be in college football will have a rude awakening regarding their opinion of their importance and how in demand their product really is.

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    • The problem will be exacerbated by CFB having taken steps to reinvent itself as a sport based largely on national appeal, as opposed to its traditional strength of being built on regional appeal. Not sure how they go about stuffing that genie back in the bottle.

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      • JCDAWG83

        Yes, I think they have deluded themselves into thinking it’s a big time national sport. College football fans are everywhere, but they are very regional in their interest. Very few people in the South pay any attention at all to Big 10, Big East, Pac 12, etc football and the reverse is true as well.

        I was in Chicago for the ’12 SEC championship game. I had to ask a bartender to put the game on one of the tvs in a fairly crowded bar downtown. There was absolutely zero interest in the game other than people having passing interest in who Notre Dame would be playing in the BCS game. I went to a Bears game the next day and had to defend myself and explain that my Georgia hat was not a red Packers hat.

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        • Mayor

          The 2 above posts are prescient. College football has fans everywhere but they are all fans of their local/regional teams. The phrase “all politics are local” applies doubly to college football. The NCAA and conference “geniuses” have overlooked this completely.

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      • Can’t and won’t happen. I HATE this.

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  3. Hobnail_Boot

    I wouldn’t be shocked if the conference networks end up following the model of the WWE Network. Charge a monthly fee and be the sole provider of supplemental live content that’s not already contracted out to the major networks.

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  4. red

    It’s a matter of time before google control sports.

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  5. The other Doug

    I see the post unbundled world and it only has one conference. My vision is getting cloudy, but I think it has 32 teams.

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    • Mayor

      It can have as many as 64 teams but only if the 5 major conferences get together and make some very difficult decisions.

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  6. While there is a lot this is valid about this reasoning here, remember that while ESPN pays for the rights to the conferences, it is the advertisers/sponsors that fund ESPN.

    Those advertisers will still want to draw eyes from the large urban markets. They will take even more detailed oriented looks at the demographics of the audience to see where they live, how old they are, how much $ they make, how much $ they spend and what they spend it on – more than they even do today.

    In today’s landscape, sports is one of the few universal ratings draws, but if/when unbundling comes and the ratings are not as broad, then they sure has heck better be deep. Clemson might end up joining the SEC if their fanbase is younger, more affluent consumers than say Miss St.

    There will be another set of conference realignment and a lot of it will be based on the colleges selling their fanbases as hip, rich, tech savvy arbiters of style and influencers of other consumers.

    House of Cards and OITNB are successful shows for Netflix because they are well-written, buzz-worthy shows that bring eyes to their services. But those eyes live in great zip codes, they have money, they have education, they are tech savvy, social-media relevant, and they buy stuff – lots of expensive stuff. Big brands love those audiences so our school and a bunch of others better have them or find them. Because if sponsors figure out most of the eyes watching a certain team 80, widowed, living on a fixed income in the Mississippi Delta – the sponsors will go find other programming.

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