“You’ve extended the best league in the world to the two best leagues in the world.”

So, with regard to the idea of extending new market options to high schoolers looking to play ball someplace other than in the NCAA’s domain, here’s something to ponder (h/t Alex):

… A G League that attracts the best high schoolers and other top young players from around the world would command tens of millions of dollars in global media rights, says Daniel Cohen, a media rights consultant at Octagon sports agency. The G League has distribution deals with ESPN, Facebook, NBA TV, a startup network called Eleven Sports, and Twitch Interactive, an Amazon.com subsidiary that streams video games and esports competitions. Eleven, Cohen estimates, pays about $1 million a year. (Turner wouldn’t comment on the league’s finances.) “If I could tune in and watch LeBron James and Kobe Bryant go play their first year for a G League affiliate, it opens up a lot more interest,” he says. “You’ve extended the best league in the world to the two best leagues in the world.”

The NCAA, which charges more than $1 billion per year for broadcast rights to its March Madness men’s tournament, is proof of concept that the American appetite for basketball runs deep. And while much of the attraction of the college game is in its being, or at least pretending to be, for amateurs—kids playing their hearts out for a taste of athletic glory—some of the fun is in seeing tomorrow’s stars today. If the NBA gets it right, fans who once tuned in to watch James Harden play for the Arizona State Sun Devils will soon be watching the next James Harden play for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.  [Emphasis added.]

As the article puts it, “The investment would be worth it for the NBA.”  And there’s the catch — everyone agrees the NFL and NBA currently leave player development to the schools because it’s in their own selfish best interests to do so.  If that approach changes, it’ll be for the same reason, not out of some beneficent gesture on their part to make Mark Emmert’s life easier.

This is your classic “be careful what you wish for” scenario.  Does anyone honestly think that a significant talent drain from the schools will benefit them commercially?  And before you go down the road of asserting that it will improve college ball, or that fans will be just as likely to tune in, be careful not to confuse your aesthetic preference for ESPN’s business model.  Assuming that the NCAA and its schools wake up a few years down the road and find that their product isn’t worth as much, how do you think they’d respond?

Advertisements

26 Comments

Filed under The NCAA

26 responses to ““You’ve extended the best league in the world to the two best leagues in the world.”

  1. Considering my personal viewing habits that I would rather watch paint dry than an NBA game and find other things to do on a Sunday rather than watch the NFL, something like that won’t change my viewing habits one bit. I know I’m a romantic on college vs. professional sports, and I’ll happily accept that label.

    College sports powers that be, beware. The barbarians that are lurking to disrupt your cartel-based business model are approaching the gates.

    Liked by 1 person

    • atlasshrugged55

      I agree, the college sports landscape is going to change over the next few years. If the NBA & G League allow kids to skip the 1 year in college rule & come into that arena you’ll see a much weaker college b’ball product. Beyond the Kevin Garnetts of the world, you’ll have plenty of others who want to make it big & who also have no interest in getting an education. And if football follows suit w/ the 2 new start-up leagues, watch out NCAA.

      My guess is that a weaker college product will lose all but the alums & diehard college fans. The casual fan w/ no college affiliation will go to the most competitive/exciting product. So Mickey will have less dollars to throw to the college game rights, instead allocating them to the minor pro leagues.

      I see the UGAA working to pad the rainy day fund while accelerating building projects before revenues tail off. Might we see another late season campaign to boost our Hartman Fund standing?

      Like

      • I don’t see minor league football threatening the college game because of the up front capital requirements and barriers to entry (it’s the reason no professional start-up league since the AFL has been able to compete with the NFL).

        On the other hand, the one and done rule has so blurred the line between high school and the NBA. It’s an artificial line because the face of the NBA never stepped foot in a college arena.

        Like

  2. Puffdawg

    Maybe I’m just super naive, but I have to just vehemently disagree when he says:

    “…fans who once tuned in to watch James Harden play for the Arizona State Sun Devils will soon be watching the next James Harden play for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.”

    People are tuning into watch because he plays for Arizona State. They couldn’t care less otherwise. And I do believe the players have some marketable value, but not to that extent.

    Like

    • People are tuning into watch because he plays for Arizona State. They couldn’t care less otherwise.

      Not sure I buy that. I think CBB draws a lot more casual viewers than you think. Hell, that’s what March Madness is all about.

      Like

      • Russ

        I’m a casual CBB viewer and I watch the schools play. I have almost no idea who any of the stars are. I realize that’s not exactly who you’re talking about, but I do think there are fans of college sports in general (pulling for their school to beat that other school). I know I’m one.

        I think there’s a market for both.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Got Cowdog

          I think that was the point. Sure there will be a market for both, but will it be the G league taking a percentage of the NCAA’s market? Or is the appetite for basketball enough to support another league without getting into the NCAA pocketbook. Either way the NBA doesn’t care. If they think they can make money off of it, they’ll do it and the NCAA can drag.

          Liked by 1 person

      • ASEF

        But don’t casual fans just want the competitive drama in a sport they are familiar with, not potential star power? What percentage of viewers tuning in a high school football game on ESPN are there to see “the stars of tomorrow”? Versus the percentage that just really enjoys watching any football and that can’t stomach the thought of more cable news or another round of Big Bang Theory?

        The fact that high school football is on cable TV says there is a market for something there – but it also happens to be a football product with near zero production costs. Layer on player personnel costs, staff personnel costs, physical plant overheads, and a percentage for the owners, and then figure out how much an ESPN would have to lay out to make it worth all of those people’s whiles, relative to their own margins on alternative programming?

        Not seeing it.

        Like

        • But don’t casual fans just want the competitive drama in a sport they are familiar with, not potential star power?

          Watch how ESPN markets any sport and get back to me on that.

          Like

          • ASEF

            That’s my point – they don’t seem to market the G league or high school football. The next commercial I see with, “Hey, check out the next Kobe Bryant when the Sioux Fall Whatever take on the Grand Rapids Thingamajigs Tuesday at 9!” will be the first. It’s filler programming, not headline programming. But maybe I’m just not watching enough these days.

            Like

            • If the NBA goes all in on the G league, you don’t think that will affect coverage?

              What I was referring to was the way ESPN likes to promote individual athletes who have star power. They’ll simply transition over from CBB to GL with the same kids.

              Like

              • ASEF

                Basketball has been a star power sport for as long as I can remember, so I see your point. But look at the last three national champs. Did anyone know a player on Villanova’s teams prior to the NCAA tournament runs? Were any of UNC’s players household names or even marginal TV draws?

                Here are the first round picks from those 3 championship games:

                Brice Johnson
                Justin Jackson
                Tony Bradley
                Zach Collins
                Josh Hart
                Mikal Bridges*
                Donte DiVincenzo*
                Jalen Brunson*
                projected

                Which name on there would you tune in to watch? How many of them can you place on which team?

                Like

  3. Gaskilldawg

    College baseball was once a bigger sport than college baseball. Then the American League was formed, there was more talent playing in the major leagues. Is it a parallel?

    Like

  4. Sides

    Assuming that the NCAA and its schools wake up a few years down the road and find that their product isn’t worth as much, how do you think they’d respond?

    They are going to raise the compensation levels to attract more talent. If coaches are running around trying to recruit blue chip talent only to find all choose to go to the minors, you will see the schools either increase the compensation packages or turn into the Georgia Tech model (seemingly happy with academics over athletics, lesser talent and lesser quality product). I think we know which way the SEC will go. Either way, the players get a better academic experience or more money, thus they are no longer exploited.

    Like

    • Bingo! It’ll be the death of amateurism. (Assuming that hasn’t already died.)

      Ironic, ain’t it?

      Like

      • Sides

        I wouldn’t consider increasing the amount of scholarships as the death of amateurism. Players are already getting compensated they just don’t like the level right now (I personally think the value of most of these ‘educations’ is highly inflated). For me, its not about what the NCAA does (yes they are shitty), it is about the lack of options for high school athletes (particularly football since 3 years is required). They are forced into colleges because they are not allowed to pursue their professional careers due to an arbitrary age rule.

        Like

        • ASEF

          It’s not really arbitrary. It’s the collectively bargained position of owners and professional players, who see common interest in mandating that players be 3 years removed from high school. Combined with 2 professional leagues on the North American continent that audiences have proven they will support over time. It only seems arbitrary because we’re so far removed from the economic vectors involved in the rule’s formation.

          Does CFL have an age requirement? I honestly don’t know. Is that an option for guys who prefer a paycheck to a scholarship?

          Like

          • Sides

            So two parties, with a common interest, have conspired to close a market to a certain group of adults. On top of this, they artificially depress wages for entry level employees by instituting a wage scale based on draft positions (after that athlete spends 3 years training at their own risk) that limits a players rights for an additional 3-5 years while they finish their rookie contract. On top of this, the players are likely forced to pay a percentage of their salary into this union. The best you can say is go play in a foreign country if you don’t like it?

            Like

            • ASEF

              The moment that economic realities suggest players would get better deals without a union than with one, the union goes bye-bye. It doesn’t exist arbitrarily, and its membership is small enough that it actually reflects the will of its membership.

              The NFL, owners and players, saw how much money the NBA was throwing at prospects who turned into complete busts and said, “No thanks.” The rookie wage scale was a response to guys who got massive signing bonuses but never played a down getting substantially more than guys who did. Money, even at that scale, is a finite resource. Making sure as much as possible goes to merit rather than potential is hardly a bad thing. And it dang sure ain’t arbitrary.

              Like

              • Sides

                The age limit is definitely arbitrary. Why 3 years removed from high school (or whatever age they set)? Every athlete needs these 3 years to mentally and physically develop? Football requires 3 but the NBA only 1 and pro baseball none? The NHL’s is 18 years of age and that sport is at least as physical as NFL.

                I understand the reason for the rookie wage scale but it is bs. The NFL drafts a player (who can’t sign anywhere else) and the player uses the small amount of leverage they had (holdout) to negotiate the best deal they can. The league didn’t like this so they instituted a wage scale. A proper union should protect its members against something like this but not the NFL.

                Like

  5. Erk's Forehead

    I scanned the post until I saw the letters, “NBA” and realized wasn’t worth my time. Aren’t you aware this is pre-football season?

    Like

  6. HawaiiDawg

    The recruiting drama will be at fever pitch. The next 5* DT from the state of Georgia will have two hats in front of him during his NSD commitment coverage: one from the Dawgs and one from the Atlanta [insert minor league football team name here].

    CKS and staff would not only have to battle the likes of Saban but now the man holding the bag(s) of money.

    And as someone else pointed out, the only resource the amateur system has to compete to keep the best athlete-students is…money. Ironic. All that being said, the G league doesn’t seem to have hurt the CBB product that much, though I’m no basketball junkie.

    Like

  7. Instead of forming a new league, why not just pump the extra dollars into making College football/basketball a non-amateur sport? It’s already so money driven it’s disgusting. Why not go all in? You can skip the need to try to pump up a newly formed league and build upon an already strong, recognizable, brand. Give them a salary cap just like the pros. If they want to buy Laremy Tunsil a new caddy, go ahead, but that counts against your cap.

    ***I realize all of this is quite the slippery slope – do you give one year scholarship/contracts, can you trade/transfer freely, is there a profit sharing model to increase parity, etc, etc, etc.

    Like

  8. Chopdawg

    I don’t think minor leagues in football or basketball will ever approach the NCAA’s popularity unless the minor league can develop some kind of lasting community appeal, over and above the “stars” that the teams would hope to attract.

    Even in basketball, you’d have to have a “team” of 12-15 players. You’d have to have a competent coaching staff. You’d have to have a place to play. You’d have to have some kind of league of teams that play each other. I have a hard time imagining how the system would evolve…like the baseball minors, affiliated with major-league organizations, with several different levels that players attain as they mature?…or just some thrown-together loose collection of teams, and a made-for-TV trashsport kind of system, with the TV sponsors not really caring how many fans actually show up for games?

    It’s one thing to think of the next James Harden, but in reality there aren’t that many James Hardens, certainly not enough to fill out a national system of leagues that would seriously compete for the NCAA for high level of play, fan attraction, and fan involvement.

    Like

  9. Rchris

    Wow. Somebody listened to me.

    Like