Andy Staples’ Four Million Club

Today, he delves ($$) into why the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 are chasing an alliance of some sort.  His theory is both obvious and questionable.

… if the plan includes a scheduling alliance to create more games in the Four Million Club for each league, then it could be a valuable partnership for all of them. It also could benefit the viewers by giving us more interesting games to watch.

What’s the Four Million Club? It’s the group of football games that draw more than four million viewers.

These are the games networks are willing to pay premium prices for, and they’re also the type of games the SEC’s addition of Oklahoma and Texas will add to that league’s inventory. In conversations with television executives and consultants, conference officials and athletic directors, it has become clear that the hunt for premium television product will drive this round of realignment (or, in the case of the alliance, rearranging).

Here’s the list of the teams that played in at least ten regular season games from 2015 to 2019 that have topped four million viewers.

That certainly explains the last two SEC expansion moves.  It might even explain why the Big Ten wants an alliance.

… by creating a few more with the help of some friends, the Big Ten could stay relatively even and continue to distribute as much or more to each school as the SEC will once Oklahoma and Texas join and a new ESPN deal replaces the below-market deal CBS enjoys for the best SEC game each week.

On the surface, that seems plausible, but again, the devil’s in the details.  How much of the public is jonesing for, say, a Rutgers-Washington State showdown?  And what games are the Big Ten willing to jettison to make that happen?

I see that list and think the more efficient move for the Big Ten would be to eliminate the middleman and just go for a Big Ten-SEC Challenge.  Or just say the hell with it and go for a super-conference model that ditches every weak scheduling link in every P5 conference.

There just isn’t enough there there in this alliance proposal.  But I bet it makes a lot of folks feel good to discuss it.



One thing I will say in defense of Mike Slive and his relatively poor record handling the conference’s broadcast rights is that he saw the promotional value of the SEC on CBS deal.


Filed under ACC Football, Big Ten Football, Pac-12 Football, SEC Football

42 responses to “Andy Staples’ Four Million Club

  1. Handbag Staples talked about this on his podcast yesterday (listened this morning). The 4m Club makes sense based on his discussions with TV people. I’ve said from the beginning that this was about regular season money (and making ESPN come back to the table) rather than playoff slots (really all this does is take the Big 12 spot as a conference champion and give that slot to another Go5 or to give the Pac 12 champion more insurance). After the league cannibalizes itself, the SEC may get 5 in the playoff every once in a while (when ND fails to make it) but typically will get 4 slots just as the league would have before.

    What got my blood boiling this morning is his insistence that a 10-2 national champion is good for the sport and the fans because of “additional good games.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, and that he called those of us who believe the regular season should matter morons.

      I came close to canceling my Athletic subscription for that. I just can’t lose Seth Emerson.


      • bucketheridge

        Andy Staples is absolutely insufferable on this topic.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Castleberry

        I wasn’t hearing it that way. Gotta go listen again. Maybe Wasserman was enough of a counter that I didn’t catch it. Staples was pretty vocal about there’s nothing in the Alliance for the Big 10 – kind of agreeing with the cut out the middle man approach…


  2. rigger92

    This is why I keep saying that they just need to, as a conference, assist existing programs to rise to levels that will get them a better product. There’s no reason FSU, Syracuse, or UNC can’t be programs like Georgia/Florida/AU. It will take time and effort and willingness to work as a group. What I mean by that is that conference commissioners need to press these programs and push them to be better products.


    • J.R. Clark

      I respectfully disagree. There is a reason why Syracuse and UNC can’t be programs like Georgia/FU/AU. Their boosters care far more about basketball than they do football.

      Liked by 2 people

      • rigger92

        That’s the friction I am talking about. When does the ACC say to them “up your game or you’re out”.? When do other conference members start complaining to the commissioner that “When are you going to get FSU back to being a top 10 team? They’re losing us millions in TV revenue.”


    • theotherdoug

      When will Maryland start being a PSU, OSU, or UofM?



  3. I bet Texas makes the list once it leaps to the SEC…let the other conferences posture…it’s just like how butt hurt A&M was when it was leaked about OK and Tex…and after a week or two of bellyaching, they fell right in line.

    The other conferences just need to reach the acceptance stage…and by that point realignment for some of their conferences may be in full swing.


  4. Hogbody Spradlin

    I’m surprised and impressed that Michigan is third. Must have a lot of alums out there.


  5. Corch Irvin Meyers, Former Jags Corch (2024)

    If it’s possible, one way to do it would be to either do “Challenge-style” match-ups where you pair 1 with 1, 2 with 2 from the year before and so on. The break with 4M viewers probably happens about halfway down the list, or maybe further as you might get 4M people watching even a Arizona State vs. Miami or Nebraska vs. Colorado game for the novelty of it the first couple of years.

    I don’t know if this is possible, but perhaps you sell this alliance as tiers within the same package, where any game with Clemson, Tosu, USC, FSU, Michigan, and Oregon is worth more than games with Wake Forest, Wazzu, and Rutgers. So the former games are worth more than the latter, and there are a tier or tiers in the middle, too. So when added up, it’s still a big chunk of change.


  6. Faltering Memory

    I wonder if Staples reads GTP and so many of its exceptional posters like ee,


  7. timberridgedawg

    Well the ACC’s GOR is through 2035 and owned by ESPN. Not sure that helps the B1G revenue if tOSU or Michigan play an away game against Clemson or Miami.

    Looking forward to the day Tech has to drop COFH in order to play an Alliance game at home against Rutgers. There are way more stinkers involved than marquee games between those three conferences. Don’t see how the number of incremental national interest games you can count on 1 hand turns into $70M per team across 3 conferences.

    ESPN could tear up the ACC GOR and the SEC could poach 8 teams to form a Coastal Division with 24 teams. I think that kind of consolidation is where this is headed in the next 10 years.

    The biggest concentration of talent and big name programs is southern from Texas and Oklahoma to the east coast. The B1G has money, big schools, and tradition but demographic tides are against them. They’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. The west coast isn’t particularly college football mad to begin with and about 1/3rd of California’s population is foreign born today. They’re they primary talent feeder for PAC teams and they’re slipping a bit at the high school level compared to the past.

    Bottom line, college football is basically a southern regional sport at the highest levels because that is where the critical mass of high school talent is. Same reason, the southern teams dominate baseball and the northern teams dominate hockey. The danger in this is that the other regions eventually give up like the Northeast and quit trying altogether. They need the 12 team playoff whether they want to acknowledge it or not to keep the PAC teams interested.

    Liked by 2 people

    • miltondawg

      The ACC is interested in some sort of partnership to increase revenue because they have the media rights deal with the ESPN through 2036. The ACC is already down pretty low in what they pay member schools. The massive $100 billion media deal that the NFL announced in May over an 11 year period is what is coming next for the P5 conferences and the SEC’s deal is coming up soon. ESPN and all the other P5 conferences know that when the SEC media rights come back up, it is going to be an absolute free-for-all. Hulu, Facebook, Amazon, etc. are going to offer the SEC so much money that it is going to be hard for ESPN to keep all the media rights and since broadcasting is going to be overtaken by streaming at some point those streaming services are going to be able to pay more than ESPN can viably pay. And the ACC and B1G and PAC know that if SEC member schools can be getting checks nearing $100MM per year from just their media rights (without taking into account payouts for bowls or the playoff), it is going to mean that outside of a few non-SEC teams the vast majority of their member schools will not be able to remain competitive.


  8. ericstrattonrushchairmandamngladtomeetyou

    What nobody is talking about is how many eyeballs will want to see a team on this list if it becomes a consistent loser because it now must play a more difficult schedule. Before you say that will never happen take a look at Nebraska. Are the Huskers on the list above now? Would they have been 20 years ago?


  9. 1) There are a lot of self-loathing Michigan fans that watch a lot of bad football.

    2) An alliance with the PAC 12 doesn’t seem to push the needle for the 4M club. Obviously, the ACC doesn’t either, outside of Clemson. I understand why the other conferences are interested, but why would the Big 10 lock themselves into an agreement that doesn’t really help them at all?

    3) The Big 10 should jettison Rutgers and Maryland, the two teams they chased for the NY and DC markets, and instead focus on picking up programs that make the product on the field better. They were too busy trying to sell their regional network to realize that more money is available being the national primetime game each week. You can look at that list and see what the Longhorn Network did for Texas… and why ESPN is ready to move on from that deal.


    • HirsuteDawg

      We have our own pitiful cupcake games to eliminate here in the SEC. It is not like getting rid of a bunch of cupcake games and playing SEC teams like the gamecocks, Vols, Commodores, the mongrel Missippie dogs, Bears – or land sharks or Rebs- whatever they call themselves, Hogs, etc would be a murderer’s row every year and would be conference games you would want to watch.


    • Maryland resident here. I offer an anecdote about little sense it made for Maryland to move to the Big10:

      My wife is a native Marylander and proudly went to University of Maryland where the prestigious James A. Clark School of Engineering conferred upon her not one but two degrees.

      She loves her alma mater for her educational connection, but when it comes to sports she’s actually a huge UNC/ACC fan. She doesn’t care A LICK for college football. And when Maryland left the ACC for the Big Ten told me, “Maryland is dead to me. I’ll never give them another dime.”

      Liked by 4 people

  10. Hobnail_Boot

    Not present:

    FSU, Miami, Tennessee, Nebraska, USC, Oregon, or Texas.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I wonder if the list of “average audience” of ALL televised games would break down similarly.

    I have to admit I have no idea how TV revenue works. Is it a linear $/eyeball relationship? Does a game with 4 million viewers make twice as much as one with 2 million?


    • rigger92

      I don’t know, as in, I’m not a television exec.

      But I do think it’s just what the network can set ad rates for each game. Lists like the one above can be used to justify ad rates before the game is played. I don’t think networks collect ad revenue until after the game is played. So you get a network setting up Clemson/Georgia at prime time and doing research on predicting the number of eyeballs that will watch on tv and they set the ad rates accordingly. As far as I know, that’s where all the money comes from except adding in a fee from a neutral site game. That fee is still primarily an ad revenue (CFA Peach Bowl) but there are also fees paid by host cities to have the game in their town.

      Liked by 2 people

      • rigger92

        Gah, I messed that up. I don’t think networks get paid the ad revenue after the game is played, I think all monies are in the bank before the game. Viewership is not linear to what the network gets, as far as I know sitting in my recliner.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. theotherdoug


    We need more info on how a 4 million game is created. How many of Clemson’s games were in the playoffs? An alliance won’t be able to create end of the season match ups that matter. It’ll be big name against big name. Michigan is the obvious example of a team that can pull eyeballs even when they’re not elite.

    I’m sure the TV execs know exactly what it takes and I don’t think the Big10 is willing to make that happen. Do Michigan, OSU, PSU, and MSU want to play an additional big time game every year so the rest of the conference can get a check?


  13. kingcmo2000

    If you accept Staples’ premise, and it makes sense, expect the SEC to go to 9 games and some kind of pod system. Looking at that list, Alabama/LSU is the most valuable game in the conference right now. I doubt that will be sacrificed on the alter of some clean division structure.


    • PTC DAWG

      Bama/Lsu, UGA/UF, UGA/AU, Bama/AU, UF/LSU…all big games, I hope none of them go away.


      • Down Island Way

        The Alabamians are in the lead cause all those students left at half time, went over to their cousins residence on wheels and finished off the game plus a few bammer brews not to mention the bammer tv attention span is just over 4 hours, ’bout the current length of the college game…


  14. mp

    I can’t see what this does for the Big 10…Pac-12 and ACC would really be drafting on the Big 10 teams existing eyeballs.


  15. classiccitycanine

    I think we’re headed to two super conferences kinda like the AFC/NFC in the pros. Basically the top 40ish teams in the country join whatever the SEC and BIG decide to call themselves, and everyone else forms a league of leftovers as best they can. The CFP would be exclusively for the SEC/BIG super conferences and the lower tier would create their own post season. You could also grab a good chunk of the top basketball schools assuming they aren’t an embarrassment in football.


  16. Tony BarnFart

    yep this has long term hers thinning written all over it. I don’t care what you say, Purdue and Mississippi State should always keep their heads on a swivel.


  17. 606dawg

    Maybe they could set up a relegation system like they have in European soccer. The Northwesterns and Oregon States could battle it out to see who gets on the schedule with the Oregons and OSUs. Or if a UCLA or Michigan State falls on hard times, they could lose their spot. That’s be one way to keep games meaningful as we move to the Super Conference era. Hell, if it came to that in the SEC, it would be kinda fun to see Tennessee get relegated.