Let’s do some informed speculation about what is happening and what likely will happen with the Big 12 and Pac-12 TV deals. What I’m going to outline will impact whether there is a lot more college football realignment.
1. When it is all said and done, I think the Big 12 will end up on ESPN and Fox Sports, and the Pac-12 will be on ESPN and Amazon Prime Video.
2. I believe they will receive similar contracts. The Big 12 has been aiming for $400 million per year, but I’m not sure they will get there. They are in the $350M-$360M range with ESPN paying a much greater share than Fox because ESPN will have more and superior games if a deal happens.
3. Meanwhile, the Pac-12 likely will seek a financial premium from digital player Amazon to try to match the Big 12’s haul. Amazon has not looked at itself as a different type of distributor as opposed to traditional players, meaning it doesn’t really believe it should have to pay more than its competition. How that plays out will be important for the Pac-12. Amazon already is working with the NFL, but the Pac-12 has to be wary of repeating the exposure problems that have occurred with its Pac-12 Network disaster. There is not much indication Apple is heavily involved (though I wouldn’t totally eliminate the possibility). Can Pac-12 get to $400M? Again, I think they may get close, but I’m not sure they will get there.
4. The Pac-12 currently has an advantage over the Big 12 in its negotiations. The Pac-12 can negotiate with anyone. To receive the most money, it likely is going to need Amazon to step up. Fox Sports has interest, but between the bad blood stemming from Fox’s alleged involvement in USC and UCLA moving to the Big Ten and Fox not being as aggressive in bidding, I think the Pac-12 and Fox may be done with each other long-term. I don’t see many other suitors besides ESPN and Amazon for the Pac-12, which could harm the number the conference receives. I guess Warner Bros. Discovery could be a wild card.
5. The Big 12 still has three years remaining on its current contracts with ESPN and Fox. If they negotiate an extension, there will be no sweetener in terms of added money for the next three years before Texas and Oklahoma leave for the SEC. In 2012, ESPN reported the ESPN/Fox Big 12 deal to be a 13-year deal for $200 million. The yearly rate is often higher toward the end of contracts. Anyway, 2012 is a long time ago.
The Big 12 could wait a little less than a year and a half to move out of the exclusive negotiating window with incumbents ESPN and Fox and go to the open market, getting the digital players such as Amazon involved. That would create more leverage. However, there is a strong feeling the Big 12 wants to do a deal now and remain with ESPN and Fox, which are the biggest media players in college football.
6. If the money is close, you would rather be on ESPN and Fox Sports than Amazon at this point. Maybe that changes one day, but that’s not today. However, if universities are receiving similar money from their cuts of the new rights deals, does any school leave the Pac-12 for the Big 12? Or vice versa?
A potentially great hire by CBS and Turner Sports in Jay Wright. Besides being a Hall of Famer, Wright is beloved for being a good guy. That could be a very good combo. Let’s be clear: Bill Raftery is not going anywhere. But he will be 80 by the time the next March Madness rolls around. If Wright, 60, commits to broadcasting and doesn’t return to coaching, he eventually could move from the studio to be part of the Final Four game broadcast. … Brian Windhorst index fingers up time: We detailed a few weeks ago what is going on with the NBA’s updated app. As a follow-up, keep your eye on what is happening in Los Angeles with Clipper Vision. The NBA team is going to offer its games direct-to-consumer with six different feeds. This is a Steve Ballmer move, but don’t think for a moment the whole league won’t be very curious to see how the $199-per-season package performs. … It’s a win for MLB to have the World Baseball Classic on Fox Sports and its family of networks. It was previously on MLB Network. The event has a chance to be something one day if pitchers aren’t held back from participating fully. Not sure that ever will happen, but in international soccer, where the World Cup is the biggest tournament in sports, there is not even a question of whether players will represent their country. The WBC may never get there, but if it does, it could be special. … MLB Network will have its morning program, “MLB Central”, on during the World Series, which is a good job and about time. .. On Wednesday from 4-6 p.m., SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Radio will broadcast a two hour-tribute to Christopher (Mad Dog) Russo before he goes into the Radio Hall of Fame on Nov. 1. Steve Torre will emcee the live show that will feature guests. … We knew Peyton Manning wasn’t at his home for the “Manningcast.” Now we know he is in his friend’s garage. “It’s a buddy of mine,” Manning told Jeff Agrest of the Chicago Sun-Times. “At first, I was going to do it at my house. Then I found out that ESPN is going to have to leave all that equipment there year-round, and that didn’t excite me. So I called my friend and said, ‘Hey, you have this garage, you don’t use it much, it’s got a lot of space. Do you mind if I did this show out of it?’ He was great. He was very gracious to do it.” … The Giants-Jaguars game started without announcers due to an audio issue before we finally heard Chris Myers and Mark Schlereth. Myers struggled throughout the game and lacked emotion on the Giants’ final stop at the goal line.
The importance of the Barkley deal
Sometimes it is good to receive confirmation of something you already know, which is what Warner Bros. Discovery gave us by signing Charles Barkley and the rest of the “Inside the NBA” crew to contract extensions that will keep them on Turner Sports — if the network is able to retain NBA rights in three years when its contract is up. Shaquille O’Neal, Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith receiving new deals is significant, but Barkley is the kingpin.
I reported last week that it was a 10-year deal that was for more than $100 million. I don’t know the exact number, but I believe it is closer to $200 million — likely in the Tony Romo–Troy Aikman $18M a year neighborhood. Barkley got paid.
This is a move you make as you prepare your bid for the NBA. Though there were a lot of factors that led to Romo’s sports-media-changing payday, the biggest was the importance for Paramount/CBS to retain its NFL rights. Prior to the pandemic, there was a feeling that Bob Iger’s Disney not only wanted Super Bowls, but could go after CBS’ AFC Sunday package to air on ABC. CBS did not want to go into NFL rights negotiations with Romo lining up on Disney’s side.
At the end of the day, the leagues almost always opt for the bids with the most money, but if you have arguably the greatest studio show in sports television history, it is a good starting point.
The leagues care about presentation. ESPN/ABC was unable to upgrade its No. 1 football booth prior to securing its improved deal with more games and Super Bowls. However, it promised it would, and delivered first with the Manningcast and then by hiring Aikman and Joe Buck.
Actions always speak louder — and the new deals for Barkley and Co. tell you Turner definitely wants to keep the NBA. And when it comes to its iconic studio team, it made sure to box out ESPN, Amazon, Apple and any other entity that may want in on the next set of NBA game packages.
College Football Playoff issues
A really good story from Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger on the difficulties of scheduling the college football playoff because the NFL dominates so many of the good windows. Dellenger writes:
All of this has college football executives rightfully stewing as they attempt to schedule eight additional games in an expanded playoff — all the while trying to avoid going head-to-head with America’s No. 1 sport.
“You’re just trying to minimize all the ways the NFL will f— you,” says one top CFP official.
The ideal time to schedule the NCAA football championship might be the week between the NFL’s conference championships and the Super Bowl. That is probably too late in the minds of college administrators and there could be sponsorship issues as people gear up for the Super Bowl, but that is the week to do it. It fits the nicest from a viewership perspective.
The best date for college football playoff semifinals could be the Saturday before the NFL conference championships. These dates don’t seem to be under consideration at this point, but we are always trying to help.
Black Friday win for Amazon
It is hard not to think the Black Friday NFL game on Amazon Prime Video is going to be a big win for the streamer starting next season. The NFL probably will be incentivized to make the first 3 p.m. matchup a good one to start on the right footing. This Friday game very easily could become a part of Thanksgiving football tradition over time. When Amazon and the NFL discussed its long-term deal for “Thursday Night Football,” there were talks about Amazon getting the Thanksgiving night window, but ultimately the NFL decided to continue with NBC’s Sunday night crew on Turkey Day. That resulted in the deal for the Black Friday game. To me, having the Amazon Prime Video game in the late afternoon probably is better than a primetime game on Friday as it could be a perfect time to veg on the couch with some leftovers. Plus, the NFL probably didn’t want to have any issues potentially impinging on what is traditionally a big high school football night and is covered by the 1961 Sports Broadcasting Act.
A Sports Broadcasting Act for 2022
If I could create a 2022 Sports Broadcasting Act, it would include eliminating all lower-third news feeds during live sporting events. The continuous scroll is unneeded in the day and age of the smartphone. I think most network executives know better, as evidenced by the fact they don’t have it on during big games. ESPN doesn’t have it on “Monday Night Football.” They do like to promote stuff in the right-hand portion of the scroll, but it is visually unneeded. Call your local congressperson about this important issue.
This story originally appeared on NYPost