Monday, August 25, 2008

First you Get the Money, then you Get the Power, then you Get Erin Andrews 14 Saturdays per Year

Say hello to a new TV deal for the SEC. Say hello to $15M per school annually. Say hello to ESPNU on Comcast. Say goodbye to the Daves and watching college football on MyATL 36. Say goodbye to SEC fans ever being able to portray our teams as victims of the media ever again. (I reserve the right to revoke that statement the first time that Herbstreit says something dumb about Georgia's intangibles.)

Some thoughts:

1. The SEC and the Big Ten are leaving the rest of college football (minus Notre Dame) behind in terms of revenue generation from TV contracts. $15M per school is a huge chunk of change. Pair that revenue with the fact that the Big Ten and the SEC are always #1 and #2 in average attendance and are making a killing in gameday revenue in an era of luxury boxes and PSLs and you have those two conferences developing a significant financial advantage. Whether that advantage translates on the field is another matter entirely. Texas and USC will still get to dominate recruiting in two of the three best states for talent. Florida, on the other hand...

2. Think about the position that Miami and FSU are in. They are already up against one of the top coaches in college football, coaching at the most popular school in the state. Now, add in the fact that Florida will be widening its financial advantage significantly because the SEC's TV deal is so much better than that of the ACC. On the other hand, Da U's recruiting appeal has never been based on nice facilities.

3. In a certain respect, college football is going the same direction as other sports. TV has caused a general explosion in sports revenue, only that revenue is never distributed evenly (except in the NFL). Just as the gap between the top revenue MLB or EPL teams has widened, so has the gap between the top college football conferences and the rest. As noted above, there is less of a correlation between revenue and talent accumulation in college football than there is in baseball or English footie, but there should be some effect. The SEC and Big Ten teams (especially the ones with massive ticket revenue) will be able to build all sorts of palatial facilities for their programs and that can have an impact on recruiting.

4. I know that correlation does not equal causation, but does anyone else think that there's a link between two off-seasons in which SEC schools launched themselves into a full-blown arms race for coaching talent and this massive TV deals. A league containing schools that are willing to break the bank for the Petrinos and Sabans of the market has to be attractive to networks. ESPN had to tell itself "if Arkansas is willing to spend crazy money for Bobby Petrino and Arkansas is in the lower half of the SEC in terms of potential, then this league is crazier about football than we previously thought. Where's the checkbook?"

5. The SEC's deal is also a result of the Sunbelt getting bigger and richer. We're going to have to stop thinking about ourselves as a marginalized region at this rate. Let the Sports Reporters keep acting as if college football doesn't exist; the network that airs that dreadful show just forked over a ten-figure commitment to show regular season college football games. Speaking of which...

6. These are massive TV deals for regular season telecasts. You think the revenue would be the same with a 16-team playoff? By resisting the urge to turn the sport into just another sport, college football (or at least the conference that represents college football in its highest [or most drunken] form) has cashed in.

3 comments:

peacedog said...

It's incredibly foolish to assume that this deal is possible thanks to "College football's uniquely important regular season", a message people keep harping on as if it's gospel and there can be no other reason.

That is on possible factor (however, it is impossible for us to properly weigh just how big of an impact it makes) that is responsible for college football's popularity and perhaps more importantly, the perceived worth to TV execs. It is not the only factor. It is certainly not a bigger factor than the fact that college football is the collegiate version - which means it's the second highest level of competition, among other things - of the most popular sport to United Statesians.

Not that I'd just chalk it all up to that, of course.

Michael said...

Compare college football with college basketball. College hoops follows the traditional model for American sports: long regular season, followed by long playoff. It doesn't generate anywhere near the interest that college football does and that's reflected in the TV contracts. The only college hoops TV property of significant value is the NCAA Tournament.

I'll grant you that football being a popular sport is a factor, as is the fact that the roughness of the game forces scarcity of product in the form of relatively few games. The demands of the game prevent the people who run the sport from glutting the market with too much product.

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