Big East TV deal will be watered down

The harsh reality of life in the Big East for new commissioner Mike Aresco is a simple question of mathematics. He has more teams that fewer people want to see play.

Aresco, who came to the Big East from the world of television (CBS sports), has been in a scramble mode ever since he started the job in September.

His life has been dominated by: expansion, defection, expansion, defection  Now he and Chris Bevilacqua, a consultant the Big East hired after Bevilacqua helped the Pac-12  receive a $3 billion, 12-year deal, are in the middle of negotiations for new television contract.

What makes it tough on the Big East is that ESPN had an offer on the table last season for $155 million a year. The Big East–with Rutgers, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and West Virginia leading the charge–turned down the offer.

According to published reports, the best  offer the  Big East will get is  half of that amount. Even more intriguing is the make-up of the group which rejected the offer. All four schools leading the opposition have left or are in the process of leaving the Big East..

The Big East is neither denying nor confirming the accuracy of the projections because league officials say they simply do not know the final offers.

With the defection of Rutgers to the Big  Ten and Louisville to the ACC as the latest example of conference raiding, Aresco and company have not been able to have serious discussions with ESPN, NBC, Comcast or anybody else for a variety or reasons.

One of the most salient reasons for the delay is also simple. No realistic bids can  be made until the inventory that is being discussed is finalized.

Aresco says that the Big East is close to getting to that point. The Big East will add one more team in football–the most likely  move will be to add a school from a group of BYU, Air Force, Nevada and Fresno State, which could bring the Big East to 14 teams, if you add Navy  (2015) into the mix.

In basketball, the Big East could expand to 16 teams, which would mean picking up 2 more schools–Xavier, Dayton, George Mason could be potential targets.

That, however, begs a larger question. What is a Big East television package worth under any available configuration?
“What you have to understand,” said one person familiar with the talks, but not authorized to speak for the conference, “is that the original selling point of a Big East football and basketball package was based on two things.  The Big East had an automatic BCS bid in football and the basketball conference was the best in the country. Neither of those situations currently exist.”

Aresco remains confident that the Big East trump card is  that all the other major conferences have long-term deals. The Big East–under whatever configuration you use–is the only real game in town for a network such as NBC and Comcast which needs live sports events.

But the value of what the Big East is selling is not high enough for one network such as ESPN to offer what it did a year ago. Aresco and Bevilacqua are using a strategy of splitting the package among multiple networks to get prime dollars.

That is a nice concept, but the reality is that the Big East football looks very similar to a Conference USA configuration in 2004 with the addition of schools such as Houston, SMU, Memphis , Central Florida, Tulane and East Carolina, all who are currently in Conference USA and moving to the Big East.

In basketball, it is a matter of over saturation with games on television every night in a regular season which means less and less. Even networks looking for programming are reluctant to pay much for games that will not draw any extra viewers than the small base of each school’s fan base.

The other problem for the Big East is getting any kind of money for the second half of a split package. The Big East still has enough solid core teams in football and basketball to put together one reasonably attractive package. But when you split it, the other half doesn’t have much substance.

There are ways around this by selling the Big East basketball tournament–currently televised by ESPN–to one network, but selling the Big East Big Monday basketball  package (also on ESPN) to the other network.

The same could be done in football with a  mid-week prime time game, a new conference championship game and a Saturday afternoon game of the week.

But the more you split, the more you cheapen the product you are trying to sell, especially in football when there are few marginally Top 25 teams remaining in the Big East pool other than Boise State.

The irony of all of this is also obvious. Had their been no raids by the ACC, Big 12 and Big Ten, Big East football, despite the jokes about how weak the conference was as an entity, provided some of the inventory for conferences to get better television deals.

Former Big East schools such as Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Miami, and Notre Dame, all had a national presence in football or basketball while they were members of the Big East.

Aresco and Bevilacqua are boxed in some regards simply because they have lost inventory and not replaced it with equal value in the minds of many people.

While the $60 million a year projections may be lower than the Big East will finally accept, the $155 million deal of a  year ago also appears to be signficantly more than the Big East will be offered, unless someone over bids in a panic move simply to get live sports programming.

Few  people expect that to happen.

© 2012, Mark. All rights reserved.

  10 comments for “Big East TV deal will be watered down

  1. Chris Columbo
    December 11, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Big East will have to re do their basketball schedule. The basketball powers will play a home and home and then alternate with the other lesser lights. The football will fill tv time . My sense is that the deal will be more attractive than any other alternative for the schools involved.

    At the end of the day the Big East has to have another strong year in basketball this year to maximize their value.

    It would be nice if they could get BYU Air Force and U Mass into the league. That would give a decent Western Division and fill out he Eastern market nicely from a TV Perspective.

  2. SJGMoney
    December 10, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    I think it’s fair to say their next deal is going to be a lot closer to the $60 mill figure than the high end. and if they keep adding teams no one cares about that $60 mill figure is going to go down once again.

  3. Jon
    December 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    While they have lost a lot of value, there’s no doubt that these leaks are a calculated attempt to negotiate through the media. Regardless, thank god Rutgers got out of that conference.

  4. Ben Dover
    December 8, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Blauds, does anyone actually know who is in the NNNNNBE anymore? It’s become a national joke. Why would companies pay for their garbage football product knowing the second a team has an alternative they’re out.

    The Catholic schools should just break off. They’re more demand for Nova, GTown, Marquette, etc than USF, Houston, and all those other schools in the land of misfit toys.

    • Mark
      December 8, 2012 at 10:50 am

      Good points. It’s a mess and Im not sure anyone knows what will happen

      • Ben Dover
        December 8, 2012 at 11:06 am

        See Blauds, we can have some good conversation.

        You just need to lighten up when we take shots at your boy. He’s statistically the worst coach in the last 30 years at BC, the statute of limitations extends beyond a couple of weeks.

        Merry Christmas.

        • Buster R Hymes
          December 8, 2012 at 5:36 pm

          he be ben dovah
          no shakah no movah
          lived in da mods
          kissy face wit blauds
          boom da da boom
          go get a room

  5. Rex
    December 7, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    Would the source who is “familiar with the talks, but not authorized to speak for the conference” be you? The fight against journalistic integrity goes continues.

    • Mark
      December 7, 2012 at 11:12 pm

      No the source is you. because you know everything about everyone and can tell the world from your cave what you know without anyone knowing who you are. Nice and safe. The only person who makes stuff up is you. Its time to switch to your other name and send another stupid response. Again, take your meds and you will feel better in the morning. the description was totally accurate. Someone who knows what is going on with the talks, but is not authorized by the Big East. I don’t make things up. I tell the truth, which I will do now. You are an idiot. And don’t even bother mentioning that the story is an honest attempt to explain the mess the big east is in right now in terms of its television contract and how it is trying to solve its problem.

  6. Buster R Hymes
    December 7, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    gimme mo’ money
    no go honey
    all the missin’ links
    big east stinks
    not even funny
    hop like a bunny

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