Big Ten’s next hurdle after massive media-rights deals: Time-slot consistency with TV networks
It’s human nature to marvel at the absurd money for the Big Ten’s new TV/media-rights deals, layered contracts with Fox Sports, CBS, ESPN and the Big Ten Network that will reportedly reap $2.64 billion over six years.
But we already knew the Big Ten would shatter all records with its TV negotiations, given the conference’s sustained success with football and men’s basketball and the far-reaching impact of having large clusters of Big Ten alums in every corner of the United States.
Atlanta, for example, hosts a Big Ten Alumni pub crawl every August, and the attendance rivals that of a popular football spring game.
Yes, now that money issues have been resolved – the reported annual conference payout: $440 million – and it’s time to focus on what really matters to TV patrons on football Saturdays:
When and where will the Big Ten’s best games show up each week on my TV?
Details are sketchy at this point, although we know certain rivalry games — like Michigan vs. Ohio State — have already been claimed by Fox. But that’s not enough intel for inquiring Big Ten minds, who have gotten used to the following TV setup for the better part of four decades (1980s through 2010s):
12 noon carriers: ESPN, ESPN2, Big Ten Network (launched in 2007)
3:30 p.m. carriers: ABC, ESPN, ESPN2
8 p.m. carriers: ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, Big Ten Network
The unanswered questions for the new TV configuration:
- How will Fox, with its top-notch production values with the NFL, approach its new commitment to the Big Ten? Will its allotment of games air on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2, or will big Fox be involved, as well?
- b) As an example, would big Fox have exclusive access to the Big Ten’s 3:30 p.m. (EST) window of games?
- c) Will the Big Ten have to share the spotlight with the Big 12 and Pac-12 on Saturdays, through regional telecasts?
There’s a lot to digest here, especially without knowing many details. That said, there’s still hope for a better hi-def tomorrow.
FOLLOWING THE STEPS OF FUTBOL
Full disclosure: I used to work for Fox Sports; and whenever one of the corporate suits would come to Atlanta to discuss ‘What’s Next’ for the company – think Bill Lumbergh – they would invariably receive a slew of skeptical questions from employees, wondering why Fox would spend hundreds of millions on two network channels at a time when consumers were moving away from cable.
Fast forward to the present: Fox Sports 1 and 2, in the early stages, has been a money pit for all the regional networks (Fox Sports South, Fox Sports Detroit, Fox Sports West, etc.), essentially footing the bill for Fox’s cost overruns with the cable project, or covering for certain TV-ratings expectations that were never met.
However, Fox might eventually turn a profit with the cable channels, at least during live-event coverage. In the last two weeks alone, I have heartily watched coverage of the U.S. Open golf and Copa America Centenario soccer tournaments on FOX Sports 1 and 2.
And this is coming from someone who’s “meh” about futbol.
Before that, I didn’t even know the remote-control numbers for the various FS channels (via Dish Network) … and this is coming from a writer who watches a ton of TV — at all hours of the day.
Put it all together, and I suddenly have hope FOX’s Big Ten product will attract many eyeballs and corporate sponsors on football Saturdays. I’m also confident that a must-see game at 3:30 p.m. — assuming Fox gets first pick with conference matchups every week — would rival the TV ratings for an SEC, ACC or Big 12 clash in the same time window.
Just be warned: It will take some time for your favorite neighborhood sports bar to figure out the channels for FOX Sports 1 and 2.
A simple check of the network ratings suggest – or scream that – few are watching Fox’s troll-heavy daytime programming during the week. At this stage, the network caters more to the ‘weekend warrior’ crowd.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and Fox Sports.