The television deal is not going to be as good as the one North Texas fell into when it joined CUSA in 2013. We know this. While this is largely a product of the current TV environment, big money is going to proven and known products. CUSA is neither. Discussing the B1G’s new ridiculous deal, John Ourand of the Sports Business Daily site put it thusly:
More significantly, the deal is a good sign for the broader sports business, showing that ESPN will remain an active player in the live rights business, especially when it comes to premium rights.
Right. So CUSA is not premium. This should not be surprising in itself. But the doubling-down 1 on known products at a time when money is tight is not surprising. This is essentially the same strategy ESPN, Fox, CBS, and NBC were pursuing when spending cash on live television products in the first place. This is just a better targeted allocation of this cash. The very-huge Marshall vs Western Kentucky matchup only drew 168K viewers. The CUSA title game only managed 488K, which put the game behind a meaningless Big 12 clash between West Virginia and Kansas State. By contrast, the B1G title matchup had over 9 million. While this is a function of quality of teams this season, the 2014 numbers aren’t very much different in relation to each other.
Investing in proven products while reducing outlays in underperforming ones is just smart business. As the competition increases for the television viewer, these networks need to be smarter. I would expect the MAC’s new deal to be similarly awful, were they not lucky to have negotiated a deal recently.
It seems CUSA is the first victim of the television rights bubble. The conference was hastily sewn together to maximize value of television rights but now is owner of the least lucrative contract in CFB. The silver lining is availability. While, there won’t be very much cash and schools will have to begin cutting staff, these games will at least be somewhat available to fans, however confusing it may be. Aside from blowing it all up and starting over — there are many folks willing to offer up their idea of how it could all work out — all Judy MacLeod can do is hope things work out better in two years’ time.
This is all less-than-ideal. Which is understating it. But it shouldn’t be all that surprising. The news does put even more pressure on the incoming athletic director, as Vito wrote:
The question UNT’s new athletic director will face is where to turn in order to make up for what will almost certainly be a pretty significant drop in television revenue at a time when attendance has either fallen dramatically (men’s basketball) or has not grown as quickly as hoped (football) in key revenue sports that bolster the bottom line.
While some folks think cutesy marketing plans will fill Apogee, winning is the only salve 2. The pressure to win will be even more intense on new football head coach Seth Littrell, to say nothing of Tony Benford, he of the perpetual losing teams.
In the interim, we’ll be able to watch some of our games on a random combination of BEIN Sports, American Sports Network, and ESPN3. While that may be a little difficult for the not-so-plugged-in fan to get right week-to-week, ESPN3 is better than CBS’ digital sports stream. That, my friends, is progress. And I am thankful for at least that. Count your blessings and get to know your Guide button, folks.