When the PAC-12 announced their huge contract with ESPN and Fox Sports, it once again left NBC/Comcast without a foothold in the college sports market. Today's article from John Ourand and Michael Smith from SportsBusinessDaily.com sheds some light on the behind the scenes dealing between the two networks, and how they joined up to keep NBC away.
It's a fantastic read, and it showed how desperate both ESPN and Fox Sports were to keep the PAC-12 away from NBC/Comcast. The Big East will only reap the benefits from this deal if Commissioner John Marinatto holds off on resigning a deal with ESPN and waits to deal with other networks on the open market.
The PAC-12 and commissioner Larry Scott played each of the networks masterfully, and raised their annual TV revenue from $56 million a year in their last contract to a staggering $250 million a year for the next decade. That kind of money gives the PAC-12 an advantage with funding and how they can spend on facilities and staff upgrades.
The Big East needs to follow the same script as the PAC-12. Scott had an 18-month plan to improve their media rights after taking over the conference, and knew waiting for the open market instead of re-upping with Fox Sports was the best option. But even the PAC-12 media consultant Chris Bevilacqua didn't expect the level of interest:
"Once we got to the open market, the level of interest exceeded our expectations. Everyone is trying to figure out a business model for the digital part of this, resulting in a lot of interest in that area."
The PAC-12 saw this opportunity and ran with it. NBC/Comcast offered $235 million a year for the TV rights before the joint offer from ESPN and Fox. The Big East should see the level of interest NBC/Comcast had for the PAC-12 and make a call to New York to talk numbers.
It would make too much sense for both parties to become partners. NBC/Comcast is looking for a major conference to bolster their sports network. The Big East has seven of the top 15 media markets, something no other conference can offer. The Big East needs a network that will showcase its conference without sending big games to Internet-only broadcasts, and NBC/Comcast has the space to do that. Having your conference on a network that will only show your conference's games in prime time is something that the Big East might not be able to pass up.