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  1. 2008 Nov 18

    The Evil ESPire Angles for the BCS


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    (Above, the ESPN logo, all Vadered out)

    And if you think this is great news, eh, think again.

    Here's the skinny: ESPN's gonna get the BCS for 2011-2014, taking it away from Fox, which owns it for two more years and never seemed all that interested in college football in the first place.

    CBS and NBC apparently don't want to bid (although there's little doubt, after NBC's great, compelling camerawork in the Olympics, that they certainly could pull it off, with an Al Michaels/John Madden called BCS title game). And ABC is owned, like ESPN, by Disney.

    When the deal is finalized, Disney will shift all of the BCS games to ESPN. Let me repeat: The BCS title game will be on pay television. And not just any pay television; it'll be on ESPN. The network that invades our lives daily with annoying crosstalk and noise as it continues its never-ending quest to pit USC against Florida in some game, any game.

    The BCS and university presidents, which are negotiating this deal, don't much care, because ESPN's bid was higher and most college football fans have the network anyway.

    But here's why you should care.

    1. Your cable/satellite dish bill will go up. Might as well simply count on it as ESPN will be able to charge a much higher fee to any cable company to carry the network, and that cable company - say, TimeWarner or Cox or Comcast - will in turn pass those charges on to the consumer. How much more will it be? Good question.

    If you think this is a small issue - trust us. It's not. ESPN has had negotiating wars with many cable companies/dish networks over its "carriage fee." There was a particularly public fight with Cox four years ago that went all the way to Washington, D.C. You're talking about two corporate giants, duking it out.

    We don't have to tell you about what's going on with the NFL Network; chances are you already know. Could cable companies cut off ESPN, or send it to a higher tier of subscription? Maybe, but the BCS is a giant bargaining chip for the Sports Mouse. Chances are good the cable companies will yell "uncle" and just pass the costs on, knowing full well the consumer can't do without college football bowl season.

    2. Forget a playoff. At least until 2014, when this current deal would expire, but likely well beyond. ESPN was a primary critic of the BCS in recent years - because it didn't have the BCS. Now that it does, expect the criticism to dial down to the SEC only guys on CBS - and nobody much cares what they think.

    And if you're imagining that ESPN might morph the BCS into an eight-team playoff or something, just remember: A true "playoff" likely falls back under the domain of the NCAA. That would possibly be an entirely separate contract to negotiate for television rights. And ESPN might not get those rights.

    3. More ESPN talking heads talking more rot. The worry about ESPN trying to influence public opinion - the voters in the Coaches' Poll and Harris Poll, for example - is entirely legitimate. Then again, ESPN's stabs at undue influence haven't much worked, have they? Nebraska made it in 2001 over the loud protests of the network. Ditto Florida State in 2000, an undeserving Oklahoma in 2003.

    Mostly, this is bad because ESPN/ABC analysts are trying to stir the pot every week by staging phony debates just to get football fans riled up and hooked on the banter. It makes for a long, annoying day where the coverage is focused on "storylines" instead of the game itself. Hence, we'll see the same four highlights of the same four games for four days. And I don't know about you, but Alabama is one boring team for repetitive highlight packages.

    4. More sports will follow. If college football makes hay on pay TV, even bigger sports will follow. March Madness. The Super Bowl. All of the horse races. The World Series. Every golf major except the Masters, which still appreciates something other than the highest bidder.

    In the long-term, that's a bad thing, because it begins to move other sports off the basic extended cable platter to an even deeper level of cable tiers, or maybe on to pay-per-view. Might there be a day when you can't watch the NFL Playoffs unless you're willing to pay $29.95 for a one-day pass? Probably.

    But could it happen to the Duke-North Carolina basketball series? Maybe.

    I guess there is one industry that could be pleased over these developments: Radio.

    Agree? Disagree? Let us know about it! Join now!

    Tags: bcs, espn

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