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That contract was officially announced on Thursday morning. We still don't really know how, or if, FOX and NBC will staff up to support their new broadcast investments, and we don't have a clearly defined idea of how Big Ten schools plan to spend this new windfall. But, thanks to the press releases and additional reporting, we know a bit more about what this deal means for Big Ten basketball.
According to the Action Network, BTN will still carry the majority of men's basketball games (126), while Fox and FS1 will combine to broadcast 45. CBS will carry games in the men's and women's Big Ten tournaments, as well as a modest package of regular season contests (9-15 games).
The leftovers, a package that could include up to 47 men's basketball games, including 32 conference games, will be Peacock exclusives. Another 30 women's basketball games will be broadcast exclusively on Peacock.
That's going to represent a big departure from the previous broadcast arrangement. Regular season Big Ten men's basketball games were occasionally sent to ESPN+, but not conference games or important out-of-conference games. A typical Big Ten might only need to pay an extra fee if they really wanted to watch their alma mater host American University on a Tuesday night in November.
Under this deal, conference games, and likely meaningful ones, will now shift behind a streaming paywall.
I don't immediately see how this could be spun as a development that's a positive for consumers. If you're going to ask people to pay for something that they were previously getting for free, they need to either feel like they're getting a superior product, or they need to understand how those fees will meaningfully support the athletic department.
I hope we get a chance to talk with Big Ten officials about this new TV contract at a later date because I have a bunch of other clarifying questions (about football, schedules, linear TV opportunities for Olympic sports, sublicensing, etc.). Without knowing all the facts yet, I don't want to speculate.
But for now, we do know that these schools are about to make a gazillion dollars. Big Ten football is going to be very easy to find all Saturday long. We'll just have to see if everybody will benefit in quite the same way.
The tensions around putting content behind broadcast paywalls aren't unique to massive conferences like the Big Ten. This is a major issue all the way down at the D-II level, too.
Last week, for our paid subscribers, I wrote about how FloSports is making an aggressive push into the D-II space, signing two large conference-wide deals to broadcast D-II athletics.
One Extra Points reader, a former D-II athletic employee named Reid, left a thoughtful comment, where he suggested schools ought to find corporate sponsors to underwrite broadcast costs, so they could remain free. After all, D-II schools don't have anywhere near the audience size of Big Ten institutions, and putting content behind paywalls limits what may already be a niche audience.
Take it from a guy that runs a niche college sports business newsletter.... I get it.
I thought this was a good question, so I called up a few D-II athletic departments that are not using FloSports to ask about it. Officials at institutions in the Midwest, Great Plains and Northeast all told me that they believed getting corporate support to keep broadcasts free would be a major challenge.
Such a sponsorship wouldn't be exorbitantly expensive (I'm told $20,000-$25,000 could be enough), but finding the right fit could be very difficult. A local business typically only wants to advertise to local customers, and all three D-II officials told me that their streaming audiences are generally not local to campus. After all, D-II ticket prices are so affordable that if somebody was nearby, they're pretty likely to just go to the game. Streaming was a more attractive option for parents or out-of-town fans...folks that aren't the target for, say, Bob Smith's Kia Dealership in Joplin, Missouri...and the audiences aren't large enough to attract national brands.
That doesn't mean everybody agreed that going with FloSports, or a similar system, is automatically the best policy. One commissioner I talked to oversees schools that typically don't charge for any broadcasts at all, using a similar argument that Reid raised. The modest amount of revenue, according to him, wasn't worth slicing their already small audience up even further.
The key question, one raised by ADs at FloSports schools and leaders at ones that weren't using the service, was this. Can you prove to consumers that by paying for the product, they are getting a superior service? If paying ten bucks a month for a D-II subscription service meant that a conference can standardize broadcasts quality, add more cameras, include scorebugs, etc...then they felt better about charging their fans. If they couldn't be certain that the quality would improve enough, they erred on the side of keeping it free.
What a concept, huh? Maybe the P5 should take note.
What else have we been working on this week?
Speaking of D-II, I also wrote about how Canada's only D-II institution is going to play most of their home football games...in America, because their (mostly) Texan conference mates couldn't comply with Canada's COVID vaccine requirements dug into the whys and whats nexts of the move:
I also reviewed a new academic study that suggests changing your apparel partner doesn't actually help athletic departments sign better recruits....or sell more tickets....or win more games...or, uh, even help the stock price of the apparel companies.
We also have multiple new conference preview Going For Two podcasts, presented by our buddies over at Homefield Apparel.
I felt like I learned a ton from our interview with Pac-12 Network's Yogi Roth, where we discussed Oregon's depth, Utah's consistency, USC's questions...and what it really means to be a five-star QB.
We also had a chance to TALK ABOUT THE BUCKS (and the rest of the Big Ten) with our pal Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic.
We've got a few more Going For Two previews coming soon. You can subscribe to G42 on YouTube, Spotify, Apple, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.
We're able to make all of this stuff because of the great support we have from our ad partners (more on them in a second!), and the great support we have from our readers. If you enjoy Extra Points and want to make sure you get every newsletter, please consider upgrading to a paid subscription.
And hey, if you're in higher education and looking for some help with your Sports Law, Sports Management, Sports Media or Sports Businesses classes, I'd LOVE to talk to you about D1.classroom!
We have another fun week planned next week. Thanks for sticking with us. We'll catch up with you then.
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