Now that the firestorm around the ACC's television deal has died down, the watchful eye of Your Best 11 has turned to the recent happenings surrounding the next big media deal looming on the horizon.
The Big East is set to negotiate, first with ESPN, then with any party that wants a piece of their action. Early thoughts were that the possible competition in the marketplace and the recent increase in value of live football programming would raise the Big East ahead of the $130 million per year number they turned down a year ago.
According to Brett McMurphy at CBS Sports, that is not necessarily the case now:
"ESPN has mitigated any potential programming loss, the Big East has lost value and by the time they negotiate their deal, about $8 billion will have been spent on other college football deals [since last spring]," a source said. "It's not the most ideal scenario, especially when there is other college football programming available of similar quality."
That's not a good sign for the league. ESPN has the ACC in their fold, and they are going to the negotiating table with the SEC very soon. They also have the Big 12, Pac-12 and Big Ten all on their roster. The Big East is just another mouth at the teat of the worldwide leader. A mouth that does not have the big name cache or teams that boast national followings.
Losses of TCU and WVU to the Big 12, while Pitt and Syracuse head to the ACC have lowered the league's profile and while Houston, SMU, Memphis, Boise State, San Diego State, Temple, UCF and Navy help flush out the schedule, they don't raise the cache.
However, there is one caveat in all of this; the competition. CBS, Fox and NBC are all looking to get into the mix on the college football side of things.
Fox Sports' dedicated national cable channel has still yet to come to fruition, so the role they play in negotiations will likely be minimal. CBS Sports has not made a strong push for the Big East, at least publicly. But, NBC Sports has made it clear they plan on throwing their hat into the ring.
For all predicting dire fates for the Big East, reps from NBC and Fox were here. Big East, despite geography, still being courted.
— Pete Thamel(@PeteThamelNYT) May 21, 2012
Unlike Fox, who wants to be in the mix, NBC already has a channel to house the Big East's game. NBC Sports only problem? Content. They have a "big" deal with the Ivy League, but that's not the draw to get folks spending Saturdays on the couch plugged into hours upon hours of the commercials that come with football games. The channel also plans to feature prominently in this summer's Olympic games coverage.
Both of those are nice, but neither are what the channel got into the marketplace to do. The Big East football inventory can help push them towards their goal of building a channel around a solid inventory.
NBC Sports knows this, and if the competitors, chiefly ESPN, are not willing to pay the Big East good money to be on ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3 and playoff day games; then NBC Sports needs to pony up to get the content.
More content helps NBC Sports build their channel, helps get eyeballs regularly going to the new network on a regular basis and helps prove to advertisers that they are worth the investment.
Another positive sell would be the ability to package the inventory with their lone existing college football product, Notre Dame, running concurrent games with live look-ins to NBC Sports during Fighting Irish coverage. They could also select an important Big East contest to match up as a lead-in or a spill-over to the Notre Dame contest already scheduled.
NBC Sports has to be the major carrot to the Big East. The network needs the programming as bad as the Big East needs the cash. They are truly a match made for the future. Whether it is a multi-network deal giving first-tier rights to ESPN and second- and third-tier rights to NBC, a la the Big 12, or an exclusive deal; the Big East has to use NBC to get the cash their teams desperately need.