Is the Big 12's new deal with ABC/ESPN a good idea?

BERRY TRAMEL COMMENTARY - When you're talking about college football and TV, it's all about money. And that's exactly what the Big 12 will get with its new deal: Money. Big 12 schools are set to make roughly $20 million a year each in the new deal.
by Berry Tramel Modified: March 18, 2012 at 12:46 pm •  Published: March 17, 2012
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That's largely true. The LSU-Alabama showdown last November garnered an 11.5 national rating, but the overall rating for the SEC on CBS was 4.2 in 2011, 4.2 in 2010 and 4.4 in 2009. That's a little better than the Big 12 on ABC, but nothing significant.

Hard to argue with Neinas' logic. A general college football fan in Oregon or Wisconsin or New York is not going to make Alabama-Tennessee or OSU-Texas appointment television. LSU-Bama or OU-Texas, yes. But those games are rare.

Neinas said the viewing public is discriminating. With so many options available in every broadcast window – 30something games a Saturday are available on most cable and satellite systems – fans migrate to the teams they know the most about.

This isn't 1972. Just because Brown-Dartmouth is on television doesn't mean college football fans will watch it.

And besides, a decent number of Big 12 games hit national television anyway.

With the ABC/ESPN relationship, the reverse mirror method works well. When OU-Baylor is on ABC in this part of the country and Southern Cal-Oregon is on elsewhere, ESPN or ESPN2 can air the games, reversed from their ABC regional assignments.

Also, ABC picks a decent number of games for national broadcast anyway. OU-Texas, Bedlam, Texas' Thanksgiving game.

Plus, here's another potential development. The ESPN/Fox relationship has changed. They remain arch-competitors, but they also have found common ground, even to the point of partnering on the new Pac-12 contract.

Here's how that could play out in the Big 12. Fox Sports has the cable rights to Big 12 football. That means if ESPN wants a Big 12 game – like a Thursday night, or one of those 8 p.m. Saturday slots – it must negotiate with Fox.

In the past, that has meant either a financial payout or a swap of games.

But Fox Sports' demands could move into the realm of an over-air network game. In other words, ESPN wants a Big 12 game for cable? Fine. Allow Big Fox to air a Big 12 game.

So the truth is, the Big 12's national exposure with ABC won't be far below what the Big 12 would have gotten with NBC or Big Fox.

It's more prestigious to have your own network. Vanity plays a part. The Big 12 would love to keep up with the SEC.

But that has to start on the scoreboard. That has to be done on the field. Then television will take care of itself.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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