A TV future for Big East basketball?
by Michael Hiestand, USA TODAY Sports
The idea of Big East schools breaking off from the conference and successfully marketing themselves as a basketball-only conference would seem like a long shot.
Typically, football accounts for about 70% of revenues in college conference TV deals, with basketball providing the remaining 30%.
“They’re smart if they’re doing their due diligence to see if they could go it alone, and see if they could add any other schools with good basketball teams to create a new conference,” says Jeff Nelson, director of analytics at the firm Navigate Research, which specializes in sports and entertainment media. “It’s an interesting idea, but football is so dominant it might be tough for them to get a TV contract that would make it worth it.”
Representatives from the schools – DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Villanova – met this week with Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco to discuss the league’s TV future, which is now up for grabs. The Big East last year turned down a TV deal with ESPN that would have paid at least $130 million per year to test the TV marketplace, which now includes the new NBC Sports Network cable channel as well a a possible new Fox general sports cable channel launching next year.
But with the conference having lost notable sports programs such as Syracuse, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Notre Dame (for basketball), Rutgers and Louisville, it presumably has lost some of its TV drawing power. The conference will add Memphis, Temple, Tulane, Central Florida, SMU and Houston as well as football-only East Carolina.
Aresco was unavailable for comment.
The Big East might be helped because most major sport TV packages are already locked up in long-term deals, thus making the conference one of the few options for channels trying to beef up their event lineup. Nelson estimates the league’s TV rights might now be worth about $60 million-$80 million: “Those defections have really hurt them. They’re in a tough spot. But maybe they could get back up to $100 million.”
Neal Pilson, former head of CBS Sports and now a TV sports consultant, says the industry … [For more on A TV future for Big East basketball?, click here.]