The Big East Conference's Search for New TV Deal is Not Risky

By Joseph Nardone

As reported by our Merlisa Lawrence Corbett earlier this week in great detail(here), the Big East Conference has bypassed its 60-day exclusive negotiating timetable with ESPN. With a major overhaul of teams, leaving and coming, you would think giving up a guaranteed deal with the world wide leader in sports would be a bad business move, you are wrong.

New conference commissioner Mike Aresco should know what he’s doing in these kind of things. Aresco comes from the picture-box world and negotiating a new television contract should be his specialty. Aresco was an exec for CBS for almost 2 decades and had a major hand in the network landing the SEC and signing them up for a 15 year deal.

ESPN might be in the forefront of everyone’s minds when people talk sports, or even think about college basketball, but they aren’t the only game in town. Major networks are starting to make a serious run in the sports broadcasting side of things and are surely willing to pony up major money in the bidding war for the conference.

Players will include NBC, CBS, and FOX. All of whom have multiple channels to provide ample coverage of the Big East. Aresco also knows it’s not only going to be the network which offers the most money but will also give the conference its best shot at getting the most visibility possible. And thanks to the PAC 12 TV deal, the Big East should be looking at getting big-time bids.

The PAC 12’s current deal, thanks to its full ownership of national and regional networks, is online to generate roughly $30 million per school(The estimates come from Navigate Research, a Chicago-based firm). That’s plenty higher than the Big East’s old ESPN deal in which school recieved $3.12 million annually for each of the eight full members and a cool $1.5 million for each of the eight non-football members.

Aresco and the Big East should be able to get plenty more than $3 million a year despite losing some traditional powerhouses. Add the market value of the PAC 12 to the bidding process, the addition of huge markets in Texas as well as currently having teams in New York as well as Chicago, should make the conference easily appealing to all the networks that are willing to shill out the big bucks.

With that being said, Aresco still needs to be wary and try and secure guarantees from networks during the bidding process. FOX, who airs the UFC, has grown a reputation of putting its sports products on their “lesser” known channels. The Big East could be at risk of falling off the map if it decided to go with a network which plans on using it to bolster ratings on their struggling channels.

The key here is Aresco, and as I’ve said before, he’s the right man for this job at the right time. Getting a new lucrative TV deal which still keeps the conference visible to the nation is the most important task Aresco might ever have being the leader of the conference. Unfortunately for him it comes in his first year on the job before regular season hoops even kicks off.

The risk here is not high however. The Big East has outgrown their current ESPN deal just based off the market. Let’s just hope Aresco doesn’t only seek out the money but also keeps an eye on making sure the product stays on “major” picture-box channels.

One really smart move by Aresco and it will be a huge step in the right direction for the Big East, as well as regaining some credibility among major conferences. On the flip side, one bad decision by Aresco and it’s goodbye national TV audience and hello FuelTV.


Joe covers The Big East for Rant Sports and would thoroughly enjoy if you follow him on the Twitter machine @JosephNardone


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