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College Football Broadcasting Rights

There's been some confusion about it, so here's my attempt to clarify the broadcast rights to I-A games:

Big East - ESPN/ABC
Big XII - ESPN/ABC/Fox Sports/Versus
Big Ten - ESPN/ABC/Big Ten Network
Pac 10 - ESPN/ABC/Fox Sports/Versus

MWC - CSTV/Versus/Fox Sports/The Mtn
Sun Belt - ESPN
Notre Dame - NBC

ESPN here includes ESPN, ESPN+, ESPN Classic, Gameplan (PPV), 360 (internet), and ESPNU. ESPN+ is syndicated gameplan, they farm out games not covered nationally to local cable stations and networks. ESPNU games are incredibly frustrating, as the channel keeps getting fairly decent games, but not many cable providers carry it. Even though ESPN has the same corporate parent as ABC, there are some weird differences, particularly when it comes to SEC games:

ESPN, ESPN2 - the SEC's national cable provider, may televise up to 18 regular season games each year, with a minimum of nine on ESPN through the season.

CBS Sports - The 2006 season marks the eleventh year for CBS as the league's national network television partner. CBS will televise up to 15 games per year throughout the season. CBS will normally broadcast its SEC games in the late afternoon window beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET. CBS provides exclusive national network broadcasts of conference home games during the season. CBS will televise the SEC Football Championship Game, which will be on Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. ET.

LF - Lincoln Financial Sports will continue its highly successful SEC Football Game of the Week this season. The Charlotte, N.C. company, holds the rights to televise 13 games annually throughout the nine-state SEC region on a syndicated basis. The games will be broadcast in the early afternoon at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Apparently ESPN can air SEC games, but ABC can't. LF=Jefferson Pilot, who also has the option to air several ACC games. CBS owns CSTV. Another tidbit is that TBS did not renew its package (Pac 10/Big XII games that Disney doesn't pick up) this year, and that was scooped up by Versus.

The MWC is an interesting case. They were so peeved about being forced to play in the middle of the week and in the middle of the night that they told Disney to piss off a few years ago, and formed a network with CSTV. Problem is, no one carries it, so instead of being seen on Wednesdays, no one is seeing them. ESPN has been giving them the NHL treatment. The Big Ten has done the same thing, but mostly because it didn't want to play at noon on ESPN2 or see games moved to ESPN 360. Last week was when it really started to have an effect, as several decent mid-tier games were hidden on BTN.

For the conspiracy nuts out there, Disney was relentlessly bashing the Big East a few years ago when the contract was up for renewal, after they had just signed a brand new contract with the ACC. ACC promotion was relentless. Cue last year, where the Big East signs a fat new exclusive contract with Disney. Now the bashing has quieted, and they're still not really picking on the ACC. However, the dogs have been unleashed against the Big Ten now.

It's hard not to despise the exclusive monopoly that the gameplan package and 360 give Disney. The whole regional broadcast system is a racket - college football fans are being woefully underserved. Next week for instance, there are five regional 3:30 games on ABC. Cal/Oregon in the West, Rutgers/Maryland in the Northeast, KSU/Texas in the heartland, MSU/Wisconsin in the Midwest, and Clemson/GT in the South (Louisville/NC State is being buried on ESPNU at the same time).

ESPN may carry one of these games too, but I can't tell for sure at this point because their schedule says TBA. This has happened several times already, and the result has been that local ABC stations are not in coordination with the national ESPN broadcast, and often are airing the same game until a flood of complaints alert them to the mistake. We can thank ESPN2 for airing NASCAR at 3:30 as well for exascerbating this gigantic mess, as well as the general mentality that 3:30 pm and 7/8 pm are premium times that every good team needs to play at.

The broadcast audiences pays out the nose on our cable/satellite bills each month to give Disney a hefty premium for content, and to get the mega-package 3000 with 800 channels. Yet, you can't help but feel indignation at the thought that they expect an even larger premium just to actually watch a healthy amount of football games. And I'm saying this as someone who has a 360 subscription this season.

Other networks are dropping the ball here. NBC is airing golf all day Saturday, and ESPN2 has the afore-mentioned NASCAR. Versus however is airing Rocky III and Rocky IV between their football games. There are some intriguing possibilities out there. Would NBC, Versus, Fox Sports etc... ever make a play for a larger piece of the broadcast pie? Would a network like the Big Ten buy the rights to MAC games to fill out the content on their broadcast schedule? What about CBS making a bold strike to move the remaining SEC package from ESPN to CSTV? Are there going to be more MTN/BTN-style shots across the bow (not that either network was particularly well-planned)? The options are endless. Frankly, any challenge to the current stagnation would be welcome.

As one final note, what the hell is ABC going to air for their Noon game on Sat? VT/UNC is a JP game. Oh, apparently nothing. Those fans in Big Ten country will be stuck watching Power Rangers on ABC. <!-- google_ad_section_end --><!-- EndContentMarker -->