Learn From Others
The new money for college football and college sports will be the biggest factor in shaping the future. As this blog says right up front, “Follow the money”. Right now with the Big Ten already with their own network and the SEC looking into the possibility of taking the plunge wring more out of your total portfolio looks like the major driving force for the future. That said, there are several factors that need to be looked at before assuming that having your own network is the new gold mine.
FCC tackles NFL Network on new rules—the fate of the money making sports channel may be decided in a Washington DC office where the channels and the carriers are lock horns on where you get placed on the dial. Anyone wanting to step into this business needs the think long and hard about the fact that the powerful uber-sports brand called the National Football League has not found the going easy in getting themselves on the basic/extended tier and are grouped with the Fox Soccer channel in the sports tier ghetto. The NFL has invested heavily here by holding back games that would only be seen on the NFL Channel (and the problem caused with the Patriots v. Giants game late in 2007) but even the lure of the occasional regular season game has not delivered the gold. How the FCC handles this question will have a significant bearing on the future these new sports channels.
Often, you can get yourself into trouble by getting into a business that is not your core competency. The Big Ten knows little about broadcasting or cable yet are up to there eyeballs in trying to sell their channel. Both the Big Ten and NFL have such confidence in the strength of their brands that they cannot fathom the reasons for lack of quick success. Fox News, started slowly and cheaply, only looking for big bucks (about $1 per subscriber according to the Wall Street Journal) after they had established a an audience.
While the SEC considers an entry into the cable content business they should carefully consider two points:
1. Are we in the college sports business or a media company?
2. Is our brand more powerful than the NFL?
If they are honest the only conclusion should be to make a deal with CBS to keep their exclusive network position with CBS College Sports as the overflow for the lesser football games and use the SEC olympic sports as the major filler for this channel. The SEC gets a check while CBS can push distribution of their channel. CBS College Sports becomes an ad hoc SEC channel. CBS is a media company with expertise in distributing content while the SEC can put their energy into creating content.