Branding the World of Sports

BCS moving to ESPN/ABC to start a playoff

Posted by ZA on November 3, 2008

It appears the days are numbered for Fox’s rights to broadcast college football’s top bowl games.  The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) is asking $800 million dollars for Fox to retain the rights to broadcast the four BCS games; the BCS Championship Game, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl.  ABC already holds the broadcast rights for the 5th BCS game, the Rose Bowl.

The BCS is asking Fox to up their annual spend from the current $82 million per year up to $132 million per year.  The theory behind that dramatic increase is that doing so will cause Fox to balk, which will then allow the BCS to solicit bids on the open market from other networks.  The favorite to win a bidding war on the open market?  ABC/ESPN who would then hold the rights to all of the major bowl games, and have the ability to play some on ABC and others on their cable sports juggernaut, ESPN.

The reason the BCS will select ABC/ESPN over Fox?  Money.  Not only will they be able to bid the two entities against each other to get a richer deal, but ultimately landing with ABC/ESPN increases their exposure.  ESPN is a dedicated sports network that will continually run promotions for the BCS series throughout the year on in-game programming and Sportscenter.  ABC also already owns the rights to broadcast college games, which Fox does not.  The increased exposure for the BCS will add up to much larger sponsorship dollars. 

Once that happens I expect the next major change for the BCS to be the announcement of a college football playoff.  One that will initially start as a plus one game after the four major bowls are played (Fiesta, Orange, Rose & Sugar), but will eventually expand.  The expansion will add the Cotton Bowl, played at Jerry Jone’s new stadium, as the 6th BCS bowl game.  The expanded BCS will now be able to seed the top 8 teams entering the bowl season and have them play a winner take all knockout format.

The reason the BCS will morph into a playoff format?  Again, money.  The thing holding back a playoff format right now is the old guard from the bowl games.  They are concerned their games will be made irrelevant by a playoff and still have enough power to stand in the way of that progress.  But that old guard won’t always have that much clout and eventually the system will change because a playoff series in college football is what the fans want.  And in this case that “want” translates into lots of dollars for the BCS.  Higher TV ratings, more tickets sold and bigger sponsorship opportunities are what will ultimately get us a college football playoff.

One Response to “BCS moving to ESPN/ABC to start a playoff”

  1. […] are the steps that I said must happen for ESPN to get us to college football playoff: 1. ESPN lands BCS television rights.  DONE 2. BCS adds “plus one” championship […]

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