Future of conference realignment: Fan base over market share

Kansas gets in position for realignmentBoth ESPN.com and CBSSports.com have reported that college football realignment might not happen for another six or seven years because of current TV contracts.

But by the time we get to 2023, contracts with Facebook and Twitter could be more advantageous than any of the traditional cable networks, currently losing subscribers annually. Traditional rights deals could become obsolete.

A few months ago, the Sports Business Daily reported that the digital media companies have been working furiously to seal sports rights deals, so much so that it has “energized league executives” … because they see these deals as a way to keep rights fees high during the next round of media negotiations.

One has to assume the NCAA and college conferences are viewing it the same way.

It would appear the college market would be the easiest “in” for any digital media company. Remember: The Worldwide Leader got its first big break with the NCAA Tournament. Less than a decade later, ESPN was airing NFL games.

Streaming toward realignment

As ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg points out, because streaming could become the primary way fans watch games, conferences likely could change their strategy to look at rabid, football fan bases, willing to pay whatever it takes to watch their team, over market share. If that’s true, Rittenberg added, a school like BYU might have more leverage than Houston when it comes to joining a Power 5 conference.

With an eye to the future – as well as the recognition that football pays the bills – some schools are getting their respective football houses in order for the sake of competition and to remain within Power 5 school. As evidence, Kansas recently announced that it is starting a $300 million stadium renovation project.

Dennis Dodd’s CBSSports.com story pointed out that is $108 million more than Texas A&M’s total athletic revenue, largest in the country. Dodd remarks that this indicates a buy-in for Kansas to have a seat at the table for future conference realignment.

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