If I’m Larry Scott, I’m calling up Dick Ebersol and telling him that NBC needs to add a Pac-10 game of the week. Just like that, even if it’s just USC playing somebody else, every Pac-10 team is getting national exposure and providing a real alternative to the SEC on CBS or the regional/national game on ABC. As an added benefit, occasionally that regional/national game would involve Pac-10 teams. To use 2007 as an example, can you imagine how effective it would’ve been if in the morning/afternoon viewers were treated to UCLA vs. Stanford on NBC, not a great game but something to watch, and then had the chance to flip over to ABC and witness Tennessee @ Cal? Repeated exposure along those lines are how multiple BCS bids are earned.
I'm a little wary of a solution that involves ESPN, but the alternatives aren't much better.
- NBC is tied to Notre Dame and has shown no interest in showing many big sporting events anymore.
- CBS is tied to the SEC cash cow.
- FOX is in the last year of the BCS contract and hasn't shown the slightest bit of interest in broadcasting regular season games during their four year run.
By making weak national deals with ABC/ESPN and CBS, and weak regional deals with FSN, the Pac-10 is robbing its members of both money and exposure.How? Think about how ESPN operates. Whenever ESPN picks up a sport, like Nascar, all of a sudden there is a shift in programming to increase coverage of that sport. You may see "Nascar now" every once in a while, but how often have you seen NHL coverage on ESPN recently? Exactly. The NHL is now on the Versus network where it toils in relative obscurity. ESPN deals not only bring money to the sports they carry, but also add the incredibly important exposure factor. That factor could do wonders for the Cougs, who desperately need some national attention. For now, ESPN's financial and programming focus shifts to the SEC. And that's bad news for us.Of course this wouldn't be an issue if ESPN had a decent competitor. And for all intents and purposes, FSN should have been just that. What sports fan wouldn't love a national sports network divided into regional networks to provide more coverage of their local teams? It is great in theory, but failed in practice because there are already national and regional sports competitors not linked to FSN. When baseball teams like the Yankees and Red Sox ditched the regional networks and formed their own, FSN and its colleagues took an even bigger hit. And when ESPN is picking up key games here and there from your local teams, FSN loses the exclusivity that could have made it a valuable network.
My dream would be this: one national game given to ABC every week (which 90% of the time will involve USC), another given to the ESPN family of networks, and the other three or more placed on a Pac-10 Network. But the current regime is too old school and stubborn to go for something as progressive as a conference network (even though it would do wonders for basketball). So why not just give ABC/NBC/CBS/Fox one game, and the ESPN networks all the others? Even if you take a pay cut, the added exposure will make up for the difference. Financially, and in terms of marketing. The conference could actually support its schools by demanding each game is on TV. If you have to play a Thursday or Friday night game here and there, big deal. Did we really miss out by playing Idaho a couple years ago on a Thursday? Of course not.