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The Big 12 Conference Should Investigate Future TV Deal with CBS

For those on the business side of college football, there was some huge news this week. It looks like the SEC Game of the Week will be leaving CBS after the 2023 season, likely heading to ABC/ESPN.

Here was the full report from the Sports Business Journal: “CBS will walk away from the SEC when its contract ends after the 2023 football season, and all indications are that the package will move to ESPN/ABC. CBS decided to exit the negotiations for college football’s most-watched TV package after making an aggressive bid in the neighborhood of $300 million per season — a massive increase from the $55 million it currently pays annually. CBS Sports execs decided that it made more sense to invest the money they would have paid the SEC into other sports. When contacted this afternoon by SBJ, CBS Sports PR emailed the following statement: “We made a strong and responsible bid. While we‘ve had success with the SEC on CBS, we are instead choosing to aggressively focus on other important strategic priorities moving forward.”

 

This made sense for ESPN. The network, of course with parent company ABC (and then Disney), owns the SEC Network and CBS was the only non-ESPN affiliated network that had any rights to broadcast SEC football games.

But this is not great news for Big 12 fans, because it blocks another window for a quality game. Now, the 3:30 p.m. EST/2:30 p.m. CST kick off on ABC is likely a lock for the SEC every week. Oh, and the SEC Championship Game is also going to be leaving CBS for the ESPN or ABC.

As a result, you know that the SEC Championship Game is likely to move from its midday spot to a prime time kick off. That likely would boot the ACC from its Saturday night spot on ABC, where it went head-to-head against the Big Ten Championship on FOX. The Pac-12 Championship remains buried on Friday night and then the Big 12 could, theoretically, move to the midday spot, with the ACC kicking off in the 12 p.m. EST/11 a.m. CST slot, which is more natural for teams based along the east coast anyway.

But if ESPN/ABC is not feeling that, why shouldn’t the Big 12 give a call to CBS?

We know that the Big 12 is locked in with ESPN and FOX through the middle of the next decade, and also recently solidified that commitment this past year with the ESPN+ deal. But when the time comes, the Big 12 should at least have a conversation with CBS.

When CBS started with the SEC in 1996, it helped take the conference to a new level. The quality production, camera angles, the jingle, it all felt “big”.

And while the relationship between the Big 12 and its TV partners seem more than stable, there is still some writing on the wall that the Big 12 may continue to take a major backseat to the SEC and Big Ten. FOX seems to continue to favor the Big Ten and we know that ESPN is just short for ESecPN.

So what if, when the new SEC Game of the Week package comes to ESPN/ABC in 2024, the Big 12 and its premier teams continue to get too many 11 a.m. kick offs, and just in general, not enough “love” as they see fit from the networks.

You’re telling me CBS wouldn’t be interested in having a conversation? Live sports is the biggest draw for any network right now. They all want to scoop them up because they cannot be DVR’ed, which helps advertisers. And while cord cutting is certainly the way of the future (I am one), the major networks aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

 

Quality content with quality production will continue to win. And for the Big 12, having a “Game of the Week” featured on CBS every Saturday at 2:30 CST, along with a Big 12 Championship Game that doesn’t force two fan bases to start drinking beer at 7 a.m. would be a huge win for the conference.

You might laugh at the idea that any match up outside of Texas vs. Oklahoma would garner national interest. Well the SEC, in part, became the SEC over the past two and a half decades because of this TV window with CBS. National college football fans got to see what was on display every weekend in the conference and it paid off.

Why couldn’t the Big 12 do the same?

Once again, the logistics are far from easy here and CBS may decide to generally get out of the college football business, sans Army vs. Navy and some of the Group of 5 games they air on CBS Sports Network. But I think that would be a mistake.

And there’s a conference that might be able to make this a win-win for all involved. Just keep an open mind.

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