New Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco plans to create a “State of the Art Conference.” I was virtually present at today’s media conference where Commish Mike was officially introduced. Mike wants to tell a story that focuses on the future and at the same time maximizes coverage of the already proud leagues fourth reinvention. The reconstituted Big East expansion together with the hiring of Mike is the beginning of their techie BCS future. After all the realignment dust has finally settled, the Big East can now claim that they are the first “cutting edge’” conference to cover four time zones, which in television rights means big sports business potential.
TeleConference Link via Big East: http://www.bigeast.org/BIGEASTTV/OnDemandFREE/TabId/367/VideoId/25896/Commissioner-Mike-Arescos-Introductory-Teleconference.aspx
Mike was hired under a unanimous vote with the understanding that his number one objective is to negotiate a new television deal for the Big East. He replaces John Marinatto who held the position for the past three years. Aresco discussed the long term value of CBS programming he helped orchestrate with Turner Sports, the NCAA, and SEC, in addition to the Army vs. Navy game.
There are recent TV deals that have set the high-end sportsbiz contract standards such as those by the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12. The ACC did a 15-year, $3.6 billion contract extension with ESPN. Last year, Larry Scott, the Big 12 Commissioner, signed his league up with Fox for $1.2 billion. The Pac-12 and Fox created an unprecedented joint partnership in 2011 that was figured to be $3 billion over 15 years.
The Big East is now repositioned to be a football, basketball and all sport school. Football only is where the big money is; however, traditionally the Big East has been a hoops powerhouse. A dilemma Mike faces as new Commish is how to introduce an all sports concept, which has more depth and layers than a team-by-team pitch, to the network powers that be as a profitable endeavor. He will certainly leverage his hard-earned media executive skills when negotiating with ESPN, CBS or possibly NBC. Mike’s challenge will be defining his new company’s existing and futuristic valuation and markets, with the long term goals of exposure and establishing a Big Six.
In order for the current Power Five of the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC and Pac-12, to add the Big East as the Big Six, a possible billion dollar deal is at stake. The Big East lost Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia while Louisville may want out, plus TCU never officially made into the league.
The Big East gained brands both on the field and court with the addition of Boise State, San Diego State and Navy, in football, plus SMU, Houston, Memphis, and Central Florida. South Florida, Louisville, and Cincinnati are foundations of the existing Big East power schools. Connecticut might soon be considered another league power team. Georgetown and Notre Dame are Big East basketball pillars. The Big East corporate core can be confusing when considering they have both football and basketball only schools, however, Mike said the Universities “share a common vision.”
According to Darren Rovell of ESPN on YouTube, this might, “Cause a bidding war, probably after ESPN’s exclusive negotiating window on September first.” ESPN has a 60-day window to sign a new contract with the Big East and after that; it’s the Wild, Wild West of TV bidding time. Either way, a Sports Techie future is indeed in store for Mike’s Big East.
Mike gave a good example about how Gonzaga was regionally supported and poised to be known on a National level, and their timing worked in the same way it can at BSU and SDSU. I can attest that rabid Broncos fans such as my brother and his Idahoan family will do their parts to support by going to games and engaging via the Internet and social media hubs in order to help their team become a more nationally recognized brand.
There are other league sportsbiz models which make sense for the Big East to study and possibly emulate. The Big Ten owns 49 percent of the Big Ten Network which brings the conference guaranteed annual rights fees and a share in the profits. The Pac-12 has a different model created together with the Pac-12 Networks where they will soon control all of the broadcasting, digital and sponsorship rights for all of its members.
Another newer configuration of this Big East reinvention is Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures. Chris Bevilacqua founded CSTV and is considered a Digital pioneer for starting the Mountain West conference channel. The last rights deal he struck for the Pac-12 and Rose Bowl was a huge success financially. Bevilacqua is the lead negotiator for the new Big East TV deal. Evolution Media Capital is assisting Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures with the negotiations.
As a former Moderator for the SNY Big East Hoops wiki it’s easy for me to get excited, like Mike does, about the high standards and incredible history the Big East community represents.
My SNY Profile: http://www.snybigeasthoopswiki.com/account/RRoble.
One obvious challenge is time zone differences in terms of later west coast game starts and the majority of east coast fans unplugged and already in bed at kickoff or tipoff. It seems clear to me that this is not a TV deal breaker provided the total number of overall eyeballs watching Big East sports on TV and via mobile will be large enough to be a win-win opportunity for the network bidders.
Big East fans and alumni are connecting via smartphones and tablets in record numbers which makes league content a premium. The Big East understands this fact which led to the inspired hiring of Mike who has never before worked as a college administrator. Mike made this career change with the CBS programming of March Madness on-Demand under his belt. His resume is impressive and pioneering when considering his long time employment at ESPN, and then at CBS beginning in 1996. You can sense and feel that a cutting edge future complete with new platforms, programming and inventory is underway for Big East student athletes, their constituency and sponsors.
Expansion means reinvention which means the conference is bigger and better but longstanding rivalries are gone. Mike wants both exclusive content and streams on various networks for the Big East. Finding a mix of good national or regional exposure is on his agenda. Mike stated that we are, “Living in a new age.” Mike also wants to, “Make sure the Big East represents new media platforms.”
The talk of further expansion was not even a consideration at this point for Mike. The college ties he already has in place will be an asset when compliance with NCAA legislation and regulation is required. He considered this a volatile time because of nationwide realignment, looking ahead though; Mike embraces the future with optimism. A leader needs to be on the cutting edge and Sports Techie Mike fits that role. The Big East’s initiative to move forward while changing the perception of the Universities, networks, and fans, is what Mike plans to do best after conducting strategic reviews.
The question remains – Which TV network will step up and spend the possible billion dollars to sign up with the Big East? Will it be ESPN, who continues to corner the market on college sports? Perhaps Comcast and the new NBC Sports Network buck up because of their strong affiliation with Notre Dame. Maybe CBS Sports is in the driver’s seat knowing that Mike was one of their own people and certainly has insider information about how hungry CBS is for top sports content. Is Fox ready to continue their march into broadcasting more college sports with another partner? Might there be new players in the mix like FX, or a wildcard like Spike TV? This fall, all the Big East TV answers will be in place thanks to the efforts of Commish Mike, the league’s, “Tireless promoter.”
Thank you to the Big East Conference and Commish Mike for inviting THE Sports Techie to the press conference.
I will see ya when I see ya, Sports Techie
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