- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
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Many will see Notre Dame's commitment to the ACC as a sign that the final piece of the puzzle -- the Fighting Irish becoming a full member one day with football included -- is around the corner.
And while Notre Dame hasn't exactly been stellar on the field, it's still hard to see that day coming anytime soon.
Because no matter what NBC has to pay when its current deal is up in 2015, the network will look at it as a cheap bargain.
You see, NBC doesn't own enough programming these days. It owns hockey, and who knows whether there will even be a season, and it owns the Triple Crown. It obviously owns one NFL game a week in "Sunday Night Football." That was fine when NBC Sports was just NBC Sports. But now it has the NBC Sports Network and, in order to survive, it must own more properties to make its channel a destination. Owning Notre Dame, even if it goes 7-6 every season, is worth the price of admission.
So what is that price? NBC reportedly pays $15 million a year on its current contract, which runs until 2015. That's actually not bad considering the network paid $7.6 million a year in its first contract in 1991. Due to rising TV contracts, you can conservatively put Notre Dame's price at $20 million by 2015.
That's steep when you consider the recent deals that have been forged. ESPN and Fox, for example, will pay $200 million for the rights to broadcast 57 Big 12 football games and 174 men's basketball games each year. So, hypothetically, using that $20 million number, ESPN and Fox would be paying 10 times more to the Big 12 than NBC would pay annually for Notre Dame, but would be get roughly 35 times the hours of live games.
You would have to think that Notre Dame would take NBC's deal if it got even close to the number it needed to match other conference TV money. It would continue to enjoy the value of independence -- which shouldn't be underestimated -- and be treated as a separate entity in the broadcasting world.
As for NBC, the dollars and cents don't exactly have to match up for it to do a deal. Remember, every two years it has agreed to pay $1 billion or so on the Olympics in the hopes of breaking even. For executives who are used to making that investment as a possible loss leader, $20 million is a drop in the bucket.