Lucrative Big East deal possible without ND

September, 12, 2012
9/12/12
2:35
PM ET
Big East fans shouldn’t sound any alarms just yet, even though Notre Dame’s departure to the ACC continues what seems like a never-ending cycle of losses for the Big East.

It may not be the devastating blow it seems.

“The appearance and the perception of the departure by other Big East and or potential Big East members are probably more damaging than the actual act,” said Tom Stultz, managing director of the media division of JMI Sports and former managing director of IMG College’s multimedia rights business.

Last month, Stultz and other media experts thought that despite realignment, the Big East still had a compelling argument for a solid media rights deal. The conference’s Northeast presence and the belief held by many in the media industry that a potential bid by NBC/Comcast for rights would drive up bidding were the main reasons for the bullish outlook.

Now?

“Obviously, anything that calls into question the long-term stability of any conference can have a negative impact on media rights negotiations,” said Stultz. “In this case, Big East basketball remains strong with or without Notre Dame, and football remains unchanged since Notre Dame football has not been part of the Big East TV package.”

Lee Berke, president and CEO of sports media consulting firm LHB Sports, Entertainment & Media Inc., said the loss of Notre Dame isn’t completely irrelevant to the negotiations, however.

“Fortunately for the conference, they’re not losing a football school,” he said. “However, Notre Dame offered up a substantial presence in all other Big East sports, and their loss could impact the negotiations.”

ESPN is in the early stages of an exclusive 60-day negotiating window that began on Sept. 1. Should no deal be reached, the Big East can take its rights to the open market.

In the end, it may all come down to a business truism.

“Competition is the key,” said Berke. “It’s a question of supply and demand, and the reality is that there is a limited number of key brand-name college sports properties out there, along with a growing number of media companies looking to televise those properties. The Big East will benefit from all of this, and competition for their rights will maximize their revenues going forward.”

As for whether the ACC’s addition of Notre Dame in all sports except football and hockey will reopen the ACC’s 15-year, $3.6 billion contract with ESPN, ESPN vice president of communications Josh Krulewitz said: “We have mechanisms in place to address conference change, and we anticipate conversations with the ACC as more details emerge."

Kristi Dosh

Sports Business
Dosh covers sports business for ESPN. She is an attorney, founder of BusinessOfCollegeSports.com, and joined ESPN in October 2011.
Author of "Saturday Millionaires: How winning football builds winning colleges."

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