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ESPN Fortifies MNF As Fox Secures Pac 12 Rights

A flurry of announcements today as Fox announced it had acquired the rights to the First Pac 12 Championship game, a deal believed to be worth $25 million. Actually its only $14.5 million as there is another $10 million on top of the championship game that Fox is paying to pickup additional conference games that are available due to the 2 additional teams joining the conference.

Unlike other conference championship games, the Pac 12′s championship game will be played at the home stadium of the first place team which is probably a wise choice given the conference’s poor history traveling to neutral site games and multiple school’s problems selling out home games. Below is a picture of a top 15 match-up this year between Stanford vs. Arizona in the first quarter. 

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In other interesting Fox news, Newscorp Chairman Tony Vinciquerra will be stepping down as Chairman which is serving as catalyst for a major TV executive shuffle over at Fox. Reading the article multiple times over it sounds like a promotion bonanza but as it effects to the sports group it seems Fox Sports will now have two presidents.

“Also reporting to Carey will be Fox Sports Chairman David Hill, who picked up a new duty — monitoring Fox’s interest in the National Geographic Channels, a joint venture with the National Geographic Society. Two sports executives, Randy Freer and Eric Shanks, will become co-presidents of the Fox Sports Media Group, reporting to Hill. Succeeding Haslingden as head of the Fox International Channels is Hernan Lopez, who was in charge of Latin American and British channels.”

ESPN also made some news today as word leaked out that they had come to terms but hadn’t officially come to an extension with the NFL surrounding Monday Night Football with ESPN bidding a shade under $2 billion a year in a 9-10 year deal. To give some context to the sheer size of this deal, ESPN will likely be paying more than NBC, CBS, and Fox…..combined until those deals are renewed.

“As Ourand points out, ESPN already paid more than FOX ($720 million), CBS ($620 million) and NBC ($603 million). This new deal could pay as much per year as the other three networks combined. Of course, by the time the ESPN deal kicks in two years from now, the other networks will likely have increased their rights fees as well. The other three recently extended their contracts until the 2013 season”

Ourand also points out that ESPN was able to get some concessions surrounding broadcasting the NFL draft and potentially owning mobile rights.

Announcer Impact

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For the Monday Night Football extension, it means you’re likely going to be seeing Mike Tirico and Ron Jaworski for the forseeable future. Whether or not Gruden leaves the booth for a coaching job is anyone’s guess but its hard to see him staying with the broadcast for another 10 years.

The Fox moves means you’ll be seeing the likes of Kenny Albert, Dayryl Johnston, Thom Brennaman, Tim Ryan, Chris Myers, and Charles Davis. Be sure to check out tonight’s Cotton Bowl to get a taste of what to expect with future Fox coverage. 

General Media Impact

Monday Night Football on ESPN signals that ESPN/ABC is likely not going to make a bid on acquiring any additional NFL rights. On the outside this may seem like good news as FOX, NBC, and CBS can all likely rule them out as possible bidders for their current packages. Unfortunately the MNF deal will probably set the market and signal a very aggressive uptick in NFL package rights.

Fox’s move to get the Pac 12 Championship is another attempt to penetrate a market that ESPN has effectively boxed them out of for the past decade. Fox was able to get the BCS Bowl game rights for 3 years in hopes they’d be able to attract rights for a major conference. The effort blew up in their face as rating plummeted, the coverage was panned, and there were rumors that Fox was actually trying to sell the last year of rights back to ESPN. 

Fox missed out on acquiring any conference rights but was able to nab the Big 10 Championship game. However Fox did fail to acquire the partnership rights to make the Texas Network after months of being considered the front runner. 

That said, Fox believes they’re in good position to be the chosen partner of the Pac 12 for the launch of a Pac 12 network as well as the normal television rights to the conference. The Pac 12 commissioner insinuated as much when commenting on today’s news.

“For Fox to make the significant commitment it’s making here, that’s a strong statement and clear intention that they want everyone to know they’ll be aggressive in valuing college football going forward,” Scott said.

With now 2 conference’s championship games, the Cotton Bowl, ownership in 1/2 the Big Ten Network, and already one failed forray into the sport, you have to think Fox is just desperate to make a deal happen with the Pac 12. 

Fox has struggled to find success with MLB or Nascar with ratings for both sports declining recently. The NFL has consistently been an anchor for their sports coverage, but has recently taken some criticism citing declining announcer talent, poor production, and gimmicky segments, a criticism that has also been applied to their Nascar and MLB coverage.

We’ll see if Fox can right the ship with either a successful bid for NHL rights if NBC doesn’t come up with an extension or a deal with the Pac 12. For now this is a nice win for them that gets them a bit of much needed goodwill as they continue to make overtures to the Pac 12 and other conferences. 

Ben Koo

About Ben Koo

Copying and pasting my Twitter bio. I'm also refusing (for now) to write this in the third person. This is me - CEO of @Bloguin, GM at @AwfulAnnouncing, world's greatest chinese jew, proud Buckeye, funny dude, and sports and digital media zealot.

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